The exhibition hall, in which the Earth's history is presented, is thematically divided into two parts. With its nine panels, the first part acquaints us with some of the main geological phenomena, which will help us to understand the Earth's structure, its age as well as the origin and meaning of the fossils. Apart from that, it will help us to get an insight into the development of life during different geological periods, into the geological structure of Slovenian territory and, last but not least, how very important is the knowledge of geology for economy. The second part of the exhibition is devoted to palaeontology. The exhibited fossils, mostly from Slovenian sites, bear witness to the development of fauna and flora in the long period of the Earth's history, which is roughly separated into three eras or epochs: the Palaeozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic. The Palaeozoic is further divided into six periods or systems: the Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous and Permian periods. The Mesozoic comprises three periods, i.e. the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous, while the Cenozoic is divided into the Tertiary and Quaternary periods. The latter, the youngest period is divided into two epochs or series: the Pleistocene or Ice Age, and the current period called the Holocene or the geological present time. Each period is presented with fossils, mainly from Slovenian sites. In the background of display cases, there are brief explanations concerning some animal groups’ characteristic of a certain period. The upper series of the large black and white pictures attempts to depict life on land and in the seas during a distinct period.
The first five display cases are dedicated to the Palaeozoic fossils. Amongst them, let us mention foraminifers, corals, gastropods, sea lilies, lampshells and trilobites from the vicinity of Jesenice in the Gorenjska region, which are particularly Palaeozoic characteristic of this period, and of course remains of some significant Palaeozoan plants from the Posavje folds in central Slovenia.
The Mesozoic is represented by fossils in the next six display cases. Here, too, some different animal and plant fossils are exhibited. Amongst the fossils, most characteristic of our territory, are the Triassic gastropods from the vicinity of Mežica, Jurassic ammonites from the surroundings of Triglav Lakes, Jurassic and Cretaceous gastropods from Trnovski gozd, Cretaceous and Jurassic bivalves and gastropods from the vicinity of Sežana, and remains of vertebrates, mainly fishes, from the Karst in western Slovenia. A Triassic fish is exhibited separately in the centre of the room.
The Cenozoic, the period especially rich with fossils, is presented in the last few display cases. Here, some otherwise rare remains of Tertiary plants are exhibited, as well as very diverse fossils from the animal kingdom: big foraminifers, various gastropods, bivalves, corals, sea urchins, a starfish, remains of sea and freshwater fishes, as well as remains of land vertebrates. The Tertiary vertebrates are represented by remains of different fishes, by the tooth of a fossil elephant – mastodon, and by the skeleton of a baleen whale, exhibited in a separate display case. The latter two were found in northeastern Slovenia. Several vertebrate species originate from the Quaternary period. Exhibited here are Pleistocene fishes, remains of the Cave Lion, Broad-fronted Moose, Ice Age rhinoceros, and a Mammoth tooth. The Holocene fossils in the last display case originate from the sites at Ljubljansko barje - the Ljubljana Marsh.
MAMMOTH AND CAVE BEAR
The Mammuth is an Ice Age proboscidian and a relative of the present-day elephant. As an inhabitant of cold steppe terrene, it was distributed in northern Europe, North America and Asia. During the glaciation periods, it apparently reached southern Europe as well. In Siberia, whole mammoth bodies, including their fur, were found in frozen ground. The Mammoth was bigger than the modern elephant, covered with long and thick reddish fur that protected it against biting frost. It further adapted to the cold climate with a thick layer of subcutaneous fatty tissue and fatty hump on its back and head. It had small ears and long inwardcurving tusks. With its large molars and numerous transverse lamellae, it was able to grind the hard and dry steppe and tundra plants. The Mammoth became extinct due to the climate changes that took place during its time.
The Cave Bear was a large Ice Age beast. It inhabited the area spreading from the Pyrenees to the Caucasus. In Slovenia, it was a common inhabitant at that time, which has been proven by the large quantities of its bones found in numerous caves. Concerning its size, the Cave Bear can be compared with the Grizzly and the Polar Bear, which are today the largest carnivores on Earth. The Cave Bear differed from the Brown Bear by its front extremities, which were bigger than the rear ones, a more robust skull with a solid crest around the vertex, as well as by its large and powerful canine and other front teeth. It was an omnivore, though it fed mainly on plants. Cave Bear used karst caves as its wintering quarters, while in the summer it found them very handy to cool off. As far as its way of life is concerned, it resembles the modern American Grizzly. The Cave Bear became extinct due to the climate changes at the end of the Ice Age.