"The most famous fossilist's most famous fossil!" That is how the specimen of Ichthyosaur "Temnodontosaurus platydon" (the cutting tooth lizard) that Joseph and Mary Anning found in the blue lias cliffs of Lyme Regis has been described. It is believed that Joseph found the skull and Mary (who was just 12 at the time of the discovery) went on to find the neck section a few months later. The Annings sold the ichthyosaur to Henry Host Henly, of Colway Manor in Lyme, for £23 and it was sent off to London never to return. Until this week!!
The specimen's current owners, The Natural History Museum, have agreed that it can return to Lyme for a short period and on Thursday 21st July two of their staff brought it down in the back of a van. The picture to the right shows the van parked outside Lyme Regis Museum in what was Cockmoil Square where the Annings had their home and workshop. Museum geologist, Paddy Howe is removing the top of the packing case to get a first view of the ichthyosaur in Lyme Regis. Dr Martin Munt from the Natural History Museum is looking on.
The plan was to take the specimen up the museum's spiral staircase for display in the Geology Gallery but it was far too long and heavy for that. So it was manoeuvred through the the door and into the ground floor gallery. At least this allowed the photograph to the left to be taken from the staircase.
Until now, Lyme Regis has had to make do with a model of the ichthyosaur (below) but for a short period of time, townspeople and visitors will be able to see it in the place where it was found. The model will replace it at the Natural History Museum.
The Ichthyosaur head will be at Lyme regis museum until at least the end of September and will be a star attraction of Mary Anning Day on the 24th September. Click here for information on this event.