Preserving Lizzie

The problems surrounding the discovery of an ancient reptile fossil and its wider implications for cultural heritage.

Set up in 1931 to act as an advisory body, the Museums and Galleries Commission plays a vital role in promoting the interests and monitoring the well-being, of museums and galleries throughout the UK. The Commission distributes an annual budget of 11 million pounds in grants to this end. The latest annual report from the MGC tells a disturbing tale of discovery in 1988 of a reptile fossil, which has become affectionately known as Lizzie, found by a private collector in a disused quarry near Bathgate, West Lothian.

The discovery caused international excitement amongst archaeologists and scientists because the rocks in which Lizzie was found are 340 million years old. The oldest reptile fossil to have been discovered before this was in Canada, in rocks dating back a mere 300 million years: 40 million years younger than Lizzie. Lizzie is therefore evidence of the earliest-known reptile to have been discovered in the world.

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