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Messel Pit Fossils: The UNESCO Quarry & Window Into The Past

Messel Pit is one of the best sites on the planet for locating incredibly preserved fossils. The Messel Pit is really a disused quarry in Germany around 35 kilometers or 22 miles southeast of Frankfurt. Previously bituminous shale was mined there but now is really a UNESCO World Heritage Site on account of its significant geological and scientific importance. It's certainly one of merely a not many sites to have been World Heritage listed exclusively because of fossils.

In North America, there are several places that are rich in fossils to go fossil hunting – like in the Bay of Fundy in Canada's Quebec. For contemporary fossils about human history, go to the White Sands National Park in the USA and find out how fossilized footprints found there've forced scientists to rewrite a brief history of humans in North America.

The History And Growth and development of The Messel Pit

The pit was mined for brown coal and then oil shale in 1859 however it only become seriously scientifically excavated within the 1970s. Some of the most famous specimens came from amateur collections.

The “oil shale” of the pit was formed from solidified sludge that was deposited at the bottom of the oxygen-poor lake. The water was still, allowing exactly what sank down in the lake to become covered by fine sediments without having to be damaged.

  • Date: Deposits Formed In The Eocene 47 Million Years back
  • Sub-Tropical: At This Time, This A part of Germany Was Subtropical

The Messel deposits were formed 47 million years ago during the Eocene period. It is thought that there was a number of lakes that were encompassed by lush sub-tropical forests that supported an incredible diversity of life. It's believed that the Messel lake bed was likely a center point for drainage from the surrounding rivers and creeks.

The deposit extends 13 meters or 43 feet down and sits atop an older sandstone foundation.

How Special The Messel Pit Is

What is remarkable is the stunning clarity and preservation from the fossils. Many are preserved in bewildering detail. Water was poor in oxygen and bacteria so organisms would take much longer to decay.

  • Designated: World Heritage Site Since 1995

Today the Messel Pit offers the best-preserved flora and fauna specimens from the Eocene. It doesn't only preserve the bones of the animals, but also the fur, feathers, and “skin shadows” of some species.

  • Turtles: Nine Pairs Of Mating Turtles Have Been found (Likely Killed Suddenly By Toxic Volcanic Gas)
  • Fish: Over 10,000 Fossilized Fish of Many Species
  • Mammals: Pygmy Horses, Primates, Hedgehogs, Pangolins, Aardvarks, Bats, yet others
  • Plants: Over 30 Distinct Plant Species Including Grapevines, Palm Leaves, Fruit, and More
  • Others: Crocodiles, Turtles, Salamanders, Snakes, and Others

Exhibit At Senckenberg Museum Frankfurt

The Senckenberg Museum in Frankfurt provides a great Messel Pit permanent exhibition. Here one can see many of the publically available exhibits in the Messel Pit. Begin to see the remains of a prehistoric forest that was the place to find ancient horses that had toes with small hooves and fed on leaves and fruits.

The museum offers guided around the museum if one is wondering even more about the exhibits on display.

  • Adults: (from 18 years) 12:00 EUR ($13)
  • Location: In Frankfurt

Visiting The Messel Pit and Visitor Center

Tourists can only visit the Messel Pit included in a guided tour. One needs to register for a guided tour in advance. There is both Messel Pit and the visitor center and there is a small fee for entrances. One can choose from a one-hour guided pit tour or a two-hour guided pit tour for any much deeper dive.

One Hour Tour:

On the one-hour tour, visitors will learn about how exactly an old volcano was responsible for the crater lake. And just how all the animals became trapped and preserved 48 million years ago.

  • Price: 7 EUR ($8) per person
  • Distance: Approx. 1km (0.6 miles) of Walking

Tour Hour Tour:

Their two-hour tour is ideal for those who would like a deeper dive into how new species develop and evolve and just how original copies die. You will observe how evolution was captured in this pit and just how this part of Germany used to be a subtropical rainforest.

See the excavation sites and visit the minimum of the pit. Have the layers of shale oil and find out about a world long gone.

  • Price: EUR9 ($10) per person
  • Distance: Approx. 3km (1.7 Miles) of Walking

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