Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween Special: The Horrors of Hatzeg Island

I’m back! I’ve been gone from this blog for a while, but rest assured I’m alive and still fascinated by prehistory. Today we’re coming back to a Halloween theme, however tenuous it may be.  One of the most notorious places in the world of fiction, the most infamous places in Europe, the home of the vampires and witches and werewolves, is Transylvania.  Transylvania is now part of Romania, north of Wallachia, west of Moldavia, and southeast of Hungary. It was a battle zone in the past, as Austrians, Russians, Hungarians, Turks, Wallachians, Moldavians, Poles, and Germans have struggled over the region.  Rich in minerals, it is a mountainous region,  consisting of mostly forest-covered hills and mountains topped with castles.  It was here that the notorious Prince Vlad Dracula imposed his rule with an iron fist and defied the might of the Ottoman empire. 

It is also a place rich for paleontology. This began with Baron Nopsca in a period from 1899 to the First World War. Baron Franz Nopcsa von Felső-Szilvás, born of a Romanian line of Hungarized aristocrats in the Austrian empire, left the University of Vienna with two goals: The throne of an independent Albania, and the discovery of Romanian fossils. This colorful, Romantic figure tragically lost his fortune on his pursuits and ended his life in a suicide pact with his Albian secretary and lover Bayazid Doda in 1933.  However, in his lifetime, he found a treasure trove of Romanian dinosaurs from the end of the Mesozoic.