300 million-year-old forest discovered -- called 'Chinese Pompeii'

300 million year old forest.jpg They're calling it the "Chinese Pompeii." This week University of Pennsylvania paleobotanist Hermann Pfefferkorn and his co-workers brought to light their discovery of a  fossilized forest that's been buried under a coal mine in China for 300 million years.

Not only is it pretty darn cool, it's giving scientists a look at the plant life, the climate and the ecology of approximately 298 million years ago. The forest near Wuda, China was covered in volcanic ash over a period of a few days and well preserved, just as the town of Pompeii was in Italy in 79 C.E.

The picture is the scientists' recreation of the forest. Pfefferkorn states, "This is now the baseline. Any other finds, which are normally much less complete, have to be evaluated based on what we determined here. ... This is the first such forest reconstruction in Asia for any time interval, it's the first of a peat forest for this time interval and it's the first with Noeggerathiales as a dominant group."

Their paper will be presented next week at the Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. According to their reports, this forest existed around the time of the super-continent known as Pangea.

Pfefferkorn says, "It's like Pompeii: Pompeii gives us deep insight into Roman culture, but it doesn't say anything about Roman history in and of itself. But on the other hand, it elucidates the time before and the time after. This finding is similar. It's a time capsule and therefore it allows us now to interpret what happened before or after much better."
Photo/Video credit: University of Pennsylvania