The discovery

The finding

Mario Santarelli, owner and administrator of AMA, Anonima Materiali Argillosi, owned the namesake furnace, using a clay quarry, located in Madonna della Strada, near Scoppito (L’Aquila), for the production of bricks. On 17 March 1954, he notified the Superintendence for Antiquities of Abruzzo and Molise of the discovery of a fossilised elephant in his quarry. The document attesting to this, kindly granted by the Superintendence of Archaeology, Fine Arts and Landscape for the provinces of L’Aquila and Teramo, enforces the revision of the discovery date of a Mammoth skeleton by workers who, while drilling for water at a depth of less than one meter, found its initial remains beneath a layer of clay and sand.

Professor Angiola Maria Maccagno, director of the Institute of Geology and Paleontology at the University of Rome, supervised the excavation, restoration, and study of the specimen: all the bones were there, and the skeleton could be reassembled.

As stated in the excavation reports, at the time of discovery, the skeleton was lying in anatomical connection on the left side and maintained most of the bone elements in varying states of conservation.

As provided for by art. 49 of the 1 June 1939 Law n. 1089, in 1956 engineer Santarelli received a finders reward of 2,250,000 liras from the Minister of Education, who communicated this to the Superintendent for Antiquities of Chieti.

Excavation, Recovery, and Restoration

Mr. Claudio Pietrosantis grandfather, Antonio Ferri, belonging to one of the two families Santarelli and Pietrosanti, who have donated significant and partially unpublished documentation on the fossil discovery to MuNDA, was appointed in March 1954 for the recovery and restoration of the fossilised bones by Professor Angiola Maria Maccagno, director of the Institute of Geology and Paleontology at the University of Rome. Despite the critical state of conservation of the bones, the delicate work of excavation and initial consolidation allowed for optimal recovery, which was particularly challenging for the most fragile pieces, such as the dorsal vertebrae with long spinous processes and the scapulae.

On 4 April 1957, the Committee of Ministers for the Mezzogiorno authorized the Cassa per il Mezzogiorno to allocate a maximum of 2,000,000 liras for the completion of the restoration of the fossil.

Exhibition Setup

In the permanent documentary exhibition, a significant document is displayed: a note dated 15 November 1957 from the Director General of Antiquities and Fine Arts, Guglielmo de Angelis d’Ossat, on behalf of the Minister of Education, Aldo Moro, on the creation of a paleontologysection at the Museo Nazionale d’Abruzzo.

Other documents attest that the first historical setup in the eastern bastion of the sixteenth-century castle dates back to the 1960s.

What was an elephant doing in Scoppito?

The climate and environment 1,300,000 years ago, in Abruzzo and other parts of Italy, favoured the life of large mammals, as is the case today in some regions of Africa.

What is a Mammoth doing in the East Bastion of the Castello Cinquecentesco?

The impressive fossil of the specimen has been on public display since 1960 in the East Bastion of the Castello Cinquecentesco, the first section of the Museo Nazionale d’Abruzzo.