The bones of the newly discovered plesiosaur have been donated to Oxford University's Museum of Natural History. Photo by OUMNH
PETERBOROUGH, England, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- The excavation work at Britain's "Pompeii" has turned up more than Bronze Age artifacts. Archaeologists working at the Cambridgeshire dig site recently unearthed 165 million-year-old reptile bones.
The fossil, consisting of 600 bone fragments, including pieces of a skull, has been turned over to paleontologists at Oxford University's Museum of Natural History, and the early consensus is the bones are the remains of a new species of plesiosaur.
"We are so excited that the plesiosaur has come to the museum where it will be used for research, education and display," Hilary Ketchum, earth collections manager at the museum, said in a press release. "We are very grateful to Forterra for their donation, and of course to the Oxford Clay Working Group who have dedicated a great deal of time, energy and passion to the discovery and excavation of this fantastic fossil."
Plesiosaurs were a group of marine reptiles that live alongside the dinosaurs during the Triassic and Jurassic periods. They could stretch as long as 50 feet and boasted long necks and strong flippers.
The newly unearthed specimen has been dubbed Eve by the excavation team. Eve was about 8 feet in length, with a stocky midsection, four flippers, long neck and short tail.
The snout was the first thing that alerted scientists they may not be looking at Bronze Age materials anymore.
"It was one of those absolute 'wow' moments," Carl Harrison, head of the dig team, told BBC. "I was the first human to come face-to-face with this reptile."
The Cambridgeshire dig site has quickly become one of the most productive archaeological sites in England. An ancient riverbed -- now a clay quarry -- on Must Farm, near Peterborough, has revealed an ancient Bronze Age settlement destroyed by fire.
Collapsed stilt houses and the artifacts they stored -- ceramics, tools, foodstuffs -- have been preserved by layers of clay.