By Horsham Museum curator Jason Semmens
Come face to face with a Trilobite or the fearsome fangs of a Mosasaurus in Horsham District Council’s Horsham Museum & Art Gallery’s new exhibition ‘Monster Rocks!’ which showcases the amazing world of fossils. From the oldest life on the planet – 2.5 billion year old Stromatolites, to mighty Mammoth molars of the past 15,000 years, the exhibition revels in the richness of life to have existed on this planet from the very earliest times.
Like clues left at the scene of a crime, fossils are windows into long ago worlds, revealing what kinds of life existed at different times in the Earth’s history. Over hundreds of millions of years evolution has produced many thousands of varied species of plant and animal, most of which have since become extinct.
All life alive today is descended from the very earliest forms of life preserved in the fossil record. Fossils had been known about for centuries, with various theories put forward to explain the strange shaped rocks.
These views were rooted in an understanding of the Bible and people tried to interpret fossils based on accounts of catastrophe such as the Flood; the new sciences of geology and biology have taught us otherwise.
Did you know that Horsham once had its own dinosaur hunter, called George Bax Holmes? He collected fossils around Horsham. When dinosaurs walked around here, this area along the south coast of England was a shallow river basin. Holmes was born in 1803 and started to collect fossils in the 1830s, making a display of them in his home.
He was visited by Richard Owen and Gideon Mantell, two scientists who realised that fossils were the remains of prehistoric life. George Bax Holmes had discovered a ‘new’ dinosaur, called the Iguanodon, although as the bones did not make a complete animal their idea of what it looked like was a bit strange.
Today fossils are collected all around the world, and ‘Monster Rocks!’ displays fossils from all over, including ammonites from the Devonian, ferns from the Cretaceous, fossilised wood from the Jurassic, and the beautiful remains of prehistoric sea life, such as the sculpture-like remains of a crinoid. No exhibition of fossils would be complete without dinosaur fossils, and there are even the remains of an eggshell from a sauropod dinosaur.
‘Monster Rocks!’ opens on 25 July and closes 5 October 2013. For further information please contact Jason Semmens, Curator.