Messel Shale Pit

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The Messel Shale Pit is located approximately 35 kilometers southeast of Frankfurt Germany in a town called Hesse. The pit is 1000 meters long, 700 meters wide, and currently, stretches 60 meters deep. It has been dated back to the Eocene age which was fifty four to thirty seven and a half million years ago. Eocene is Greek for “New Dawn”, and is most often recognized as the age of the first large land mammals.
The Pit was once a former quarry and was used from 1859 to 1971 for mining oil shale. Oil Shale is a fine grained sedimentary rock in which hydrocarbons or oil shale, can be produced. The area is considered to be a lake that sat within a volcanic crater. The oil shales in the area are said to be the result of a heavy presence of algae. The toxic gases omitted from the volcanic crater are thought to be the reason for such a high number of land animals having been fossilized.
It wasn’t until 1875 that the first fossil, a crocodile, had been discovered. Since then, numerous fish and sea creatures, thirty one plant species, 45 mammals, and 43 species of bird have been discovered. Some even had stomach contents and tissue still intact. There is no doubt that the area is extremely important to the world of science.
In 1971, the Messel Shale Pit almost became a waste dump, but thankfully the plans for the dump fell through. It wasn’t until 1991 that the site was purchased by the Hessen State for over 35 million marks. The site had contributed so much to science and education due to the fossil findings, that the UNESCO, or United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, declared it a world heritage site in 1995. It was the first and only site to have ever been declared such strictly due to its fossils.
The site is still being excavated today, and is also considered a tourist attraction in the area. There is also a museum that can be visited…...

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