Looks like paradise isn’t it? Well it seems that every picture I took in Asturias could be made a tourist postcard!Now imagine that in the middle of all this beauty, you, an obvious palaeontolgy buff had the opportunity to visit this:The shape of the building of the MUJA (Museo del Jurásico) tells all: it’s a footprint. The main fossil remains in the Jurassic coast of Asturias are footprints… that is the traces of the living (not the dead!) animals… and some of the footprints found there are considered the biggest of the world. In three days and with all the commitments I had, it was impossible to see much, but hey, we had the immense fortune of being taken on tour by the MUJA‘s scientific director Jose Carlos García-Ramos and managed to visit a truly “holy of holies” space… these are pictures of the footprints from the beach called “La Griega“(the Greek)… look at the size and just imagine what sort of animals were making them… it is mind-blowing! And we were actually >there< stomping on ground where a sauropod (probably the size of Argentinosaurus or bigger) just happened to pass by many millions of years ago! Emotions ran high… here’s Carmen, my partner… And here is Jose Carlos and myself inspecting, measuring, speculating…
Yes it was as spectacular as this, the emblematic image of the copulating Tyrannosaurus rexes… but unfortunately I had a lot of work to do and there was not much time for leisure… after all this was my first physical encounter with Peter Norton‘s magnificent “Hatching The Past“(Dinosaurios Huevos y Bebés in Spanish)… and we witnessed and helped with the last mounting details.
Carmen is admiring a gigantic nest, possibly a Gigantoraptor nest, that boasts probably the biggest eggs in the dinosaur world… much bigger than any sauropod. The atmosphere of the exhibition was just what I expected. Artful yet entertaining and didactic. A real treat. And I’m extremely honoured to have my artwork hanging on the wall, together with some pieces of Mark Hallett. I’m not worthy!
Here’s a famous illustration of Oviraptor called “Pecking Order”…
Here again with Jose Carlos García-Ramos, scientific director of the museum in front of the Gigantoraptor nest , flanked by the artwork dedicated to it. And the next one is a beautiful juvenile Tarbosaurus skull backed with a copy of my painting for the Random House/Bob Bakker’s “Dinosaurs!” I did a while ago. The original is in the vaults of Charlie and Flo Magovern.
But I was still to meet the real star of the show: Mr. Peter Norton (Gondwana Studios). He might seem shy and unassuming, but the man not only came all the way from Australia to bring and curate curated the exhibition, he also cast and mounted most of the delicate pieces himself. Pieces that range from something as big as this subadult Tarbosaurus:
To something as delicate as this Protoceratops and babies herd…
I could show many more pictures of the exhibition, but I rather direct you to Gondwana Studios website or facebook page. You will be able to see everything in there.
Come Monday, and the official opening was set. My task was to show around the city’s Mayor (Rogelio Pando) and the councillor of Education, Culture and Sport from the Government of Asturias ( Alejandro Calvo) and their team, They were genuinely interested and we spent a good deal of time showing the exhibition in detail. They understand perfectly well the importance of this exhibition for the city and needless to say, the importance of Asturias as predominant Palaeontological region in Spain. At the table: José Carlos, Mayor Rogelio Pando, Councillor of Education Alejandro Calvo, Myself and Peter Norton.
Everybody was amazed by the formidable array of approachable, didactic material of the exhibition.For me, the piece-de-resistance was the “Reviviendo Dinosaurios” (Bringing Dinosaurs Back To Life) talk in the afternoon. It was (according to Marta Molleda, coordinator of the museum and who organised the event and introduced it) extremely well attended. A little rusty and nervous on my part, but well received by the very attentive and receptive audience. I was ready to send my heretic views of the development of the dinosaur image once again!
Needless to say, the excellent audience participation at the end helped to clarify any doubts and helped to fill any remaining blank spaces … it also served to surprisingly meet friends from Facebook that followed my work and (predictably) I had never met before… like here Carla Zooplancton, from Oviedo, Asturias! Thanks for coming!
After the very successful day, it was time to visit the “sweets” shop at the museum… well “sweets” for me at least… there were more and better paleo-goodies here than in the Natural History Museum in London, believe me… and at rather affordable prices! I was surprised to find some original -rather well made, something extraordinary for my standards- resin dinosaur miniatures made in Spain that I hadn’t seen anywhere before. Once a kid…
But if I thought that we were to return with nothing else in our hands. Have a look: the event was prominently featured in the two local newspapers… we were interviewed also for TV… but were unable to see the results. If you cannot read Spanish, well… you get the feeling… As you can see in one of the pictures I seems to be taken aback by one of Mark Hallett‘s paintings!We know that the so-called “budget cuts” all over Europe (and the world) normally take -shamefully- to specially victimise anything related to Culture, and the MUJA is unfortunately no exception. I would like to thank the over-worked personnel of the museum (starting with Marta Molleda), which despite having to work endless hours multi-tasking and of being much fewer in number than what a museum like MUJA really needs, managed to keep the things running smoothly.
Thanks also to them, the events and Dinosaurios Huevos y Bebés have been and will continue to be a long lasting success in educating and delighting vast audiences… We would also like to thank Mar Gómez (Peter’s partner and associate) for giving us a much needed support, inspiration and guidance and also to Laura Piñuela, José Carlos García Ramos’ wife (unfortunately absent for a paleo-meeting in Turkey) who gave us invaluable support in absentia…. and obviously to my partner Carmen Naranjo… for virtually everything else!
Thanks also to Jose Ignacio Ruiz-Omeñaca from the MUJA for invaluable corrections and general guidance.
Now let’s make a wish…we want to see the exhibition “Hatching The Past” keep marching around Europe in the near future when it departs Spain! Europe deserves it too! Any more takers?