Palaeontologists from March who discovered a rare dinosaur skeleton, believed to date back 132 million years, are offering fellow dino-enthusiasts a once in a lifetime chance to help them excavate it.
Jamie Jordan and Sarah Moore, from Fossils Galore museum and educational centre in March, uncovered the skeleton in a Surrey quarry last February and are now seeking volunteers to help them uncover its secrets.
The team have nicknamed the dinosaur ‘Indie’. The Iguanodon was an herbivore that walked the earth 132 million years ago, during the Lower Cretaceous period.
It would have been 10 feet (three metres) tall, 30 feet (10 metres) long and weighed 4.5 tons, the equivalent of an African Elephant.
It would have been prey for one of England’s biggest predators, Baryonyx, a relative of Spinosaurus.
It took them four weeks to excavate seven blocks full of bones from the Wienerberger factory in Ewhurst, and transport them back to their lab for cleaning up, analysing and preserving.
A year on from their initial find and dinosaur expert Mr Jordan says his team – which is made up entirely of volunteers – has removed less than five per cent of the bones from the blocks and anticipates the task will take another five years to complete.
He is now appealing for more people to come and help with the painstaking task at the purpose-built observation booth at the museum, which enables visitors to watch the excavators at work through a glass panel.
Mr Jordan says no previous experience is necessary as all volunteers will be taught how to carefully remove the layers of compacted clay using air scribes and other hand tools.
“We desperately need some more help as everyone here is a volunteer,” he said. “They don’t need to have done anything like this before, as full training will be given.
“Obviously, people won’t get to work on the dinosaur straight away if they have no previous experience, but we have other items they can work on, until they have learnt the techniques, and then they can progress onto the dinosaur.
“For health and safety reasons we can’t let anyone under the age of 16 work on it, but there are plenty of other tasks around the museum youngsters can get involved in though,” he added.
As well as physical help, Mr Jordan is also seeking financial support to help keep the excavation project going.
“As an educational activity centre we rely solely on donations and raising money through school visits and the activities we do here at the museum.
“We don’t get any grants or other funding, we have to raise everything ourselves.
“To keep going we really need more financial support; ideally once the skeleton is ready for display. We’d like to have some new premises too, as it’s going to be around 3m high,”
Jamie and Sarah were on a routine fossil hunt when they found a block of compacted clay that had formed a hard boulder. After splitting it open, they discovered layers of bones that led them to believe there was more to find – although even they were initially unsure of the scale of their discovery.
The last major dinosaur find on this scale in the UK was back in 1989.
If you’d like to find out more contact Jamie and Sarah at Fossils Galore on 01354 278089 or at www.fossilsgalore.com