Fossil hidden by creationist family surfaces after 169 years

Fossil hidden by creationist family surfaces after 169 years October 4, 2019

A DEVOUTLY Christian family took fright when they unearthed a 95-million-year-old skeleton of an Ichthyosaurus in Somerset, England. Fearing the extinct ‘fish lizard’ would put a a bloody great dent in the silly creationist beliefs that were prevalent in Victorian times, they hastily reburied it.

Image via YouTube

But now, thanks one of the family’s descendants – Julian Temperly, above, of the Somerset Cider Brandy Company – the fossil has not only been restored and mounted at a cost of around £3,000, but will feature as an image on his products’ labels.

Temperley is quoted in this report as saying:

It was found by either William Philosophus Bradford or John Wesley Bradford — my great-great-grandfather or his father — in around about 1850 in their lime quarry at Pitsbury near Langport … It was while they were digging the quarry that they came across the Ichthyosaurus. They took it home and buried it. You have to remember that fossils weren’t really explained until Darwin came along.

An Ichthyosaurus pictured at London’s Natural History Museum. Image via Wiki CC

He added:

Up until then, if you believed in fossils you were denying the Bible saying God created Day One, and so on. Anyway, eventually Darwin came along and convinced people that fossils weren’t anything to do with Satan.

Well, not all people.

A Gallup poll earlier in July 2019 revealed that 40 percent of US adults ascribe to a strictly creationist view of human origins, believing that God created them in their present form within roughly the past 10,000 years. However, more Americans continue to think that humans evolved over millions of years – either with God’s guidance (33 percent) or, increasingly, without God’s involvement at all (22 pecent).

Another old fossil. Image via YouTube

Despite Julian Temperley and his immediate family growing up in the 20th century with modern education and no fear of being hounded by dotty creationists such as Ken “Ark Encounter” Ham, above, the Ichthyosaurus stayed buried in a  garden. Family members would dig it up whenever vacationing at the property to examine it, but always reburied it.

But after the flooding of 2013-14 we realised it was not a good idea to leave it buried and I thought we ought to look after it. The teeth are still there in the enamel form after 90 million years … We will now keep it on the wall of our cider brandy bond where it will be part of the family history.

As for the new branding aspect of his cider brandy, Temperley feels the creature, which went extinct around 95 million years ago, shares his company’s ethos.

Putting it with aging spirits seems like the right thing to do.

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  • MuscleCo

    It’s amazing that people who know some piece of evidence disproves their beliefs, still imagine that denying it will somehow make their beliefs true… The human mind is bizarre..

  • Phil Rimmer

    A lot of religious folk are not so much believers as believers in belief, belief that it is religion that holds society together.

  • WallofSleep

    At least they didn’t destroy it; that’s what most fundie zealots would do.

  • Michael Neville

    Putting it with aging spirits seems like the right thing to do.

    It does seem appropriate.

  • persephone

    I believe a lot of these polls are going to favor the more zealous, right-wing types, because they often call people. Older people are much more likely to answer a call, whether they recognize the number or not, and they’re also more likely to attend church or have religious beliefs.

  • Greg G.

    That Gallup question has been pretty consistent for a few decades. I would expect many of those older people to have stopped answering by now.

  • barriejohn

    A cousin of mine, who has just retired, recently visited Avebury Stone Circle(s) in Wiltshire, and agreed with me that it is far more impressive and more atmospheric than Stonehenge. Sadly, during the Middle Ages people assumed that the circles of massive stones were connected to “witchcraft”, and either pushed them over or broke them up by building huge fires around them and pouring cold water over them. Much of the stone was then used for local housebuilding. It’s a great pity, but many still survive, and more archaeological evidence is being discovered all the time. Most of the remaining stones have now been raised to what is assumed to be their original positions. What we can’t know, of course (and wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could?), is what the people who originally erected them thousands of years ago were thinking. When these ancient monuments were first constructed, the ground would have been scraped clean of grass (as the White Horses still are), and the white chalk would have been visible for miles around across the Downs. Quite a statement. I heartily recommend a visit if you are in the UK!

  • WallofSleep

    Sounds cool. My first uneducated guess would be it was more connected to keeping track of the passage of time/seasons than anything “whichcraft” related.

  • barriejohn

    There are tall stones alternating with short, squat ones, so they think that it may have been connected to fertility rituals. The huge ditch wasn’t built to keep people out, so may have been constructed to keep “good spirits” IN. As I said: If only we knew!

  • Raging Bee

    I’m guessing a bit of both: they built it to keep track of seasons, and also to have rituals acknowledging the turning of the year and asking the gods for benign weather and other necessary assistance.

  • Jennny

    And just for the fun of it, a nearby giant on a hillside has had his, err, nether regions polished by volunteers recently
    This part of the world is called the Jurassic Coast. it’s a favourite spot for fossil hunting and my g/children love doing it, the public may take hammers and chip away at rocks on some beaches…my 9yo g/daughter is an expert with a real eye for knowing which pebbles to split….I’ve seen her advising adults how to do it right…no possibility of the hoardes of children I see there becoming creationist as they learn their own finds are many millions of years old.

  • Old Harry

    From previous postings here in Patheos about this and after reading the entire article in the original paper

    The assertions of Why the family reburied are hearsay, without any further evidence coming forth. They range from the family not wanting to be accosted by country-bumpkin vicars and the like who weren’t smart enough to know what they were looking at to what this posting asserts, all with no real substantiation.

    Indeed, for all we know and contrary to the current owners explanation, maybe the local vicar or other educated person was consulted by the finder and the whole situation talked over, with the upshot being the owner just had a somewhat interesting family asset moved and kept out of sight. Darwin himself is an example of a religiously trained person who would have had the knowledge of such fossils and might have been such a vicar if he had not abandoned his religious studies which had him lined up to become a church functionary.

    There is only the ‘testimony’ of what the current owner asserts he was told by the family over the hundred plus years of the find.

    The fossils in question were of creatures that already had other fossils in the public record at the time it was originally uncovered, too.

    That the family kept the fossil buried and occasionally uncovered it then reburied it seems to me to have evolved into a quaint family custom after an original period when motivation has apparently been lost to the ages, nothing more. There is no evidence they considered it as anything else, unless there is something other than the pure assertion of the current owner.

  • Old Harry

    Does that not hint at some far more prosaic explanation for the continued existence of the fossil?

    Why does the phrase ‘fundie zealot’ even enter this conversation, here? As I’ve noted above, there were plenty of ‘naturalists’ in England, even in the clergy, as supported by Darwin’s original path towards ordination in the Church of England.

    I’ve read the original article and there is no assertion of any ‘fundie zealots’ in the owners family, as I’ve noted above and in the other blog posting about this.

    Actually, it all seemed to be mostly a local colour article that met the combined needs of the newspaper for filler AND the current owner who is keen to get publicity for his new line of commercial cider offerings.

  • barriejohn

    I was going to comment on all the free publicity!

  • barriejohn

    He’s a bit north of the Jurassic Coast, actually, but the deposits are probably the same. I live on the coast on the border of Hampshire and Dorset, and friends of mine also used to take their children fossil hunting further along the coast. Anyone who has engaged in such activities and still thinks that the earth is only about 6,000 years old must be bonkers. We all owe a debt of gratitude to Mary Anning – she who originally “sold sea shells on the sea shore”!

  • barriejohn

    I have mentioned Mary Anning in another comment. Despite her interest in fossils, she remained devoutly religious all her life, and so were many other geologists and palaeontologists of the time:

  • Götterdämmerung

    Julian Temperley has been selling thousand of gallons of Cider from the “Cider Bus” at the Glastonbury festival since 1970, it is good stuff and their 15 year old Cider Brandy is top class stuff. Canny man is Mr Temperley so I expect this is a bit of publicity.

  • CoastalMaineBird

    Why does the phrase ‘fundie zealot’ even enter this conversation
    Who else would take such a discovery and RE-BURY it?
    Again ?
    and AGAIN?

    It’s not a big stretch.
    Either they were fundie zealots themselves, and though if they hid it, it would cease to exist.
    Or they were afraid of the fundie zealots, who might accuse them of witchcraft or satanic worship, or some such.

  • markr1957

    I went to a convent boarding school in Bridport, where the nuns always taught us that fossils we found all over the coast were the devil’s work to trick us into disbelieving the Creation myth in Genesis. I think I was 10 before I realised how many times they lied to us to shoehorn reality into the Catholic doctrine. Got me wondering why they had to keep lying if Catholicism was ‘the one troo faith’.

    Edit to add – I went to that (primary) school from 1961/62 until 1967/68.