Grabung Außenstelle Messel

Location Messel


After rejecting plans to create a landfill at the Messel Pit in 1990 and purchasing the former mine in June 1991, the state of Hesse decided to engage the Senckenberg Nature Research Society (SGN), with its special expertise at Messel, as the operator of the former mine.

One year later, on June 24, 1992, the Hessen state government and SGN signed a contract concerning the preservation of the Messel Pit as a unique fossil site. Starting on July 1, 1992, SGN became the operator of the Messel Pit under regulations specified by federal mining law. The state and the federal government financially support the operation through the Senckenberg Research Institute.

Starting in 1983, this house, rented from YTONG AG, served as the Senckenberg outpost at the Messel Pit. In 1992, SGN bought the house and through the years converted it into a research station. The station now comprises preparation facilities, including a wet laboratory, an X-ray laboratory, office space for the technicians and scientists, a presentation and meeting room, a caretaker’s apartment, and a lounge and bedrooms for interns.

The research station is the workplace for the preparation and excavation staff as well as the home of the Section Paleoentomology.

Excavation and Preparation

Excavation must be planned and excavation permits applied for at the beginning of each year. The digging season of the various institutes begins in May and ends in October or November. In these paleontological excavations, oil-shale blocks are measured with the help of a high-tech GPS-Systems, separated and carefully scanned for fossils.

Since the water-containing oil-shale would fall apart if allowed to dry out in the air, fossil vertebrate specimens need to be embedded in a different substrate, and thus transferred. A specimen is first prepared on one side, which is then covered with artificial resin. After this artificial substrate hardens, the other side of the specimen is prepared. This preparation technique is known as the artificial resin transfer method.

What is so quickly explained in theory requires in practice days or even weeks, depending on the size and state of preservation of the fossil. The preparators use fine metal needles to prepare the fossils. Each movement is monitored through a stereomicroscope so that even the most delicate bone structures can be prepared without being damaged.

Insect fossils are only prepared from one side, and then the small oilshale plate with the fossil is kept in a small box in glycerine or silikonoil.

Internships for 4 weeks of excavation in the fossil site Messel pit

for Palaeontology students

The Senckenberg Research Institute of Frankfurt organises excavation campaigns during the summer at the Eocene fossil site Messel pit.
In this framework, we offer several internship positions, each for a duration of four weeks. The candidates should have a strong interest in Palaeontology and excavation work. It should be noted that no fossils can be kept privately.

Written applications for these internships are welcome, they should be here until latest 31st January. They should include a cover letter, a CV with photo, a certificate of enrollment at a university in Germany, and an excerpt of your academic regulations/university catalog containing the information that you require this internship for your studies. Per working day the participants will get an expense allowance of 28,- €.

Lodging during the internships is simple, but free in our local Research Station near the Messel pit. Sleeping bags and toiletry should be brought by the students themselves. However, travel costs and food are entirely in the responsibility of the students themselves. Each student must ensure that he/she is up-to-date with their vaccines.