Historic Fossils

Last update: 11 February 2017

This gallery displays a selection of mementos of the Earth's deep past, including fossils, rocks, manuscripts, photographs and other artifacts. After a description of the Fossil Record, we move to the place of Man in it, going from the Anthropocene to the Antediluvian. Sections follow on lost landscapes and extinct species. Most of the displayed specimens were deaccessioned from collections of historical importance.

Historical collections have chains-of-custody spanning over many decades and some specimens may therefore be mislabelled due to poor handling. We are doing our best to verify the name of the different species but some errors may remain. Please let us know if you find any mistake. Your help is highly appreciated.

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Strata of Great Britain

Systematic Great Britain rock collection of one hundred specimens, in antique wooden box with two trays, arranged by famous mineral dealer James R. Gregory (1832-1899) of Victorian London, England.

The legacy of William Smith & the stratigraphy of Great Britain

William Smith (1769-1839), regarded as the Father of English Geology, created the first geologic map of Great Britain (including England, Wales and parts of Scotland) that he published in 1815. This map showed the great diversity of Great Britain geology with rocks of almost all geological ages represented at outcrops. All of this record is condensed in The Tricottet Collection in an antique collection of British rocks displayed in a wooden box and arranged during the period 1866-1874 by famous mineral dealer James R. Gregory (1832-1899) of Victorian London [1]. The sedimentary rock section of this collection is composed of 72 specimens, a record of the following formations (as written on the labels): Recent, Pleistocene, Pliocene, Miocene, Eocene, Cretaceous, Wealden, Purbeck, Oolite, Lias, Rhaetic, Trias, Permian, Carboniferous, Devonian, Silurian and Cambrian.

Figures: [1] British rock collection (J.R. Gregory, see labels 001-050; 051-100)

WANTED: Early 19th century geological map of Great Britain.

The Anthropocene

Future Fossils
Imagined by artists
21st century

Geode in a can, by Paige Smith, commissioned by The Tricottet Collection in December 2014, and part of Smith's Urban Geode project.

Summary coming later

Art works followed by the star (*) symbol were commissioned by The Tricottet Collection.

Figures: Modern Fossil* (C. Locke, 2015; see mockup) | Urban Geode* (P. Smith, 2015) | Old Memory (A. Mignan, 2009)

Recent kills
Various species
Late 19th century to Present

Draft letter from 1879 about remains of the recently extinct Steller's sea cow, by G. Pouchet, anatomist at the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris.

Animals hunted to extinction by Man

Summary coming later.

Figures: Letter on Steller's sea cow (Pouchet, 1879)

The Antediluvian

Lost landscapes & extinct species

antique geological sections sketched drawn Dollfus 1875 Mortefontaine

Upper Cretaceous
Kent, England

fossils from the Baltic

Urchin Echinocorys scutata from the English chalk, formerly from the Horsham Museum, England.

Main ref: Mortimore et al. (2001)

Life in a deep marine environment
A suite from the Horsham Museum

It is from the white chalk of the Anglo-Paris Basin that the Cretaceous System takes its name (creta = Latin for chalk), introduced by the Belgian geologist Omalius d'Halloy (1822). "The Chalk" is the equivalent to the Upper Cretaceous with chalk a rock primarily composed of coccoliths (remains of planktonic algae) and formed at depths of hundreds of metres. Alcide D'Orbigny's mid-19th century stage concept came largely from the Chalk of the Paris Basin, particularly the southern margins around Le Mans (Sarthe, Cenomanian) and Touraine (Turonian). The Senonian Stage was based on the Chalk around Sens, Yonne. The uppermost stage was originally distinguished by Dumont (1849), based on the chalk found around Maastricht, Netherlands (Maastrichtian). The interval corresponding to d'Orbigny's broad Senonian Stage was further subdivided by Coquand (1856, 1857, 1858) into the Coniacian, Santonian and Campanian stages based on sections around Cognac, Saintes and Charante, in the Aquitaine Basin, France. It was not until 1983 that these subdivisions finally replaced the "Senonian" as formal stages. The zones recognized in the Paris Basin were extended to the Kent coast and the rest of England in the middle of the second half of the 19th century. The division in stages was based on the study of the distribution of fossils: ammonites, belemnites, crinoids [1], fish teeth, bones and coptrolites [2], molluscs [3], sponges [4], starfishes and urchins [5].

Figures (HORSM suite): [1] Crinoids | [2] Fish teeth, bones & coptrolites | [3] Molluscs | [4] Sponges | [5] Urchins

WANTED: Other British chalk fossils deaccessioned from the Horsham Museum (from the dispersed 2014 Toovey's auction lots)

Dinosaurs & other giant reptiles
Stonesfield, England
Bathonian, Middle Jurassic (168.3-166.1 Ma)

Plesiosaur tooth in Oolite from Stonesfield, formerly from the Bryce McMurdo Wright (Sr.) dealership.

Extinct marine reptiles

Historically the richest Middle Jurassic reptile site in Great Britain, the Stonesfield area (4 old mines as SSSI since 1955) has yielded numerous remains (incl. some type specimens) of plesiosaurs [1], marine crocodiles, dinosaurs, pterosaurs, turtles and mammal-like reptiles (ictidosaurs). These occur as well preserved teeth [1], bones and bony plates. The site includes also important floras and invertebrate faunas (e.g., classic site for the study of fossil insects). This is where William Buckland recognized and described the first dinosaur (Megalosaurus). It is also where the first known pre-Tertiary mammals were found, which caused a major controversy in the early 19th century.

Figures: [1] Plesiosaurus tooth (B.M. Wright, Sr.)

paleolandscape antique drawing fossils trilobites ammonites fish Paul Richard

Middle Devonian
Eifel, Germany

fossils from the Eifel region, Germany

A collection of ~30 fossils from the Middle Devonian of the Eifel region, Germany, formerly part of the Wilhelm Salomon-Calvi collection (1868-1941) of the Geologisch-Palaeontologisches Institut der Universität Heidelberg.

Life on the south-eastern shelf of the Old Red Continent
A suite from the Wilhelm Salomon-Calvi collection, Heidelberg University

The Eifel region (Rhenish Massif, Germany) is renown for its richly fossiliferous fauna from the Middle Devonian. The shallow marine environment of the Old Red Continent was the habitat of corals, brachiopods, crinoids and trilobites. Due to its location, the Eifel is one of the most classical regions for the early study of Devonian fossils. It is characterized by different facies: clastic sediments, carbonate platforms and biostromal reefs, limestones and marls.

Figures (Heidelberg Uni. suite): Corals | Brachiopods | Crinoids | Trilobites | Labels | Label (B. Dohm)

WANTED: Dohm, B. (1927), Geognostisches Eifelmuseum: Fossilien, Mineralien, Gesteinsarten 1926/27, Paulinus-Druckerei GmbH, 31 pp. | Other fossils from the Heidelberg University / Wilhelm Salomon-Calvi collection.

Critters of the Paleozoic Era

Acidaspis mira trilobite from St. Ivan, Bohemia - Silurian Period - and formerly from the John Cummings (1812-1898) collection.

Summary coming later

Figures: Acidaspis mira (B.M. Wright, Sr. / J. Cummings) | Trilobite cast (L. Boucher)