'It's pushing science forward' - Curator hails lockdown fossil hunting boom

Dr David Waterhouse with a polished fossil flint sea urchin, Picture: Alison Newbery.

Dr David Waterhouse with a polished fossil flint sea urchin, Picture: Alison Newbery. - Credit: Alison Newbery.

A museum curator says there has been a boom in fossil hunting on the north Norfolk coast during lockdown.

Dr David Waterhouse of Norfolk Museum Services said Cromer Museum had received many emails from the public during the time it has been closed, asking them to identify and help with people's new found treasure.

He said signage put up as part of the Deep History Coast project was also helping to encourage the rise, as residents begin to understand what is on their doorstep.

Dr Waterhouse said: "We've certainly been having a lot more enquiries and people asking us to identify items because they can't physically bring them into the museum.

People enjoying the summer sunshine on Cromer beach.Picture: Antony Kelly

People enjoying the summer sunshine on Cromer beach.Picture: Antony Kelly - Credit: Archant

"Because of lockdown as well, people couldn't go very far, so if you live in north Norfolk you can really easily go on the beach and find these things, so we're really lucky.


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"In many places there's not much to find, but in north Norfolk because of the right geology and sediments, there's everything from 90-million-year-old sea urchins to million-year-old bits of mammoth."

Fossils from the Dennis Wyatt collection. Photo: East Norfolk Sixth Form College

Fossils from the Dennis Wyatt collection. Photo: East Norfolk Sixth Form College - Credit: Archant

While there were no stand out discoveries, Dr Waterhouse said the volume of fossils being found had been "really helpful" in helping museum staff to build up a picture of how the coastline looked centuries ago.

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He added: "It really helps us to build up a picture, so if we have lots of bits of mammoth found at say, Happisburgh or West Runton, then we can see what is being found where.

"It's really pushing science forward, rather than one particular huge discovery, this gives us a chance to understand what was there many years ago - things like climate change and the environment.

A sea urchin fossil found in north Norfolk.

A sea urchin fossil found in north Norfolk. - Credit: ©Norfolk Museums Service, photograph by Dr David Waterhouse.

"It's often the smallest fossils which can help the most."

Dr Waterhouse said while people had been getting better at taking clear photos of their fossils, it was difficult to identify items over the internet and added he was looking forward to museums reopening on May 17 so they can be assessed in person.

Dr David Waterhouse.

Dr David Waterhouse Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

He also urged those looking to start fossil hunting to do so responsibly, by only taking a small number of specimens and taking care not to damage cliffs and fossil sites.

Those wishing to take up fossil hunting should visit: https://www.visitnorthnorfolk.com/Deep-History-Coast/

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