Hungary for Cypress? (ca. 8,000,000 BC)

By: The Scribe on Wednesday, August 8, 2007

An eight million-year-old Cypress forest found in northeastern Hungary.

In a deep, open mine in northeastern Hungary, archaeologists have uncovered an 8 million-year-old forest of preserved cypress trees – and what makes them remarkable is that they’re not fossilized! These trees weren’t petrified nor turned into coal although they had been buried under sand for eight million years – which happened as a result of a sudden sandstorm that covered the forest floor up to about six meters high.

As a result, all that remains of the ancient forest are the tree trunks – 2 to 3 meters in diameter and six meters high, although the original trees would have stood about 30 to 40 meters high. Everything above these six meters is long gone… but the trunks themselves still feel like wood to the touch!

Over 10 million years ago, the area where these trees now stand was a giant, swampy, muddy lake, bounded by a marshy shoreline. This was during the Miocene period, and most of the trees themselves were likely around 400 years old when they died. The forest of 16 preserved trees was found when miners working in a brown coal mine first identified several tree trunks that had become coal over time, but upon digging further, they realized that there were trees in the ground that seemed intact.

More trees from the 8-million-year-old forest!

In order to reach the ancient cypress forest, one must descend about 60 meters (or, 200 feet) into a 3,500 meter squared open mine – and to make matters more difficult, the trees simply cannot be removed from the area, since they begin to crumble almost immediately once exposed to sunlight and air. A similar forest found in Japan some time ago was preserved by encasing the entire area in a “cement sarcophagus”, however the cost of doing so to this forest would be over two hundred thousand dollars.

Since the trees retain their original wood and were not petrified, scientists are hopeful that the information gathered from them will provide useful and vital information about climate change in ancient Europe – more specifically, about global sea levels at the time, as this was during the Miocene period when it is known that the Mediterranean sea either completely or partially dried up!

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Tomorrow: More ancient stories!


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