Dissecting another prehistoric mural: La Roma 2 fossil site
It has been my fate as of late to produce prehistoric murals in record time. One recent example is the reconstruction of the late Miocene environment and fauna from La Roma 2 fossil site in Teruel, commissioned by Spanish Museum “Dinópolis”. The schedule was so tight that it would have been impossible to do it in time, if it weren´t for a fortunate circumstance: this fossil site has been excavated over the last few years by a team of paleontologists who also happen to be my colleagues and friends, and in fact I have been involved in the study of some of the amazing fossils recovered there. As a result, I was quite familiar with the anatomy of most of the mammal species known from the site, which helped make my work so much simpler -and faster.
La Roma 2 has made headlines recently for the discovery of a new species of primitive otter, Teruelictis riparius, and also for the first finding of a pathological individual of the sabertooth cat Promegantereon. It also has yielded a truly spectacular concentration of hyaenid coprolites (hyena poo, to say it plainly), which in turn contain pollen useful for determining the vegetation that existed in the area some 9 million years ago. And it has one of the most amazing concentrations of bones of the three-toed horse Hipparion in Spain, a concentration that allowed scientists to determine that the larger of the two Hipparion species found at the site belonged to a new species, which has been named after the site: Hipparion laromae.
Even with my familiarity with the fauna of La Roma, it would have been impossible to complete this assignment in time if it weren’t for the advantages of digital painting. Working in layers makes all modifications and adjustments so much easier. This painting was intended as the background of a large exhibit case with fossils being exhibited in front. Halfway through the process, the exhibit curators told me that I needed to make sure to move any essential elements of the painting away from a large area in the right side foreground, in order to leave room for a skeleton of Hipparion that would be mounted in front of the mural. If something like that happens while you are working on an oil painting, you are tempted to commit suicide -or at least to induce others to commit it. Fortunately, when you have all the essential elements of the painting in separate layers, you are free to shuffle things a little to one side or the other and take them out of the way of harm.
This image shows the La Roma painting with some (not nearly all) of its foreground layers visible. In a previous version, the horse herd invaded the right hand section of the mural, but I had to move them to the left in order to leave room for the mounted skeleton exhibited in front.
Now I have uploaded a video where you will see the mural virtually “dissected”, showing all the layers as they appear over the bare background landscape:
But if you want to see the mural in all its 6-meter glory, together with a collection of amazing fossils from La Roma 2, you need to pay a visit to Dinópolis in Teruel!