Bernard Price Institute of Palaeontology, Johannesburg
If you are interested in our fossil heritage, then the Bernard Price Institute on the East Campus of the University of the Witwatersrand is a must see. Home to one of the largest fossil collections in South Africa, it is deserving of the renown it has garnered in the world of palaeontology. South Africa is the only country in the world to have this continuous record of reptile, dinosaur and mammal fossils dating from between 300 million to 80 million years ago.
The Karoo Vertebrate Collection is one of the BPI’s major collections. The Karoo, a semi-desert region in South Africa, is well known for pre-dinosaur discoveries. A rich diversity of rock zones means the area is rich in fossils from more than two million years ago.
Ever wondered what the landscapes of Southern Africa looked like millions of years ago? A visit to the BPI’s herbarium, which features a collection of more than 30 000 fossil plants and insects will put you in the picture.
Although in the past it has taken up to 20 years of constant preparation to display some of these remarkable fossil specimens, today the institute is home to a micro CT scanner, which, with high resolution x-rays, can literally lay the bones bare to be studied in microscopic detail.
A highlight for families visiting the BPI is a trip to the James Kitching Gallery. At the museum, visitors can meet “Fang” and “Fred”, two animated, life-size reconstructions of fossil finds. Fred is a reconstruction of a 3-metre-long, 260 million-year-old mammal-like reptile from South Africa. Fang is a reconstruction of a 7-metre-long, 130 million-year-old African dinosaur discovered in the Sahara Desert.
The museum also includes a live fossil preparation laboratory, where visitors can watch technicians work on fossils. The friendly staff goes the extra mile to make a tour of the museum entertaining, particularly for children.
Admission: James Kitching Gallery: R25 per person: Hour-and-a-half guided tour: R200 (book in advance): Visiting hours: Monday to Friday from 09h00 to 16h00.
Address: Bernard Price Institute, Van Riet Lowe Building, East Campus, Yale Road, Braamfontein
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