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Leedsichthys, the Big Jurassic Fish

150 million years ago

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The Jurassic sea was home to the biggest species of fish ever known, Leedsichthys problematicus This bony fish would have grown up to 16 metres in length, and is thought to have been a filter feeder, living on plankton and krill. In 2001, the most complete skeleton of Leedsichthys was discovered in the Star Pit brick quarry near Peterborough. A team of fossil experts excavated the creature, over a period of 2 years.  Over 1800 bones were collected. The specimen is now part of the Peterborough Museum collections.





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Birth of Alfred Leeds, Fossil Dealer

1847

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Alfred Nicholson Leeds was the first person that found Leedsichthys fossil fish bones. He was a pioneer in methods of collecting and preserving fossil skeletons in the latter half of the 19th Century. For nearly half a century he devoted his leisure to recovering the remains of fossil reptiles and fishes. He collected the specimens from the brick pits in the Oxford Clay near Peterborough. By his death in 1917, Alfred Leeds had excavated and sold literally thousands of Oxford Clay vertebrate fossils. He sent his finds to museum collections in countries around the world including Germany, Sweden and the United States. His name is now in the fossil he first discovered - he is the Leeds in 'Leeds'-icthys.





Pachycostasaurus dawnii

150 million years ago

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This fossil was found locally at the brick pits in Kings Dyke in 1994. Scientists studied the bones and found that this was a unique beast: a new type of pliosaur not found before. Pliosaurs were a group of plesiosaurs, skilled in ambush and the fast pursuit of their prey.  They had thin bones which were designed to reduce the weight of their skeletons. Pachycostasaurus Dawnii was found to have elements of its skeleton which were thickened rather than thin.  This has suggested to scientists that it would not have been a fast swimmer, but instead a slow stable swimmer. When new types or species are found, the scientists that have described them also get the chance to name them. Pachycostasaurus dawnii was named after its discoverer; local palaeontologist, Alan Dawn.





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Stegosaurus

150 million years ago

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While marine reptiles swam in the Jurassic seas, dinosaurs roamed the land. Where Peterborough is today was under the Jurassic seas, so dinosaur bones are rarely found. Some however may have washed down to the coast. These bones thought to belong to a Stegosaurus where found in the Fletton brick pits.  Stegosaurus was a large, plant-eating dinosaur that had two rows of bony plates along its back that end with a double pair of spikes.





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Edward Thurlow Leeds and the Ashmolean Museum

1877

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Edward Thurlow Leeds was born in 1877 at Eyebury Grange near Peterborough. His father was the geologist Alfred Nicholson Leeds who had also been born at Eyebury. Born in Peterborough, he was educated at Uppingham School before heading to Cambridge. He had started his career in China, but returned to England following ill health. Whilst recovering he returned to Eyebury where his interest in archaeology was ignited by digging in the archaeologically rich area. He accepted a position at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford in 1908 and quickly found himself progressing to the role of Assistant Keeper of the Department of Antiquities. There he remained until his retirement, becoming head Keeper in 1928. Edward Thurlow Leeds left a legacy of not only papers but also artefacts at the museum. His work on the Anglo Saxon period is one of his best known achievements. He was honoured with a gold medal by the Society of Antiquaries in 1946. During his life he published many works including The Archaeology of the Anglo Saxon Settlements in 1913. He died in 1955 at the age of 78. His works can be viewed at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Photo credit: © N Chadwick (cc-by-sa/2.0)