For those of you who seek scientific knowledge, The University of Colorado Museum of Natural History covers a broad range of the natural sciences. Divided among four rooms, this museum presents displays covering archeology, paleontology, entomology, and anthropology. And I am not sure that I am listing all varieties of science that this museum covers.
As soon as I looked at the first exhibit in this museum, I learned something that I did not know: there are only eight known fossils of archaeopterex. Archaeopterex, a transitional fossil from the late Jurassic Period, looks as much like a bird as it does a dinosaur. It had teeth, claws, and a bony tail, like a reptile has. It had feathers, wings, and a wishbone like a modern bird has. This “missing link”* is evidence that birds evolved from dinosaurs.
Dicynodonts, on display in the same room, are also a form of transitional fossil. They belong to a group of reptiles called therapsids. Paleontologists think that some of these mammal-like reptiles evolved further and became the first mammals.
It also has displays related to the impact of forest fires on the natural and man-made environment. Not all forest fires are bad–counterintuitive, but true. Many ecosystems need forest fires to remain healthy and productive. In the same room are displays about particulate air pollution and bark beetle infestation.
Another room, The Anthropology Hall, has a small sample of the museum’s nearly 1.5 million artifacts related to anthropology. Anthropology has always been an interest of mine, so I was delighted to see an entire section of the museum devoted to it. As the placard states, “anthropology is the only science that combines language, cultural, biology, and history in a single discipline.” In other words, “it is the study of humanity.”
Much of the hall is centered on the fascinating career of archeologist Earl Halstead Morris. Morris, CU Museum’s first curator of anthropology, focused his work on Southwestern cultures. Prior to his research on people who lived in the Four Corners Region, anthropologists knew little about Southwestern culture and lifestyle.
True field research is never easy, and it had its own challenges during the early 1900s for Morris and the people who accompanied him on these challenging trips. Imagine taking a vintage car along with the equipment-of-the-day into the Arizona desert to do research.
I have only written on a small part of what this museum has to offer. You know that I have to leave you wanting more so that you will check out this museum, and if you do you will see and learn more than I have written about in this brief review. Allow about two hours for your visit. Take the time to read the informative placards, as they are very educational. Like I said above, I gained some knowledge here that I did not have before my visit, and that is exactly what makes my museum visits worth the time.
*The term “missing link” is not a scientific term.