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Welcome to the Oertijdmuseum.   


In 1971, Werner and Cilia Fraaije went with their children, René, Cecile, Bart and Marco (then 11, 7, 6 and 3 years old) on summer holiday in Overijssel. They visited prehistoric dolmens. During one of their tours they met two older ladies. Those ladies told them they were searching for fossil sponges of 450 million years old, called Astylospongia, around a gravel pit. In ten years time they only found one complete specimen. Ignited by their enthusiasm the kids also started looking for fossils in the gravel pit. Prompt that day René and his sister found a complete Astylospongia!!! At that point the family Fraaije got the "fossil collecting virus". Rene went to study geology at the University of Utrecht and graduated as a paleontologist in 1986. One thing leads to another and finally resulted in the opening of the Oertijdmuseum in Boxtel on April 3rd of 1999!  


In the first hall you meet the skeleton of Casper, the sperm whale. Sperm whales are a beautiful example of evolution. Whales evolved from land to marine animals. This story started with Indohyus, a deer-like animal with heavy bones. With heavy bones it is easier to walk on the bottom of a river, to hide from predators. His hearing organ is completely adapted to hear underwater. The sperm whale uses only one of the two nostrils: the blowhole and looks under water no longer with his eyes, but with a natural sonar system. Sperm whales eat giant squids (up to 12 meters) which live deeper than 500 meters in the ocean.

The squids are caught whith the lower jaw teeth, and then swallowed as a whole. 


After passing the ticket-gate you walk up through the ramp. On the left you see a lot of marine creatures like corals, sponges, fish, jellyfish and crabs. One of these crabs is Lithodes. While normal crabs have ten legs, this crab has only eight legs: six walking legs and two legs used for eating. Ordinary crabs have eight walking legs. Lithodes is a hermit crab which looks like a normal crab. Halfway up the ramp you see a showcase with the first fossil Astylospongia and  a few other fossils. With this small collection the Fraaije family started in 1971. Continuing upwards you see at the right a wall used for temporary exhibitions.  


At the top you will see a large plate with fossil fishes. If a fish dies it sinks to the bottom and normally it decays by oxygen and bacteria. Under special circumstances, however, the fish can be closed off from oxygen and micro-organisms. When winter starts almost all algae which florished during summer time die. Then a dead fish can be covered by a layer of millions of algae. Every summer and winter a new layer of algal mud is added. Thus the fish, after thousands of years, lies under a thick layer of algal mud. These layers are pushed deeper and deeper in the crust. Under the sediment load pressure and temperature increases. In geological time about 100 cm. of algal mud turns into only 5 cm. of limestone. Fossils like fish and snails are found therein. 


In the showcase immediately behind the fossil fish-plate there are some hermit crabs. Amongst them you see the oldest hermit crab that is found in an ammonite.


In the showcase cases on the window side some local and regional archeological items are on display.   


Further on at your left are two showcases beneath a large painting. These fossils  are from the Pliocene and Miocene (2-10 million years old) of this region.

There are fossilized remains of marine animals such as crabs, shells, sharks, whales and dolphins, but also of land plants such as pieces of wood, beech nuts, leaves and fungi, etc.


Around the corner the first moving dinosaur, Herrerasaurus appears. This is the oldest carnivorous dinosaur known at the moment. He lived in Argentina about 230 million years ago. His lower jaws are adapted to devour large pieces of meat.


Further on at the wall side are a nine showcases. In the first are diverse skulls. Very particular is that of the pig-dear (Babirusa) (at the bottom in the middle). In the second you see agates; beautiful works of art from nature. Some crustaceans like the extinct trilobites are present in the third showcase. Trilobites lived from approximately 570 million to 230 million years ago. They are the first arthropods that occurred globally in the oceans. Most sought their food on the seabed by filtering mud. Some species developed into predator. Some trilobites had large eyes, with up to 15,000 lenses per eye, so that they could almost 360 ° look around without turning their heads. Others developed eyes on stalks. Uniquely, all lenses are made of the mineral calcite. This distinguishes them from all other animals because they have lenses that are made up of protein. It is suspected that trilobites became extinct with the arrival of better adapted predators like fishes. During molting (peeling of their armor) they were temporarily vulnerable like todays crabs and lobsters. 


In the fourth and fifth showcase there are ammonites. Ammonites owe their name from the Greek god Ammon, who was depicted as a man with the head of a ram. Ammonites look like the curled rams' horns. Ammonites are a group of marine animals called cephalopods that occurred worldwide in large numbers, from 423 million years ago until 65 million years ago, after which they became extinct, along with the dinosaurs. The average dimensions ranging from 1 cm. up to 60 cm. But there are also found some with a diameter of 2 to 3 m! 

Within the sixth showcase there are fossil fishes from the Early Cretaceous of Brazil.  The evolution of elephants is shown in the next showcase.   

 In the eighth and ninth showcase lie bones, teeth and skulls of mammals from the Ice Age, mainly from regional rivers and the North Sea. 


You are now walking along the second of the moving dinosaurs. Beyond that dinosaur you go through a door and you reach the landing. In the showcases there are several dinosaur bones, eggs and even dung of different dinosaurs. Like other reptiles, dinosaurs laid eggs. The eggs made by carnivores are elongated, herbivores had spherical eggs. There are also teeth of various dinosaurs. They are found all over the world. Teeth are protected by a hard enamel layer and therefor better preserved than the more brittle bones.


Furthermore you will see all kinds of marine life hanging on the sealing, including several species of sharks. Sharks are hunters. They smell to find their meal. They can do this very well. One drop of blood can be smelled from a mile distance! Sharks change all their teeth within every few weeks. If they loose a teeth, the next one comes out of the row. So the shark always keeps sharp teeth.


 On the left you see the laboratory where we work on 'Kirby' the Diplodocus.


You are now entering the glass dinosaur hall. Here you can see skeletons of various dinosaurs and marine reptiles.


The Mosasaur is actually not a dinosaur but a dangerous marine reptile. Around 70-65 million years ago, he made the seas very unsafe. The first fossil remains of these creatures were found near Maastricht. Mosasaur literally means "River Meuse lizard".


Pterosaurs evolved 220 million years ago and became extinct 65 million years ago. They were the largest animals in the air, in the days when dinosaurs were the largest animals on land. The largest had a wingspan of about 10 meters. Their skeleton was very light and strong. Because of their high floating ability, they could cover up to 16,000 kilometers per flight!   


Brachiosaurus means “arm lizard”. This name was given because of its strong forelimbs (arms). It is still one of the largest and heaviest dinosaurs knwon, with a length of between 23 and 30 meters and a weight of between 30,000 and 52,000 kilos !!! For them even an elephant looked like a dwarf! The Brachiosaurus had to eat about 200 kilos of plantmaterial per day. Thanks to his long neck he could easily reach the needles of large conifers. In the days of the dinosaurus grasses and deciduous trees were absent or just started to evolve. 


Stegosaurus was a herbivore that lived 150 million years ago. The name Stegosaurus means "covered lizard". His back was "covered" with angular hardened plates. These bony plates were not for protection against predators, but served as thermoregulation. The skin on the plates was probably full of blood vessels. The Stegosaurus probably also communicated with his plates. At the tip of its tail were a few long spikes to repel predators. 


Triceratops means something like "face with three horns". Some scientists believe that dinosaurs were using the horns to fight, others suspect that they were too weak and only served as a show of strength. They were indeed an impressive sight. Besides the three horns Triceratops had also a huge shield to protect his neck. In addition, he was quite large; he could be three meters high and nine meters long and weighed over 5,000 kilos. 


Tyrannosaurus means tyrant lizerd. Tyrannosaurus rex (rex meaning "king" in Latin), commonly abbreviated to T. rex, is one of the most well-represented of the large theropods.The heaviest T. rex ever found (Sue) would have weighed around 9,500 kilograms. The skull of this huge specimen is no less than one and a half meters long. A replica of Sue can be seen on our car park. A "normal" T-rex would have weighed about 6,000 to 8,000 kilos. Research showed that youngsters especially in their teenage years (between 10-12 and 17-18 years in particular) grew very quickly.


If you leave the dinosaur hall you enter the arcade. There you will find the fameous skeleton of Lucy. She was found in 1974 in Ethiopia. Her bones are about 3.2 million years old! Only about 40 % of her skeleton was preserved, but enough to see that it was a woman of about 1.10 meters tall. Her hips and knees showed that she already walked upright. Her teeth showed she ate fruit, and probably also meat. The group of paleontologists celebrating their discovery in 1974 heared the song "Lucy in the sky with diamonds" by the Beatles, so her name: Lucy was born!   


If you walk through the museum-cafe you’ll see the entrance to the garden. Besides hundreds of different plants and trees, there are many dinosaur and other prehistoric statues. We wish you a pleasant walk and also a very nice day.

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