EXPLORE Monte San Giorgio with this slideshow, check the location map and get all the facts and information below.
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Website Categories: Fossil Record;
Area: 11 km2
Inscribed: 2003 (Extended 2010)
- Fossil record (viii);
Location and Values: Monte San Giorgio is a forested mountain on the shores of Lake Lugano, straddling the border between Switzerland and Italy. The area has the best known fossil record of marine life from the Triassic Period, 245-230 million years ago. The fossil record is remarkable for the diversity of species that have been discovered and the exceptional quality, integrity and state of preservation of specimens. The site came to prominence – as with so many of the world’s renowned fossil sites – through mining activity. In the case of Monte San Giorgio this dates back to the first half of the last century, when oil shale, galena, barite and fluorite mines operating in the area resulted in the first ‘incidental’ fossil finds. The long history of fossil studies at Monte Giorgio means the site now provides the world’s principal ‘point of reference’ for future discoveries of marine fossils from the Triassic period.
Conservation Status and Prospects. According to IUCN’s Conservation Outlook Assessment (2017) the conservation status of Monte San Giorgio is ‘good’. The IUCN report commends the highly effective protection and management system which manages fossil collection through a permit system, around coordinated research excavations. The wooded site has relatively few visitors and no unauthorized fossil collecting has been reported.
The slideshow ‘tells the story’ of Monte San Giorgio with a portfolio of photos by Peter Howard from a visit in June 2019. The highlight of the visit was the new Museum of Fossils from Monte San Giorgio in the village of Meride on the Swiss side of the border. This state-of-the-art privately-funded museum, located in a carefully preserved historic building, features life-size models, interactive displays, 3-D cinematography, and a host of stunning fossil exhibits. The exhibition focuses on the fossil communities found in five different fossil-bearing strata from the Middle Triassic at Monte San Giogio. One floor of the museum building is devoted to the (slightly older) Besano Formation, and another to the younger fossils of the Meride Formation. A third floor of the exhibition space is devoted to fossils from quarries around Arzo, which lie outside the world heritage site, and belong to the Jurassic period, 50-60 million years later.
Apart from the stunning exhibits at the museum, the slideshow illustrates the broader landscape features of the area, with some distant views of Monte San Giorgio from the other side of the lake, as well as details from geo-palaeontological walking trails with information panels that have been established on both sides of the border.