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Last Updated: Friday, 31 August 2007, 11:44 GMT 12:44 UK
School dig turns up extinct bird
Great Auk
Colonies of the fish-eating bird favoured the rocky islands
Archaeologists have discovered the remains of an extinct Great Auk in a school playing field.

Eleven pieces belonging to what has been dubbed the "original penguin" were unearthed in Royal Manor Arts College in Portland, Dorset.

The find prompted the school to move the site for a sports pitch it was developing several metres away.

The Association for Portland Archaeology (APA) also found what could be the foundations of ancient temples.

The director of APA, Susanne Palmer, said the Great Auk find was "a surprise because their natural habitat was the North Atlantic".

Colonies of the fish-eating bird favoured the rocky islands off eastern Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Ireland and Great Britain until they became extinct.

They were killed for food and their eggs and later for their feathers.

A lot more has been left undiscovered... there may be more surprises
Susanne Palmer
Director of APA
Hunters killed the last known pair of Great Auks on Eldey island, off Iceland in 1844.

Ms Palmer said the Portland site was very interesting because for the first time it was being recognised as part of Dorset's history.

She added: "A lot more has been left undiscovered. There may be more surprises."

The APA has printed a booklet about all their findings at the site, which will be available from Monday.

The site is now backfilled and the bird's remains are at Bournemouth University.

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14 Aug 07 |  Highlands and Islands
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27 Jul 07 |  Isle of Man

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