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(right) A plaster-jacketed fossil in the rock is carried from the quarry. In the photo (left to right): Amy Henrici, preparator; German fossil hunter Thomas Martens (driving); paleontologist David Berman.





Adventures in Germany

Dave Berman finds celebrity—and some 290-million -year-old fossils—during his 11 years at work in the Thuringian Forest of central Germany.!

Since 1993, paleontologist David S. Berman has been digging for fossils of primitive amphibians and reptiles at the Bromacker Quarry in the Thuringian Forest, which is near Gotha in central Germany. Until the re-union of East and West Germany in 1989, this area in East Germany was off limits to scientists from the West. But now, after 11 years of work at the site, Berman and his colleagues have achieved local celebrity status with the townspeople in the neighboring villages of Tambach-Dietharz and Georgenthal.

The paleontological team laboring in the quarry with Berman includes three others: his German host, Thomas Martens of the Museum der Natur, Gotha; Amy Henrici, preparator, from Carnegie Museum of Natural History; and Stuart S. Sumida, from California State University, San Bernardino. This team has been digging up primitive amphibians and reptiles from approximately 290 million years ago, long before the Age of Dinosaurs.

In the Hotel Comtel in Wandersleben (“Wanderer’s life”), where the American crew stays, their rooms have been dedicated with plaques: the “Paleontologist’s Suite” for Berman and Sumida, and the “Preparator’s Suite” for Henrici. Berman even sleeps in a bed decorated by the appreciative hotel manager with an American flag . Downstairs on the hotel restaurant wall is a cast of two fossils found at the quarry, and although their scientific name is Seymouria, they have been given the colloquial name Liebespaar (“loving couple”) by the German hosts because the specimens were discovered cheek-to-cheek in the quarry. Also on the wall is a display of pictures and news clippings describing the local paleontology, as well as fleshed-out models of the “loving couple.”
Fossils and Bratwurst

The village of Wandersleben has made the scientists Honorary Citizens, and on a recent fourth of July, Berman and Sumida received a supply of gifts from the village, including a box of cigars with their names on the tubes. Local TV crews have descended yearly on the site to make 8-10 minute programs about the fossil dig. Berman recalls that when he first started work at the quarry, he lived in unbearably cramped quarters at a youth hostel, and became such an “unhappy wanderer” that he had to move to the Hotel Comtel. Now everyone knows when the paleontologists are in town.

The Burgermeisters of the two nearby villages of Tambach-Dietharz and Georgenthal each love the idea of having a new species of fossil named after their towns. This cause was advanced by the paleontologists when they named a new species Tambachia trogallas. The name is from the Greek trogo for “munch” or “nibble,” and allas, for “sausage,” a reference to the Thuringian bratwurst that the fossil hunters eat regularly at the Bromacker Quarry.

Berman is not immune to this distant fame. Back in his Pittsburgh office, he drinks from a coffee cup imprinted with a picture of the “loving couple” of Seymouria. The original fossils are now back in Germany, after preparation by Amy Henrici, but Carnegie Museum of Natural History has its own casts of the specimens in the Vertebrate Paleontology collection.

A Productive Quarry
For more than a decade, Carnegie paleontologists Berman and Henrici, together with their colleagues, have been working the highly productive German quarry, known since the mid-1800s for its “fossil footprints.” The excavations since 1994 have been funded annually by the National Geographic Society, with other support from Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

Eudibamous cursoris
— a running reptile known only from
this site.


To date the site has yielded many superbly preserved fossils, unique to Europe but also sharing close relationships to life forms found in the United States. This has provided the first irrefutable biological evidence of a pre-continental drift, and a continuous landmass formed by North America and Europe. Prominent examples of this commonality are the Seymouria specimens, a grotesque-looking herbivore (vegetarian) called Diadectes, and the sail-back reptile Dimetredon. Another example is the first animal to run on two legs, Eudibamus cursorius.

The new species underscore the way that scientists often name new discoveries: after geographic or geologic features, a unique feature of the anatomy, or sometimes a unique circumstance, like good local bratwurst.

Finally, as an example of the impulse to “brand” a community with unique symbolism—such as dinosaurs in Pittsburgh, or cows in Chicago and codfish in Boston—the Tambochia trogallas makes a point about the internationalism of that impulse. While the Burgermeister of Tamboch-Dietharz enjoys a kind of paleontological status for his town, his neighbor, the Burgermeister of Georgenthal (who points out that the Bromacker Quarry is technically in his district), is still waiting. Georgenthal patiently hopes for a new species to be discovered —hopefully a Georgenthal something, in honor of German hospitality.


Corps of Discovery: The Natural History
of the Lewis and Clark Expedition
Through June 10, 2004

The species that were first recorded for science by the Lewis and Clark expedition are displayed at Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

In 2003, Pittsburgh celebrated the bicentennial of the Lewis & Clark expedition’s departure from the city, and the celebration of that historic voyage continues in cities across the country until 2006.

The journey of Lewis and Clark lasted two and a half years—from Meriwether Lewis’s departure from Pittsburgh in August 1803 to the final return of the Corps to St. Louis in 1806.

To celebrate that great adventure, Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s original exhibition, Corps of Discovery: The Natural History of the Lewis and Clark Expedition can be seen until June 10, 2004. No other exhibition in the country uses actual specimens from scientific collections to give such a unique look at the flora and fauna that Lewis and Clark encountered.


Garden Themes & Birdhouse Dreams VII

Powdermill Nature Reserve is already preparing for a spring 2004 event: the Garden Themes & Birdhouse Dreams Annual Benefit on May 28, 2004.

Artistic people begin working now on the wonderful array of one-of-a-kind fanciful birdhouses and garden–related items that are auctioned off to benefit the biological field station of Carnegie Museum of Natural History. The popular event sold out last year with 300 attendees. Advance reservations are required, and there are awards and prizes for the best artistry. The tradition was begun by Patricia and Harvey Childs, owners of G-Squared Gallery in Ligonier, and now includes a display of works (May 19-27) at the Ligonier Library to be auctioned off.

In 2004, the funds raised will help restore the five major ponds in the bird banding area at Powdermill, as well as the “hide” used to view birds. For more information call 724.593.6105, email info@birdhousedreams.com, or visit the website: www.birdhousedreams.com.

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