Saturday, August 20, 2011

The National Museum of Natural History / Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales

08/20/11 - José Gutiérrez Abascal, 2 
In late August, Madrid is 95 degrees in the sun. Coke from a small glass bottle, poured over ice with lemon, and quaffed in the leafy bower of a café outside the Natural History Museum, costs 3 Euros.  For a few Euros more, you can enter the air-conditioned museum (5 Euros) and spend an hour or two pondering the origin of species. 

Pope Benedict XVI is in Madrid this week, and the streets and tourist areas spill over with roving, chanting bands of Catholic youth from every continent.  Very few of them were in the museum, however, to view the fossilized remains of dinosaurs, or ponder man’s evolution from our earliest ancestors in Ethiopia to the Neanderthals of Spain—whose footwear here, incidentally, looked much like the furry après-ski boots of a chic Andorran resort.  I especially enjoyed the exhibit on Mediterranean wildlife, since my wildlife sightings thus far have been limited to pigeons.  A confusing diorama—perhaps left over from the late XIX century? My Spanish wasn’t good enough to suffer the long explanatory note—resides under a huge bell-jar.  It consists of the skeletons of Adam and Eve (she’s holding an apple) amidst specimens of purported fauna from the Garden of Eden. 

If you’re the sort of person who likes to see beetles and butterflies in rows; the largest meteorite that ever landed in Spain; gorgeous crystal formations; the full skeleton of a gigantic cave bear; iterations of the same animal with minor changes and adaptations; and a hummingbird the size of bee!; you will find them here.  My favorite, though, was the reproduction of footprints preserved in some primordial mud, from several million years ago, when ancestors first walked upright on the earth.

1 comment:

  1. This one I missed. The reproduction of footprints in some primordial mud does sound intriguing though.