Megafaunal Support Versus AdulterationNatural History Department, Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service
Megafaunal Support Versus Adulteration
During the storms of 1990, some large bones of a "steppe mammoth", Mammuthus trogontherii, were found falling out of the cliffs at West Runton on the North Norfolk Coast. These bones were followed by more during the winter storms of 1992. By this point about ten percent of the skeleton had been carefully collected by volunteers and staff of Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service (http://www.norfolk.gov.uk/tourism/museums/) and more bones could be seen pointing into the cliff. However, it was too dangerous to tunnel in to get them, overlain as they were by a few thousand tonnes of soft glacial sands and gravels.
The specimens were found poking out of the world-famous West Runton Feshwater Bed, a SSSI which is the type site for the Cromerian Interglacial, representing a river about 650-700,000 years old. Anything found there is important, and the opportunity to have an excavation to rescue the rest of the elephant skeleton from erosion by the sea represented a unique opportunity to look at the deposit holistically for the first time and re-evaluate its contents.
It took a while to find the money, but in 1995 the Heritage Lottery Fund agreed to finance most of the excavation costs. The ensuing palaeontological dig was undertaken to unprecedentedly high levels of detail and thoroughness - perhaps because it was a palaeontological excavation that was actually funded for a change.
A Total Station Theodolite planned the hundreds of finds as National Grid Co-ordinates, and we had specialists from all over the country scrambling over themselves to be involved - studying the large mammals, the microfauna, macroflora, palynology, stratigraphy, sedimentology, clay mineralogy, sulphur geochemistry, veterinary pathology, taphonomy etc.
That's not to say it was easy - thousands of tonnes of overlying sediment had to be removed from the cliff-face above the site first, to make the deposit accessible.
|Symposium of Palaeontological Preparation and Conservation.|