Fossils from the Messel Pit

The Messel Pit is an abandoned oil shale opencast mine situated approximately nine km north-east from Darmstadt. Covering an area of ca. 800 times 500 m bituminous clay stones (“oil shale”) are accessed. The “oil shale” was deposited at the base of a volcanic lake during the so called Middle Eocene, more precisely about 47 – 48 million years ago. With good reason the Messel Pit is considered as a unique archive in history of Earth and was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1995.

The “oil shale” contains a unique cabinet of curiosities with respect to quality and diversity: there are plants along with their flowers and fruits, insects in iridescent colours, primitive as “modern” osteichthyes, mating frogs, tortoises, crocodiles, lizards and snakes, birds the size of a hummingbird up to the remains of a nearly two meter giant and finally fantastic mammals, ranging from primitive marsupials and insectivores to bats, prosimians or exotic seeming specialists such as the “longfinger” or the anteater up to the most popular Messel Pit fossils, the primeval horses. Almost all have been preserved in microscopic-detailed condition due to advantageous conditions for fossilisation: “fossilised” melanosomescopied skin structures, hairs or feathers; occasionally even the gut content is known. Considering that the majority of other fossil sites only yielded in teeth or fragments of jaw bones of vertebrates, the opportunity the Messel Pit offers for paleontological research becomes clear: not only individual plants and animals can be studied but also their coexistence, their functioning within an ecosystem, congealed in a snapshot, can be reconstructed.

The new permanent exhibition attempts to capture the full spectrum in its entirety and beauty. Furthermore, it conveys impressions of the former habitat as well as important basics such as information about the genesis of this unique site. This has been achieved by a considerable enlargement of the exhibition area and the number of objects. In the former permanent exhibition, "Habitats in the Tertiary", 80 fossils were on show in an area of over 100 m2; today, 246 fossils are displayed over an area of 330 m2. For the first time, finds belonging to the Behnke Collection, purchased in 2001, have also been integrated. They were previously only on display in the travelling exhibition "Messel on Tour". Significant new finds and other more recent acquisitions have also been added.

Contact

Dr. Torsten Wappler
T +49 6151 1657-061

Messel Pit

Messel Pit

Anteater, Eurotamandua joresi

Messel Pit

Large Hessian primeval horse, Propalaeotherium hassiacum

Messel Pit

“Longfinger”, Heterohyus nanus

Messel Pit

Primeval tapir, Hyrachyus minumus

Messel Pit

Primitive mammal, Kopidodon macrognathus

Messel Pit

Creodont, Lesmesodon behnkeae

/
X
00:00