Ammonite: The real life Mary Anning’s incredible dinosaur discoveries from the age of 12

Ammonite: Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan star in trailer

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Back in January, film fans were fascinated by Netflix movie The Dig’s portrayal of the real-life Sutton Hoo excavation and all the treasure discovered at the 7th century Anglo-Saxon ship’s burial site. Ralph Fiennes’ Basil Brown, who was once described as an amateur archaeologist due to being self-taught, was hired to work on what would be one of the most important archaeological discoveries of all time. And now new film Ammonite is inspired by the life of British palaeontologist Mary Anning, who similarly made incredible historical finds despite her lack of formal education in her subject.

Born in Lyme Regis on May 21, 1799, Mary’s early life was marked by tragedy as eight out of nine of her siblings died.

Growing up and living in relative poverty throughout her short life, Anning became world-famous for her Jurassic marine fossil bed discoveries in the cliffs along the English Channel at her birthplace in Dorset.

Her amazing geographical findings are some of the most important in history and their evidence contributed to big changes in scientific thought at the time regarding prehistoric life and the age of the Earth.

Incredibly, in 1811, the fossil collector and dealer was just 12-years-old when she discovered a 5.2m (17ft) skeleton, now known to be an ichthyosaur.

While later on, Anning would find the first complete skeleton of a plesiosaur, a marine reptile.

Additionally, she went on to discover the UK’s first known remains of a pterosaur, believed to be the largest-ever flying animal.

For those interested, the palaeontologist’s discoveries including the ichthyosaur, plesiosaur and pterosaur are on display in the National History Museum to this day.

While Anning making such ground-breaking finds, she was sadly not accepted by the scientific community in her lifetime.

The Dig: Carey Mulligan stars in Netflix trailer

This was mainly due to early 19th-century attitudes towards her poor background, non-conformist Protestantism and, of course, her gender.

Even when Anning sold some of the fossils she found, they were often credited in museums under the names of men who had bought them off here.

She died of breast cancer on March 9, 1847, at the age of 47-years-old and in the two centuries since has seen her much deserved recognition and legacy grow.

Anning is buried at St Michael the Archangel Church in the town of her birth and work, Lyme Regis.

Google commemorates the fossil-filled life of British palaeontologist [MARY ANNING]

The Dig: How accurate is The Dig on Netflix on the Sutton Hoo find [THE DIG SUTTON HOO]
The Dig ‘sexist’ plot hole: Lily James’ Peggy Piggott was experienced [THE DIG PLOT HOLE]

Since Anning never married, and it’s unknown if she had lovers, Francis Lee’s new movie Ammonite follows a speculative romantic relationship between Winslet’s palaeontologist and Ronan’s Charlotte Murchison.

The latter was a real-life and contemporary British geologist alongside her husband Sir Roderick Murchison.

Ammonite’s synopsis reads: “In the 1840s, acclaimed self-taught palaeontologist Mary Anning works alone on the wild and brutal Southern English coastline of Lyme Regis.

“The days of her famed discoveries behind her, she now hunts for common fossils to sell to rich tourists to support herself and her ailing widowed mother.”

The synopsis continues: “When one such tourist, Roderick Murchison, arrives in Lyme on the first leg of a European tour, he entrusts Mary with the care of his young wife Charlotte, who is recuperating from a personal tragedy.

“Mary, whose life is a daily struggle on the poverty line, cannot afford to turn him down but, proud and relentlessly passionate about her work, she clashes with her unwanted guest. They are two women from utterly different worlds.

“Yet despite the chasm between their social spheres and personalities, Mary and Charlotte discover they can each offer what the other has been searching for: the realisation that they are not alone. It is the beginning of a passionate and all-consuming love affair that will defy all social bounds and alter the course of both lives irrevocably.”

Ammonite is available for premium rental at home on all digital platforms from March 26.

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