The Berlin bone room

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I’m badly behind on the blogging here and especially covering my January trip to Berlin owing to a combination of illness, work and the Daspletosaurus project (only 3 weeks left!). Still, while there’s much more to come, I’ll grab a few minutes and post a little about the big bone store in the basement in Berlin featuring these wonderful containers (if you don’t know what they are, feel free to guess, answer at the bottom below the fold).

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A good number of museums have a room or part of one set aside for the especially large and unwieldy specimens that are too big or heavy to store on conventional shelves and naturally the dinosaur collection often falls into this realm. In the case of Berlin, a large basement room houses dinosaurs, proboscidians and not a lot else. The dinosaur stuff includes numerous huge sauropod elements in particular and there are quite literally stacks of huge limb bones on the floor. Here’s a few photos of some of the biggest pieces around (Giraffatitan femora and humeri) and with myself and Heinrich for scale. Also featuring below is the rarely seen David Maas taking a look at some sauropod ilia and failing to blend into a white background with his choice of outfit.

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So for those who don’t know, those containers are original Tendaguru transport cases. The field site was basically inaccessible to vehicles, so all material collected was put into cylinders made of bamboo and wire, and carried by hand all the way out to the coast. Huge numbers were taken (and of course big bones had to be broken into man-portable loads) to get them out of the quarries. Naturally this resulted in a huge collection of boxes and simply not all of them have ever been dealt with an sit unopened on the shelves. But they are not unexplored, many (quite possibly all, I can’t remember) have now been CT scanned so we know what is in them. Still a wonderful bit of history for the collections and it was great to see them lined up like this.

6 Responses to “The Berlin bone room”


  1. 1 Heinrich Mallison 04/03/2013 at 1:58 pm

    Maas, not Mass. But he took a picture in which I look halfway decent ;)

  2. 5 Heinrich Mallison 04/03/2013 at 2:01 pm

    Yes, all bamboo corsets have been CT scanned by now.
    One reason they were made is cost: transporting in crates or lumber for crates carried a prohibitive cost, so only local materials were used. At the coast the bamboo corsets were stacked into crates (which were re-used to save on expenses), loaded onto a small ship, and from there onto the big steamers for transport to Germany.

  3. 6 dobermunk 04/03/2013 at 4:11 pm

    Thanks to Heinrich, I’m likely one of the only people who saw those corsets before reading Gerhard Maier’s “African Dinosaurs Unearthed”. Was intimate reading after that.


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