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Paleo-Conference in Benevento.

I'm back from the "Incontri con la Paleontologia" at the Museo del
Sannio in Benevento Italy, organised by the  organization "Un Futuro a
Sud" backed up by the expertise and dedication of geologist Luciano
Campanelli and paleontologist Marco Signore and  dedicated to promote
science (and this time paleontology) in the Sannio region of Italy in
connection with the rest of Europe.
For those not familiar with the Sannio region, it is the one that has
produced the astounding fossil of "Ciro" alias Scipionyx samniticus
(among many others by the way, but this is the most remarkable since it
was until very recently the only dinosaur discovered in Italy),
originally described and published in Nature by Marco Signore and
Cristiano Dal Sasso (and source of much Rubenesque debate).
"Un Futuro a Sud" was kind ebough to invite us to open the events with a
talk on the historical development of dinosaur art ("Science encounters
art") and a mini exhibition of original paintings that we personally
took there (expertly and speedily installed by a well organized crew at
the garden halls of the Museo del Sannio, an incredible VII Century
convent adjacent to a Romanic monumental church). Needless to say, the
archaeological collection of the museum is remarkable, so I felt in good
Benevento is a small monumental city with a majestic Roman amphitheatre
and a massive arch by Trajan (among many Roman ruins... the cult of Isis
was particularly strong in that region during Roman times).
The talk went smoothly, with excellent back-up by Marco Signore (to whom
I owe a good deal for his direct help in help the whole event happening)
and a slide show followed by a round of questions and answers inside the
exhibition itself. We were pleasantly surprised by the local and
national  press coverage and by the audience, fairly knowledgeable about
dinosaur science.
The exhibition has remained there for the rest of the week until the
famous paleoichnologist Giuseppe Leonardi closes the proceedings with
another talk "Over the traces of dinosaurs".
Among the many visits while in there, we managed to go to a theme park
known as "La Citta dei Dinosauri" close to San Lorenzello with some
really excellent life-sized dinosaur sculptures made by a relatively
unknown (?)Italian artist. One of the groups (two Allosaurs attacking a
gigantic rearing Camarasaurus is simply remarkable, almost epic in
dramatic proportions ... incredibly for these theme park models a lot of
the anatomical details were correct). The setting is spectacular, with
the mountains of Pietra Roja (Scipionyx site) as background.
Unfortunately the park is virtually closed and some of the models are
ruined. After that we also visited a ceramics handcraft factory, where I
was presented with a typically ornamented popular Italian plate, not
painted with typical saints or religious images but with  the painted
skeleton of Scipionyx, commemorating the discovery and celebrated by its
own people!
Yes, dinosaurs ARE indeed becoming part of the popular arts in Europe.
The other main highlight of the visit was the fact that we could see in
person the Scipionyx fossil. It was exhibited in a very protected 'jail'
and you had to view it with someone on top of you all the time (and if
that wasn't enough... no photographs allowed!).  The fossil is not only
remarkable, but I discovered that seeing it from the side, the intestine
traces protrude in relief >over< the humerus. It is virtually impossible
that all the internal organs remain in place as has been argued... but
that is another discussion.
There's another side on this visit that became apparent: The sad state
of dinosaur art in Europe (the fact that the artist that did those
sculptures for "La Citta dei Dinosauri" is almost completely forgotten
-nobody remembered his name- is simply outrageous. It is also outrageous
that the park is virtually in ruins). Also, the fact that  the Scipionyx
fossil can't be viewed without a guard besides you (using as an excuse a
load of explanatoory discourse) and no photographs were allowed  left me
puzzled. Bureaucracy is threatening to strangle science from every angle

That is why the efforts of the likes of Marco Signore and "Un Futuro a
Sud"  should be supported as much as possible (website is
www.unfuturoasud.it ). More information about the conference and perhaps
some photographs of the exhibition and the theme park will be installed
in my website in the near future.

I thank them for the hospitality and the opportunity to participate in a
successful 'encounter'. Hopefully it will expand in the future.

Luis Rey

Visit my website on http://www.ndirect.co.uk/~luisrey