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3 April 1852: Brickfield workers in Wortley (Leeds) discover and bring to Henry Denny, curator of the Leeds Museum, some huge, unchristian bones

Henry Denny. 1853. On the Discovery of Hippopotamic and Other Remains in the Neighbourhood of Leeds. Proceedings, Vol. 3, No. 1. Leeds: Geological and Polytechnic Society of the West Riding of Yorkshire. Get it:

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Excerpt

As some workmen in the employ of the Messrs Longley of Leeds were digging clay for the purpose of making bricks, they discovered, at the depth of 10 feet, in a dark blue sedimentary clay, almost approaching mud, several large bones, some of which attracting their attention more than the others were brought to me. From the situation in which they were found, it was highly probable that the animals to which they belonged had lived and died in the immediate vicinity, and subsequently drifted, together with fragments of trees, to the bottom or lower part of a swamp, for not only is this particular bed of clay confined to one portion of the field, but the whole series of beds of clay become much thicker as they approach this spot, thus clearly indicating it to have been lower than the remainder…. It is much to be regretted that the attention of the labourers was not earlier directed to the preservation of these interesting remains, of which a number had been neglected and destroyed before their curiosity was excited by the discovery of one of the massive thigh bones and the forearm, whose unusual size, to use their own words, “made them think they could not be Christians’ bones.” Upon ascertaining their identity, I visited the field daily, and sometimes twice a day, and ascertained that two scapulae, six molar teeth, three incisors, and various small bones, had been found and destroyed. I was also informed that in the adjoining brick-field, in the same bed of clay, several large bones had been found during the previous year. Having now stimulated the men by the promise of pecuniary reward to increased care and search, in the course of a few weeks I was in possession of the other femur, the right and left humerus, the left radius and ulna, two scapulae, the tibia and fibula, the pelvis, three specimens of the astragalus, the right os-calcis, one carpal, and five entire metatarsal bones, a large portion of the cranium, and part of the lower jaw, with the two straight incisors, fragments of the upper and lower jaws, with the molar teeth, together with examples of nearly all the incisive and canine tusks and teeth, two cervical, seven dorsal, and nine lumbar vertebrae, the sacrum, numerous fragments of ribs, and a large quantity of fractured bones from various parts of the skeleton.


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To facilitate reading, the spelling and punctuation of elderly excerpts have generally been modernised, and distracting excision scars concealed.

Comment

Comment

Does anyone have more on the 1851 finds which he mentions?

Harkness et al advise against dating a hippopotamus (Harkness 1976/12).

See also the Leeds Geological Association’s page.

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Original

An accidental, though highly interesting discovery, however, having been recently made in the neighbourhood of Leeds, which militates against the latter supposition, or, at least, that part of it which teaches that the larger pachyderms ceased to exist with the Pre-glacial period; and as the placing on record any fact regarding the discovery in a fresh locality of remains of the former inhabitants of this island is of great importance, either in confirmation of, or disproving the accuracy of existing theories, I am induced to occupy the attention of this Society for a few minutes, in order to lay before them a short notice of the exhumation of a considerable number of bones of the Great Northern Hippopotamus in the township of Wortley, and parish of Leeds. On the 3rd of April, last year (1852), as some workmen in the employ of the Messrs. Longley, of Leeds, were digging clay for the purpose of making bricks, they discovered, at the depth of 10 feet, in a dark blue sedimentary clay, almost approaching mud, several large bones, some of which attracting their attention more than the others, were brought to me, and, from the situation in which they were found, it was highly probable that the animals to which they belonged had lived and died in the immediate vicinity, and were subsequently drifted, together with fragments of trees, to the bottom or lower part of a swamp, for not only is this particular bed of clay confined to one portion of the field, but the whole series of beds of clay become much thicker as they approach this spot, thus clearly indicating it to have been lower than the remainder. I was much surprised in observing that, although the field is very limited in extent, the variation in the strata or deposits in those parts which can be observed is very considerable. Towards the S.E. no clay is found, the sandstone reaching the surface; but towards the centre, in a westerly direction, where the bones were deposited, in one section is a bed of clay from five to six feet thick; next a bed of grayish sand, of about two feet, which runs out a little further to the south-west to two inches in thickness; this is succeeded by a bed of yellow sand two feet thick; and fourthly, by another bed of white sand, in which are a vast number of boulders, perfectly rounded by attrition. These are, with few exceptions, all grit or sandstone, with an occasional fragment of limestone or chert. In another direction is a bed of dark red gravel; while in the particular spot where the Hippopotamic remains were deposited no sand or gravel appears, but a series of beds of clay, of variable quality, with occasionally large boulders, some of which contain impressions of Stigmaria, and fragments of trees, to the depth of ten feet, where it becomes valueless for the purpose of brickmaking, consisting of so large a proportion of sediment or mud, and is consequently not worked.

It is much to be regretted that the attention of the labourers was not earlier directed to the preservation of these interesting remains, of which a number had been neglected and destroyed before their curiosity was excited by the discovery of one of the massive thigh bones and the fore arm, whose unusual size, to use their own words, “made them think they could not be Christians’ bones,” and, therefore, to solve this important problem, they determined to bring them to the Philosophical Hall. Upon ascertaining their identity, I visited the field daily, and sometimes twice a day, and ascertained that two scapulae, six molar teeth, three incisors, and various small bones, had been found and destroyed. I was also informed that in the adjoining brick field, in the same bed of clay, several large bones had been found during the previous year. Having now stimulated the men by the promise of pecuniary reward to increased care and search, in the course of a few weeks I was in possession of the other femur, the right and left humerus, the left radius and ulna, two scapulae, the tibia and fibula, the pelvis, three specimens of the astragalus, the right os-calcis, one carpal, and five entire meta-tarsal bones, a large portion of the cranium, and part of the lower jaw, with the two straight incisors, fragments of the upper and lower jaws, with the molar teeth, together with examples of nearly all the incisive and canine tusks and teeth, two cervical, seven dorsal, and nine lumbar vertebrae, the sacrum, numerous fragments of ribs, and a large quantity of fractured bones from various parts of the skeleton.

782 words.

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