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Paleontological excavation site at Pikermi (Attica, Greece)
Pikermi excavation: When monkey, giraffes, rhinos and hyenas lived near Athens
It was in 1835, a few years after the founding of the Greek state, when a Bavarian soldier of King Otto’s army walks along the banks of the Great Stream of Pikermi, known today as Valanaris. While searching for something that he could take back to his homeland, he finds a white hollow object with small and large crystals sparkling from the inside. He takes the object in hope to have obtained not just a souvenir but also the option to become rich.
“It’s not diamonds,” famous professor for paleontology, Johann Andreas Wagner, tells the soldier in Munich after he had returned home.
However, the sparkling crystals were valuable from a different point of view: they were formed inside cavities of animals extincted thousand of years ago.
The finding marked the beginning of one of the greatest paleontologist discoveries in the world.
Located 19 km east of Athens, the paleontological site of Pikermi features more than forty mammal species from the late Miocene (8 million years ago) and fossils of animals that do not exist in Greece anymore. Only in Africa.
New species are identified and the name of Pikermi is depicted in scientific texts throughout the world, while international researches describe it as the “Acropolis of Palaeontology”.
“The location is particularly rich in fossils. We have more than 50 different species of animals that would remind us of an African landscape and even richer because we have animal species that are not present in Africa today, ” Georgios Thodorou, professor at Paleontology, Geology and Geoenvironment Department of Athene university told news agency amna that visited the site.
“Among these animals are animals with trunk, giraffes, rhinoceroses, horses, hyenas, felidae, giant turtles (found earlier), small turtles, birds, ostriches and monkeys such as the Mesopithecus of Penteli, a very rare fossil, we were lucky to find three samples this year, ” Theodorou said.
Recalling that the area of today’s Aegean Sea was once dry, he said that “from Greece to Asia Minor [Turkey] there was a continent with a rich fauna including more than 50 species of animals that lived in Aigiida [the continent] almost 57 million years after the disappearance of the Dinosaurs.”