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OU on the BBC: Fossil Detectives - London

Updated Tuesday 5th August 2008

The team from the BBC/OU series Fossil Detectives discover some of the secrets that can be found in London

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Hermione meets the dinosaurs of Crystal Palace Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team

London might be the last place you would think of looking for fossils but signs of lost worlds and prehistoric lives are all around us – even in the city. In glamorous Old Bond Street, Hermione is on the look out for fossils in the stone of the buildings themselves - with surprising results.

London was once home to animals we now think of being exotic and dangerous. Lions, hyenas and seven ton hippos once roamed the land where now there are black cabs and double-deckers. When the foundations of Trafalgar Square were being built, strange fossils of prehistoric beasts were discovered. From the vantage point of the BT Tower, Hermione tells the tale of one of the fossils found there - a massive tusk of a long dead hippopotamus.

Fossils are key to understanding the processes of evolution. In the Evolution House at London’s famous Kew Gardens, Hermione explores the phenomenon of living fossils – plant species from prehistoric times that are still alive today. Botanist James Wong reveals what plant fossils can tell us about past worlds, and what they can say about the future, too.

As a child, Sir David Attenborough was obsessed by fossils, developing an interest in them long before he discovered his lifelong passion for wildlife. Now decades later, Fossil Detectives are privileged to be invited on a personal, guided tour of Sir David’s private fossil collection.

Meeting the great naturalist at his London home, Hermione learns about the fossils he’s collected over years of travelling: a dinosaur backbone from the Sahara, an ancient armoured fish from the Australian outback and one or two mystery fossils for Hermione to guess. In a very rare interview about his passion for fossils, Sir David recalls his fossil hunting days and reveals why they continue to intrigue and delight him.

Take it further

Explore the Geology Toolkit

Watch the My Favourite Fossil videos


Study Fossils and the history of life with the Open University

Sample Reading the rocks and ecology - free learning from OpenLearn

First broadcast: Thursday 21 Aug 2008 on BBC FOUR


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