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Research History

The First References

μεγέθυνση φωτογραφίας - Ο Κ. Αθανασιάδης

μεγέθυνση φωτογραφίας - Το βιβλίο του Γ. Λάσκαρη «Το Απολιθωμένο Δάσος της Λέσβου», μια έκδοση του 1965

μεγέθυνση φωτογραφίας - Ο ελληνοαμερικανός γεωλόγος Δημήτριος Μανδαλόπουλος

μεγέθυνση φωτογραφίας - Ο φιλόλογος Γ. Λάσκαρης

The first references by scientists to the Petrified Forest of Lesvos date from the nineteenth century.

The Austrian botanist Franz Unger (1844) was the first to describe the fossilised trees of Lesvos, although he was not sure about their age. He believed that they probably belonged to the Tertiary period. His observations are the first scientific data on the anatomy of wood in the Mediterranean. Since then, the Petrified Forest has excited the interest of many travellers and scholars.

The Austrian diplomat Prokesh-Osten paid a visit in 1852, and in his book Die Versteinerten Holzstämme in Hafen von Sigri auf Lesbos he speaks of the existence of fossilised tree-trunks in the harbour at Sigri.

In 1898, the French geologist Louis De Launay, in his book Étude géologique sur la mer Égée. La géologie des îles de Metelin (Lesbos), Lemnos et Thasos, marvels at the fossilised trees of the homeland of Sappho.

Fliche concerned himself with the identification of fossilised trunks from the Petrified Forest of Lesvos and gives the genera cedar, palm-tree, and ebony (Cedroxylon, Palmoxylon, Ebenoxylon).

In the 20th century, scientific accounts of the Petrified Forest increased in number. In 1953, Berger dealt with the palaeobotanical studies of Greece, and particularly the petrified trunks to be found in the Aegean.

In 1955, the Greek-American geologist Dimitrios Mandalopoulos (J. Mandel), who was carrying out research on the island into minerals, arrived at Sigri where he investigated the area and photographed the fossilised trees. One year later, Mandalopoulos gave a lecture at the University of Columbia in the United States on the Petrified Forest of Lesvos. This resulted in Life magazine sending a correspondent, the German Professor of Palaeobotany at the University of Frankfurt, Richard Kräusel, to the island to examine the condition of the Petrified Forest.

In 1956, R. Krauzel, a well-known palaeobotanist, with expert knowledge in the anatomy of petrified trees, visited the region between Sigri and Eressos where he confirmed the great scientific value of the Petrified Forest of Lesvos.

Likewise IGME (then IGEY) sent Professor Voreadis to visit the island in 1956 to evaluate the worth of the monument. In his study he refers to the great scientific and touristic value of the forest. In the same period, G. Laskaris published three articles in the Mytilene newspaper Tachydromos on the Petrified Forest and later wrote his book "The Petrified Forest of Lesvos" (1965) which included important evidence and photographs on the condition of the fossils at that time.

This was followed by articles in the Kathimerini and Eleftheria newspapers and in the Eikones magazine, accompanied by a wealth of photographs, all of which made the Petrified Forest more widely known.

These early publications resulted in an increase in the number of tourists visiting western Lesvos and the residents of the area realised that the presence of the fossilised trees could serve as a dynamic motive for the development of the region. At the same time however, instances of looting, vandalism and destruction of the fossils, pieces of which visitors took as mementos of their visit, were also on the increase.

As a response to the appeal for protection for the forest from vandalism, the Greek state took its first legal measures. On 31 January 1958, the first decision on the protection of the Petrified Forest, entitled 'Concerning the characterisation of the Petrified Forest of Sigri, Lesvos, as being in need of special protection', in accordance with the provisions of Law 1469/1950, was published in the Official Journal of the Hellenic Republic (27/B/1958).

A few years later, in 1964, the compulsory purchase of two areas in which there was a significant number of petrified trunks was resolved upon by a joint decision of the Minister of Finance, and the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Mr N. Malliakas, himself from Lesvos. It was from this point that the Forestry Service, which undertook the main responsibility for the protection of the Petrified Forest, began its involvement.

In 1979, G. Houtzaios published his Petrified Forest of Lesvos (in Greek), in which he gathered together all the data on the monument known at that point, together with a host of personal observations and detailed descriptions of the fossils.

From 1997 onwards the Natural History Museum of the Lesvos Petrified Forest has been conducting systematic research activity in the region

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