Jurassic Coast, England
A Fossil Treasure Trove
Just down the shore from where children build sand castles and parents relax beneath brightly colored umbrellas, fossil hunters chip away, hoping to uncover a piece of England’s prehistoric past. They come to this section of the southern coast not only in summer, but also in winter, when heavy rains beat against the cliffs, washing away clay and revealing bones dating back hundreds of millions of years.
“It’s incredibly easy to walk along the coast and find something no one has ever seen before,” says Paul Barrett, a vertebrate paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in London.
The Jurassic Coast, as this region is known, stretches for almost 100 miles and encompasses 185 million years of earth’s history. At the far west end, in Exmouth, the cliffs date to the Middle Triassic, some 240 million years ago. There, fossilized sand dunes and river channels conceal bones of early amphibians and land reptiles. On the eastern end, the Isle of Purbeck yields a jumbled mix of remnants from the Early Cretaceous period, 140 million years ago—everything from mollusks and crustaceans to dinosaurs and mammals.