Mammoth tusk and ammonite
During the time of the dinosaurs, 100 million years ago, a great sea covered Canterbury (and much of Europe too). It was full of fish and other sea creatures like sponges, seashells, sea urchins and the now extinct ammonites and belemnites. Billions of tiny algae also lived in its warm waters. Their skeletons, raining down on the seabed for 35 million years, formed chalk rock.
You can touch the giant ammonite on display. It is about 95 million years old and lived in the sea, using the buoyancy chambers inside its shell to move up and down. The ammonite could also propel itself along with a jet of water, like a modern squid.
Over the last two million years – the Ice Age – Europe gradually took on its present form. Ice sheets covered Britain, advancing and retreating many times, and reaching as far south as the Thames valley. Mammoth and woolly rhinoceros thrived during cold periods and prehistoric people hunted the animals for food. Warm periods were hot enough for straight-tusked elephants and hippopotamus to be common in Kent.
The Mammoth tusk on display was found on the beach at Swalecliffe in the 1930s and is about 70,000 years old. There is also Mammoth hair from Siberia, Russia, which is about 20,000 years old. Mammoths were close relatives of modern elephants. Their thick hairy coats enabled them to live in the harsh conditions that existed during the Ice Age. Mammoths are now extinct, but amazingly preserved examples are sometimes found in the Siberian permafrost.
Ammonite. © Tim Stubbings.