Palaeozoology History

The Museum für Mineralogie und Geologie Dresden (MMG) has a long geoscientific history. First geological objects in the Kurfürstliche Kunstkammer have been mentioned in 1587. However, official year of foundation of the museum as a part of the Königliche Naturalienkammer is 1728.

The oldest objects of the palaeozoology section date back into that period. Examples are a slab with several specimens of the brachiopod Coenothyris vulgaris from the Muschelkalk (Germanic Triassic), collected as Conchites „on the way from Jena to Weimar“ in 1718 (Inv.-Nr. ThTr338; see at right), or an ammonoid of the species Pleuroceras spinatum from the Lower Jurassic (Lias) of Fechheim near Coburg (Inv.-Nr. BaJ414 from 1727). In 1730, the holotype of the marine crocodile Steneosaurus bollensis („Gavial de Boll“) has been included into the stock of the collections.

In the following decades and centuries, the palaeo-zoological collection has been continuously enlarged.

ammonoid Mariella essenesis (Geinitz, 1849)In that respect, Hanns Bruno Geinitz (HBG) as an influential palaeontologist and the pioneer of Cretaceous research in Saxony must be mentioned. Born 16.10.1814 in Altenburg (Thuringia), he obtained the job as inspector of the Königliches Naturalienkabinett in 1847. Ten years later, the Mineralienkabinett was separated from the Naturalienkabinett and HBG went the first director of this institution. This event can be regarded as the birth of the Dresden museum in its modern form. HBG strongly influenced the museum by his incredible research activities and by including important private collections into its stock. In this context, the acquisition of a large collection of fossils from the lithographic limestones of Solnhofen (Upper Jurassic) in 1875 has to be mentioned. HBG’s monographs on the fossils from the Cretaceous of Saxony entitled „Das Elbthalgebirge in Sachsen“ have been published in 1871-75 in two volumes and are still scientific standards. Numerous types and originals (see at right) of his works are still in the property of the palaeozoological collection of the MMG. HBG retired in 1898 and died in 1900.

Ernst Kalkowsky, director from 1898-1920, likewise contributed to the excellent reputation of the MMG. He coined the term „stromatolite“, which is used by bio- and geoscientists around the world for layered organo-sedimentary structures of microbial origin. Further progress during the 20th century has been achieved by Karl Wanderer, Helmuth Häntzschel, Eberhard Rimann, Walther Fischer, Hans Prescher, Gerhard Mathé and Harald Walher.

Depressing events in the history of the palaeozoological collections with significant loss of material have been the destructions accompanied by the burning of the Zwinger in May 1849 and the bombardment of Dresden towards the end of the 2nd World War (1945).

Situated in the Zwinger from 1728-1945, the museum has been placed later on at different sites in the centre of Dresden. Since 1999, it is situated in a modern building at the northern city margin in Klotzsche (A.B.-Meyer-Bau) and forms together with Museum für Tierkunde the Natural History Collections Dresden.

Dresden Paläozoologie
Dresden Paläozoologie