Researchers from the University of Leicester and Lyme Regis Museum have been studying a recently discovered childhood token -- believed to have belonged to the pioneering palaeontologist Mary Anning -- on a beach in Lyme Regis, Dorset.
According to Michael Taylor, a visiting research fellow at the University of Leicester's School of Museum Studies, the token, a metal disc found by a detectorist on Church Cliff beach, Lyme Regis, may have belonged to the famous fossil collector, who passed away on 9 March 1847.
A new paper by the University of Leicester's Michael Taylor and Lyme Regis Museum's Richard Bull examines the high likelihood that the token -- which has "MARY ANNING MDCCCX" (1810) on the obverse of the disc and "LYME REGIS AGE XI" (eleven) on the reverse -- belonged to Mary Anning.
In 1810 Mary Anning would have been eleven years old and had yet to find the first ichthyosaur -- or the plesiosaur which made her famous.
Mike Taylor said: "My colleague, Richard Bull, who is a volunteer researcher at Lyme Regis Museum, and I were delighted to research such an intriguing find. Its importance is that it's such a very personal little thing and a real addition to the Museum's collection which doesn't have many items from Anning. It's a pleasure to be able to do research of such immediate use to the museum."
The token is a metal disc, possibly brass, about 25mm in diameter and 1mm thick.
The token was found on the beach below Church Cliffs which is where Mary could well have lost it during a fossil collecting expedition.
One explanation for how Mary came to acquire the disc could be that her father, Richard Anning, made it for his daughter as an eleventh birthday token. As a cabinet maker, Richard likely had the tools to impress a metal disc as he would have made metal labels for his furniture.
Richard Anning died in November 1810, so making the disc for his daughter may have been one of his last actions, and perhaps a way of showing affection for the daughter his poverty and ill health meant he could do little for.
The token is now on display at Lyme Regis Museum, Dorset.
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