Local’s passion for fossils bloomed in the Saudi desert

2015-05-21 10:43
Pietermaritzburg’s Andre Prozesky proudly holds two of the impressive fossils that he picked up during his stay is in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Pietermaritzburg’s Andre Prozesky proudly holds two of the impressive fossils that he picked up during his stay is in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Jonathan Burton)

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A PIETERMARITZBURG man recently discovered his passion for fossils and has embarked on a hobby as an amateur palaeontologist with a collection of over 5 000 fossils.

Andre Prozesky, a former insurance broker, first realised his passion for fossils five years ago when he moved to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with his wife.

While his wife, a teacher, taught at a school in Riyadh during the day, Prozesky joined a hiking group and started hiking with them through the desert.

He said he was on a hike with his group when he came across his first fossil.

“It was on the surface of the sand. I saw it and just picked it up.”

From then on, he said finding and collecting fossils became one of his biggest passions and he waited eagerly for the group’s next hike to find more.

“Sometimes, you walk through an area and there will be very few fossils but in other areas they are in abundance.

“I go into a sort of trance when I talk about my fossils. The passion found me quite late in life and I never thought I would ever be collecting fossils and enjoy it as much as I do.”

He said when he told people how he had found his fossils, many did not believe he had just found them lying on top of the sand in the desert.

University of KwaZulu-Natal Geological Sciences senior lecturer Dr Andrew Green said finding fossils on the surface of the sand is very possible.

“Its perfectly plausible to find these in a desert environment. Like all other environments on Earth, the Saudi desert was very different in the Cretaceous times,” he said.

“The evidence seems to point to the area being a shallow, warm-water sea with associated deposits and biota that over time were buried and transformed into sedimentary rock that now crops out in the cliffs surrounding Riyadh.”

He said the outcrops were later covered by the desert sands, and from the outcrops or cliffs the fossils are derived.

He that, in the photograph, Prozesky appears to be holding part of an ammonite in his right hand and a “Trigonia sp or Inoceramus sp giant clam” in his left.

“These were very common during the Cretaceous period, between 145 to about 66 million years ago,” said Green.

Prozesky said bringing the fossils into South Africa had not been an issue as he had declared them when he booked in his luggage at the airport in Saudi Arabia and officials had let him through without any problems

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