Rocks and Fossils
The Jurassic Coast enables us a 'walk through time' and displays some of the most amazing rocks, fossils and landforms on Earth.
The 95 mile stretch of coastline that makes up the Jurassic Coast is made of rocks from the Mesozoic Era. These rocks are the product of 185 million years of environmental change and upheaval, recording the evolution of life.
The Coast itself has been carved over thousands of years by ice ages and changes in sea level. The result is a truly spectacular landscape containing a story spanning millions of years of the Earth's history. Take a Walk ThoughTime and learn how the rocks were laid down to make the coast we see today.
250 – 200 million years ago: Vast deserts cover whole continents. The Red Rocks of East Devon are laid down.
200 – 145 million years ago: Rocks formed at the bottom of the Jurassic seas as conditions cycled between deep and shallow water.
145 million years ago: A forest of conifers, tree ferns and cycads grew on low lying islands. This was soon killed by rising sea levels that replaced the forest with a swamp.
140 – 110 million years ago: As Dartmoor erodes rivers carry sediment west to be deposited in thick layers.110 - 65 million years ago: Sea levels rise creating a vast tropical sea that covers most of Europe and the pure white limestone of the chalk is deposited.
25 million years ago: Rocks are buckled and folded by enormous earth movements originating in the collision between Africa and Europe and the creation of the Alps.
25 million years ago to 10,000 years ago: Erosion and the ice ages carve and shape the coast and landscape we know today, including beautiful and iconic landforms.
For 200 years the discovery of fossils on the Jurassic Coast has offered glimpses of life from the age of the Dinosaurs. New discoveries continue to be made.
The World Heritage Site continues to evolve as erosion exposes the geology, uncovers new fossils and maintains the natural beauty of the coastline.
The formation of a geological spectacle
The rocks of the World Heritage Site are laid out from oldest to youngest moving west to east. This is a little unusual because these layers of rock would have originally formed one top of the other, and if they had stayed like that we would have to drill deep into the Earth to see them. Something truly epic must have happened to allow us to see these layers in continuous sequence along the coast.
A super-continent divides
Rocks record the history of our world and geologists can read this record like a story. The story of the Dorset and East Devon Coast begins 250 million years ago at the start of the Mesozoic Era. This was the 'middle ages' of life on Earth and consists of the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods of geological time.