Exclusive Interview to the research group
the day after the baptism of "Ciro"

Telebenevento Friday March 27 th 1998

Show-woman. Mr. Signore, what is the importance of this discovery ? 

Signore. This article is important for several reasons. First of all it describes the first italian dinosaur. Up to now, in Italy only few traces of dinosaurs have been found and the one discovered in Pietaroja is the first dinosaur with unique characteristics in the world. But the real exceptional aspect of this discovery of the century in vertebrate paleontology is that this is actually a young carnivorous “teropode”, belonging to a group of small-sized dinosaurs (such as the “velociraptor”) and it is the only dinosaur in the world with internal organs still in place. Indeed, the skeleton has been found fully intact except for part of the tail and the rear legs. The most interesting part of the animal is the ventral part where it is possible to observe the whole intestine passing behind the pelvic canal. This could be real useful in the field of dinosaur paleobiology because offers a lot more informations about “parenteral” studies. Since this was a young animal (two or three weeks old), with a rather short snout and a rather big eye-socket, we can suppose that the carnivorous dinosaur’s cubs were already able to hunt few days after birth. All this will enable us to get also many more informations on “parental care” (the attentions paid by parents to their children). This little dinosaur will also give us informations on other dinosaurs and will enable us to revisit italian mesozoic paleobiogeography suggesting that, 130 million years ago, Italy was covered by the ocean. The presence of land animals, like dinosaurs, would prove that dry lands were present much earlier. 

Show-woman : So these revelations make this the most important discovery of the century? 

Signore: For sure this is the most important discovery of the century regarding paleontology. It's a really complex and fascinating study.

Show-woman. A lot has been said about the size of this dinosaur, which seems to be rather small compared to the others. How big was it ?

Signore. Known dinosaurs had sizes going from the Eoraptor sample found in Argentina, a little bigger than "Ciro", to the Seismosaurus sample with titanic dimensions (probably 40 meters tall). A lot carnivores, so-called Maniraptor, small carnivores like the Velociraptor, the Ornitorimus and the Trodo, were not more than 2 meters long. This fossil, the Scipionyx Saminiticus, is special because is a little specimen which, as an adult, would have reached the two meters of length. However, this is merely an hypothesis since the growth of vertebrates is controlled by several parameters that can not be totally predicted, especially when we talk about dinosaurs. We could make a comparison with birds and mammals, better known than dinosaurs, and we can say, with a reasonably good approximation, that this specimen would have not reached more than one and half or two meters of length. 

Show-woman. What about weight ? 

Signore. As a youngster he should have weighted about 1/2 kg; as an adult he should have reached 50 - 60 kg. As an adult he must have been a big predator. 

Show-woman. What will this finding offer to the scientific community in the future ? 

Signore. Many things. All dinosaurs have ventral ribs and, since the well preservation, we are able for the first time to understand the use of these ribs in connection with the internal organs. 

Show-woman. Professor Barbera you have coordinated the research group. What is that come out from this work ?

Barbera. We have been studying in Naples for some years and our group included Dr. Bravi, interested in fishes, Dr. Signore interested in dinosaurs and myself. I am not only interested in Pietraroja but also in all the other fossil areas in the province of Benevento. Pietraroja was know already in 1789 because Scipione Breislak found there the first fossils that Bourbon kings used to offer to other European kings as presents. So the despoiling of Pietraroja started long ago. We have studied a beautiful collection from Pietraroja at the Museum of Naples that contains also two reptiles and some amphibians discovered in the past century. This dinosaur comes out in a rather adventurous way, in fact it was found by collectors from Verona when Pietraroja was still a garbage dump. It has been taken away from that place and, only after some misadventures, got to the Museum of Milano that, finally, gave it to the Superintendent of Salerno. Pietaroja should be protected because is a unique deposit in the world for the abundance of the findings as well as the type of fossilization. Regular excavation campaigns should be made. Casual findings have already brought to light a lot of fishes. We have two Lacertilian (mackerel-like), two crocodiles, a salamander, two fishes that have not been studied yet, another unknown snake. So we have several land animals to study. The Pietraroja dinosaur is really the most important finding. However, even before this discovery, I have always thought that in Bocca della Selva, right above Pietraroja, we would have found other dinosaurs probably herbivorous and from different ages.

Show-woman. You are a teacher at the University of Sannio. What do you think that should be the role of this University after this discovery ?

Barbera. I've often talked about this to the dean of the Faculty of Sciences at the University of Sannio, my dear friend prof. Tullio Pescatore. The University of Sannio should have a guiding role both for local administrations and students. Personally I think that the space we have in Paduli is reductive because it is impossible to realize laboratories. The University of Sannio would have great chances of expansion with more resources. 

Show-woman. After this discovery there will be any obstacle ?

Barbera. As I said before, I am not concerned only in Pietraroja but also in all the other fossil areas in the province of Benevento. I study the invertebrates in the argils of Montesarchio. I'm very well aware of the situation of the marginal valleys in the area of Benevento. Last year I helped organizing a fossil exhibition in Baselice, ten years ago I have organized, together with geologist Campanelli, an exhibition at the Museum of Sannio just to exploit these resources. The area of Benevento is rich of these resources and we could think of creating tourist-routes even for the more internal areas. 

Show-woman. Dr Bravi, according to you, what is the importance of the deposit in Pietraroja? Would it be possible to make an even important discovery ?

Bravi. It is already extremely important that such an important discover has been done in Pietraroja deposit because, as my colleagues were saying, it has provided us with interesting material over the past 200 years, although it has been dug continuosly. The dinosaur is the most important finding. It is my opinion, though, that it is possible to make other important discoveries because Pietraroja in the past was a lagoon with dry lands and, therefore, the bauxite of Monte Mutria could hold other dinosaur imprints. Even flying reptiles could come out and this would be another exceptional discovery. Even if Pietraroja is the most important site, in Campania there are other areas, in the provinces of Caserta and Salerno, showing the same characteristics and that are staggered in geological records at quite precise time intervals. Even these areas, now object of research, could give surprises. 

Show-woman. What about quantifying the data about this finding in Pietraroja ?

Barbera. Pietraroja is defined by paleontologists as a "Fossil Laghenstatten" that is a german word that stands for very interesting deposit, because while calcareous rocks are usually poor in fossils belonging to different groups, the limestones in Pietraroja represent an exception. In fact we have found there vegetables, amphibians, reptiles and fishes, a variety of species that give us a picture of life in the past. So it is possible to obtain many more informations from Pietraroja rather than from other geological records. In Pietraroja, besides a couple of early crocodiles, came out also tetrapods, lizards and an extremely rare amphibian specimen analogous to some spanish deposits. Again, from Pietraroja came out about ten different species of fishes that show a moment of particular interest for the evolution of this group. In cretaceous, about 110 million years ago, indeed, old fishes with a primitive structure were declining and being substituted by more evolved groups as the actual "teleosts". Pietraroja represents the transition between the early and the new specimens spreading all over the world. Therefore, Pietraroja is important also from an evolutionist point of view. 

Show-woman. You have been studying Pietraroja for the past thirteen years. What's happened after the new of the little dinosaur finding was given ? A lot people and onlookers reached the place. Did they interfere with the excavations in progress? 

Barbera. Not really that but they could compromise it because some of them carry hammers to get pieces of fossils. 

Show-woman. Did they rob anything ? 

Bravi. Unfortunately they did. It is a real pity that the geopaleontological park is so disorganized because it could be interesting for many tourists of different cultural extraction. 

Show-woman. Do you need the institution to be interested in vigilance ? 

Bravi. Of course. But it is also necessary to sensibilize the local people because if they see someone hammering or stealing, they should immediately call the police. Actually nobody cares so much. A musing-home was built, a building remained unfinished, just above the geopaleontological park. When they were excavating to place the foundations, I asked the workmen if they had found any fossil and they said yes. When I asked whether they had put them apart they answered that somebody came to pick them up, meaning that they had been stolen! It is very likely that little dinosaur Ciro, the Scipionyx Samniticus, was found in those days.

Show-woman. We have talked about the exploitation of the samnite territory that could start from this discovery. We have here with us the president of the newly born Cultural Association “Un futuro a Sud” (A future to South), the geologist Dr. Luciano Campanelli. How does the work of this association fit in the ambit of this discovery? 

Campanelli. Our association in an ONLUS that stands for non lucrative organization of social utility and its aim is to exploit and preserve the geoenviromental resources of samnite territory. Now our attention is turned to the geoenviromental and geopaleontological valences of samnite territory and specially of Pietraroja, aware of the experience achieved during exhibitions as the one organized ten years ago, mentioned by professor Barbera. That was supported by the Provincial Administration of Benevento and had a great success also because a great number of schools of every grade and from the whole province came to visited it. We think that the material should be exhibited again and that it would also be a good occasion to bring the little dinosaur back to his homeland, Sannio. Unfortunately, in the past, as professor Barbera mentioned before, these resources have been partially been distracted; furthermore, according to the low no. 64, almost 400 million liras were financed for excavating in Pietraroja but these money have been used to fence the park. However, before starting it is necessary to create an appropriate structure for the storage of the findings once they have been brought to light. Pietraroja, in my opinion, can be the starting point for a revaluation and a cultural revival of the whole Sannio that is weighed down by many obligations: archeological, hydrogeological, sismic, etc.. These inevitably limit the growth of economy of our areas, which is mostly based on small public and private building trade. This building trade needs to be possibly integrated with an industry based on tourism that could use this resource of fossils or, more in general, of naturalistic goods with museums placed in the various areas near Benevento such Pietraroja, Baselice, Vitulano e Cautano, known for its beautiful polychrome marbles, Montesarchio e Tufara. All these areas include a time scale that reaches from two hundred million to six million years ago. So in all Samnite territory there is a spatial and chronological distribution that could become a permanent museum for a thematic geological route. 

Show-woman. So is this your main aim for the future ?

Campanelli. We aim to exploit this heritage and, in order to reach this scope, we wish to have the opportunity to sensibilize the authorities on this problem and to establish a close collaboration with the University of Benevento. Professor Barbera mentioned that there are several fossil specimens that are yet to be studied, what about financing European Community scholarships in the University of Sannio? Pietraroja represents an opportunity to improve our School of Geology that would surely interest the scientific community.

For Further Information, Please contact
Un Futuro a Sud Associazione Culturale per la Promozione e Tutela delle Risorse Geoambientali e Naturalistiche
Via Nicola Calandra 7 82100 Benevento
Tel.0338/3431680 E-mail


Broadcast interview realized in the radio transmission "Italy no Italy si"

RAI radiouno friday april 3th 1998

Show-woman : let’s now pay attention to a listener that points out an argument of particular interest, Dr. Luciano Campanelli. You are calling from Benevento.  Why you’re calling ? 

Campanelli : I want to turn your attention on a particularly interesting situation concerning the geopaleontological park of Pietraroja, the first in Italy, where a fossil of dinosaur was brought to light. It was first called Ciro and then renamed by the scientific community Scipionyx Samniticus. 

Show-woman: that is the little dinosaur that has been discovered and that all newspapers have wrote about. Which are your complains ? 

Campanelli : as Cultural Association ONLUS "Un futuro a Sud" (a future to South) we want to promote this park and to solicit the resumption of the excavations, activity which, although an relevant amount of money has been funded, has been stopped long ago. Only yesterday we have known that possibly things are moving. I wanted to ask to the proper officers whether it is real that all the obstacles against resumption of the excavations have been removed. This is an extraordinary opportunity for our territory where a cultural renewal is taking place. For example we have obtained the autonomy of the University, the University of Sannio, and this discovery represents an incentive to stimulate a new research. 

Show-woman : and research is just the thing we want to talk about, thanks than for pointing out not only the decay but also the research aspect and the newly born interest of the academic world towards this area. We have here with us professor Carmela Barbera, chair of Vertebrates Paleontology at the University Federico II of Naples. Good morning professor. You are aware of the situation concerning this area, but this is well known because this discovery is really interesting. 

Barbera : as Institute we have been concerned with Pietraroja since 20 years ago and, personally since more than 30 years. I have been aware of the situation in Pietaroja since it was a garbage dump and was regularly robbed until the park was established and the excavations started in 1982. Personally I am the holder of an excavation concession released by the Superintendent and we actually excavated within the limits of our allowance. In fact I have been financed by the University of Naples three million liras in 1995 and one million in 1997 (about $ 2.200 in total). 

Show-woman : I can imagine how much work you could have done with all this money!

Barbera : Personally I asked twice to the Campania Region. 

Show-woman : but, professor, have you ever turned to privates for some sponsoring ? 

Barbera : Not to privates, because the ones in the area don’t seem to be very sensible. 

Show-woman : then send an appeal through RadioUno and we will see if there is someone, not only in that area, but all over Italy that is sensible to the problem.

Barbera : privates are for despoiling these resources, because before the protection and the limits imposed by the Superintendent these fossils were regularly robbed. I will give you an example, there was a beautiful fish I saw on the first church and after a few years it disappeared and ended on the black market of fossils. 

Show-woman : I don’t know if this transmission will arouse the sensibility of our Superintendents and of the ones who finance these activities. Professor I ask you to get rapidly to a conclusion hoping that our listener Luciano Campanelli is satisfied of the answers you've given. 

Barbera : I hope that the University of Benevento will promote this resource and I hope that this little dinosaur will be able to turn the attention of the many on this very depressed area of Campania.

Show-woman : thank you professor. A last word Campanelli. 

Campanelli : I just want to add that is necessary to collect all the means to prepare projects and to intercept the financing of the European Community. 

Show-woman : the professor seems very combative and I think that you can count on an ally. Thanks for calling and good-bye 

For Further Information, Please contact
Un Futuro a Sud Associazione Culturale per la Promozione e Tutela delle Risorse Geoambientali e Naturalistiche
Via Nicola Calandra 7 82100 Benevento
Tel.0338/3431680 E-mail luciano.campanelli@tin.it