Primitive cow sharks, dinosaurs and other millions-year-old Late Cretaceous-Era, fossils are enjoying a homecoming of sorts -- thanks to a South Jersey university.
Rowan University in Gloucester County held a groundbreaking ceremony over the weekend for its planned $73 million dinosaur fossil park museum on the site of a prehistoric trove a few stones throws from its Glassboro campus.
The world-class science attraction is set to open in 2023.
Given that the bones date back 66 million years, that's more than $1 per year earmarked for the the Jean & Ric Edelman Fossil Park & Museum of Rowan University in Mantua Township.
Hundreds of square yards of the 65-acre fossil park site, which overlooks a marlstone (green sand) quarry, have been excavated by archaeologists and university researchers. They've reportedly unearthed more than 50,000 recorded sea and land fossils -- including marine reptile mosasaurs, a prehistoric crocodilia, ancient tortoise and fish bones, cow sharks and 50-foot meat-eating lizards, according to the university.
The Edelmans, who are Rowan University alumni, gave the initial $25 million to build the fossil park museum as a "research ecosystem that supports scientific, undergraduate and 'citizen science' opportunities," the university said in a statement.
“We are building a museum like no other, on a fossil site of global importance that will connect visitors to the ancient past (and) to Rowan University,” said Kenneth Lacovara, dean of the school of Earth & Environment and director of the fossil park.
One of the museum’s exhibits will include a depiction of a Dryptosaurus, the first-discovered tyrannosaur reportedly found a mile from the fossil museum site in 1866, and a 53-foot mosasaur, like another found at site, the university said in its statement.
The existing park has hosted thousands of visitors each year, from schoolchildren on bus trips to business and community groups, the university said.
NJ Advance Media reported that visitors to the site will get to dig for fossils in less-sensitive areas. They must sign a waiver permitting Rowan University to claim any fossils of historical importance, NJ.com said.
For more details about the planned museum, read this article by NJ Advance Media.
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