Samuel Beckles - Excavating for Dinosaurs

Samuel Beckles - Excavating for Dinosaurs Ancient Places and/or Civilizations Archeological Wonders Geography Social Studies STEM Visual Arts

Image of a drawing depicting Samuel Beckles at his legendary excavation in 1857 on the cliffs of Durlston Bay.

This drawing appeared in the 26 December 1857 issue of The llustrated London News with this caption:

Scene of the Geological Discoveries at Swanage, Dorset - From a Photograph by F. Briggs.

The article, which accompanies this illustration, reads as follows:


(From a Correspondent.)

...At the east end of the Isle of Purbeck [actually a peninsula although it is called an "island"] is a little semicircular bay, its northern horn formed by high cliffs of white chalk, ending in white isolated stacks and peaks, round whose feet the blue sea ripples for ever.  In the centre of the bay the softer "Wealden beds" have been worn away, forming an amphitheatre of low sand and clay cliffs. 

The southern horn is formed by the dark limestone beds of the Purbeck marble [once a highly prized building material].  A quaint old-world village slopes down to the water over the green downs, quarried, like some gigantic rabbit-burrow, with the stone-workings of 700 years. 

Landlocked from every breeze, huge elms flourish on the dry sea beach, and the gayest and tenderest garden flowers bask under the hot stone walls.  A pleasanter spot for summer sea-bathing is not to be found eastward of the Devon coast [also known as the "Jurassic Coast"] than Swanage, and all which is wanted to make it famous is houses into which visitors can put their heads at night.

As was to be expected from the variety of soils, and the sheltered situation I found the neighbourhood rich in rare plants and insects, the sea-beach strewn with numberless sea-weeds; but the great attraction of Swanage, to those who dabble in science, is the extraordinary number and value of its fossil remains.

The excavations, of which I send you a View, are interesting as the scene of important geological discoveries.  They owe their existence to the energy and acuteness of one man - S. H. Beckles, Esq., F.G.S., who began them in December last, with the view of ascertaining if mammalia, or other air-breathing animals of a high order, existed in any number during the age in which the Secondary rocks were deposited.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5184stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 07, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Jul 21, 2019

Media Credits

Image online, courtesy the University of South Hampton website.



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