One of the largest Greek islands, Lesvos, is located in NE Aegean Sea. Its area is 1,630 Km2 and its shape is likened to a plane tree leaf. The island is fertile with a vast range of vegetation that includes silver olives, dark green pines, grey green oaks and unique wild flowers.
On the western coast of Lesvos, the volcanic rocks meet the azure blue of the Aegean Sea, where the lapping of waves has slowly revealed the petrified remains of plant life belonging to the distant past. Let us take this opportunity to familiarise ourselves with another lost Atlantis that submerged in the ensuing "sea" of fire during volcanic eruptions in the Northern Aegean 20 millions years ago.
The most noteworthy concentrations of petrified trunks which constitute the renowned "Petrified Forest" are located in the regions of Sigri, Antissa and Eresos covering an area of over 15,000 hectares. Apart from petrified trunks, perfectly preserved petrified roots, fruit, leaves and seeds may be encountered.
The large number of standing petrified trunks with their root system being intact and fully developed, provides proof that these trees were petrified in their original position. Hence, this is an autochthonous petrified forest.
The Petrified Forest of Lesvos gives us considerable information regarding the composition and character of the paleoflora and climatic conditions of the distant past. Thus, this monument constitutes a natural document that has recorded the geological history of the Aegean basin of the last 20 million years.
Recognising the major environmental, geological and palaeontological value of the area, the Greek State has declared the Petrified Forest as a Preserved Natural Monument. The aim of designating the Petrified Forest as such, is the effective protection and rational management of the area.
The Creation of the Petrified Forest
The volcanic activity in the northern Aegean resulted in the flow of pyroclastic material in the east to west direction. The material has covered large expanses and blanketed the dense forest which existed at the time on the western section of the island. The movement of this pyroclastic material was of high speed. Hence, the trunks, branches, fruits and leaves of the trees in the forest were almost instantaneously covered. The isolation of the plant fibbers from external conditions and the ensuing intense hydrothermic circulation of fluids rich in pyrite allowed for the perfect fossilisation of the plant fibbers under optimal conditions. Essentially this fossilisation process involved the molecule by molecule replacement of organic plant matter with inorganic matter. As a result of this process the morphological characteristics of plants and the internal structure of the wood of the trees has been excellently preserved.
Today, the natural erosion of the volcanic rocks has revealed impressive standing and collapsed tree trunks with lengths of up to twenty meters and trunk diameters of up to three meters.
The Visiting Areas
The visitor of Lesvos has many alternatives in visiting the different concentrations of petrified tree trunks.These include the Natural History Museum of the Lesvos Petrified Forest in Sigri, where a large variety of exhibits exists and the geological evolution of the Aegean Sea is shown in a very vivid way. Adjusted to the museum is the Sigri geopark, where the visitor can observe unique views of petrified roots. In addition, the nearby Plaka Geopark contains a great number of standing petrified tree trunks and unique fossilised leaves.
However, a visit to the Petrified Forest Park is a unique experience. The park covers an area of 28,6 ha and it undoubtly constitutesa monument unparalleled to any other in the world as it includes perfectly preserved fossilised trees that make up a forest ecosystem developed in the distant past. A visitor will be impressed by the number and dimensions of the dozens of standing and lying trunks that are scattered over the area and are sometimes more than 7 meters in height and 22 meters in length.
Natural History Museum of the Lesvos Petrified Forest
Sigri Lesvos isl. GR-81112 Greece
Tel.: (+30) 2251 0 47033, 2253 0 54434
Website: http: //www.petrifiedforest.gr