For more than two centuries, Liège's palaeontologists, researchers and students, have been bringing plant and animal fossils of all ages back to Liège - from the Ediacaran (-635 to -541 Ma) to the more recent periods - and from all over the world. Field discoveries, acquisitions and exchanges constantly enrich this collection, which is particularly rich in Carboniferous corals (-359 to -299 Ma), Devonian (-419 to -359 Ma) and Carboniferous plants, Quaternary cave mammals, Devonian vertebrates, Paleozoic echinoderms (-541 to -252 Ma) and invertebrates. With more than one million specimens, the palaeontology collection is the largest public collection of fossils in Wallonia and the second largest in Belgium.

Remarkable Pieces

Excavations have sometimes led to the discovery of surprising finds, such as a 360-million-year-old fish mandible with lungs, fossil plants bearing the oldest seeds in the world, the teeth of the largest marine reptile that lived at the time of the dinosaurs, and the skeletons of hyenas and lions from the Condroz caves.

But perhaps the most important discovery was made by Professor Philippe-Charles Schmerling. In 1830, he exhumed human remains and a fossilised skull from a cave in the region. The skull of the "Engis child" is the oldest witness of the Neanderthal man, (-50 000 to -35 000). It was classified in 2012 as a "Treasure of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation".

An International Reference

In 2019, an extensive digitisation campaign was launched using several surface scanners to produce highly accurate 3D models. All these models of specimens from the fossil collections can be freely consulted and downloaded by anyone who wishes to do so.

The extent and richness of the ULiège paleontology collections have made them international references, regularly studied by Belgian and foreign paleontologists. Very often, the laboratory welcomes scientists from all over the world to closely study fossil corals, fossilised plants discovered by Suzanne Leclercq, or to sample specimens in order to analyse their DNA.  Even more than the rest of the collection, the skull of the Engis child constantly attracts foreign researchers to Liège who wish to study and analyse it using the most modern scientific methods.

Understanding the Earth's History to Simulate its Future

The EddyLab, Evolution and Diversity Dynamics Lab, consists of a team of paleontologists, biologists and geologists who focus on fluctuations in past biodiversity and attempt to link these fluctuations to environmental changes by analysing fossil collections.

At present, for example, scientists are studying, again on the basis of collections, how carnivorous mammals (cats, dogs, bears, walruses, etc.) managed to diversify some thirty million years ago.

The laboratory has also studied extinctions of corals and reef fauna during and at the end of the Devonian period. Another recent study looked at the extinction of marine reptiles in the Jurassic age, based on the analysis of a few fossils. This research is important because it shows what factors can cause profound changes in ecosystems. The Earth's past is used as a simulation of possible future changes.

To Visit on Special Occasions

Currently accessible only to researchers and students, the collections can sometimes be visited during events organised by the University. The paleontologists are then delighted to present the most interesting fossils to the public and the research conducted at the EddyLab. It is also sometimes possible for primary and secondary school classes to visit the collection by appointment.

This concern to open up to the public is still clear through initiatives such as the Fossils in the City tours, which were designed to introduce the immense palaeontological heritage present in the city via organised walks for young and old, with commentary in small booklets that can be downloaded.


Collections de Paléontologie

Les collections de l'EDDyLab comprennent plus d'un million de fossiles animaux et végétaux

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3D models

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