Paleontological Excavations in Samos

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Excavations in Samos
Excavations in Samos

The fossils in Samos drew the interest of scientists very early. From the middle of the last century the fossil bearing regions in Mitilinioi, were known to many scientists. But as written records show, even the ancient Hellenes were aware of them and had made up several myths, as Plutarch mentions.

All the fossil collections, after the liberation of Samos from the Ottoman Empire in 1832 until 1924 were taken away. These collections can be found in several museums abroad, such as the Museum of Natural History in Loazane, Bern, Basilia, London, Vienn, Munchen, Frankfurt, Budapest, New York and others.

The oldest known collection of fossils from Samos is that of the University of Padova (Italy). This collection was probably taken in 1825-1866 by some Italian visitors to the island, who took away fossils, which they donated to the University of Padova. The Swiss botanist C.I. Forsyth Mayor, visited the island of Samos in 1885-1887 to collect plants and study the flora of the island. At the same time looked for the fossils, guided by myths that he had read in classical Hellenic writers.

He came across the fossils near the village Mitilinioi and excavated in 1887-1889. The great number of fossils, that he collected, can be seen, today in the museums of Lauzane and London. In the following years, Germans and Austrians, organized expeditions to Samos to collect and take away fossils. Amongst them are Sturz, Stutzel, Hentschel and Fraas. Very characteristic is the case of Acker, who was consul of Germany in Samos. He collected fossils and collaboration with a wine merchant, he send them abroad inside wine cases. There he sold to different collectors, through his father’s antique business. Very extensive is also the collection of B. Brown, the American, who in 1921-1924 collected a great number of fossils and brought them to the New York Museum.

The latest excavation was done by professor J. Melentis in 1963 in the Adrianos area, near Mitilinioi. This is the only collection that remained on the island and you can see today.

With the establishment and the erection of the Natural History Museum Of the Aegean, an endowment of the Konstantinos and Maria Zimalis Foundatio, this collection is exhibited in this Museum, is, the excavation for more fossils and the enrichment of its collection, and farther more the study of this fossilized fauna of Samos.