Oltenia Terra Fossilis

Fossils in Oltenia – be it plants or animals, aquatic or terrestrial, microscopic or gigantic - can be distinguished firstly by their great diversity.

Found in the most various locations (water valleys, more or less abrupt slopes, in caves, underground workings or systematic excavations), fossil-bearing areas cover uniformly and densely the map of Oltenia region, revealing the exceptional wealth in mammal fossils of this province. However, the territory of Oltenia is poor in fossil mammal outcrops especially in the plain area.

Species new to science, as well as many stratigraphic, chronological and bio-geographic bio-indicators certify the scientific value of mammal fossils found in Oltenia.

The exhibition presents in systematic order some of the most important fossils discovered on the territory of Oltenia, relevant for their diversity, wealth and exceptional scientific value.

Samples of Badenian and Sarmatian plants discovered in Ciocadia, Valea Morilor and Slătioara (Vâlcea county) by dr. geol. Valentin Paraschiv show that vegetation, and also the climate, at this level (12-14 million years) was multi-layered. At the base of hills there were laurel forests (Laurus), revealing a warmer and more humid climate than today. Higher, within the humid areas around lakes grew mixed forests, composed of trees losing their leaves before winter (alder (Alnus) ash (Fraxinus), walnut (Juglans), chestnut (Castanea), plane tree (Platanus) etc.; liana grew around their trunks. In mountain areas there were forests composed of beech (Fagus), oak (Quercus), pine (Pinus) and in high mountain areas – pine spruce (Picea) and fir (Abies).

The Pontian fossil flora (5 mil. years) found on the Danube river, in Batoţi (Mehedinţi county) is very rich and diverse, suggesting the existence of humid areas (delta, lakes) where leaves have piled up belonging to species dominated by beech (Fagus) and oak (Quercus).

At Bâcleş (Mehedinţi county) a Pliocene flora has been discovered (about 3 mil. years) showing the existence of vegetation layers: a meadow layer (Taxodium - cypress, Platanus – plane tree), a plain layer (Quercus - oak, Acer - maple) and a third layer composed of high and mountain hills (Sequoia).

Flora samples with Byttneriophyllum tiliaefolium belonging to the coalpit in Lupoaia (Motru, Mehedinţi county) show the existence of a large linden tree forest, growing in a warm and humid climate in Pliocene, 3 mil. years ago.

Ammonites are cephalopods (related to the octopus) born in seas and oceans about 400 mil. years ago, in the Devonian period. Their shells, largely decorated, can have a 2 m diameter.  They disappeared about 65 mil. years ago, at the end of the Cretaceous period. Ammonite shells exhibited here belong to Jurassic limestones (150-165 mil. years) and the Cretacious marls (130-140 mil. years) from Sviniţa (Mehedinţi county).

Most coral species are colonial. Corals have calcareous skeleton and live in the sea. After the death of an individual, on its calcareous skeleton another individual develops, leading to the creation of reefs – limestone rocks that sometimes outspread on thousands of kilometers (The Great Barrier Reef) in shallow, unpolluted warm waters. Corals appeared in the Cambrian period, about 500 mil. years ago. Exhibited species belong to Bahna (Mehedinţi county) and are about 15 mil. years old (Badenian period). Snails and clams are the same age; they have been discovered in the same reef, to the construction of which they have largely contributed.

Some shells of Pontian clams in Cujmir (about 5 mil. years) and Dacian clams (about 4.5 mil years) in Ergheviţa are beautifully decorated. Sometimes the number of shells is so large that it forms a type of rock called lumachelle.

Fossil mollusks from Drănic, Podari, Bâlta, Bucovăţ (Dolj county) and Buiceşti (Mehedinţi county), characterize the Pliocene period in Oltenia (about 3.5 mil. years). The most typical genera are Pristinunio for clams and Viviparus for snails.

On Blahniţa Valley there have been discovered fossils belonging to Sarmatian aquatic mammals (about 15 mil. years), whales and dolphins.

The Pleistocene mammal fossils (about 1.7 mil. years) from Colţeşti (Gorj county) - rhinoceros, horse, deer -  were discovered in 1998, while setting up the land for the installation of an oil well.

Bugiuleşti fossil deposit (Vâlcea county) is famous worldwide due to its large number – over 20 species discovered, with great scientific value. Excavations allowed the restoration of the living environment 1.3-1.7 million years ago, when proboscidea, rhinoceros, horses, oxen, antelopes, deer, hyenas, bears, beavers, monkeys etc populated forests and plains.

Fossils belonging to mammals such as mastodonts (Anancus arvernensis and Mammut borsoni), mammoths (Mammuthus rumanus, M. meridionalis, M. trogontherii, M. primigenius), rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis) and deer (Cervus elaphus) are relatively common in Oltenia, defining the life history of this region.

The skeleton restorations of the mastodont (Anancus arvernensis) found at Stoina (Gorj county), the mammoth (Mammuthus meridionalis) found at Leu (Dolj county) and the cave bear (Ursus spelaeus) from Baia de Fier (Gorj county) are spectacular and constitute a great attraction for this exhibition.