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Britain's oldest dinosaur to be unearthed

World Cement,

After more than 210 million years entombed in limestone rock, Britain's oldest dinosaur will be excavated.

The first remains of the Thecodontosaurus Antiquus were found in 1834 at Durdham Down. When these were found, it was only the fourth dinosaur to be discovered. These were displayed in the Bristol museum, but they were later destroyed when the museum was hit in a bomb raid during the Second World War.

However, about 500 bones belonging to the same species were found by excavators at Tytherington quarry in 1975. These bones became known as the 'Bristol Dinosaur'. According to the university, they were the oldest dinosaur remains found in the UK and one of the oldest found anywhere in the world at that time.

Thanks to a £295 000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), scientists from the University of Bristol will now be able to extract and study the fossils for the first time.

Mike Benton from the University of Bristol, who will lead the project said, 'it's one of the most primitive plant-eating dinosaurs, at the base of the group that gave rise to the long-necked plant-eaters like brachiosaurus and diplodocus. Internationally, it's very important as one of the very earliest plant-eating dinosaurs. It was quite small, about a metre and a half in length and a great deal of that is a long, thin tail. It's a biped, about the height of a 10-year-old child.'

The project will last three years and Benton hopes to reconstruct the complete skeleton of the Thecodontosaurus Antiquus, which would have fed on the lush vegetation growing on the hot and vegetated islands that made up the Bristol area during the Triassic period, more than 200 million years ago. The remnants of one such island survives today as the Bristol Downs.

The scientists hope to raise further funds to build a permanent exhibit at the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery.

Nerys Watts, head of Heritage Lottery Fund South West, said, 'the remains of the Bristol Dinosaur are of international scientific and heritage importance, offering a chance for us to further understand what our world was like 200 million years ago. Alongside the scientific research, this project will enable local people to learn about one of the city's most important but least well known residents.'

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