Picture the vast and dry Sahara Desert as a lush green tropical forest. Now add some lakes, waterways and a river as wide as the Danube running through it, feeding the flora and fauna in the area. It’s difficult, right? But this is actually what the Sahara looked like some 100 million years ago. And even way before that (hundreds of millions of years), a part of what is now the Sahara was actually submersed in ocean water. The region flourished in the prehistoric age and much of the evidence from that time has lived on until today in the form of exquisitely preserved fossils.
In the past few years, numerous excavation expeditions led by expert paleontologists have unearthed incredible fossils in Morocco. From new dinosaur species to redefining entire archaeological periods, Morocco’s fossils have contributed immensely to current research on the ancient species that roamed the Earth long before humans.
The first occupants of what is now Morocco date to prehistoric times, when enormous dinosaurs wandered. A large part of the country’s Anti-Atlas Mountain range is actually made up of rocks from the Paleozoic era meaning the region dates back some 245 to 570 million years. This area is thus filled with limestone from the Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian and Devonian periods. Those prehistoric rocks have beautifully preserved fossils from all kinds of creatures such as trilobites (think the ancestors of modern insects, spiders, centipedes, lobsters and crabs) and Orthoceras (a kind of squid-like nautilus covered by a cone-shaped shell). The area is now virtually an open air, once-underwater, world incredibly rich in stunning fossils.
If you’re interested in bringing home a piece of Morocco’s prehistoric times, you can find some of these fossils on sale in Erfoud. We recommend looking around a bit and asking lots of questions to determine if you’re getting an authentic piece of history.
But head a bit deeper into the Sahara Desert and you’ll find where the real action takes place. It’s here, among the seemingly endless sandy dunes, that paleontologists have been able to uncover some of the most impressive finds in archaeological history.
Kem Kem Beds
The enormous Cretaceous rocks that have survived since prehistoric times have yielded some of the most interesting finds. These rocks are part of a geological formation most popularly known as the Kem Kem Beds but also referred to as the Continental Red Beds. They sprawl along the border between Morocco and Algeria and date back some 95 million years. Among the many fossils found here, some have led to the discovery of new species of dinosaurs, pterosaurs, and turtles.
The Greatest Fossils in Morocco
So with all of these rich archaeological sites, what have paleontologists actually been able to dig up in Morocco? Some of the most recent discoveries may surprise you. In 2008, a team of experts discovered a number of fossil bones at the site of a prehistoric river. It was one of the most exciting finds for prehistoric African fossils. They unearthed an enormous flying reptile’s beak and a limb bone from a giant plant-eating dinosaur. Both of these were considered new species at the time.
The following year, paleontologists uncovered a new archaeological site rich in marine life. This discovery redefined most of what was known about the Ordovician era (about 485 million to 444 million years ago). Although this period was known for its great variety of species, little had been able to be unearthed to back up these claims. Today, because of the discovery of this fossil site in Morocco (named Fezouata), scientists have been able to unearth fossils belong to over 160 different types of fossils from the Orodvician era.
The most recent major find was in 2014, when a mysterious moustached man in Erfoud led an expert paleontology team from America to a deep cave-like hole in the Sahara’s infamous Kem Kem beds. Here, the team was able to dig up all kinds of fossil bones that belonged to a dinosaur known as Spinosaurus– the first known semiaquatic dinosaur. At over 95 million years in age, the Spinosaurus is believed to have been the largest predatory dinosaur on Earth – even bigger than a T-rex. It truly was a unique dinosaur, unrivaled in its capacity to adapt to a marine environment.
While scientists had historically found it difficult to uncover evidence from prehistoric eras in North Africa, Morocco has proven to be a true treasure chest for paleontologists. It seems every year, a new discovery from one of the country’s many archaeological sites props up on a science journal, or by the mainstream media. In Erfound you’ll find fossil shops as well as a few museums to observe some of these archaeological finds. But, the greatest feeling of all may be knowing the area you’re roaming is the same ground where dinosaurs once ruled.
If you’d like to visit Erfound and see some of these fossils first hand we can help! We create a customized itinerary for each guest so that their experience is unique. Feel free to reach out to our amazing team to get the ball rolling!