Rony Mattar

In 2005, fossil hunters found a complete tooth near the southern city of Jezzine, which shed light on the theory that the Middle East was once covered with lush forests where giant reptiles roamed. Another incomplete tooth was discovered there in 1969.

Brachiosaurus teeth found in Jezzine

Brachiosaurus teeth found in Jezzine

Eric Buffetaut from France’s National Center for Scientific Research and Dany Azar from the Lebanese University describe two teeth of a Brachiosaurus.

Brachiosaurus

Brachiosaurus

Brachiosaurus had a disproportionately long neck, small skull, and large overall size, all of which are typical for sauropods. However, the proportions of Brachiosaurus are unlike most sauropods – the forelimbs were longer than the hindlimbs, which resulted in a steeply inclined trunk, and its tail was shorter in proportion to its neck than other sauropods of the Jurassic.

The Jezzine tooth has been dated to 130-145 million years ago, when this species was at its epic time. At the time, the Middle East was in the northwestern part of a supercontinent called Gondwana, which later pulled apart to form the continents that are familiar to us today. Previous brachiosaurus fossils have been found in North America, Africa and Europe and possibly Asia.

Eric Buffetaut and Dany Azar say the teeth indicate that the vegetation must have been rich in order to support a creature of this size. The Jezzine teeth were found in fluvial deposits already well known for amber in which prehistoric insects and plants have been trapped.

Amber, a generic term derived from the Arabic name anber, represents over 100 varieties of fossil resins or gums of plant origin. In the Middle East, it is now frequently referred to as kahruba, kahraman, or kareb from the Greek electrum due to the negative electrical charge acquired by friction, signifying its power to attract straw.

In 1875, the German Geologist, Dr D. Fras, reported on the presence of some kind of amber in a certain location in South Lebanon. This variety of very brittle, wine-red amber has been termed Schraufite by mineralogists. It is usually devoid of insect and plant fossils and is, therefore, of little interest for paleontological studies. Schraufite has also been found in the Carpathean sandstone. However, the Lebanese material was not collected since Fras’ announcement, and so it remained unstudied for about a century.

In 1962, Professor Aftim Acra who’s Chairman of the Department of Evironmental Health in AUB accidentally discovered a single piece of amber in a locality near Dahr-El-Baidar while leading a group of AUB professors of geology and their students to a place in the Bekaa valley (central Lebanon) in search of fish fossils. Professor Young (a geologist) identified that piece of amber by burning its tip with his cigarette lighter and smelling the typical odour of amber. He then asked the students, who were searching for mollusc petrified fossils, to search for other pieces like the one Professor Acra just found. But the students failed to find on that site any other amber piece besides the petrified fossils they were interested in. Later on, Professor Acra found another piece of amber.

By 1975, the Acra collection of amber amounted to about 100 kg . It consisted of various kinds of amber ranging in weight from about 0.5 gm up to the largest one weighing 1653 gm. The Amber of Lebanon is extremely rich in its content of very well preserved fossils and its great geologic age which goes back to the era when the flowering flowers began to evolve, so Professor Acra started working and studying the amber carefully and photographing them under the microscope which revealed the presence of thousands of various kinds of fossil insects and plant material in a remarkably well preserved state. Among the multitude of inclusions are flies, beetles, spiders, moths, mites, larvae, worms, pollen , spores, ova, uni-cellular organisms, twigs, leaves, rootlets, mushrooms, a single tiny snail, tiny specks of metal, and liquid bubbles, in addition to various other objects that are not readily identifiable.

An extremely interesting finding refers to the variety of unicellular microorganisms present in a number of amber specimens. These cells vary in shape and size, and many of them are distinctly nucleated. Their colour generally varies from light brown to orange or pink.

Some amber specimens are extremely rich in insects and/or plant materials, while others are completely devoid of biological inclusions. The presence of insect attractants or repellents in the various kinds of amber may offer one possible explanation for the presence in abundance or complete absence of insect fossils. The fossil pollen grains can yield information of great value with reference to the kinds of flowering plants that started to evolve during that period of time.

Millions of years ago, Dinosaurs lived in Lebanon which was a rich area full of jurassic plants, water and food. We hope that more excavations reveal skeletons of these old habitants to have more idea of their kind.

Here are some of the Amber collections from the AUB archives:

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