Day three was the day I was most excited about. The Palaeontologists and the Mineralogists split up and went to separate places. You can read about what they got up to in the next blog, a guest post from Mike Rumsey. The Palaeontologists were heading to an area known as Goulmima. The reason we were heading there was primarily to explore the fish and ammonite fauna to be found (there are also marine reptiles). These animals are from the Turonian stage of the Late Cretaceous. This means that these fossils are approximately 90 million years old! Being the curator of the fossil cephalopods and a particular fan of ammonites I was very excited!
Before we left our hotel we visited the fossil and mineral shop they had to have a look and see what there was. There were some very impressive large items but I was most impressed by the heteromorphic ammonites and spiny trilobites.
Some of the wonderful ammonites on sale at the hotel.
We left our hotel and drove south, heading towards Goulmima. On the way we stopped in a town called Rich, where we visited another fossil shop. The owner of this particular shop knows the Goulmima area which we were interested in very well, he also had a lot of fossils from the sites there. Knowing that we wouldn’t be spending very long at the site at Goulmima, and also that the Museum is working to expand its collection of ammonites from the region I spent some time having a look for the rarer species not represented in our collections. In the end we came away with some very nice ammonites.
Me searching through a pile of ammonites.
After our detour we continued on the way to Goulmima. The drive there was filled with spectacular scenery as the landscape became more filled with the typical desert scenes you would expect from Morocco. As we got closer we were driving along a river bed with spectacular cliffs and lush vegetation. On arriving we had lunch in the shade under a date tree (more fantastic tuna sandwiches!). During our 300km drive south it had gotten noticeably hotter, I was definitely grateful for my sun hat and factor 50 suncream!
Magnificent landscapes we travelled through on our way south through Morocco. 1 of 3
Landscape 2 of 3
More of the wonderful geology we passed on our drive south 3 of 3.
Once we had eaten our lunch we went to the first of two sites in the Goulmima area known as Asfla 1 (another town nearby). The more adventurous of the group scrambled up a very steep cliff to investigate what could be found. Lower down we found evidence of shell beds containing lots of bivalve shells. After half an hour or so there we had found a few scrappy bits of ammonite and no fish so we got back into the jeeps and headed off to the second site; Asfla 2.
View of site Asfla 1.
The view from site Aslfa 1. Photograph courtesy of Martha Richter.
Can you see my collegues on the cliff at Asfla 1?
On reaching Asfla 2 we hopped out of the jeeps and headed up towards the site. On the way up we found pieces of plesiosaur. Martin found a lovely specimen of an ammonite genus known as Mammites at this site.
Site Asfla 2.
Me and Emma Bernard at Asfla 2.
Our next stop before heading towards a place called Erfoud and our hotel was a small settlement near Goulmima. We were taken here by our guides as the local people make living excavating fossils from the area. We made a couple of stops, one of which being to a man who specialised in collecting the ammonite fauna. I spent another happy few minutes having a look through a pile of ammonites. In the end I came away with a good selection of specimens, some very rare which may never have been found here before!
The village we visited. Photograph courtesy of Martha Richter.
The last stop before our hotel was a brief stop in another fossil shop. As we were now in Erfoud an area with much older Palaeozoic rocks, this was starting to be seen in what the shop was selling, with goniatites and trilobites which are much older alongside the more recent Cretaceous fauna. While we were here Mike, Emma and Helena; the mineralogists met us so we could head to our hotel and a comfortable bed after a long and busy day.
Keep an eye out for the vertebrate perspective on day 3 from Emma Bernard, and a guest post here from Mike Rumsey about what the mineralogists were up to.