PUPILS got a hands-on history lesson when builders dug up a 190 million year-old fossil at Shipston High School.
While digging the foundations for the new teaching block builders unearthed a round stone object the size of a car wheel.
First thoughts were it might be a piece of Roman masonry owing to the school’s proximity to the Fosse Way, but on closer examination it proved to be an ancient fossil.
Digging in the area immediately stopped and Mike Ashley and Dick Burge were called in from Shipston Museum, together with experts from Warwickshire Museum.
Jon Radley, curator of Natural Sciences at Warwickshire Museums, identified the fossil as a giant ammonite, with the scientific name, Arietites.
Ammonites are extinct marine creatures – very distantly related to squid and octopus – and would have been swimming around the area many millions of years ago when it was under a huge sea.
The local hard clay in which the fossil was found would originally have been the Jurassic seafloor mud. The school’s ammonite was exceptionally lucky to survive in a small corner of undisturbed ground.
Shipston High Headteacher Jonathan Baker said: “We are all rather overwhelmed by the age of the discovery. Put it this way, if one year is represented by the thickness of one sheet of paper then our maths department reckons that to represent the age of the fossil you would need enough sheets of paper standing on their ends to reach all the way from Shipston to Stratford and back again.
“We are really grateful to our contractors, Trendgrey, and their site manager Kevin Wynne for the care they took in protecting the discovery and I’m delighted that Chris Booker and other members of our Technology Department have taken on the task of preserving and presenting the remains so enthusiastically.”
The fossil is now displayed in the entrance hall of the school, with plans for it to eventually be housed in the new teaching block only metres away from where it was found.
Building work has re-started following a careful check for other possible buried treasures.
The 190 million year-old fossil now rests in the schoo’s main entrance for all to see. (s)