Archaeopteryx the world famous Solnhofen Fossil

Solnhofen Fossil Archaeopteryx - Berlin specimen
The iconic Berlin specimen of Archaeopteryx in 2016.

Archaeopteryx, the most famous Solnhofen fossil is without doubt the first bird.

It is the symbol of evolution and transitional fossils and the origin of species.

From 1860 to 2010 are currently 13 verified find of this fossil species are known.

13 specimens in more than 150 years of research is not mush but actually it is not the rarest Solnhofen Fossil. But it is one of the most famous fossils of the world. It became an symbol for Darwinism and evolution as a transitional fossils.

The first specimen was a isolated father that has been found in at east end of the communal Quarry of Solnhofen.

Still the best preserved specimen of Archaeopteryx is the Berlin Specimen that was the 3rd find of this imported Solnhofen fossil.


Solnhofen Fossil - Archaeopteryx feather - positive side
The first specimen of Archaeopteryx lithographica found in the year 1861 . This Solnhofen fossil is known as the Munich specimen of Archaeopteryx.  This is the positive side that is since 1876 in Berlin. (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ArchaeopteryxTheUrvogelFeather.jpg in 2010 by user Notafly under CC BY-SA 3.0)
Archaeopteryx feather - complate solnhofen plate
Complete Solnhofen plate of the first feather Complete Solnhofen plate of the Archaeopteryx feather. Complete Solnhofen plate of the Archaeopteryx feather. That is today in the Natural History Museum of Berlin. It is assumed that this firt Archaeopteryx fossil was found most likely in 1861 by Wilhelm Köhler in the eastern side of the communal quarry of Solnhofen. (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ArchaeopteryxTheUrvogelFeather.jpg in 2010 by user Notafly under CC BY-SA 3.0)
The first specimen of Archaeopteryx found in 1861.
The side of the Munich specimen Photographed in 2009. Apparently the fossil do show today mush less colour and contrast than in the year 1862. It is assumable that some of the fossil substance got lost over the years. Maybe that was caused by handling or storage conditions. (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Archaeopteryx_(Feather).jpg by H. Raab (User:Vesta) in 2009 under CC BY-SA 3.0)

Archaeopteryx_lithographica
Image of the Munich feather printed in Meyer’s 1862 original publication
This is a picture of the side that is still located in Munich museum.
(https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Archaeopteryx_lithographica.jpg – von Meyer in 1862 Public Domain)

The first complete Archaeopteryx fossil from Solnhofen.

The London Archaeopteryx fossil from Solnhofen.
The London specimen of the Archaeopteryx fossil from Solnhofen. This was the first more or less complete fossil of Archaeopteryx that has been found in the year (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Archaeopteryx_lithographica_paris.JPG by LadyofHats in 2009 under public domain)

The first articulated specimen is known as “London specimen” was purchased by the British Museum for a price of 700 English Pound from Carl Friedrich Häberlein.  700 GBP what would be today approximately today 200000 USD*.  (*Assumption based on  Christopher Hibbert , 1987 : The English: A Social History, 1066-1945)  It is always difficult to convert a 150 year old price to today terms. But it is save to say that the price for the Archaeopteryx fossil was enormous sum for that time.

Ironically Richard Owen was the driving force behind that purchase of the fossil. Richard Owen motivation was to suppress Darwin’s evolution theory that would be supported by that fossil. Charles Darwin published just in  1859 his evolution theory “On the Origin of Species”. He postulated transitional fossil, so called “missing links” just like this bird like dinosaur with feathers. It was just in the year 1861 that just that kind of fossil was found in Langenaltheim just a few kilometres west of Solnhofen.

Even the second complete Archaeopteryx the Berlin specimen was sold by Ernst Otto Häberlein the son of Carl Friedrich Häberlein to Werner von Siemens.

The final Price of the fossil bird was with 20000 gold marks incredibly high again.

But its history and circumstances of finding are better documented. Initially the 3rd Archaeopteryx was found by man named Jakob Niemeyer. Unbelievable but true he trade the fossil for a cow to the Solnhofen Quarry owner and fossil dealer Johann Dörr.

He sold it to Ernst Otto Häberlein for 2000 Gold Mark who multiplied the price by ten.

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