The Petrified Forest
In western Lesvos, the natural erosion of volcanic rocks reveal impressive ranking decumbent and tree trunks that reach a length of up to twenty-two meters. The diameter of the largest fossil-level logs exceeding three meters and the height of seven. The visit to the region of the Petrified Forest Park which is a unique monument in the world is a unique experience. The visitor of the park can tour on a hillside across from specially designed trails. The abundance of fossil-level logs and the excellent state of preservation impresses visitors.
To facilitate visitors of the Park three thematic circular routes are created, which allow better understanding of fossils. The first part, common to the three tracks is titled ”Discovering the Petrified Forest” and allows the visitor to experience representative samples of fossils. At the end of the first section, visitors can choose among three alternative paths crossing major fossilized logs of the Park.
Very good to maintain is the root node of the tree which is a peculiarity of the Petrified Forest of Lesvos and is considered an indicator of the indigenous creation of the Petrified Forest.
Before about 20 million years there was intense volcanic activity in the Northern Aegean. The volcanic eruptions have created large volcanic structures with volcanic domes and many different exit points of volcanic material. The main volcanic craters in western Lesvos occur in areas of Vatousa and Mesotopos. The volcanic activity caused the removal of huge quantities of lava, ash and other volcanic materials shipped on large, dense and lush forest that existed at the time. The isolation of plants from the surface conditions and hydrothermal circulation, hot fluids rich in silica that followed, gave perfect fossilization of plant tissue, under ideal conditions.
At this process the replacement molecule by molecule, organic vegetable matter from inorganic compounds was made. With this way the morphological characteristics of trees such as the outer surface of the body, growth rings and the internal structure of wood are well maintained.
On January 31, 1958 the first Ministerial decision on the designation of the Petrified Forest as an area of special protection was published.
1) Visited Premises of the Petrified Forest
Petrified Forest Park
The “Main petrified” known as the Petrified Forest area since the 18th century, is the first park to visit at the Petrified Forest, occupying a total area of 286 acres. In the region, interventions for the preservation, promotion and protection of petrified logs have been integrated.
The visitor of the Park & during browsing can admire the unique views of Protopefkidous, forming small clusters, the largest decumbent trunk coniferous trees (with a length of 20m) and large trunks ranking of Sequoia sempervirens reach 7meters height and have a diameter up to 2.60 meters. Dozens of other ranking and decumbent trunks of coniferous trees exist throughout its length.
In the Petrified Forest Park systematic excavations, carried out by the Natural History Museum, has brought many plant fossils to light, which include the largest ever known standing fossilized tree trunk, not only on Lesvos, but certainly for whole Europe. Its height is 7.02 meters and circumference 8.58 meters. It is the lower part of the body which has been maintained in excellent condition. This is one of the largest surviving plant fossils in the world and belongs to the species Taxodioxylon albertense, which is the ancestor of the modern tree of Sequoia sempervirens.
Also ranking fossilized logs of coniferous trees belonging to the family Protopinaceae were found and show excellent preservation of internal structure and external features of the wood. It probably belonged to a new species of coniferous trees, the species Pinoxylon paradoxum, which was identified for the first time and is widespread in the region of the Petrified Forest. During the excavations several segments of fossilized plants (fruits, leaves, twigs and roots) were also revealed, set out in the halls of the museum.
Most petrified logs belong to the family Taxodiaceae. They are ancestral forms of modern Sequoia sempervirens, the evergreen species that grows on the west coast of the United States, and the family Protopinaceae, which are the ancestors of modern Pine.
The first track is entitled “Revealing the Petrified Forest”, including the major excavation jobs with impressive fossils and interesting information on the stratigraphy of the volcanic rocks. The visitor can discover through the path the history of the Petrified Forest.
The second route, which is the largest hiking trail, includes the largest petrified Sequoia sempervirens ranking logs. As crossing the path, the visitor sees the rich forest that existed in the area.
Among Protopinaceae, ancestral forms of modern pine the visitor can tour the third path, a path with great scientific interest, since the region was first defined the new type of conifer tree Pinoxylon paradoxum. At this location the kind of fossils from which the species was identified for the first time in scientific literature, can be found.
Since the composition, it shows that the flora in the Aegean region, before 20 million years, was mixed and a coniferous forests and at lower parts it prevailed leaved trees and palms.
The composition of fossilized flora shows that the Petrified Forest of Lesvos was developed at a subtropical climate, which was changing abruptly at continental warm climate, in character of nature subtropical flora of Southeast Asia or America.
Park of Sigri
Impressive root nodes and ranking fossilized bones, with excellent retention characteristics, revealing the visitor the story of the Petrified Forest Park of Sigri, a space created by the Natural History Museum of the Petrified Forest of Lesvos in an area of 30 acres on the south side of the homonymous settlement. This is an extremely important “geo place” because of the scarcity and high scientific value of plant fossils, which provide information on both volcanic rocks and the geological evolution of the region.
The visitor walking along the routes, that have been developed at the Park, can admire the most important discoveries of the space, the roots of petrified trees, kept on track, proving that the trees were petrified in their natural position. Also impressive ranking fossilized logs of angiosperms and trees with unique colors and an abundance of fossilized twigs, leaves and cones of particular scientific value emerge from layers of volcanic ash around them. Also, visitors can admire large sections of petrified logs that have been transferred for storage at the area.
At the Park of Sigri, positions with indigenous (in situ) logs were uncovered, the perimeter of which ranges from 1.20 meters to 3.20 meters. The petrified logs are characterized by intense brown-red colors within the department and white-green skin, while distinguishing the morphological characteristics of the internal structure of wood. The systematic excavation work has revealed the full root system of these logs, showing the strongest possible terms of the indigenous of the Petrified Forest of Lesvos. The logs are mainly characterized by brown and reddish colors. The fine-grained volcanic material contributed to the maintenance of sensitive plant parts such as twigs, leaves, angiosperms trees of various species of the Daphnia family, as the leaves of cinnamon and fruit segments root nodes a lawn with many twigs, pine, needles and cones was discovered in the park of Sigri.
A major protected petrified position is located at Plaka, Sigri within about 800 meters south of the village Sigri. The area was donated to the Museum by the Ministry of Agriculture in 2000 to create the new park of Sigri, Plaka.
At the two parts of the park, the research work of the Natural History Museum of the Lesvos Petrified Forest, have revealed important plant fossils – mainly for root nodes, root system and lower sections of the logs up a rare natural beauty geo places.
In Plaka Park Pinaceae has been identified and a wide variety of fruiting plants (angiosperms), which do not appear on such a large variety of other lands in any position, thus composing the landscape of vegetation on the island of Lesvos before 20 million years. Particular plant fossils are found corresponding to the current larch, trees of cinnamon and white Dafni, Plane tree and Palmoxylon.
Significant contributions are made to protect the fossilized logs in the construction of protective walls and roof in the Plaka Park, Sigri. Today, excavations open 46 positions fossilized trees. Most petrified logs found leaders, namely the physical location of the trees growth.
Among the findings the Giant Fossilized trunk (No. 1) is included, perimeter 13.7 meters and a diameter of 3.70 meters, which is – according to information from the world literature – the largest size-ranking petrified trunk around the world. That tree belongs to Daphnides. At the lower section of the trunk part of the root system is revealed, which shows that the trunk is in the same position in which the tree grew before it was petrified.
The coastal area of the park overlooks the very impressive decumbent fossilized tree trunk, length 14 meters.
Visitors follow the specially formed ambulatory corridor, leading to all positions of fossils, which bring the positions of petrified logs. At the same time, the region has created three positions of rest and sight to the island Nisiopi and Sigri .
2) Enhancement and Protection
Two areas of 500 acres were expropriated by the Greek government in 1965 (positions Bali Alonia and Chamandroula) where there is high concentration of petrified logs.
The Presidential Decree 443/85 for the declaration of “Petrified Forest” was published in 1985, listed as a Monument of Nature. With the PD 443/85 a marine and four land sections are protected including a wider area of 150,000 acres in Sigri, Antissa and Eresos, including the marine section around the island Nisiopi or Megalonisi and four land areas and individual views of fossilized logs.
There is a penalty of excavation with the introduction, filling, soil sampling and geological substrate and any other action that may cause damage and deterioration of the geological formations and the total area is prohibited for cutting, gathering, destruction or transfering fossilized parts.
Usage of parts of the Petrified Forest that have been declared monuments of Nature were regulated in 1996 by a Forest Order of Police protection.
In 1994, the Natural History Museum of the Lesvos Petrified Forest was founded for the protection, promotion and enhancement of the Petrified Forest of Lesvos, which since then has raised worldwide this unique natural monument.
In 2000, the Petrified Forest of Lesvos marked “European Geoparks” and participates as a founding member of the establishment of the European Geoparks Network.
In 2004, by a decision of the UNESCO, it came in the Global Network of Geoparks.
The composition of fossilized flora consists of coniferous trees, fruit trees and a few pteridofyta.
3) The species of fossil plants of the Petrified Forest of Lesvos
The genus and species of plants involved in the composition of the forest of Lesvos before 20 million years was identified from the study of fossilized logs and fossilized leaves.
A large number of petrified logs were found mainly in the area of the Petrified Forest park belonging to the family of Sequoia sempervirens. Modern trees of this family thrive today on the west coast of the United States. Protopefkidous also have been identified, which are ancestral form of modern pine, Cupressaceae and many other species of coniferous trees.
Fruit trees species of oak, tropical walnut, Poplar plant, Daphne, Cinnamon tree, Plane trees, beech, Palm tree, alders, and cypress occur in coastal areas.
The research of the Museum of Natural History in the area of the Petrified Forest of Lesvos has revealed different vegetation zones, thus composing the landscape of vegetation in Lesvos.
The composition of fossilized flora shows that the Petrified Forest of Lesvos was developed in subtropical climate and is changing rapidly in continental hot, and vegetation is subtropical nature of the band.
4) Animal fossils in the area of Petrified Forest
The research work of the Natural History Museum of the Petrified Forest of Lesvos in Gavathas, Antissa, unearthed bones provoscis animal, which is ancestral form of the current elephant, called “deinothirio”. The excavations revealed intact jaws with all teeth and bones of the animal.
The study of palaeo-environment of the area testified that it lived on the edge of the lake that existed in the region before 25 million years and was fed by the rich vegetation that existed at that time in the region. After the death of the animal, the carcass was transferred into the lake and petrified because of its coverage of the lake sediments. The fossils are a rare findings, so far have few examples of large vertebrates lower Miocene age were identified not only in Greek but also in Europe.
Natural History Museum of the Lesvos Petrified Forest
The Natural History Museum of the Lesvos Petrified Forest was established in 1994 for studies, protection, preservation and promotion of the Petrified Forest of Lesvos, which is a listed natural monument with international recognition. It is a foundation member of the European Geoparks Network. In 2004 it joined the Global Network of Geoparks UNESCO.
The location of the museum is situated in the village of West Lesvos Sigri, in the center of the protected area of the Petrified Forest and is housed in a modern building of 1600 m2. The Museum operates as a public interest; legal persons are supervised by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and it is the first Museum of Natural History, which the Greek State founded.
The Museum was awarded with the Eurosite management award 2001 for the promotion and management of the Petrified Forest. The activities for the promotion of the Petrified Forest extends across western Lesvos and in recent years has become the main cultural and educational institution in the region and beyond the main exhibition and research mission of organizing many educational programs, scientific conferences, exhibitions and cultural events.
From the entrance gate of the site, the visitor has to choose alternative routes and operations, set up in the internal and external environment of the museum.
At the end of the central route is the main – terse – volume of the museum. Specific areas of particularly complex developed around the central atrium. The entrance works both as an extension of two internal atriums and a line separating the functions. In the central atrium, impressive fossilized logs and their respective modern plants give the impression of the flora growing in the Aegean for twenty million years.
The permanent exhibition hall of the Museum
The first hall ‘Petrified Forest’ shows the evolution of plants on earth, from the first single cell organism appeared on earth 3.5 billion years before until the appearance of developed plant and the creation of the Petrified Forest. The vegetation of the Petrified Forest is presented by representatives of more than forty different species that have been discovered and identified in the region of western Lesvos. Petrified logs, twigs, leaves and spectacular fossilized imprints leaves, fruits and roots of trees out in front of large graphs of the plants are represented. Palms, cinnamon trees, Daphnia, Tilia, beech, oak, walnut, Plane tree, anchovies, Protopinaceae, Cupressaceae and impressive Sequoia sempervirens are some of the items in the exhibition. Here are representative fossils from various petrified places of the Greek area (Kimi Evia, Vegora, Elassona, Aliveri, Santorini). In the same room the first evidence for the presence of animals living near the Petrified Forest are presented. The bones of a 20 million year old animal are preserved in lake sediments revealed by investigations of the Museum. It is one of the oldest fossils of vertebrates in Greece, very rare in Europe, acknowledging for the first time the presence of the species in the European area simultaneously with the appearance in Africa.
In the second hall “The evolution of the Aegean” the geological phenomena and processes associated with the creation of the Petrified Forest and the geological history of the Aegean based in the last 20 million years are presented. It shows the movement of tectonic plates in the sinking of the African lithosphere and the evolutionary history of volcanic activity in the Greek area. Impressive samples of volcanic rocks and volcanic formations and eruptions models are presented together with the stratigraphy of the volcanic products in western Lesvos. Within the volcanic rocks petrified logs in excellent condition, roots, fruits, leaves and seeds are preserved. Also palaeogeographic reconstructions, depicting the evolution of the region by ocean area of the Tethys Aigiida barren mainland and the creation of the Greek archipelago can be seen. The current Aegean with the active volcanoes, seismic faults and the number of geological monuments remind us that the processes that led to the creation of the Petrified Forest is still active.
Castle of Sigri
The Castle of Sigri is one of the later fortifications on the island. Located at the westernmost tip of Lesvos, built in 1757 by the Admiral of the Ottoman fleet, Suleiman Pasha in order to protect the area from pirate raids and ensure the smooth movement of goods. The castle is characterized by the Arab arc that is above the gate, with red and white stones.
This is a castle that kept its original form and is kept in very good condition. It’s small, square in plan with square towers at the four corners and at strategic registered arched section above the entrance is protected. The main gate to the east close to two-door wooden door lined with iron plates. It is adorned with pointed arch-typical example of Arab architecture, built-in alternating red and white stones. Corresponding inspiration is inside the castle, the arched stone or brick lintels of cells were used for the accommodation of permanent guard.
The much worn original founded inscription dates back to 1757 which is the last year of the short reign of the weak Sultan Osman III, the imperial monogram which is still visible on the panel. A second inscription is found in the basement cellar of the mosque of the village that now serves as a church (Holy Trinity). Written with the poetic form of the late Ottoman period, mentions the construction of the aqueduct and some fountains in the city, attributed to Suleiman Pasha, the era of Sultan Mustafa III (1757-1774).
At least until the late 19th century, the castle was the center around where the settlement grew. Throughout the 19th century and until 1912 in that military units lived there. According to reports, the castle was well maintained and equipped to prevent any local disturbances but could not withstand a concerted attack from the sea. Parts of the castle walls collapsed because of the 1889 earthquake that struck western Lesvos.
In the early 20th century the first Greeks came to live in Sigri. The history of the castle as the Ottoman camp, ends with the release of December, 17th 1912. During the First World War, summer 1915, it was a supply base and base of Entente.
Cave of Panagia Faneromeni of Sigri
At the coastal site “Kalolimniona”, at the foot hill to the north of Sigri the vaulted cave of Panagia Faneromeni can be found. In the northern end of the beach Faneromeni, at the roots of a rock, a whitewash chapel is dedicated to Zoodocho Pigi.
There is a chapel inside a cave that goes through 5 meters. It is about 4.5 meters tall and approximately 4.25 m wide. You can count when coming down the eight steps carved on the rock to reach the hermitage of the hermit. It is believed that St Theophanes the Confessor of Sigriani lived here about 800 AD and it is considered to be the founder of the “Grand Monastery”. On the right side it shows the bed of a hermit.