Today, let’s check out the Sauriermuseum Aathal! Previously, I already posted pics of their wonderful Camarasaurus specimen “E.T.”, but the SMA has much more to offer. In the words of Martin Sander, head of the Research Group on Sauropod Gigantism, the SMA has “the second best sauropod exhibit in Europe” (Martin considers Berlin the best). As mentioned, conditions inside the museum don’t favor taking pics of entire sauropod skeletons, but I can at least show you some nice detail shots and a lot of the smaller-than-sauropod stuff they have. Large stuff has to be panorama images, and that means distortion – but let me start this with a stunner:
Diplodocus “H.Q.1” (composite) from the Howe Quarry in Wyoming.
The Sauriermuseum doesn’t only exhibit cool fossils, they museum also runs yearly digs in the Morrison Formation. Initially, museum founder, fossil and especially dinosaur enthusiast and professional fossil and mineral dealer Hans-Jakob “Kirby” Siber had the old Howe Quarry (first excavated by the AMNH’s famous Barnum Brown in the 1930s) re-opened when he realized that there was a lot of material on the old quarry maps that hadn’t been taken out. And indeed there was a lot of stuff, even if initially there were mostly isolated elements to be found, and small pieces of carcasses such as short series of vertebrae. However, there was enough material for a composite Diplodocus, and once the original bone layer had been dug through….. there was more, in fact the entire area proved to be choke full of wonderful fossils. Allosaurus “Big Al“, back then the most complete allosaur known (Kirby soon found out that what he thought was private land where he was allowed to dig was in fact public land; that’s why “Big Al” is today not to be found in the SMA). A few years later followed “Big Al 2”, (again!) the most complete allosaur known.
Skull of Allosaurus fragilis “Big Al 2” in left lateral view.
“Kirby” Siber had the Plexiglas screen removed for us dino nerds at the Stegosaur Meeting the SMA hosted in 2009 (more on that later), making this and many more photographs without flash reflection possible.
The stegosaur paparazzi gang throwing their attention at “Big Al 2″‘s skull. Left to right: Miriam Reichel, Matthew Mossbrucker, Katja Waskow. Kirby Siber with watchful expression on the right.
Here’s a total of the BigAl2 mount:
Yeah, that’s one of the things about the SMA and Kirby Siber that many scientists don’t expect: while the SMA is a private museum, and Kirby is a private collector and a mineral, gem and fossil dealer, the primary interest is science. AFAIK the SMA’s entrance fees and other income barely pay for the costs plus the excavations, and in some years not even that. And Kirby and the team have been very accommodating to scientists, really going out of their way to make access to specimens easy. The quarry maps of the SMA excavations are among the best and most informative I have ever seen, and having taken part in the digs one year all I can say is that – as opposed, btw, to many high and mighty “proper” research institutions, the SMA does things the right way: thorough, cautious, well-documented, well-equipped!
Also, before you ask: the important specimens are AFAIK owned by a foundation, thus a non-profit public collection comparable to, e.g., the AMNH. Yes, over all the lamenting and whining about private collectors and businessmen ruining fossils many people forget that some of the foremost research and museum institutions are, in fact, private enterprises!
That off my chest let me show you more from the SMA dinosaur collection.
Camarasaurus “E.T.”. Here are some more details shots that I did not post before.
both hands and….
the left foot.
Another sauropod find became quite famous. “Toni” is a sauropod baby, and nearly complete.
The SMA dig also yielded some ornithischians. The first good find was a stegosaur, nicknamed “Moritz”.
More on “Toni”, “Moritz” and the plethora of other dinosaurs at the SMA at a later date.