Postcard from... Maastricht


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The Independent Online

A mound of dinosaur teeth that appeared last week was the first sign that what is probably the oldest example yet of the Mosasaurus Hoffmani dinosaur – aka “Carlo” – had been unearthed here at a limestone quarry near Maastricht.

Acting under orders from staff from Holland's Natural History Museum, all usual digging work ground to a halt.

Since then they have since unearthed part of the skull, trunk and tail of the dinosaur.

Early estimates say that 13m-long Carlo – named after the quarry worker who first found him – is at least 67. 5 million years old. His predecessors were initially believed to be giant crocodiles. The first Mosasaurus to be unearthed did not stay long in the area – it was "kidnapped" by a Parisian geologist, acting as Scientific Commissioner with the French revolutionary army that captured Maastricht in 1794.

The story goes that acting under his orders, the French army deliberately did not bombard the cottage where the Mosasaurus head was kept. However, when the geologist attempted to remove the head, he found it had been spirited away by the local population – so the commanding general, Kleber, then offered 600 bottles of wine to the first French soldier to locate it. Thanks to the efforts of 12 enthusiastic (or thirsty) grenadiers, the head was quickly found and was taken off to a Paris museum – unlike Carlo, whose first port of call will be an exhibition at Christmas at the Dutch National History Museum.