April Fools' story: Paleontological find in student halls construction site

Construction of Glamorgan’s fifth new student hall building has recommenced – after being delayed last summer due to an paleontological find.

Gorgosaurus libratus fossil - photo by Travis S.

Correction: An academic has correctly pointed out that we should have used the term paleontological instead of archaeological. Our apologies for the mistake.

The construction site

View Fossil find in a larger map

Students living in halls may have noticed that the first construction site to be started was dormant for several months. Last summer, after clearing the woodland from the site, the initial excavations hit solid rock. In the rock, workers found fossilised bones, belonging to a dinosaur.

Paleontologists have visited campus several times since then – you may have occasionally noticed spotlights on site during periods of excavation. They have given us the all clear to recommence construction in all parts of the site. Dr Doug Hoal, who oversaw the excavation, told Glamlife “the rocky outcrop that contained the fossil turned out not to be originally from here – we believe it was deposited here during the last ice age.”

The find

Rob Matthews, Director of Campus Services, had not expected to run into a delay because of a dinosaur. “Everything was going to plan last summer. We’d cleared the woods, even put up new homes for the bats living in the buildings we were demolishing… It was the smoothest development I’d ever been involved with, and then they found a dinosaur. I’m delighted of course, but logistically, it was a hiccup. Thankfully, everything is back on schedule now.”

The dinosaur

Photo of a dinosaur claw by Colin Purrington Formal identification of the dinosaur is not yet complete. The skeleton was only partially preserved – a rib cage, shoulder, arm and claw have been found. At this stage, it looks to be a specimen of the Proceratosaurus family, or a close relative.

Dr Hoal tells us: “The very first Proceratosaurus was found not too far from Wales, in Gloucestershire. So we know they existed on the British Isles 165 million years ago. The claw found at Glamorgan is clearly that of a predator – something designed to gore and kill – and not for walking on, so we’re definitely looking at a theropod. However, we’re not yet sure that it’s a Proceratosaurus. It is believed that the species was around three to four meters long. The specimen found at Glamorgan suggests a length of five meters. There is a chance it might be a different genus altogether.”

the Welsh Dragon There is a second reason to be excited: in some ways, it might not be a dinosaur at all. It might be a dragon – the original Welsh dragon, to be precise. Professor Flora Poli, a historian, explains: “According to mythology, the ddraig goch’s battle with a white dragon foretold the great victory of King Vortigern over the Saxons. After the battle, the dragon was buried in a hill. Looking at the bones, the posture of the fossil is very similar to that of the red dragon we have on Wales’ flag even today, with the outstretched claw. From soil samples, we know there was a large forest fire here in the fifth century. To people at the time, it would have looked like a creature had perished in the flames, perhaps after some fiery battle… it is possible they buried the fossil intentionally, as a sacrifice.”

Jurassic Glamorgan

Coming soon: our very own dino display

Once the genus of the find has been determined, the University plans to put the fossils on display. It is not yet decided whether this will be in the University’s museum in Ty Crawshay, or as a feature of the Woodland Walk, which is adjacent to the site where the fossil was discovered.

Meanwhile, there is a thrilling prospect: if the specimen does indeed belong to a new genus – a new species of dinosaur, to you and me – it would need to be named. Just for fun, in the spirit of the excitement of it all, we’re running a poll on Glamlife to see what our students would name the new species of dinosaur… (without any guarantee that the University would accept the Glamlife team’s suggestions)

  • Pontysaurus
  • Treforatops
  • Glamosaurus
  • Cambriasaurus
  • Dave
  • Rutilosaurus

Further information

If you’re as excited about this find as we are, check out the following links: