Tuesday, 28 September 2021

'Dad dug up dinosaur bones in our garden'

TWO bones that were dug up from a garden in Goring have been identified as the spinal discs of a prehistoric sea creature.

TWO bones that were dug up from a garden in Goring have been identified as the spinal discs of a prehistoric sea creature.

The artefacts, each about 5in in diameter and weighing about 2lb, were excavated by John Dexter, a civil engineer and builder, when he built his house off Wallingford Road in the late Fifties.

He kept them among his personal possessions and his widow Doris put them into store when he died in 2005.

Mrs Dexter passed away six years later and the bones were taken by the couple’s daughter Sarah-Jane, who moved to London in her late teens but still owns the property.

Miss Dexter had forgotten about them until last month, when she had a dream about her childhood home that reminded her about the bones.

She contacted the Natural History Museum, which asked her to bring them in and experts there confirmed they were from an ichthyosaur, a type of marine reptile which existed about 100 million years ago.

During this time, known as the Cretaceous period, much of Britain would have been under water. The bones were probably deposited as water levels dropped and the Goring Gap was carved out by the Thames.

Ichthyosaurs were a family of dolphin-like creatures with roots in the Triassic period, about 200 to 250 million years ago.

By the Cretaceous era they were found all over the world. They became extinct about 95 million years ago.

They were usually between 6ft and 13ft long and the museum experts said Miss Dexter’s specimens were the largest of their kind that they had seen from southern England.

They offered to take them but Miss Dexter declined.

One of the discs has a white deposit in the centre which Miss Dexter had assumed was a paint stain but is, in fact, the fossilised remains of a shellfish which attached itself to the ichthyosaur’s carcass.

Both bones have three grooves running along the side where the creature’s ribcage would have been.

Miss Dexter said: “I’m not sure exactly when my dad found the bones but I remember him showing them to me as a child. That might have been at the time he dug them up or it could have been a few years afterwards.

“He told me they were from a dinosaur but I don’t think he’d ever bothered to get it officially confirmed. I imagine he’d probably shown them to a mate.

“I kept an eye out for them when I was clearing the house in 2011 and found them among a load of insignificant items like mixed cutlery.

“I was happy to find them but I had to pack everything up in a hurry as we had builders coming round and I hadn’t done anything with the bones since then.”

Dr Lorna Steel, the museum’s fossils expert, said she would like to carry out further excavation at the house, which Miss Dexter agreed to.

She said: “It’s pretty amazing to think something like this would have been swimming around here — I was over the moon when they told me what they were.

“They did ask if I wanted to donate them but I wanted to keep them as a memento. I’m sure they’ve got enough bones already!”



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