A fossil mystery to get your teeth into

Kathie Read made an unusual find among the flower pots and cobwebs as she cleaned out her garden shed – a box of fossilised mammoth teeth.

Mrs Read, from Broome, near Bungay, was tidying up when she came across a wooden box belonging to her late husband, John.

Inside she found what she thought were bones, but on closer inspection they appeared to be huge teeth.

Mr Read, who died in 2008, aged 82, had never spoken in detail to his wife about the find, only once making a vague passing reference to it.

The newspaper the teeth were wrapped in was dated November 16, 1950, eight years before the couple married.


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Keen to get to the root of the puzzle, Mrs Read contacted his friend, Vic Cossey, who came and had a look.

Mr Cossey took the teeth to David Waterhouse, curator of natural history at Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service, who examined them and said they were molars from the lower jaw of an adult woolly mammoth.

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Mr Cossey, 84, from Ditchingham, said: 'John and I went to school together and when we were kids we spent a lot of time on Broome Heath.

'When Mrs Read found these in a shed a few weeks ago she phoned me to see if I knew anything about them. I went and saw them and thought they were of some interest.

'Before he was married John lived opposite the heath and we assume he found them there.'

It is thought Mr Read found the teeth when gravel was being extracted to construct local airfields at Flixton and Seething during the war years.

Mrs Read, 75, said the family was delighted to learn more about the find.

'I don't expect he knew what they were,' she said.

'He liked books, but he wasn't a reader as such. If he found anything he would bring it home. He was a collector of anything. John would have been really pleased. It is just a shame he is not here to know.'

Mrs Read said the couple used to run John and Kathie's Fruit Shop in Bungay and described her late husband as a 'hard-working man'.

'Once I remember him saying something, but we were busy and we had the children and a business,' she said.

'There wasn't any time to sit and talk.'

Last night Dr Waterhouse said that Norfolk had long been recognised as important for fossils of this kind and was increasingly being seen as important for early human habitation with a site near Happisburgh being home to the first-known Britons.

He said: 'It is always nice to find a fossil and it is a wonder that any of them have survived at all given the amount that goes on with weathering and erosion. By their very nature all fossils are rare, but for us in Norfolk these are more common than elsewhere.'

The mammoth teeth are currently on display at St Mary's Church in Ditchingham as part of Norfolk Open Churches Week.

They are on display today, tomorrow and Saturday between 10.30am and 4.30pm and on Sunday between 10.30am and 4pm.

Mrs Read said she would be offering the mammoth teeth to Bungay Museum.

emily.dennis@archant.co.uk

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