20-million-year-old fossilised tree discovered by scientists in Greece
Two Greek scientists on the volcanic island of Lesbos claim they have uncovered a fossilized tree that is about 20 million years old. In the middle of road-work near an ancient forest on the eastern Mediterranean island, a particularly unusual discovery was found. The area was petrified millions of years ago.
In 1995, the site started to be dug up or excavated. Professor Nikos Zouros claimed that it is the first tree in the region to be discovered in such good condition, complete with branches and roots. He is with the Museum of Natural History of the Petrified Forest of Lesbos.
After 20 million years, the tree’s roots and leaves were still intact. It was a rare discovery, according to Zouros, one he had never seen before.
“It is a unique find,” he said. “[It] is preserved in excellent condition. And from studying the fossilized wood we will be able to identify the type of plant it comes from.”
The 15,000-hectare petrified forest of Lesbos is a protected site of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO.
The forest is the result of a volcanic eruption 20 million years ago. Lava from the volcano covered the island’s ecosystem, which at that time was a subtropical forest.
The fossilized tree is about 19 meters long. It was preserved by heavy amounts of volcanic ash after it fell. A large number of fruit tree leaves also were found nearby.
The trees and animal bones found in the same general area add to the history and understanding of life that once existed there.
“During the excavations, the various forests that existed between 17 and 20 million years ago on Lesbos are being uncovered,” said Zouros. He and his team plan to rebuild the “ecosystem that existed during that period.”
For further study, he and his team transported the tree from the site using a special support system and metal structure.