MGM 2005: Fabulous Finds In Newcastle - 300 Million Year Old Teeth

By Alastair Smith | 10 May 2005
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Shows a photograph of a man smiling to reveal a gap in his teeth. He is holding up a 300 million year old fish tooth.

First through the door at the Hancock Museum's Fabulous Finds Day, Eddie Reay donated a 300 million year old fish tooth to the museum. Dirk Van Der Werff/

People from around the North East brought a selection of weird and wonderful items to the Hancock Museum in Newcastle on Saturday April 30 2005 for Fabulous Finds Day.

Visitors told the stories of their finds to a panel of experts who identified and recorded the items.

One of the first to be brought to the event was a 300 million year old fossilised fish tooth. Eddie Reay from Gateshead brought in a selection of coins to be examined as well as donating the 3cm-long carboniferous Rhizodus tooth.

“I found it when I was out walking with my son by St Mary’s Lighthouse in Northumberland around 15 years ago," said Eddie. "Since then, it’s just been lying in a drawer and I decided it would be better to donate it to the museum before it got broken."

Shows a photograph of a pointed, 300 million year old fish tooth.

Somewhere there's 300 million year old Rhizodus hibberti with a gap. Dirk Van Der Werff/

Rhizodus hibberti was the largest freshwater fish known and could have been up to seven metres in length. They lived in tropical rivers and freshwater lakes in Europe and North America.

Curator of the Hancock Steve McLean, who examined the items, was very excited about the tooth. “These are quite common in the region but it’s rare for someone to bring one in – it happens maybe once every five years," he said. "It was really good to see one of these as the first find of the day and we will be delighted to add it to our exhibits."

Eddie’s coins were identified as a Roman Marcus Aurelius silver denarius, an Elizabethan sixpence dating from 1570 and a 16th century Jetton, or counter, from Nuremberg.

Eight year old Andrew Gill from Sunderland brought in a collection of fossils he had found at Runswick Bay in North Yorkshire while fossil hunting.

Shows a photograph of a man holding a fossil while a boy sits next to him on some steps also holding a fossil.

Hancock Museum Curator Steve McLean helps James Lee of Alnwick identify hiscoral fossils. Dirk Van Der Werff/

Another keen fossil hunter, James Lee, age six, brought in a selection of 340 million year old coral which would have provided a living home for sea-life on the ocean floor. He had found the coral when he was “at the beach taking the dog for a walk”.

Fiona Heckels provided a change from prehistoric stone and brought in a find that she wore around her neck. It was identified as either a harness fitting or pendant which probably dates back to the 19th century.

“It was sent to me by a friend who was digging a vegetable patch in Bristol," she said, "I sent him some carrot seeds in return to give something back to the soil."

Another of the finds brought in had a more direct link with the Hancock Museum. A pair of tiles decorated with seabirds carried the name Abel Chapman, a famous naturalist whose own collection of animals is displayed at the museum.

Later in the day I tried my hand at fossil hunting in a specially constructed quarry at the Hancock Museum, which contained fossil-rich stone from Northumberland.

Shows a photograph of a boy holding an ammonite fossil.

Andrew Gill of Sunderland shows off one of the ammonite fossils he took to the Hancock Museum. Dirk Van Der Werff/

The carboniferous shale broke open easily to reveal my own fabulous finds - 320 million year old Brachiopod shells and Crinoid Stems, which I took to be recorded by the Finds Liason Officers.

“I think the day has gone very well and we have had some very interesting objects, particularly fossils because that’s my subject. And we’ve done some nice activities including the fossil hunting round the back of the museum, which added to the finds," said Steve McLean.

“We had a nice array of about 20 to 25 objects ranging from a tiny mid-19th century porcelain doll from a dolls house and five centimes from the time of Napoleon the Third”

Visitors to the event were inspired by the stories of collectors and their objects and I left the museum as other finders had throughout the day with a smile on my face, a bright pink sticker and a bag full of finds to tell my friends about.

Shows the Renaissance in the Regions logo.

Alastair Smith is the 24 Hour Museum Renaissance Student Writer in the North East region. Renaissance is the groundbreaking initiative to transform England's regional museums, led by MLA, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.

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