Geology – Comes from the Greek “gê” meaning earth and is the science comprising the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which they change.
Palaeontology – Is the study of prehistoric life. The term itself originates from the Greek “palaios” meaning old or ancient and “ont”, meaning creature.
When this museum in Bulawayo was started in 1901 its focus was primarily economic geology. Its first curator was a Geologist, F.P. Mennell (see past curators).
His scientific contribution to the understanding of the nation’s geology was outstanding.
He produced the first geological map of the south-western part of the territory, the Rhodesian Minerals Book and the Mineral Wealth of Rhodesia.
Subsequent curators have continued this work.
The size and scope of the geology collection is impressive. It contains over 15 000 rock samples and reference to it has played an important part in the economic development of the country.
It is one of the best and most comprehensive collections in Africa containing the Broken Hill (Zambia) rare lead/zinc minerals and crystals and the Globe and Phoenix (Zimbabwe) Kermesite specimens.
The displays in the geology gallery, called the Mennell Gallery, showcase a small part of this collection – in particular various gem, crystal and rock samples.
The walk through mine in the gallery is one of the key attractions to visitors to the museum, recreating the sights of an actual gold mine as are so common across central Zimbabwe.
Along the one side of the mine are ten displays of the economically important minerals of Zimbabwe.
The Palaeontological collection is of international importance although more recent than the geology collection being started in 1941.
Zimbabwe is rich in dinosaur fossils with some very recent and exciting discoveries. Research with Virginia Tech, USA and Witwatersrand University, South Africa is ongoing.
The collection has over 2500 specimens including plant fossils, various dinosaurs (Sauropodomorpha and theropods) as well as early mammals, fish and other invertebrates. It also includes casts of 14 footprints of a large bipedal dinosaur found in a river bed in the Chewore Safari Area.
Zimbabwe’s fossil record is presented to the public in the Mennell Gallery where its unique dinosaur fauna form centre stage.
This includes displays on Coelophysis, Massospondyls, and Vulcanodon and the collection houses the type for Coelophysis rhodesiensis, Vulcanodon karibaensis and a Dande Sauropodomorph.
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