During the summer we had 10 Palestinian refugee children to the Cotswolds for a holiday. Call me a snob, but an ancient marine reptile is just more exciting than a mollusc: it ups the ante. It turns out that we're practically living in Jurassic Park: the bone is the eye-socket of an ichthyosaur - a pre-historic dolphin-like creature - and the disc is one of its vertebrae We felt pretty damn clever. We found we could no longer be bothered to pick up bits of ammonite which would have thrilled us before the ichthyosaur. "If there are more such bones in a localised area this find may be significant," said a note from Paul Jeffrey, the assistant keeper of geology.So that was how my week began, tramping round the outskirts of a muddy field with my son, heads down, looking for more.
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Mostly they're gryphaea, the rather ugly, horned bivalves known as devil's toenails; or fragments of ammonite, the ridged spirals which most people think of when they think of fossils.Then we found a stone disc a few inches across, indented in the middle. We took it into the Oxford Museum (which is really a natural history museum) along with a smooth, crescent-shaped piece that looked like bone, found in the same spot the year before. You can find fossils in the fields here, especially at this time of year, after the plough has turned the soil. We've collected belemnites in France and a nautiloid at Lyme Regis.
Last Christmas we gave him a woolly mammoth tooth, which looks exactly like a hefty piece of over-cooked roast beef.Luckily, our farm borders the river Avon About 200 million years ago, this land was under the sea. Political leaders with the power to declare war should remember most of all.. Two of the best, most child-friendly museums in England are in Oxford: the Pitt Rivers and the Oxford University Museum. They're in the same building, so you can wander through dinosaur skeletons, past a rather mothy, stuffed aardvark, to the mummies and shrunken heads and Inuit canoes in the Aladdin's cave which is the Pitt Rivers collection. A month earlier, we had taken in some fossils we'd found for identification. My nine-year-old son loves fossils and has quite a good collection, including some beautiful leaves in slate and two chunks of coprolite, which is fossilised dung.