Cantonal Museum of Geology
Why didn’t the dinosaurs like Switzerland? The answer can be found at the Cantonal Museum of Geology, which explains that some 200 million years ago – at the end of the Triassic and the beginning of the Jurassic period – Switzerland did not exist. It was a sea. The Alps had not yet been formed, and only a few beaches had emerged. This is why only a few traces have been found, particularly in the Jura canton.
Being land animals, the dinosaurs were not very likely to visit here. Nonetheless, we can form an idea of these distant Mesozoic ancestors by greeting an immense plateosaurus and by trembling at the sight of a pterosaur with a wingspan of 4.5 metres.
From the pterosaur to the tsar’s minerals
Housed in the delightful Florentine Palais de Rumine, the Museum of Geology causes visitors to daydream with its many other treasures, including the 16,000-year-old skeleton of a mammoth, one of the most complete ever found in Europe, and an enormous molar discovered in 1897, which came from a hippopotamus that grazed along the tropical river banks of Morges around 1.8 million years ago.
Mineralogy enthusiasts can also discover the fantastic collection of a thousand minerals that once belonged to Tsar Alexander I, brought to Lausanne by his tutor, Frédéric-César de La Harpe.
But the main attraction is the Welcome Nugget, the largest gold nugget ever recorded, weighing in at 57.3 kg. Actually, it is the only exact replica rather than the real thing, as the original Australian nugget was melted down in London in 1859.
The Museum-School shows documentary films and provides educational information for teachers. Finally, the children’s workshop organizes learning activities: hunting for fossils, the world of crystals, and field trips (caves, Bex salt mines, Cambot’s erratic rock, etc.).