English spouses Sally and Neville Hollingworth now collaborate with the Natural History Museum in London
The inability to exit during the various Covid lockdowns has led to unexpected results for one couple of amateur paleontologists, Sally and Neville Hollingworth, who today find themselves collaborating with experts from the Natural History Museum in London to explore and codify a defined area of the English countryside «Jurassic Pompeii», the Pompeii of the Jurassic.
The fossils would perhaps have remained underground forever if, forced to suspend their research in person, the spouses had not decided to devote himself to the study of Google Earth images to identify where to resume excavations once back to normal. A quarry in the rolling hills of the Cotswolds, a quaint holiday destination and a popular destination for the British jet set, seemed like the perfect spot, Sally said. “We asked the landowners for permission after comparing the photographs with the geological maps of the area. At first we were a little disappointed. In fact we initially found just a few fragments of sea creatures of the Jurassic period. We gave ourselves time and took a plate to study it more carefully at home ».
The two have a workshop each, one in the garage, the other in the garden tool shed, where they work on weekends. That’s where they took the samples taken to wash and analyze them. “Suddenly I heard Neville scream, come and see, come and see! ». Sally ran to the garage. On her husband’s desk a sea lily appears among the sediments, which despite its name is not a flower but an invertebrate animal, a crinoid, a type of echinoderm (sea urchins, sea stars, etc.). An “exciting moment, one that takes your breath away,” emphasize the Hollingworths. “We immediately contacted the Natural History Museum team.”
Spouses know how these discoveries typically work – you call the experts and the job passes into their hands. This time it was not so also because the area is so important and vast that there is room for everyone. “Not hundreds, not thousands but tens of thousands of creatures dating back about 167 million years, perfectly preserved from a cataclysm,” says Tim Ewin of the London museum. “If they could have shouted these organisms they would have done so, you can tell from the position of their bodies. They tried to defend themselves but were suddenly overwhelmed ». An earthquake or flood that has covered a marine ecosystem with mud. “They were buried alive and that’s why they are perfectly preserved.”
For Neville it is “a kind of Jurassic Pompeii” while for the experts of the Natural History Museum it is “a very important find which will allow us to study the body structure of these animals in greater depth and to better catalog them ». The specimens, in fact, “are almost perfect, practically intact”. And it is the number that amazes. In its current collection, the London museum it has about a hundred. For researchers, the Cotswolds quarry – whose coordinates are currently secret – is a mine of treasures.
July 26, 2021 (change July 26, 2021 | 21:48)