Pyritized Ammonite in Pyrite Matrix/ Jurassic / Charmouth, UK
Ships from Massachusetts!
Age: 180-190 Million Years Old
Location: Charmouth, Dorset, UK
Ammonoids are an extinct group of marine mollusc animals in the subclass Ammonoidea of the class Cephalopoda. These molluscs are more closely related to living coleoids (i.e., octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish) than they are to shelled nautiloids such as the living Nautilus species. The earliest ammonites appear during the Devonian, and the last species died out during the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event.
The history of Charmouth dates back to the Iron Age when a Celtic tribe, the Durotriges, founded a settlement. Evidence of hill forts can still be seen in the area. The name Charmouth originated from the Saxon 'Cerne' meaning stony river, Charmouth was therefore known as 'Cernmunde'.
This site is part of the Jurassic World Heritage Coastline, SSSI and private land. No hammering is allowed on the bedrock or cliffs. Damage has already been caused to the heritage site by people using power tools. This is strictly against SSSI rules and any attempt to ignore them may result in prosecution.
By far the most common fossils at Charmouth are ammonites. Many small ones can be simply collected from along the foreshore. The larger, gold-coloured (pyrite) ammonites can be found at Stonebarrow during scouring tides, exposed in the clay particularly at the far end of Stonebarrow. Or you may be lucky enough to pick up one from the foreshore. Crinoids can also be found at Stonebarrow, by searching along the tide line.
Flatstones at Charmouth can contain well-preserved ammonites and insects, but are unfortunately rare and only a small percentage contains fossils. In the past, several complete fishes have also been found in these nodules, in perfect condition.
Black Ven itself is famous for ichthyosaur bones, which are washed out of the slippages of clay. At Stonebarrow, ichthyosaur bones can also be found, often exposed on the foreshore during scouring tides.
The top beds at Black Ven contain many good fossils, including fish and large nodules that occasionally contain ammonites. These beds are so high up that cliff falls are required, but during extremely high tides, these top beds often fall or slip down to beach level. Many reptiles have been found and Charmouth has been the place of many discoveries of new species.
There is a huge range of fossils that can be found between Black Ven and Stonebarrow. The most common place to find fossils and indeed the easiest is from along the beach. Search in the shingle and on the tide line, especially as the tide retreats. The key is to focus on a particular area, such as walking along the tide line, where you are most likely to find them. You may have to get on our hands and knees to find the tiny ammonites. Look out for patches of dark, gold-coloured grains or small lumps. These are iron pyrites or (‘Fool’s Gold’). Fossils are most common in these areas among this pyrite. You can also search in the clay on the foreshore at Black Ven. This is a good area to find ammonites. The sea acts as a giant sieve and does all the hard work for you. Do not climb the slippages, as they are very dangerous and the effort is pointless – you have a much higher chance of finding fossils on the foreshore.
There are also a wide variety of rocks lying on the beach, some of which contain fossils, with others containing fossil casts. Usually, these can simply be picked up from along the beach.
Also, keep an eye open for the flatstones, as these can contain some superb fossils, but you will need a hammer. There is also a special way of splitting these nodules. Split them from on the side rather than on the flat top/bottom, because hitting these nodules incorrectly will most likely split the fossil inside or shatter it. Do not attempt to dig these nodules out of the cliff – they can be so big that attempting to do this would put you at danger.