Paleontological collections are among the first collections already since the founding of the Carniola Estate Museum in 1821. The current Museum houses paleontological material from several Slovenian and former Yugoslav localities in them, as well as from foreign classic paleontological localities. The principal paleontological collection is still active and regularly updated. Other collections include few historical and schools collections of fossils, acquired by the Museum in the last few decades.

Historical paleontological collections

Collection of Miocene fossils from Radoboj

Among the exceptional paleontological collections housed by the Slovenian Museum of Natural History is the collection of Miocene fossils from Radoboj (in modern-day Croatia). The collection was set up during the curatorship of Henrik Freyer, who himself visited the Radoboj site a few times. Among the last specimens, a rare specimen of a Miocene bird enriched the collection, as corroborated by some archival records written by Karel Dežman. Further to the aforementioned bird remains, the Radoboj collection contains the remains of bony fishes, insects (from flies to grasshoppers), land and marine plants.

Robič’s fossil collection

Simon Robič (1824-1897) was an all-round naturalist. He was a priest by trade, but while still studying he developed an enthusiasm for natural sciences. He collected butterflies, beetles, snails, mosses, lichens as well as fossils. Our collections include the first examples of fossils discovered by Simon Robič in 1850. He showed additional interest in fossils when arriving at Šenturška gora, where he visited many fossil sites in the surroundings of Kamnik. Robič’s collection of fossils, housed by the Slovenian Museum of Natural History, comprises over a thousand specimens and is a valuable paleontological heritage.

Anton Bianchi's geological collection (paleontological part)

In Bianchi’s geological collection, about two hundred fossil specimens are preserved, all of them meticulously labelled and catalogued. He collected and studied a number of fossils, particularly those from the surroundings of Ajdovščina in the Vipava Valley and the Karst. He also exchanged or purchased several fossils held in the collection, considering that many of them came from Germany, Poland and other countries.

Osteological collection (Pleistocene and Holocene bone remains)

The collection was donated to the Museum in 2006 and 2008 by the Geology Department of the Faculty of Natural Science and Engineering of Ljubljana University. The collection comprises several specimens from classic paleontological (and Paleolithic) sites, such as Betalov spodmol, Črni Kal, Parska golobina, and others.
In 2006 and 2008, the Slovenian Museum of Natural History augmented its collections with bone material from a number of Slovenian Paleolithic sites, donated by the Department of Geology of the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Engineering.

Paleolithic hunting stations are Early Stone Age archaeological sites. In addition to the remains of the fauna of that time, stone tools used by Stone Age people for hunting and preparing food are often found here. This period is part of the geological period called the Pleistocene or Ice Age.

Excavations were most often carried out in the mid-20th century and its second half. The legislation of that period accredited special national importance to finds of remains from the Old Stone Age and regulated that after their professional processing they belong to a competent national institution – a museum. The majority of the remains of the Pleistocene fauna are now housed in the Slovenian Museum of Natural History, whereas the artefacts – tools made by humans – are held by the National Museum of Slovenia. 

The bone remains were professionally processed and determined mostly by Prof Dr Ivan Rakovec and, to a much smaller extent, by Prof Dr Milos Kretzoi and Prof Dr Erich Thenius. At a later date, the material was processed by Prof Dr Vida Pohar and Prof  Dr Franc Osole.

In 2006 and 2008, the Museum assumed the remains of the carried out excavations from 30 Paleolithic stations and younger Copper Age bone remains from the Ljubljana Marshes.

Most dominant in the collection of animal remains from the Ice Age (Pleistocene) are bones and their fragments, quite common are individual teeth, while other remains, such as parts of antlers and claws, are rare. Most numerously represented in the animal groups are the ancient bears, called cave bears. Very common are Alpine marmots as well as representatives of red deer (deer, reindeer, elk, doe), hollow-horned cattle (urus, bison, chamois, ibex, mouflon, sheep, goat), wild boars and large and small carnivores (lynx, wolf, dog, wild cat, fox, marten, badger, otter). Rabbits, rodents (beaver, squirrel), small mammals, birds and fishes are represented by individual specimens. 

Collection of Permian fossils

In 2001, the Slovenian Museum of Natural History gained a new collection of Permian fossils from the Karavanke Mts sites, containing more than a thousand specimens of brachiopods, sea lilies, snails, shells, bryophytes, corals, and others. The holotypes of certain trilobite species discovered largely in the surroundings of Jesenice are of exceptional importance.


Paleontological collection Hitij & Žalohar (active paleontological collection)

The Slovenian Museum of Natural History collaborates with a number of collectors. The fruit of such cooperation is, among others, an exceptional and unique paleontological collection, created and studied by Dr Jure Žalohar and Tomaž Hitij. Both collectors publish their findings on regular basis. The result of their work is also a few new species, including the remarkable oldest fossilized seahorses in the world.

Ferdinand Seidl's collection

Ferdinand Seidl (1856-1942), whose work covered several natural fields of science, was one of the most prominent Slovenian naturalists. He spent almost three decades in Gorica, where he worked as a professor and custodian of the natural history collection. From there he made numerous trips, collecting natural history specimens all over Carniola, from Trnovski gozd to Litija. He also associated with renowned geologists such as Franz Kossmat (1871-1938) and Friedrich (Joseph) Teller (1852-1913), who geologically mapped the territory of Carniola at the turn of the 20th century. In those years, a small geological-paleontological collection was also set up, which is now housed by the Slovenian Museum of Natural History. The collection contains the majority of the fossils from sites around Idrija, Logatec, Ljubljana and some specimens from the areas of the Karavanke Mts, Kamniško-Savinjske Alps and Julian Alps. Almost all specimens in the collection are equipped with slips, rendering the specimens an even greater value. Among the specimens let us mention some rare remains from classic and well-known sites of those times and even today, such as fossils from Lesno Brdo and rare fossils from Rovtarske Žibrše. Ferdinand Seidl’s geological and paleontological collection is a significant naturalist monument from the end of the 19th century and one of the rare remains bearing witness to the history of geological and paleontological research in the Slovenian territory.


Historical mineralogical collections

Zois’ collection of minerals

Zois’ collection of minerals is one of the oldest, most attractive and most important collections from a cultural-historical point of view. It includes about 5,000 specimens of minerals and rocks. Only 306 specimens are on display in the Museum’s permanent exhibition collection, the others are stored in a depot. The collection is important not only due to its beauty and variety, but also because it was the foundation of the first museum in Slovenia, the Provincial Museum of Carniola in Ljubljana, which was opened in 1831.

Although it is not known how Žiga Zois (the collection’s original owner and founder) initially classified the obtained minerals, it can be said with certainty that it was Werner’s classification of minerals that later served him as a basis for this work. Among the minerals in the collection, we can thus find substances that do not belong to them, such as some rocks (basalt). In Zois’s time, chemical formulas were not written as yet, and the word fossil denoted not only fossils, but minerals and rocks as well. Among the mineral sites from Zois’ collection we find various areas in Central and Western Europe, many specimens are from Scandinavia, Transylvania and Italy, and even from few non-European countries.


Zois’ collection of mineral – permanent exhibition collection

The minerals in Zois’ collection are classified in accordance with current classification, since this is the only mineral collection exhibited in the Museum for the time being. It was refurbished in 1988, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the museum building on Prešeren Road. The author of its current set up is the long-time curator of mineralogy and petrology Dr Ernest Faninger, who also wrote the booklet Zois’s mineral collection.

Apart from the fourteen display cases with minerals, there are also five panels on display that acquaint us with the history of the Museum, the Zois family and Zois’ collection. In the corridor, a bronze bust of Žiga Zois is also on display, the work of academic sculptress Dora Novšak (unveiled in 1971 on the 150th anniversary of the Museum).

Žiga Zois

Žiga Zois (1747-1819), an educated ironworks owner, is the central figure of the Slovenian Enlightenment, although he is better known in the world as a naturalist, particularly mineralogist. He was an expert in mineralogy, chemistry, metallurgy and mining, as well as in botany and zoology. Among Zois’ correspondents let us mention Abraham Gottlob Werner, professor of mineralogy at Freiburg University of Mining, Martin Heinrich Klaproth, professor of chemistry at Berlin University, Peter Jordan, professor of natural sciences at the Medical Faculty of  Vienna University, and mineralogist Friedrich Mohs, credited for introducing the hardness scale in mineralogy. How highly Zois was esteemed by his contemporaries is demonstrated by the recognitions awarded to him by prominent institutions: Gesellschaft naturforschender Freunde zu Berlin (1782), Imperialis Leopoldino-Carolina Academia Naturae Curiosum, Erlangen (1793), Academie Celtique, Paris (1806), Jenaer herzoglich = mineralogische Sozietät (1807), Wetterau’sche Gesellschaft für Naturkunde zu Hanau (1808). Zois was honoured even more when zoisite was named after him. He also received a high state award: the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Leopold (1809). Furthermore, he campaigned for Carniola to get its own provincial museum. He did not live to see it, but soon after his death his collection of minerals became the actual foundation of the provincial museum, founded in 1821 in Ljubljana.

Zoisite, Ca2Al3 (O/OH/SiO4/Si2O7)

In 1804, when the mineral dealer Simon Prešern supplied Zois with material from Svinška planina, Zois recognized a new, previously unknown mineral. This was confirmed in letters to him by A. G. Werner and M. H. Klaproth. In 1805, A. G. Werner named this mineral, in agreement with M. H. Klaproth and D. L. G. Karsten, zoisite in honour of Žiga Zois.

Today we known precisely from where Zois obtained the samples of the mineral later named after him. On the western slope of Svinška planina there is an area called Prickler Halt. In the forest there, removal of earth was abandoned and the scattered rock fragments suggest that pegmatite that cuts the eclogite was once dug. The pegmatite contains small columns of zoisite.

Although zoisite is a widespread mineral in regional metamorphic rocks, it most often occurs in fine-grained aggregates. The reddish varieties of zoisite are called thulite. The bluish zoisite crystals found in Tanzania are called tanzanite and are among the most prized gemstones.

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