Six of the Best: Amazing Objects in Leeds

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We took a walk around the Leeds Discovery Centre and it’s 1.7m objects of interest and found six of the best and most wonderful.

4.5bn meteorite

You can’t get much older than this (not in our solar system at least)... but if you want to see something which is as old as our planet, then there are several meteorites in Leeds which will tick that box.

One of them is on display at Leeds City Museum. It is made of nickel and iron and has voids within it filled with a common mineral called olivine, which is also found in abundance on earth. The fragment was taken from a meteorite which crashed to earth in Tolucca, Mexico in 1776 and weighed 220lbs.

The Discovery Centre has three other meteorites, all about 4.5bn years old.

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320m year old dino fish

Some dinosaur fossils are rarer than others and one such is the megalicthys, a fish about 1.5m long, at Leeds Discovery Centre, which is the best preserved of its kind in the world. It is known as a holotype.

It was also found in Yorkshire, which means that around 320m years ago, the area we today call home was part of a vast shallow sea. The Leeds fossil, which is of interest to geologists, is almost a complete fossil of the fish, which appears to have died and rolled onto its back, before being twisted and later fossilised. Its scales can still be seen.

Magalodon Teeth

If you think a great white shark is big, the just look at how its teeth compare to those of megalodon, one of the top marine predators which lived between 16m and 2m years ago - the teeth in the discovery centre are about 5m years old. The teeth are being held by Neil Owen from Leeds Discovery Centre. The name ‘megalodon’ comes from ancient Greek and means ‘big tooth’. Fossil remains suggest the giant shark grew up to 18m long. Scientists think it would have looked like a bigger version of a great white. It could swallow a person whole and bite with 10 tons of force.

Baby giant squid

Dangling menacingly above your head as you enter the Discovery Centre is a life-scale model of a giant squid and at 40ft long it’s even more surprising to learn that this particular replica is just a baby. Adults of the giant marine invertebrates can reach up to 50ft in length.

One of the most striking aspects of the cast is its giant eyes, which are the size of dinner plates. Up to 130m of the creatures are eaten every year by sperm whales. They have three hearts and a doughnut shaped brain. Aristotle described seeing a giant squid in 4BC.

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Chapeltown Cauldron

All kinds of things have been found behind bricked up walls over the years, from children’s shoes to mummified cats but in 2013, someone in Chapeltown found an old cauldron behind a false wall - rather than throw it away, they decided to donate it to the council and as it happened, they were at that moment, looking for things of a similar nature to show as part of a themed display.

Objects that were concealed in houses were usually used as a form of protection from evil spirits, or to carry the spirit of a deceased relative into the life of the house.

First World War Biscuit

Who would have thought a biscuit could last 100 years? Perhaps its says something about the quality of rations issued to soldiers during the First World War. One Leeds soldier was so unimpressed with his cardboard-like biscuit, he decided to send it home in lieu of a Christmas card and it became a family heirloom until it was passed onto Leeds galleries and museums service - it is now on display at Abbey House Museum, opposite Kirkstall Abbey.

Kitty Ross, curator of Leeds history, said: “It’s objects that have a story, like this one, which are most interesting. The fact it was sent home was a bit of trench humour.”

Foot reader Jane Sheehan.

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