Yorkshire Day this month celebrates all that is wonderful about our county. One of the best things for me about Yorkshire has to be its history. We are so lucky to live in such a historically rich area of the world, and regardless of where your interest in history lies, our amazing region has something to offer. We already know so much about what has gone before but we certainly don’t know everything, and our local landscapes still keep giving us new and exciting glimpses into the past, slowly revealing pieces of a huge and varied jigsaw of life once lived where we walk today.
The cliffs on the Yorkshire Coast recently gave up another of their secrets, revealing a walrus skull from its rocky depths. The skull dating all the way back to the last Ice Age was discovered at the site of Haven’s Reighton Sands holiday park. The incredible find has been verified by the Collections team at Scarborough Museums Trust as dating back to the Pleistocene period, making it at least 120,000 years old!
The fossilised walrus skull is believed to be the first of its kind found in situ and was uncovered within the cliffs between Filey and Scarborough. The walrus originates from Doggerland – an area of land which once connected the UK to mainland Europe, stretching between Scotland and the Netherlands. Doggerland was submerged by rising sea levels in around 6,500 BC and now lies beneath the North Sea, though it was once home to humans and mammals including the North Sea walrus. Many finds from Doggerland tend to be uncovered through dredging so the discovery of a find in context opens a range of opportunities for scientists across Europe to find out where the walrus was living during the Pleistocene period. Scientists believed walrus were living in the North Sea area between 60,000 and 90,000 years ago but this first find in situ already appears to be offering new information by pushing this date back further by 30,000 years.
Haven have donated the fossilised walrus skull to the Scarborough Collections managed by Scarborough Museum’s Trust and as an artefact of scientific significance, it forms the centrepiece of its new exhibition Ancient Seas of the Yorkshire Coast: A Story Through Time from Whitby to Flamborough Head, at the Rotunda Museum.
Jennifer Dunne, Collections Manager for Scarborough Museums Trust said,
“We’re thrilled that this incredible find has been donated by Haven and to hold this rare and hugely significant artefact at the Rotunda. We’re at the very beginning of a journey to find out more about this walrus fossil. There is still a great deal to learn about walrus from the North Sea during the Pleistocene period, so this fossil holds great potential for unlocking more secrets about these creatures and the prehistoric coastlines of Europe. In addition to beginning scientific study on this specimen, we have proudly put the walrus skull on display in our new Ancient Seas exhibition where people in Yorkshire can glimpse the fossil for the first time – and future plans involve reconstructing the object to give visitors an insight into the North Sea walrus.”
Opened in 1829, The Rotunda is one of the world’s first purpose-built geological museums. Its new exhibition Ancient Seas of the Yorkshire Coast dives into almost 360 million years of history from Yorkshire’s prehistoric past. From the Carboniferous period, through the Permian, Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods until the end of the last Ice Age 11,700 years ago. From 330 million-year-old Carboniferous corals brought to our coast by Ice Age glaciers through to woolly rhinos and hyenas that roamed Yorkshire 120,000 years ago, the exhibition displays a variety of treasures telling fascinating stories. Visitors can view the walrus skull on display alongside fossils such as ammonites and belemnites and more unusual sea creatures such as delicate starfish, Jurassic crocodiles, and Yorkshire’s only Jurassic turtle. The exhibition will run for two years.
Nick Cook, General Manager at Haven’s Reighton Sands Holiday Park added,
“As a coastal holiday company, we pride ourselves on being a place where families can get back to nature and explore the captivating Great British coast. The historic Yorkshire coast has proven to be no exception and we are really proud to be able to gift this fascinating find to the Rotunda Museum in Scarborough. Moving forward, we would like to work closer with the Rotunda Museum to see how we can help get families even more engaged with the history of our coastline and discover what’s on their doorstep.”
The Ancient Seas of the Yorkshire Coast exhibition is already open, so as well as enjoying the beaches, food and amusements that Scarborough has to offer, why not add in a trip to the Rotunda Museum on your next visit to the town?
For opening times and ticket prices for the museum, visit;