Shortly before Christmas last year, a trained geologist in our team was cleaning up a piece of old amber in the school loan collections. To his surprise, he discovered several invertebrates trapped inside the amber, including a spider and a fly. We have taken several photos which you can find on Flickr.
Amber is fossilised tree resin, which has been used since prehistoric times to make jewellery and other decorative items. The Bronze Age amber cup on display at Hove Museum is a famous example of its use. In its original sticky state, insects and other invertebrates can step on the amber. Once trapped, they are quickly engulfed by the resin. The amber hardens over time, and the creature can remain preserved for millions of years.
Fossils have an odd habit of being discovered unexpectedly. This story published yesterday about the discovery of a collection of Charles Darwin’s fossil specimens in the vault of the British Geological Survey is another example.