From Ice Age England: A Woolly Rhinoceros
11/05 A major archaeological discovery has
been unearthed in a quarry in Staffordshire. The chance find was
made by Ray Davies, a worker at the Lafarge Aggregates quarry, who
pulled up the massive skull of a woolly rhino in the bucket of his
digger. Archaeologists from the University of Birmingham were called
in to supervise the recovery of the skeleton.
The partial skeleton of the woolly
rhinoceros dates back to the Ice Age and was found at the sand and
gravel quarry at Whitemoor Haye near Alrewas.
Gary Coates, a University of Birmingham
archaeologist, said, "I've been working at Whitemoor Haye
Quarry for five years and have excavated everything from prehistoric
burial grounds to Roman farmsteads, but this find was totally
unexpected. It's the biggest find - in all senses of the word - I've
ever been involved with."
Initially the rhino remains were taken to
the University's archaeological unit for cleaning and
identification. The rhino, believed to have died 30 - 40 thousand
years ago and to have weighed approximately one and a half tonnes,
has now been donated to the Natural History Museum in London to be
conserved and displayed.
Andy Currant, a palaeontologist from the
Natural History Museum, said, "This is the best example of a
woolly rhino I have ever seen. The bones are exceptionally well
preserved - usually, remains have been scavenged by predators and
only fragments survive."
The dig has also uncovered the remains of
mammoth, reindeer, wild horse and a wolf as well as plants and
beetles which provide an extraordinarily detailed picture of the
freezing environment in which the rhino lived and died.
Staffordshire County Council archaeologist
Bill Klemperer, said, "this is an important find that
demonstrates the rich archaeological heritage of this area."
Regional Planning Manager for Lafarge
Aggregates, Ross Halley, said, "Many of our sites are rich in
historical finds, but this is one of the most significant, so we
were keen to involve the specialists and co-operate in the
excavations. Quarrying is one way archaeologists can quickly search
large areas of land, especially where the ground is not suitable for
traditional search methods."
Further excavation is being funded by
English Nature through their Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund
Grants Scheme to find the remainder of the rhino. Natalie Bennett
from English Nature said, "We were delighted to be able to
support this project through our Sustainability Fund Grants Scheme
as finds of this calibre are unusual. The Fund provides us with the
opportunity to work with Lafarge Aggregates to ensure specialists
are able to study the woolly rhino and the surrounding sediments
before the company continue to extract the sand and gravel."
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