Museum of Fossils Monte San Giorgio

Museums

Discover the charm of a lost world of over 200 million years ago. The Museum of Fossils of Monte San Giorgio presents the important paleontological heritage of the region, which is considered one of the most important fossil deposits in the world and has been registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fossils of San Giorgio are known for their variety and for their exceptional state of preservation. The exhibit is meant for a vast public and thanks to multimedia technologies, it allows non-experts to enter the complex world of the Triassic.

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The visit


The highlights of the exhibit are the animal and plant fossils accompanied by short explanations based on current knowledge, as well as a number of three-dimensional models and graphic reconstitution of the marine environment of the time. In fact, during the Middle Triassic (247-236 million years ago), the Monte San Giorgio was not the same mountain we know today, but rather a fairly shallow ocean floor. The environment was defined by the presence of small islands and sand banks that separated the coast from open waters, forming a sort of lagoon. The difference with other deposits of world renown - that usually present a sole fossil level attributed to a precise moment in geological history - the Monte San Giorgio has uncovered at least five different levels, each of which can contain more than one fossil association. This particular aspect allows the study of evolution over the course of millions of years, from determined groups of organisms in the same environment. From these five levels, over 20 thousand fossils have been extracted. In total, 25 species of reptiles, 50 species of fish and over 100 invertebrates, next to different species of plants, in particular coniferous, can be counted.

The exhibition concept is centred on the community of organisms from the five main levels of fossils of the Triassic period. On the first floor, following the stratigraphic succession of the mountain, are the most ancient fossils while on the second floor the most recent ones. On the third floor fossils and rocks from the Jurassic period originating from the neighbouring marble cave of Arzo are presented, 50-60 million years younger than the objects exposed on the first two floors. The exhibit closes with the history of the paleontological excavations that began in the middle of the 19th century.

The museum, designed by Ticino architect Mario Botta, provides visitors with multimedia audio guides, touch screens with animations about the evolution of reptiles, fish and of the land from sea to mountain. It also offers a model of the San Giorgio on which all sorts of information can be projected on command by the user. Among the activities offered by the museum there is also has a vast program of conferences and guided tours. Upon request it is possible to take a tour with a trained guide, not only inside the museum but also outside, on the territory.

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