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Statue Crowdfunder for Pioneering ‘Fossil Lady’ Hits First Target

Steve Palace
The preliminary sketches of the proposed statue showing Mary Anning with her dog, Tray. Image: Denise Dutton.

A statue celebrating overlooked female fossil hunter Mary Anning is one step closer to reality. £70,000 (approx $95,000) has been crowdfunded, via campaign Mary Anning Rocks.

The bronze creation, by artist Denise Dutton, will eventually stand in Lyme Regis, the West Dorset coastal town of Anning’s birth.

Campaigners took 3 years to raise the sum for commissioning. And it all started with 13 year old Evie Swire. She’s a young fossil enthusiast, just as Mary was. When she found out about this unsung local heroine, she decided to redress the balance and the crowdfunding is going very well.

The Jurassic coast at Charmouth, Dorset, where the Annings made some of their finds. The hill in the background is Golden Cap. Kevin Walsh – CC BY 2.0

The Jurassic coast at Charmouth, Dorset, where the Annings made some of their finds. The hill in the background is Golden Cap. Kevin Walsh – CC BY 2.0

Swire, mother Anya Pearson and co still have a minor mountain to climb. As reported by BBC News, another $41,000 or so is required for “planning permission, legal fees, ground works and transportation.”

Still, there’s enough for Dutton to craft a 13 inch maquette to show off the design. Preliminary sketches came from suggestions made by local kids.

Quoted by the Natural History Museum, Anya says the statue presents Anning “at the height of her fame”, dressed “in her full working clothes carrying the accoutrements of her trade”.

Other details include an ammonite-style texture to Anning’s bronze skirt, plus the presence of her faithful dog Tray. The pair walk on an etched platform featuring a selection of her discoveries.

Evie Swire spoke of her excitement at the milestone being reached, saying “it feels really real.”

Born in 1799, Anning was exploring Dorset’s Jurassic history from the age of just 10. By 12 years old she’d uncovered a 17 ft long ichthyosaur skeleton alongside her brother, reintroducing the world to this dinosaur after millions of years.

Sketch of Mary Anning at work by Henry De la Beche

Sketch of Mary Anning at work by Henry De la Beche

The fantastic finds didn’t stop there. Over the course of her life, the eagle-eyed palaeontologist discovered the first plesiosaur skeleton, a pterodactylus and much more.

Writing on their website, the Lyme Regis Museum states Anning’s work became “central to the development of new ideas about the history of the Earth”. In an age of Biblical teachings, Anning and others turned the planet on its axis. The idea of extinction was brought to light through the efforts of fossil hunters.

She passed away aged 47 from breast cancer. But her legacy was undeniable. The Museum says that over the course of her lifetime “geology was firmly established as its own scientific discipline.”

Anning was a contemporary of eminent figures such as William Buckland, one of the original finders of dinosaur fossils. Her work influenced both archaeologists and artists in the interpretation of ancient history. Without Anning, certain dinos may have stayed buried.

Yet even today her name struggles to be recognized. Anning’s gender and working class status went against her in the early 19th century.

Jurassic Coast, Dorset, England.

Jurassic Coast, Dorset, England.

In an equally significant – if icky – development, she studied ancient coprolites… otherwise known as fossilized faeces. It was a dirty job but someone had to do it, and the results contributed much to people’s understanding of the Jurassic ecosystem.

The Lyme Regis Museum notes a stained glass window was installed in her honor at St Michael’s Parish Church, Lyme. It’s hoped the statue will reinforce Anning’s contribution in a more prominent way.

Kate Winslet starred in last year’s ‘Ammonite’, written and directed by Francis Lee, As reported by The Conversation, an ammonite is a cephalopod fossil in a whorl, or circular pattern. These local features were sold over the counter by Anning in her shop.

Saoirse Ronan played Charlotte Murchison, a geologist and friend of Anning’s. The movie imagined an intimate relationship between the pair, though it isn’t known whether this actually happened.

Another Article From Us: Garden Ornament Turns Out to be a Roman Artifact Worth Thousands!

The modern day has interfered with statue plans through Covid-19. All being well, campaigners aim to erect Mary Anning in Lyme Regis on her birthday, May 21st 2022.