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One year of the Bromacker project

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Bromackergrabung 2008 © Freistaat Thüringen, Landesamt für Denkmalpflege und Archäologie, WeimarStiftung Schloss Friedenstein Gotha, Foto Kerstin Fohlert
Press release,

The Bromacker is unique. The past four weeks have proven that the site between the Thuringian communities of Tambach-Dietharz and Georgenthal is a very significant window into the past: For one month, an international team of about 30 palaeontologists and geologists dug daily at the Bromacker. Unhindered by the weather and organisational adversities of such an undertaking, they have moved and removed about 20 to 30 cubic metres of the reddish sandstone. The excavation ends today, Friday, and the result is overwhelming.

The huge amount of finds contained in the Bromacker, which have now come to light after 290 million years, was the biggest challenge the scientists had faced in the past weeks: "The amount of burial traces is overwhelming. The number of skulls and partial skeletons found is also extraordinary," says excavation director Prof. Dr. Jörg Fröbisch from the Berlin Museum für Naturkunde – Leibniz Institute for Evolutionary and Biodiversity Research (MfN). In addition to imprints of fossilised plants, small invertebrates or coprolites (fossilised faeces), scratch marks and burrows as well as several partial skeletons of vertebrates – including two skulls and individual bones – the researchers have transported away more than 200 boxes of finds that are now being processed, prepared and researched.

200 boxes full of puzzle pieces that will help reconstruct an ecosystem in the Lower Permian. What did the climate look like then, what is the geology like today? How did changes in the climate affect biodiversity and the entire ecosystem 290 million years ago? These questions show that the BROMACKER will never end. Its high density of unique fossils holds enormous potential for research at the highest level. The teams from the MfN and the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena are just as committed to this goal as the colleagues from the UNESCO Global Geopark Thuringia Inselsberg – Drei Gleichen and the Friedenstein Castle Foundation in Gotha.

The questions are manifold, as is the variety of methods with which the project partners approach them. They all bring different expertise and scientific research foci to the project, which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF): While some focus on taxonomy, morphology and palaeoecology, others investigate bone histology or taphonomy. Still others in the team are working on fine preparation, digitisation and state-of-the-art 3D imaging technologies.

A special focus of all the collaborative partners is to find ways and means to make the unwieldy terminology so comprehensible and to explain the highly complex scientific facts in a way that is clearly understandable to the layperson. Because: The Bromacker is for everyone! Not only for researchers, but also for amateur palaeontologists and people from outside the field. Young and old should also be able to participate in the BROMACKER: This is why science communication is so important in this project. By means of a combination of modern and experimental knowledge transfer formats, coordinated tourist visitor guidance and special exhibitions, people who are only confronted with the topic by chance or who "just want to know what 'they' are doing in the mine and what it's all about" should be able to understand. The existing enthusiasm and fascination of the topic should jump from the small circle of researchers to the general public.

Photo material, which you may use free of charge in connection with reporting on the BROMACKER project, and detailed information on the site, research and science communication can be found here.