Amatista del Sur is a recent addition to the attractions of Piribebuy. One more reason to visit this pleasant town.
It is a museum dedicated to minerals and fossils. The core of the collection records the rocks of Paraguay. Additional items will expand the museum to cover the geologic history of places elsewhere in the world.
The museum is located just outside the Pirbebuy town centre in front of the memorial to the hospital burnt down during the Battle of Piribebuy.
Having only been open for a short while the museum’s collection is currently housed inside a small wooden building. This is already quite full with exhibits and in due course the museum will expand into a larger premises.
The history to in Amatista del Sur like all geological museums is of rocks and time. These two have made Paraguay like everywhere else in the world what it is today.
That history goes back to Pre Cambrian days and the first days of the Earth. Pre Cambrian times ran from several billion years ago up to 610 million years ago. This was a time before life when the very planet itself was being formed.
The oldest rocks in the world date from early in the time and have been found in places like Greenland and Australia.
Rocks that would go on to form the basis of Paraguay and South America were laid down at this time but have been long ago lost below more recent ones. No outcrops of Pre Cambrian rocks are to be found in Paraguay.
After the Pre Cambrian came the Palaeozoic. This era ran from 600 million to 250 million years before the present. The Palaeozoic is split into a number periods reflecting changes in geology and life over it’s 350 million year time span. The first period is the Cambrian and the last the Permian.
This is the time when life made it’s presence known. First in the seas and then upon the land. The earliest clearly visible fossils come from this time.
It was also a time of great geological change in the world. In what was to become South America the first rocks of what was to become the Andes were laid down during the Palaeozoic.
The shifting rocks within the Earth caused mineral deposits to be created. Across Paraguay these included minerals such as iron, copper and gold.
The Palaeozoic was then followed in due course by the Mesozoic era. This ran from 250 million to 65 million years ago.
Covering the age of the dinosaurs the Mesozoic is perhaps the best known of all the pre historic eras.
It is split into three periods. The Triassic, the Jurassic and the Cretaceous. The final period, the Cretaceous ended 65 million years ago with the demise of the dinosaurs.
Although there would have been dinosaurs walking the Paraguayan lands at that time I am not aware of any that have been found.
As such there are no dinosaurs to be found in Amatista del Sur. There are however equally interesting fossils on display including fossilised wood from the Cretaceous period. It was at this time that forests grew thick and deposits of oil and gas were laid down.
After the Cretaceous there is just one more era covering everything from 65 million years ago to today, this is the Cainozoic. Again this is split into a number of periods.
During this most recent geological era Paraguay and the rest of South America took it’s current form.
The Andes rose and the relief of Paraguay took form with wide generally flat lowlands punctuated by individual hills or small highland areas uplifted from the plains.
At present the museum focuses on one or two areas rather than being a depository of the complete geological history of Paraguay. Over time more exhibits will be added but for now those gaps are covered by some clear and well laid out informative displays.
The core of the museum’s collection is a sizeable display of fossilised wood. This has come from the Caaguazu region of Paraguay and dates to 130 million years ago, early in the Cretaceous.
The fossilised wood was collected over a number of years before being donated to the museum when it first opened.
It is displayed in a number of forms. There are pieces show just as they were when they were pulled from the ground and others that have been smoothly polished to display the tree rings that show how they were once organic.
There are a number of large specimens displayed on shelves and baskets of smaller pebble sized pieces. Everything can be touched as well as seen and nothing is hidden away behind glass.
In addition to the fossilised wood and other fossils on display a large number of interesting rocks and crystals are to be found laid out on a table.
With these there are a number of magnifying glasses for children to use when they visit the museum. Seeing things closer up makes them more interesting for the children and it would make an ideal location for an educational school trip.
I have also donated a few of the rocks and fossils I bought with me from England to the museum and currently they can be seen on that display table.
Aside from the museum Amatista del Sur is also a crystal shop.
Within the main building crystal and interesting rocks are laid out along a long table running along a long wall. Here are for sale brilliant stones of all shapes and sizes.
The rocks are decorative and distinct and the crystals come in many forms and colours. Some are simply cut to usable sizes but others have been rounded and polished.
The polished crystals range in size from larger ones that can be displayed individually to small small ones for placing around candles, flowerpots and the like. Others have been incorporated into jewellery or items such as pendulums.
The museum is privately run and as such only open Friday to Sunday.
It is a hidden gem that should not be missed by anyone with an interest in the history of the Earth who is in or is visiting Piribebuy.
If heading out from Asuncion on a day trip to area of Piribebuy somewhere that belongs on the itinerary.