Exploring dinosaur footprints and fossils in Catalonia

The Fumanya palaeontological site, located in the northern Catalan County of Berguerà, has one of the most important collections of dinosaur fossils in Europe. The remains of more than 3,500 footprints, as well as bones, eggs, and other remains were discovered accidentally in 1985. Between the years 2000 and 2008, the palaeontological site was analysed and tourist visits have since been organised. Furthermore, in 2012, the site’s new information centre will open its doors to the public and will explain dinosaurs in great detail.

CNA / Sara Gómez

November 22, 2011 06:38 PM

Cercs (ACN).- The Catalan palaeontological site of Fumanya, one of Europe’s most relevant fossils sites, will display all its discoveries at the new information centre that will open its doors in 2012. The remains of the dinosaurs and their footprints found at the palaeontological site in 1985 prove the presence of these extinct vertebrates, who lived 65 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous period, in northern Catalonia. With this cultural and scientific project, the pre-Pyrenean County of Berguerà wants to attract visitors in order to become a European reference point for those wanting to learn more about dinosaurs.

An unexpected discovery

In 1985, two hikers walking through Fumanya, an area in the Berguedà County known for its opencast coalmine in operation since the second half of the nineteenth century until 1991, made a very important discovery. The exploration of the land had uncovered a limestone wall where the hikers found trails of strange footprints. The tracks belonged to a specific dinosaur, the Titanosaurus (meaning ‘titanic lizard’), a species that was 9 to 12 metres long and could weigh up to 13 tonnes. They lived during the Late Cretaceous period. Together with the footprints, the excavation work carried out since that time has found examples of dinosaur bones and teeth and signs of egg laying, as well as a Titanosaurus femur measuring 1.20 metres. In the Fumanya, which covers an area of more than 38,000 square metres, experts have also counted over 3,500 footprints from different dinosaurs. The site also hosts vegetable fossils such as tree trunks and leaves.

A new site information centre to open its doors in 2012

The project of building an information centre for Fumanya’s palaeontological site is almost complete. The new museum will open its doors in 2012 with a plan of becoming a tourist attraction for all ages in the County of Berguedà, in the northern part of Catalonia, just before entering into the Pyrenees. Replicas of the dinosaur pieces will be exhibited at Fumanya’s information centre. The museum has assured students and specialists that access to the actual remains will be available for those wishing to use them for scientific purposes. It “will enable us to offer information about the reptiles that lived in Berguedà 65 million years ago”, Ivan Sànchez, member of the Museum’s staff, explained.

Part of the remains discovered in Fumanya, specifically a set of 70 dinosaur pieces, have been returned to the ‘Museu de les Mines de Cercs’ (the Museum of Cercs’ Coalmines), after two years of storage at the Catalan Institute of Palaeontology and will now become part of the future exhibition at the site’s information centre.

The museum’s employees have not seen the pieces yet, because the materials were delivered inside plaster casts or polyurethane caskets used during the excavation works. According to Ivan Sànchez, the main objective is to remove the packaging during the first quarter of 2012 in order to establish the conservation and restoration criteria.

A centre for everybody

Fumanya’s new centre will develop five action lines, aimed at offering pedagogic explanations for everybody. The most important axis will explain the dinosaur footprints, which are known as the pre-historic site’s most characteristic attraction. Other areas will focus on the bones and eggs found and will explain the details of the dinosaur’s environment during the Late Cretaceous period and how they lived. Finally, the process of the dinosaur's extinction will also be detailed.

Promoting the palaeontological site’s region

The area of the pre-historic site of Fumanya already hosts a wide variety of tourist activities for visitors. Guided tours around the opencast coalmines or visits for scholars with the ‘Carrilet Verd’ (a small road train) are some of the offers available. Other promotional activities include the shooting of the National Geographic series named ‘CSI Dinosaurs’, which devoted an entire chapter to the Catalan site and has already been broadcast.