The Messel Primates and Anthropoid Origins

  • Jens Lorenz Franzen
Part of the Advances in Primatology book series (AIPR)


The fossil site of Grube Messel is situated about 25 miles southeast of Frankfurt am Main (Germany). Dating from the early middle Eocene, Messel is famous for its preservation of generally complete and articulated skeletons of mammals and other vertebrates, sometimes even including soft body contours and gut contents (Schaal and Ziegler, 1992). During Eocene times carcasses of the animals would float into a freshwater lake and be deposited within clay-ish sediments on its bottom. Ehe cadavers did not ascend to the surface again because decompositional inflation was prevented by hydrostatic pressures exceeding 10 psi (Elder, 1985). This corresponds to a lake depth over 10 m. Eocene Eake Messel was meromictic (Goth, 1990). Thus, still-water conditions, lack of oxygen and benthonic scavengers, and the metabolism of decomposing anaerobic bacteria near the bottom resulted in an extraordinary quality of preservation (Franzen, 1985, 1990).


Dorsal View Middle Eocene Late Eocene Rear Part Deciduous Dentition 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jens Lorenz Franzen
    • 1
  1. 1.Forschungsinstitut SenckenbergFrankfurt am MainGermany

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