Land of the dinosaurs by Prof. Juan Pablo Panozzo
Ischigualasto (San Juan) - Argentina
by Prof. Juan Pablo Panozzo
Ischigualasto is the land that was once inhabited by the aboriginals of the Diaguita culture. It is now known as Provincial Park \"Moon valley\" (declared to be a world heritage site by UNESCO). This name was given to this area because of the great likeness of the valleys to the surface of our natural satellite (the Moon).
The majestic Ischigualasto is located in the north-east of the province of San Juan and is bordered by another Argentine province (La Rioja), only separated by the majesty of the \"Barrancas Coloradas\" (a red sandstone structure with a height of 150 meter, rich in fossils of dinosaurs). Crossing the \"barrancas\" proves to be really very beautiful for soon you will find yourself in the even more impressive landscape of \"Talampaya\" with its intense red color and all its brilliance at only a few kilometers.
The 15 km. long and 50 km. wide valley of Ischigualasto is worth wandering around in. During my field work I discovered several hundreds of earth formations that seem to have been made by lost civilizations, but are actually the result of natural causes during millions and millions of years. The mountain ranges of the Fruitful Valley, such as Famatina and Villa Union, form an impressive background to this area.
The most imposing in its height is the summit of the Morado (1800 metres above sea level). When you take a close look at it, this mountain looks like a sitting aboriginal woman with here face turned to the sky. A desert landscape with extreme temperatures during day and night, animals and plants show the characteristics of animals living in a half dessert. The best time to visit the area is from half August until November, during other months the extreme high daytime temperatures form a problem for humans.
Doing fieldwork in this area it looks to me as if I relive the geological and paleontological evolution again. Here it is possible to imagine the past of the greatest mammals that lived here in ancient times before the appearance of man on earth. Little imagination is needed to see the touristic aspects of the Ischigualsato zone, however anyone who has ever crossed this dessert landscape knows of its unmistakable purity and documentary value for paleontology, which gave it its name: \"Cradle of the Dinosaurs\".
The dryness is always there, \"sand and stone\" according to the few people that live there in the heights of the rock formations. However, the landscape is cut through by uncountable crevices filled with some water. Only during the rainy season do these make the Provincial Park impassable.
The winds and the currents of air different in the day from those during the night, the scarcity of rain and the physical and chemical disintegration of the minerals as a result of a combination of wind, water and temperature have resulted in a unique relief landscape with forms that show a resemblance to flags, animals and objects from daily life.
That is why many have been given names of objects, animals and various objects when they were discovered: \"The Submarine\" which has two large openings in its major supporting pillars, \"The Dinner-trays\", The Big Mushroom\", The President\'s Seat\", and \"The Parrot\" that has been destroyed by the forces of gravity.
The outward appearance of these forms are the result of millions of years of erosion, a process that is still continuing. The wind blows sand on the rocks day after day and the water finds it ways through the crevices, both elements changed the landscape in the course of history. But the landscape is also the victim of souvenir hunters, looters who sell the invaluable treasures of nature to private collectors.
Finally I want to thank Fred for being so kind as to take part in Paleozoica and his efforts and enthusiasm for paleontology and dinosaurs.