Finally the basement, cluttered and chaotic. One cannot help but imagine Indiana Jones down here, among these rows of long tables covered with fossils of all shapes and sizes, fighting off a bunch of bad guys--whacking one with a fossilized leg bone and then clunking another with a fossilized skull. Stretched out the length of one aisle was another gem of U-M paleontology, a long skeleton of the ancestor to the whale known as a Basilosaurus. Here we learned that a professor of Near Eastern literature, who had been studying ancient stories of sea serpents with long pointed mouths large enough to swallow sailors whole and wondering how ancient desert people could have come up with such inventions, saw the Basilosaurus, unearthed from those same deserts, and recognized it as the serpent in those ancient stories.
This year's Behind the Scenes Day is Sunday, February 12. Sign up early for tours!
[Originally published in February, 2012.]