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Jurassic World Treasure

August 24, 2009

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It’s a dream come true for every dinosaur-mad eight-year-old. And I have to confess that even at the grand old age of 30-something with two kids under my belt and the third en route, I too am excited.

Call it the Jurassic adventure of my lifetime – to view herds of fossilized, dinosaur footprints found in Switzerland during the construction of a motorway. Since the extraordinary discovery in 2000, paleontologists have been hard at it digging, cleaning, casting plaster copies and so on. But it is for just four precious days in August – last weekend and this weekend (29 & 30 August) – that the Paleontology A16 site is open to the public. 

The experience lives up to expectation. From a 15m-high platform, one sees what experts reckon to be one of the world’s most astonishing Jurassic finds – 1700 fossilized dinosaur footprints, best seen illuminated at night. Much to the disappointment of every kid there, the exact type of dinosaur hasn’t been identified. But what is known is these footprints belonged to herbivorous sauropods – a type of diplodocus probably – who stood 2.5m to 3.5m tall and 20m long,

The fossilized footsteps are impressive, but what most woos is the sheer scale of the site – 4000 sq m of Jurassic world treasure incongruously ensnared by a mix of green field, forest and bright-yellow building-site machinery. Standing below the platform on the flat rock plateau, it is easy to imagine the Bahamas-style ‘beach’, mottled with shallow lagoons and tropical vegetation, across which these dinosaurs would have roamed 152 million years ago. A sudden roar behind one’s shoulder as we viewed the prints, each carefully catalogued and ringed in a different colour to match it to a track, would have come as no surprise.

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The Béchat-Bovais site is in Courtedoux, a village near Porrentruy in the Swiss Jura. It is one of six sites to have been excavated during the construction of the A16 Porrentruy-Besancon motorway, to be completed by 2016. So far 4200 dinosaur prints and 30,000 fossils have been found, and experts reckon there are herds more waiting to be exposed. But the big question remains: what will happen to them? The decision rests in the hands of the Swiss Federal Department of Environment, although the odds they will be covered in tarmac never to be enjoyed again. Grrrrr ..

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2 comments

  1. Excellent site, keep up the good work. I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks,

    A definite great read…:)

    -Bill-Bartmann


  2. this place is paradise for fossil hunters!



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