Lonely Planet Writer

This 13-year-old boy discovered a 120 million-year-old dinosaur tooth on a South African beach

Picking up stones on a beach is a familiar pastime for thousands of children, though few would ever dream of finding the ancient fossilised remains of a dinosaur in the process. But that is exactly what happened to 13-year-old Benjamin Ingel while walking along the beach in South Africa’s famed Garden Route.

Knysa, Western Cape, South Africa.
Knysa, Western Cape, South Africa. Image by Shutterstock

He plucked up the fateful rock near Knysa Lagoon while with his cousins, and noticed immediately that it was different. The outside was rather brittle, and within its core was an interesting-looking section of solid material surrounded by an oily substance. As more of the outside crumbled away, the tooth-like shape of the inner piece was revealed.

As expected, he excitedly brought his find home to show his family, but his hopes were initially dashed by his mother and grandmother who told him it was likely a piece of plastic. However, his grandfather was intrigued and took the specimen to some experts in the hope of finding out more. His friends and two geologists quickly realised the object was something out of the ordinary.


Ben and his grandfather were subsequently invited to the Albany Museum in Grahamstown, South Africa to allow a palaeontologist to thoroughly examine the specimen. And when the final verdict came in, Ben’s initial inklings were on the mark – the ‘rock’ was indeed a tooth from a dinosaur, one from the Allosaurus family that roamed the globe during the late Jurassic period. Meaning ‘different lizard’, Allosaurs were one of the initial well-known theropod dinosaurs and it has thus long garnered attention outside of paleontological circles, featuring in various films and documentaries.

Needless to say, Ben certainly won’t look at stones on the beach in the same way ever again.

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