How Earth’s future species may view fossils left behind after mankind’s extinction

Posted by ap507 at Apr 27, 2016 10:15 AM |
Major new art exhibition in Germany to feature work of University of Leicester geologist

Issued by the University of Leicester Press Office on 27 April 2016

Images of the installation in the museum are available here (Credit Jan Zalasiewicz and Anne-Sophie Milon):

Giant hyper-evolved rats 100 million years from now, carefully and logically analyzing petrified remains from the long-vanished human civilization – and getting the interpretation completely wrong! 

That is the theme of a collaboration between the artist Anne-Sophie Milon and University of Leicester palaeontologist Professor Jan Zalasiewicz, which forms part of a major new exhibition in Germany.

The collaborative work featured in the exhibition, Reset Modernity!, at the ZKM arts and media centre in Karlsruhe, asks what the office of a palaeontologist would look like a 100 million years from now, trying to understand a specific fossil, given the name Brunaspis enigmatica, and the strange and short geological time of our own present, the Anthropocene - speculated to be called in the future the ‘Great Crisis Stratum’.

Professor Zalasiewicz explained: “The rocks and fossils we are now making will be extraordinarily puzzling when looked at by civilizations of the far future and it is by artists and scientists working together that we can try to gain such a perspective – in effect trying to get into the mind of alien scientists as they might try to understand us, from what we leave behind.”

Simple household objects, compressed in future strata, may come to be interpreted as strange extinct life-forms by the future rat-savants – just as human palaeontologists have sometimes been completely wrong about the nature of some ancient fossils.

Anne-Sophie Milon said: “The objects that lie buried in our planet can provide marvelous inspiration for art. They can give meaning to what are otherwise just beautiful patterns of texture and colour.  Sometimes those patterns, and the meaning they convey, could be showing us something really important.”

The exhibition, Reset Modernity!, at the ZKM arts and media centre in Karlsruhe, will run until August this year.

More information about the exhibition is available at the website here:

A paper from the far future, ‘'Brunaspis enigmatica': Reinterpretation of a presumed artefaction from The Great Crisis Stratum as a Predator-Modified Organic Petrifaction’, which has emerged from the exhibition, is available here:

A Geological Society of London blog feature on Brunaspis is available here:


Notes to editors:

For further information contact Anne-Sophie Milon (email

or Professor Jan Zalasiewicz of the Department of Geology at the University of Leicester (


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