By Luis Alcalá, Javier Trueba
The extraction of coal from the largest lignite mine in Spain, located in Teruel, had exposed a vast fossil section from the Lower Cretaceous. From 2010 to 2020, a palaeontological team was able to access and work on a 600,000 m2 layer which contained several animal and plant fossils that lived over 110 million years ago. In this giant deposit, 161 fossil areas were located from which they recovered over 10,000 vertebrate animal remains, many of them from previously unknown dinosaurs.
This enormous site, contains, as well, thousands of minuscule deposits, almost unnoticeable when huge amounts of rocks are removed to extract coal or when digging in the search of fossils of large vertebrates. We face small fragments of amber which contain inside everyday scenes from Cretaceous, like ancient still pictures.
Alongside the remains of countless insects and arachnids, the Ariño amber provided three hair samples from a small mammal that represents the oldest known discovery of fossilized hair in amber, to this day.
The most colossal of sites, kept a snapshot into time, like a Cretaceous Pompeii, capturing the delicate rest of a tiny mustelid-like mammalian ancestor.