I am here in the small town of Lourinhã, which is located about 70 km North of Lisbon. A short distance compared to the mind-smacking ‘time-travel’ I am going to embark. The ignition which sparks this journey begins with some petrified remains known as fossils. Lourinhã is famous for its many dinosaur fossils and back in 1993, on the beach of Paimogo was discovered a nest with more than 100 eggs of Lourinhanosaurus, still with its embryos. This unique discovery placed this area on the world map.
Think of fossils like small puzzles waiting to get solved. The “screams” from a lost world just wanting to get heard before the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction silenced these giants forever some 66 million years ago. According to scientists this cataclysmic event wiped out about 75% of the Earth’s inhabitants and paved the way for the Cretaceous period and with it, the entire Mesozoic Era, opening the Cenozoic Era, which we all live in today.
Nevertheless, the dinosaurs are long gone and the closest we get to “them” in today’s world are birds. Actually, I had no idea about this before visiting this educational facility, and I was also in the belief that all dinosaurs existed at the same time-period but was “slightly off” a staggering few hundred million years. This is a different kind of interactive museum and standing next to the props under the sky, – combined with a little imagination, one can clearly get a feel for how powerful, vast and spectacular these creatures were.
The staff members are very informative, the exhibition very fascinating, the park is gorgeous, and the props are well done. This museum caters to visitors of all ages and has a very child-friendly environment, – not to mention you are even allowed to bring your dogs to the park if they are on a leash. It is set up in a very tasteful manner, and I would like to congratulate the people of Lourinhã and the staff for having such an outstanding touristic, and educational facility. Yes, there exists a Jurassic Park in little Portugal, and it is a gem!
I highly recommend any visitor to buy the “Guide” at the entrance to enhance their experience inside the park. The layout of the booklet is stunning, and it is packed with a wealth of “hands-on” diagrams, images and overall useful information. Also, a fantastic follow-up piece to show your family and friends when you get home.
I put together a little video for you go get an idea of the Park but you must see the lab-section and interactive areas for yourself.
There is a sense of pride and enthusiasm in the air at the museum amongst the crew, which is so contagious, and the minimalistic interior design in the spacious hall brings immediate attention to the lab and fossils. It is their time to shine, and they do elegantly!
I was fortunate enough to run into Tiago Marques, who is the Marketing Manager and Simão Mateus, the Paleontologist Curator.
I had a few questions I wanted to ask them after my experience at the museum.
You can read the interview below.
What is the initial idea and purpose behind setting up this museum in Lourinhã – What is your mission with this exhibition?
Lourinhã always had dinosaur fossils. It was actually in Lourinhã that the first dinosaur fossil was found in Portugal, and the most recent findings come from Lourinhã. Our mission is simple, we want to reveal these discoveries to the general public, and show how vital Lourinhã is on the International paleontology scene.
– Tiago Marques
Will you be extending the park and facilities, what can guests expect in the future?
Within the near future, we want to add more animals and more one trail concerning the Cenozoic, and the Ice Age mammals. But we just opened, and therefore we are going to expand this step by step.
– Tiago Marques
Is there any chance that scientists will ever find some “preserved” DNA
inside a piece of amber, or egg, which can be used to recreate “dinosaurs,” or is Hollywood’s “Jurrasic Park” concept just a vivid dream?
Maybe we can find pieces of DNA in some animals and plants if the fossilization
is not mineralized, – the organic matter has transformed into rock. However, that DNA will most probably be incomplete and with lots of gaps. More or less like a computer program, if it misses several lines here and there. It will not work!
– Simão Mateus
How did you determine the size, colour, and shape of the dinosaurs
constructed in the park?
It is easy to know the size of the dinosaurs, at least, if we have a good portion of the skeleton, we merely assemble the bones, add the flesh, and we got a reasonable size estimation and shape, the muscles and the skin impressions. But the colouring is mostly guesswork based on well thought out theories. It is a whole new level of science, which yet has to advance before we can collect more data.
– Simão Mateus
What does the work of a Paleontologist entail, and what is your advice to those wanting to get into this field?
In paleontology, you have to learn a bit of geology and biology, and you have to be prepared for many hours of preparation in the lab, – disappointing pieces of bones and lots of no T- Rex dinosaurs, or no dinosaurs at all. But is funny, it is not monotonous, and you can really see how life evolution works, and the myriad of different life solutions that already existed and are extinct today.
– Simão Mateus
A big thank you to Tiago Marques & Simão Mateus for participating in this interview.
Also, thank you for reading this article, and for further information about this place, please visit the official website by clicking on the link below.