Sunday 8 August 2010

Bones over Mallwyd Church most likely to be from a whale!

The porch of Mallwyd Church in Gwynedd, Wales, just off the A470, displays two large bones which were apparently dug up nearby. They have been variously described as Dinosaur bones, Mammoth tusks and Whale bones! As a former biologist, I could see that one bone is clearly a rib.

This was a real conundrum as my search suggested that the local geology does not favour the dinosaur bone theory. Mammoths did survive until about 14000 years ago in Shropshire (see Daily Mail article), so were a possibility, and Welsh sailors did work in whale rich regions (did you know that the word Penguin probably comes from the Welsh for pen= head and gwyn=white?).

The question was niggling at the back of my mind so I sent an enquiry with the photos above to the experts at the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff.

I received an almost instant response from Tom Sharpe, Curator (Paleaontology and Archives)
"Thanks for sending the picture. The bones are not dinosaur and they are not tusks, and from their fresh appearance they don't look like mammoth. One of the bones is most likely a modern whale rib while the rounded element looks like the end of a limb bone, but it's hard to say without seeing a view of the rest of it. But again, it's probably modern whale. If we are talking about Mallwyd near Dinas Mawddwy in Gwynedd, then the bones are not local. I would guess they were brought back by some seafarer from the village. They may well have ended up in a garden or field and were subsequently dug up. I hope this helps"

Brilliant and very helpful! Demonstrating the value and expertise that is available in Museums, not just in Wales but near where you live too.

Have you seen any strange objects and been curious enough to try and find out what they were? let me know in the comments box below!

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