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Caught up in an ancient river bend following a flood, hundreds of drowned animals were covered by river silt and left to remain, perfectly preserved, for millions of years before a mining operation uncovered this fossil treasure. The place is the West Coast Fossil Park outside Langebaan in the Western Cape and the findings have proved to be substantial in understanding the terrain, climate and animal life during the Pliocene era, over 5 million years ago.
Mining of phosphates began in the area in 1943 and it was 50 years later that operations ceased through a lack of profitability. During this period, one can only imagine the amount of fossils that went unnoticed and were unwittingly destroyed. However, the river bend has produced an amazing quantity of diverse fossils, from short-necked giraffes to African bears. Much of the area, including the mined section, has been declared a national heritage site.
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