A day spent fossil hunting - and a success!

Phil

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#1
Yesterday we made a trip over to the Warren just north of Folkestone in a quest to hunt for ancient cephalopods that are to be found in the Gault Clay. These clays are 113-97.5 million years old and date to the Albian period of the Lower Cretaceous when this part of Kent (and much of Northern France) lay under a shallow warm sea. They lie on top of Lower Greensand exposed to the south of the site at Folkestone itself and below the famous chalk cliffs that are exposed across the Kent coast, most famously at Dover. All three deposits contain ammonites though the preservation is by far the best in the clay.

To my shame I have not been there for over 18 months despite the site being just seven miles away but thought it would be worth a look after the winter rains. As you can see from the photographs, yesterday was pretty grey and murky and there was quite a wind blowing causing a choppy sea. Still, as the tide was in retreat we thought we would venture out and have a look. Luckily we both found something that made us glad we went.

The clay cliffs that dip onto the beach and are extremely fossiliferous, and I believe that the site is designated a site of special scientific interest making it illegal to excavate the clay itself. (Please note this if anyone intends going). Nonetheless, it is perfectly legal to collect fossils from the beach itself and this tends to be more productive than looking at the cliff itself. In fact, bivalves, fragments of ammonites and belemnite guards are so common that one only tends to collect them if they are exceptionally good quality; these days I leave 9/10 fossils on the beach! The beach itself is littered with remains in between the boulders and mixed up amongst clay outwash and shingle.

Here are a few photographs of the site itself and some of the fossils we found. The first three are to give an impression of the setting. The first view is northwards towards Dover and one can see the start of the chalk cliffs. The other shots are of the beach and the third picture of the Gault clay cliff itself.

Folkestone Warren looking North towards Dover. The sea is the English Channel; France lies approximately 30 miles away at this point.



The beach.



The Gault clay is visible in the cliffs on the left. Fossils tend to be washed by rain and coastal action into the shingle in between the boulders visible on the beach.

 

Phil

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#2
Here is a rather nice ammonite plucked from the surface of the clay. This is Anahoplites, a nice streamlined species with faint ribbing shown in situ. This example still has the original mother-of-pearl coating. It measures about 1.5cm across. Also here are two photos of a Nautilus I found, probably Eutrephoceras clementinum. I was quite pleased by this as Nautilus fossils are quite rare in this location, this is the first one I have ever found. This too has fragmentary coating of mother-of pearl though most of it has flaked off. It measures about the same size as the ammonite.

Anahoplites as found



Nautilus as found



Nautilus close up

 

Phil

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#3
Here are photos of these and a few others we found cleaned up. The ammonite with the clear ribbing is a variation of Euhoplites, though I have yet to determine which one. The fact that it has these ridges probably meant that it may have been a poorer swimmer than the Anahoplites as it was less streamlined. Also shown here is a close up of the Anahoplites with a belemnite guard, Neohibolites sp.

Euhoplites



Anahoplites and belemnite



Nautilus

 

Phil

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#4
Lastly, here’s a photo of these fossils put together along with a large belemnite guard Mandy found and, on the right, a really very nice specimen of Anahoplites she found, much nicer than my own! I will post a clearer picture of this ammonite in a close up when I next have the opportunity.



As an addendum, I would be failing in my role here if I did not point out the following warning to anyone who wishes to visit the site:

It is extremely dangerous to climb in the cliffs and this should not be undertaken. Digging in the cliffs for fossils should not to be undertaken. Extreme caution must be adopted when collecting on the beach below the cliffs at Copt Point or elsewhere on the Folkestone section.

I know of at least one person who has been killed by a cliff fall in the area. Nonetheless, collection fom the beach is legal and safe providing adequate clothing and precautions have been taken. Ensure one has taken note of the tide tables and make sure you have taken along a mobile phone or high vis jacket. Anyway, enough heaviness for now! :)

:ammonite:
 

Phil

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#12
Thanks everyone. I'm so glad I bought a digital camera; a picture paints a thousand words as they say. Images really do help bring sites to life.

Going fossil hunting is a complete lottery. Sometimes you can be lucky and sometimes come away with little. I have found larger and more spectacular ammonites than those two presented here before and other interesting finds, e.g crinoids, bivalves, crustacean fragments, scaphopods and fish teeth, for example, but never a nautilus. It's not knowing what lies under the next stone is the hook!
 

Phil

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#16
Scouse said:
BTW how far along the coast is the from Hythe?
Hythe is just down the coast from Folkestone, probably only about three miles or so. It's quite a nice quaint little town, with an interesting crypt in the church containing the bones of people who died in the Black Death (and earlier) stacked up into a walk-in ossuary. Well worth a visit if you are in the area. Do you know the area, Scouse?


Here is another picture of a more typical find, a larger but fragmented ammonite, probably Hoplites. Broken lumps like this are what one normally finds, I believe I left this one on the beach for someone else to collect.

 

Phil

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#18
Burstsovenergy24 said:
Would you like to sleep here?
Yeah, I'd give it a shot, no problem. I used to be an archaeologist and have excavated Anglo-Saxon graves before, so they are just bones to me!I believe the occasional local scout group may have stayed in there to raise money for charity.

It's a small crypt, probably not much larger than a garage located under the parish church. The skulls of about 4000 people are stacked up in two masses, along with numerous leg and arm bones. The bodies date from about 900-1500AD though there is a concentration around the time of the Black Death (1349-50) when approximately 1/3 of the population of Britain succumbed to the disease and died. It is quite creepy, granted, and some of the skulls show quite a story. Some are, sadly, of children and some of the others are deformed. One can learn a lot about diet from examination of the teeth of these people. Interesting place.
 

Jan

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#19
It's no worse than some of the sites of the Anasazi in the Southwest and the bones with evidence of cannibalism.
I bet that Scout troupe had LOTS :shock: of junk food all night...
 

Phil

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#20
Well, I've now soaked the ammonite and nautilus fossils in water for a couple of weeks so as to remove the salts. If they were just left as they were without doing this the salts would slowly dissolve and disintegrate them, after a year or so all one would be left with would be rocky fluff. (Hard to describe and I've learned this from bitter experience). In addition, as the fossils are heavily pyritised I have given them a coat of satin varnish which helps prevent oxygen from reaching the shell and accelerating decay.

Finally, I have made up protective boxes with an explanatory label containing the species type, age and location and they are ready to be added to the collection. Methinks I'm going to need a bigger house soon!





 

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