geology & palaeontology

(hall 6 to 9: earth history)

The central theme of the galleries 7 to 9 is the evolution of life. Starting with some of the oldest fossil organisms, the exhibit shows 4 billion years of life’s history. Important steps in the evolution of life are highlighted by unique fossils. Reconstructions and dioramas bring life to long extinct animals and plants.
Hall 6 is dedicated to planet Earth and its interaction with the biosphere. The “GaiaSphere” - an animated globe - reveals intriguing details of earth’s oceans, the ozone hole, and human population.
Hall 7 is dedicated to the Precambrian and Palaeozoic eras and their organisms. Reconstructions of some of the bizarre organisms of the famous Ediacara and Burgess faunas accompany the original fossils. Life-size reconstructions of a Silurian Gotland-reef and of a Carboniferous forest are impressive imaginations of Palaeozoic ecosystems.
The “time machine” takes you on a trip back into the depths of time and shows the movement of the continents during the last 750 Million years and allows a glimpse into the future.
Hall 8 gives an overview on the fossils and environments of the Mesozoic era, which began 252 million years ago. The evolution of plants is documented by the famous fossil floras, such as the Late Triassic plants from Lunz in Lower Austria. The marine life is represented by the red-coloured ammonites from Triassic and Jurassic limestones of the Alps. An extraordinary selection of Solnhofen fossils from Germany gives an impression of the life in a late Jurassic lagoon. A perfectly preserved fossil bird from China is one of the highlights of the collection. Another highlight is the magnificently preserved skeleton of Pachyophis from the Late Cretaceous of Bosnia, which is the oldest known snake. An animation of a meteor impact marks the catastrophic end of the Mesozoic Era.
Hall 9 focuses on the Cenozoic Era that started 65 million years ago. The imperial architecture of the museum is the frame for one of the most magnificent collections of Cenozoic fossils. The changing palaeogeography of Eurasia, its past climates and the various marine and terrestrial environments are reflected in the fossil record. The highlights are the beautiful fossil fishes from Monte Bolca in Italy, the complete skeleton of the prehistoric elephant Prodeinotherium, Eocene insects enclosed in amber, and the sea life of the Vienna Basin about 14 million years ago. A second main topic is the evolution of mammals and especially of horses and elephants. The “hippo-lab” is an interactive approach to the evolution of horses. With a set of wheels the visitor modifies a range of parameters, such as time, size, food, and habitat.