The museum

Treasures in the oil shale, the fossils

Fossils are being unearthed from the sediments of a 48-million-year-old lake – a bituminous argillaceous rock called “oil shale” – which are in an excellent state of preservation. The Messel Fossil and Local History Museum has a large collection of animal and plant fossils from the Messel Pit, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and thus provides information about life in that age. Explanations are attached to the showcases and can be heard via the audio guide.

We owe many of the fossils and casts to the amateur paleontologists who searched for fossils in the pit in the early 1970s.

The research on the fossils is highly topical: At that time, Messel had environmental conditions that we will have in 50 years if we do not slow down climate change.

1220 years of farmers and workers in Messel - local and industrial history

Messel was first mentioned in a document in the year 800 and was characterized by farming for centuries. Beginning in the 19th century, the sediments of the lake, which was formed 48 million years ago, were used industrially: in the cell walls of the dead algae in the lake, hydrocarbons were present as kerogens, from which mineral oil products could be manufactured. At that time, large industrial plants dominated the Messel Pit district. The plant with up to 800 employees gave the region bread and work for almost 100 years.
In the 19th century, the hunger for raw materials pushed clever engineers to build highly effective systems. In the 20th century, they supported those in power who were striving for self-sufficiency.

Fight against a landfill - a citizens' initiative

After the end of the mining activity in the 1960s, efforts were made to refill the over 100m wide and approx. 70m deep open pit. Planning began to set up a central waste disposal site for southern Hesse here. On the other hand, in 1971 the “citizens’ initiative to prevent a garbage dump in the Messel pit” was founded. The preparatory work such as the construction of a landfill road, transfer station, sewage treatment plant and preparation of the pit ground were carried out and are still visible today. In a long struggle by the initiative (BI – Bürgerinitiative), which consisted mainly of citizens of Messel, the planning approval decision for the construction of the landfill was finally declared illegal in 1988. From then on, the pit was available only to scientists and visitors and was ennobled as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.

How it all began - the history of our earth

Our solar system has existed for 4.5 billion years. During this time the earth was formed as we find it today. In an annex of the museum, this story is explained with examples of land/water distribution in Europe and illustrated with many fossil examples from around the world. How has the shifting of the tectonic plates changed our planet? How did life evolve on earth? Which species gradually emerged? When did man come into this world?

Take something with you - Our museum shop

Various books are available for sale on the themes represented in the museum. Replicas of fossils are offered.

In close cooperation with:

Senckenberg foundation

Landesmuseum Darmstadt

Naturwissenschaftlicher Verein Darmstadt e.V

Grube Messel