A team of Monmouthshire County Council contractors undertaking survey work at Abergavenny’s Castle Meadows ahead of its redevelopment have stumbled across what palaeontologists are describing as the find of the century.
Experts from Cardiff University raced to the site late on Friday after the survey team discovered what they first thought were animal bones but which are now believed may be the fossilised remains of a plesiosaur dating from the Jurassic era.
If this is the case it will be the first time remains of the ‘sea monsters’ have been discovered so far from the coast and it could force dinosaur experts to rethink their understanding of how the creatures existed in this part of the world.
While the vertebra bone is the first piece of evidence which has been uncovered, surveys appear to show that there is at least one intact fossilised skeleton at the riverside site.
“We know there is one skeleton and while we don’t want to get too excited it definitely appears as if there may be more,” said lead palaeontologist Dr Doug Hole
“If this is the case we could be looking at something completely unheard of not only in Wales but in the world,” he added.
“Our early surveys suggest that not only do we have the remains of a plesiosaur but also at least several other dinosaurs from the Jurassic era.
“It appears they may have been living in a colony close to the Usk River and were possibly there when the fatal meteor struck the earth bringing about the demise of its dinosaur population,” he added.
“If this is the case it will be the first time we have evidence of a colony of this size anywhere in the UK and it will put Abergavenny on the world map for dino hunters.
“The implications of seeing a marine dinosaur so far inland are also enormous,” said Dr Hole.
“ Not only does it force us to reconsider our thinking about how dinosaurs lived, but it could provide the origins of stories about inland waterway monsters like the Loch Ness monster which have always been pooh poohed by serious experts. We’re already affectionately calling our dinosaur Usky,” he joked.
“We definitely know about the plesiosaur but for us the ultimate would be to now uncover one of the ‘big five’ like a T-Rex or a brontosaurus,” said Dr Hole.
The discovery has already sent ripples of excitement through MCC and the Welsh Government with business development experts on site next to the palaeontologists yesterday.
“The opportunities this discovery offer to Abergavenny are untold,” said Councillor C Threwitt.
“Obviously we are in the very early stages of planning this but we definitely see a large scale visitors’ centre where people can see the excavations as they happen.
“We are also in the very early stages of negotiations with a major film and theme park operator - I can’t confirm which one but it’s definitely not a Micky Mouse operation. They are impressed with the close proximity to Abergavenny Castle and are keen to explore the possibility of a ‘time trail’ using life-sized audio animatronic figures along the length of the Castle Meadows to trace Abergavenny’s history from ‘Monsters to Monks’
For the moment however, the priority is to continue the digs to uncover exactly how many dinosaurs are buried under the Castle Meadows.
“We haven’t got a proper dino name for our first find which is still going by its museum classification of Ab/April1/F001 which registers the date and place of discovery,” said Dr Hole.
‘We are hoping to register a slightly cooler name for our beastie - maybe something like the Doyouthinkwefooledemosaur but we’ll have to wait and see about that,” he added.