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Listen to episode 11 of Voice of Real Australia: What will happen to one of Australia's most important fossil sites?

Hundreds of millions of years before the dinosaurs, long before giant wombats and kangaroos walked the continent, the world was ruled by fish.

This was the late-Devonian era and it's a key stage in the story of evolution. But there's a lot more to learn, buried under our feet.

Dr Alex Ritchie and his daughter, Shona, at his home in Canberra. PHOTO: Tom Melville

Dr Alex Ritchie and his daughter, Shona, at his home in Canberra. PHOTO: Tom Melville

In 1993 near Canowindra, in the Central West of New South Wales, paleontologist Dr Alex Ritchie was given just 10 days for an exploratory dig. He found thousands of fish fossils, helping to fill gaps in our knowledge in the process -- but with limited time and resources he could only scratch the surface.

At the end of their time, Dr Ritchie lay a plastic sheet over one of the most complete fish fossils ever found, then reburied it under hay and soil, for a future date that never came.

What we should have done is given it to the nation, roofed it, put a gate in it and then charge entry for people to come see this thing undercover, protected forever.

Dr Alex Ritchie

A museum was built in town to display what was found, but Dr Ritchie always dreamed of opening up the original dig site again.

Bruce Loomes, foreman on the original dig in 1993, in Canowindra. PHOTO: Laura Corrigan

Bruce Loomes, foreman on the original dig in 1993, in Canowindra. PHOTO: Laura Corrigan

The land was recently sold - who it was sold to could mean the difference between realising Dr Ritchie's dream, or those fossils being forgotten forever.

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This story Uncovering Canowindra's forgotten fossils first appeared on Newcastle Herald.