After 27 years of civil war
During the three decades of war scientific exploration was forbidden as the country was all but closed off. Now, seven years after the war’s end, the great palaeontological wealth is waiting to be explored, and scientists are flocking to the Southern African country to make up for lost time.
The first discoveries were made during the 1960s, but a liberation struggle against former colonial master
"Museum in the ground"
Louis Jacobs, professor of geological sciences at
Jacobs is part of the PaleoAngola project, an initiative that promotes palaeontology in
PaleoAngola is a collaboration between research and educational institutions in
Results so far have been spectacular and have yielded not only Angola’s very first dinosaur – dating back to the Late Cretaceous period (between 99.6 and 65.5 million years ago), and other fossils of mosasaurs, plesiosaurs, ammonites, sharks and turtles – but also a number of research papers.
Several have appeared in National Geographic, the Bulletin of the Geological Society of France, and Palaeontologica Polonica journal, and have also been presented at international scientific gatherings.
In 2005 Jacobs and his team came across the remains of the first dinosaur to be excavated in
Since then fossils have been found in abundance. In honour of the area’s importance to science, a genus of the extinct marine reptile mosasaur has been named Angolasaurus.
Dr Octavio Mateus of the New University of Lisbon, also a palaeontologist with PaleoAngola, believes there is much more to be discovered: “Some of the places here are the best in the world in terms of fossil [remains],” he said. “We keep finding new animals, so it is always exciting to be here."
To date the team has excavated from Bentiaba in the
During the warm Late Cretaceous period much of the region was under water, which is why Angolan fossils belong to marine creatures such as turtles, plesiosaurs and mosasaurs. The scientists hope that
Although it is one of the continent’s poorest countries,
The country is starting to rebuild its ravaged infrastructure after the war, but still faces many challenges as a legacy of the conflict. Landmines litter the country, the civilian population is still heavily armed, and child mortality is high. Many residents who became refugees during the war are still waiting to be resettled.
But in recent years
As further proof of its progress,