Official Tourist Information Site of the Piacenza local editorial office


Leonardo da Vinci, collage di proprietà del Museo Geologico

Castell’Arquato and the Piacenziano

Since the end of the XVIII century, on the clay soils of the south area around the Appennino chain of Piacenza, many fossils appeared from the “Pliocene sea”.
Specifically, some traces of witness appeared along the steep walls of the gullies and inside of small rivers in Nure, Chiavenna, Arda and Ongina valleys.

Three hundred years before, already Leonardo Da Vinci, who was the first to understand the organic origin of the fossils, he saw in person the shells founded in the Piacenza land. Leonardo met these fossils in Milano, meanwhile he was working on the equestrian statue of Franceso Sforza. A relevant mention on these fossils, called “nichi” by Leonardo, and their discovery site it appears on the Leicester Codex (folio 9 verso).

The contribution of Giuseppe Cortesi

The figure who mainly contributed on the research and the knowledge of the local Pliocene was Giuseppe Cortesi. He was the adviser to the court of Piacenza and lately honorary professor of geology at the University of Parma. He was so passionate about the research that he decided to found some observers to check the areas, with the task to warn him in case of some fragment bones outcrops. In a short time Giuseppe Cortesi managed to unify, not only shells but different and big fragments of Rhinoceros, elephants, but more important dolphins and whales.

Lately, the scientific commission started to talk again about the term “Piacenziano”.
Time bounds are redefined, proposing to use, as a comparison, the stratotype range between Giogo mountain and Castell’Arquato, non included by some sedimentary rocks. In this specific site the wildlife associations are well explaining the “extintions” due by the climate damage which caused the generation of the Artic ice cap.

The extraordinary abundance of fossils, which characterizes these specific geological sediments and their good conditions, represents a real starting or final step to all the people interested to the topics about evolution and the animal population of the Mediterranean area; namely about all the animal changes which follow the environmental evolution of a specific area.

The fossils of the village

All around the village of Castell’Arquato it’s possible to find and see many houses built of bricks of sandstone. Having a closer look, it’s possible to see clearly beautiful inner fossilized shellfishes. The Geological Museum Giuseppe Cortesi is officially located inside of the village, exactly in the Santo Spirito Hospital. The purpose of the Museum is showing in a clearly and educational way the collections of the paleontological fragments founded inside of the sea sediments which are appearing in this area.

Piazza del Municipio - Castell'Arquato