Fossil Detectives

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Fossil Detectives
Fossil Detectives BBC Book Cover.jpg
BBC book cover
Genre Documentary
Directed by Kerensa Jennings
Presented by Hermione Cockburn
Theme music composer David Lowe
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 8
Executive producer(s)
  • Fiona Pitcher
  • Catherine McCarthy
Producer(s) Kerensa Jennings
  • Toby Strong
  • Mark McCauley
Running time 30 minutes
Production company(s) The Open University
Distributor BBC Worldwide
Original network BBC Four
Picture format 16:9 1080i
Audio format Stereo
Original release 21 August – 9 October 2008
Related shows Coast
External links
Production website

Fossil Detectives is a 2008 BBC Television documentary series in which presenter Hermione Cockburn travels across Great Britain exploring fossil sites and discovering the latest scientific developments in geology and palaeontology. The show is a spin-off of Coast.


The series was produced by the BBC Natural History Unit for the Open University.


Chris Lambert writing in The Times introduced this, "entertaining new eight-part series", and commended guest, David Attenborough, "who, with trademark infectious enthusiasm, reveals his early passion for fossil hunting".[1] Emily Ford said that, "Palaeontologists probably still curse Ross from Friends for giving their profession a reputation of such yawn-inducing dullness, but you don’t have to be a prehistory nut to enjoy fossils". "And you can see David Attenborough get all misty-eyed as he caresses the vertebrae of a long-lost Diplodocus."[2]

Anna Lowman writing about episode two in The Guardian commended it as a "quirky documentary," and a "cosy Open University-produced programme," with the, "Fossil Detectives (apparently comprising just one very enthusiastic lady)".[3] Nancy Banks-Smith went on to say, "there is nothing that would not be improved by the addition of a dinosaur", adding, "which is why David Attenborough said that he would like to be back in the time of the dinosaurs. 'To film it', he added, brightening visibly. Of course, his brother felt much the same way, but that ended rather badly."[4] Sarah Dempster writing about episode three in the same publication commended this, "affable archaeology series," for telling us about, 'special soil and "evolutionary robotics', before showing us something beige that was once, apparently, a quite important dinosaur. Champion."[5]


Life began here in Britain more than a billion years ago. And when dinosaurs and other strange creatures roamed our land, they left fascinating clues behind. Fossils hold the key to discovering the secrets of ancient life and allow us a tantalising glimpse of Britain’s prehistoric past. Mountains the size of Everest have come and gone, and the evidence is all here in the rocks, in the landscape, and in the fossils buried deep inside. We’re on a mission to find and analyse that evidence, to unlock the secrets of the past and to discover lost worlds. So get ready for some time travel with the fossil detectives.

— Hermione Cockburn’s opening narration

Episode one: Central England[edit]

Our journey starts in central England, home to some extremely rare and globally significant fossil discoveries and some of the world’s most advanced fossil science. We’ll meet a monster from the past and investigate T-Rex in Oxford, see extraordinary evidence of the world’s smallest fossilised… well you’ll have to watch to find out, hear from Sir David Attenborough about his early fossil detecting days in Leicestershire, and hunt for fossilised bugs in a housing estate.

— Hermione Cockburn’s opening narration

Episode two: London[edit]

The Fossil Detectives are in London to track down evidence of the capital’s ancient past. We’ll see what Victorian scientists thought dinosaurs looked like, rediscover a lost world when hippos dominated the landscape here in the capital, find fossils in the most surprising places, and have a rare viewing of a private fossil collection at home with the most famous naturalist on planet Earth - Sir David Attenborough.

— Hermione Cockburn’s opening narration

Episode three: West and Wales[edit]

We’ll bring dinosaurs back to life, follow in the fossilised footprints of our ancestors and reveal why fossils were once thought to be food for the dead. Our adventures here in the West and North West of Britain give us a tantalising glimpse of how fossils link us back to our own past.

— Hermione Cockburn’s opening narration

Episode four: North of England[edit]

The Fossil Detectives are on a journey through the British Isles, this time in the north of England. We’ll find out how John Lennon is linked to fossils, the truth behind the Victorians favourite stone, we’ll get a rare glimpse of a brand new fossil discovery, and investigate mysterious prehistoric footprints.

— Hermione Cockburn’s opening narration

Episode five: South West England[edit]

Episode six: East of England[edit]

Episode seven: Scotland[edit]

Episode eight: South of England[edit]




  • Dr. Peter Sheldon – Open University Academic Consultant
  • Dr. Janet Sumner – Open University Broadcast Learning Executive

Companion book[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Lambert, Chris (2008-08-21). "Fossil Detectives". London: The Times. Retrieved 2008-09-08. 
  2. ^ Ford, Emily (2008-08-28). "Fossil Detectives". London: The Times. Retrieved 2008-09-08. 
  3. ^ Lowman, Anna (2008-08-28). "Watch This". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-09-08. 
  4. ^ Banks-Smith, Nancy (2008-08-29). "Last night's TV". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-09-08. 
  5. ^ Dempster, Sarah (2008-09-04). "Watch This". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-09-08. 

External links[edit]