The first creatures in the Earth’s oceans through to a woolly mammoth that roamed Bocking one million years ago were just some of the fossils that Braintree District Museum took along to a local ‘dino day’ today.

Dino day’ was organised by Acorn and Seesaw Children’s Centre, in conjunction with 4Children and Essex County Council, and took place at the Phoenix Hockey Club on Church Street, Bocking. The activities ranged from arts and crafts and a dinosaur egg hunt to the museum’s ‘encounter’ table with real fossils! We would like to thank the organisers for inviting us to take part. It was great to see how much both the children and adults enjoyed a close encounter with our fossils, and it was a very well-supported event with around 300 visitors.

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Some of our young visitors enjoy touching the fossils – here the spine of a 55 million year old fossilized fish, a Knightia alta. This fish is now extinct.

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Close-up of the fish

Our fossils included some of the first creatures to live on earth around 450 million years ago, once the oceans started to become temperate enough to support life. These included a sea urchin (an Echinoid) and the Trilobite shown below. Some trilobites lived on the sea bed, scavenging for food, whilst others were swimmers and ate small fish called plankton.

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Calymene Trilobite – our oldest fossil at 450 million years old!

Other fossils included an ammonite (c.450 million years old) and a shark’s tooth and spine segment (c.50 million years old). Our ‘youngest’ specimen was the woolly mammoth’s jaw part shown below. This is a very local specimen, found in Bocking on the site of the former Courtauld factory. During the last Ice Age Essex was covered by a great ice sheet and woolly mammoths were living in Braintree District. This thought certainly fired the imagination of many of our young visitors!

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The woolly mammoth’s jaw, found at the site of the former Courtauld factory in Bocking. It is amazing to think that during the last Ice Age one million years ago these huge creatures were walking around Braintree District. This item is on permanent display in our prehistoric cabinet – visit the museum to find out more!

To complement our fossil collection, we also took along two replica skulls cast from a roe deer and a fox. Visitors enjoyed feeling the differences between the herbivore and carnivore teeth, and comparing them to our sharp 50 million year old shark’s tooth and the huge mammoth teeth.

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Replica roe deer skull (left) and fox skull (right)

The museum is always happy to discuss arranging collection handling and engagement sessions, both for external events and for groups who visit the museum. Please do get in contact with us by email at info@braintreemuseum.co.uk, or by phoning 01376 325266 if you would like to find out more.

Jennifer Brown