Project: The First Dinosaur

The First Dinosaur - excavation and exhibition


In summer 2012 we ventured into a whole new area, when we embarked on the Dinosaur Expedition to Jameson Land in East Greenland.

The first Danish-led dinosaur excavation!

The excavation resulted in a number of really exciting finds. Together with finds made 20 years ago by expeditions from Harvard, they tell a story about life in Greenland 210 million years ago.

We bring this story to life in our brand new exhibition.

Below you can read about the finds, the preparation, the subsequent scientific work, the exhibition and much more.


Our collaborators

The project was made possible by a unique collaboration with the University of Copenhagen, GeoMuseum Faxe, Harvard University, the Natural History Museum of Denmark and the Greenland National Museum and Archives.

Thank you to our sponsors

We would like to thank the following foundations for having helped make the project possible:


The Queen Margrethe and Prince Henrik Foundation

The Labour Market Holiday Fund

The A.P. Møller and Chastine Mc-Kinney Møller Foundation for General Purposes

The Octicon Foundation

The Knud Højgaard Foundation

Louis Petersens Legat

The Obel Family Foundation

The Ernst and Vibeke Husman Foundation


The fossils belong to Greenland!

Of course, the fossils we find on the expedition belong to Greenland. So we must return them after they have been prepared and exhibited at GeoCenter Møns Klint.

We are extremely grateful that we could take part in the excavation of Greenland’s past in an attempt to contribute more knowledge about the evolution of the landscapes, plants and animal species in this fascinating country.


The expedition


In summer 2012 GeoCenter Møns Klint led a major expedition to Jameson Land in desolate East Greenland. The goal was to excavate a skeleton of a plateosaurus: one of the very first dinosaurs on Earth.

On 11 July 2012 the team met up at Copenhagen Airport - ready for a huge adventure!

They travelled from Copenhagen Airport via Reykjavik and Akureyri in Iceland to the small, international airport of Nerlerit Inaat or Constable Point in East Greenland.

Two camps had been planned. Camp 1 was right at the bottom of Carlsberg Fjord and Camp 2 approximately 70 kilometres further north.


The expedition team


The researchers in the expedition team were not randomly chosen! They are some of the best in Europe and have all taken part in fascinating excavations and research projects. There were eight researchers in the team, two representatives of GeoCenter Møns Klint and a freelance scientific journalist.


The finds


The expedition surpassed all expectations! We found not just a dinosaur skeleton, but also parts of other individuals. There were also several other interesting finds, the rarest of which was the phytosaur. This is a crocodile-like species, which had never been found in this state in Greenland before.

A total of five tons of rock were shipped back to Denmark in autumn 2012. Here they were joined by 15 large crates of fossils from Harvard University in the United States. Our excellent colleague, Professor Jenkins had been on eight expeditions in the same area in the 1980s and 1990s, and the fossils he found at that time are now being given their ‘exhibition premiere’ in our new exhibition: The First Dinosaur.


In the excavations we found the following:

A plateosaurus (a genus of prosauropod dinosaur, probably several individuals)

A phytosaur (a crocodile-like creature)

A proganochelys (turtle)

Dinosaur footprints (from predatory dinosaurs, plateosaurus and sauropods)

Plant fossils

A stromatolite (cyanobacteria colony)




Preparing fossils entails, for example, freeing the bones from the sediment (rock) they are embedded in.

The skeleton of the crocodile-like phytosaur was sent for preparation to Verena Regént in Germany.

The dinosaur footprints were prepared for the exhibition by pasting them together exactly as they were located when we found them in a fossilised mud flat. The work was done by Jesper Mílan at GeoMuseum Faxe.

Frank Osbäck prepared blocks of plateosaurus bones and ribs. These blocks were intended to show the preparation process, so the sediment was completely removed from part of the block, partly from another part of the block, while a final part remained entirely untouched, so one could see how the bones were sitting when they were discovered.