Petrified Wood Museum
By admin | 28-6-2019 21:01

1. Petrified wood

What is petrified wood ?

Petrified wood is a type of wood fossil preserved by the process called “petrification”, meaning “to change into stone”. All the organic materials of the wood have been replaced with minerals,most often asilicatesuch asquartz, while retaining the original structures of the wood.
Generally, the species of petrified wood can be identified by examining thin section of the fossil under a microscope and comparing to cellular structure of living species.

How important is petrified wood ?

Petrified wood isthe key to the past.The study of fossil woods can give us the idea of what the ancient forest was like. Petrified wood plays important roles
1.As a key to study plant taxonomy and plant evolution.
2.As a time detective.It is an evidence to support the continental drift theory. Paleontologists can also figure out the rock’s ages based on the information from petrified wood.
3.As a tool to interpret the past and predict the future. It provides valuable information of how the past environments and climates were like and what natural phenomenon might occur in the future.
4.As an archeological evidence. The stone-age weapons made of petrified wood were found in Anyar in upper Myanmar and Sung Noen district in NE-Thailand. They were given the new archeological terms as “Anyathian Culture” and “Sung Noen Culture”.

History of petrified wood conservation in Thailand

In 1921, King Rama VI visited the railway construction crossing the Mun River at Ban Ta Kut Khon, Tha Chang subdistrict, Chaloem Phra Kiat district, Nakhon Ratchasima. Phraya Ramphaiphongboribhat (Mr. Jit Bunnak), the chief engineer, presented him with the petrified wood found from the bottom of the Mun River. The petrified wood was presented to the king as an “important” and “goodwill” gift from local people. The King gave suggestion to conserve it in the local area.

Since then, that petrified wood has been exhibited near the railway bridge crossing the Mun River untiltoday. It is considered a memorial monument of first petrified wood conservation in Thailand. The monument reminds us of how local people appreciated the importance of petrified wood conservation since 90 years ago.

Petrified wood in Nakhon Ratchasima

Although petrified wood can be found in almost every province of NE-Thailand but extraordinary found in Nakhon Ratchasima (in area of 20 districts) during 1956 – 1958. There was the construction of Friendship Road and other roads in NE-Thailand.

The constructions took a lot of gravels from sites in Khok Kruat and Suranaree subdistricts, Mueang district, Nakhon Ratchasima where were discovered to be the 2 largest sites of petrified wood of the province. Without the good conservation plan, thousands large logs of petrified wood have been sold to be the private property inside and outside the country.

Therefore, around 1995 the petrified wood conservation master plan has been proposed to establish the petrified wood museum on their site.

Highlights of Petrified wood in Nakhon Ratchasima

1.Gemstone petrified wood
Petrified wood found in Nakhon Ratchasima have gemstone quality such as opal, carnelian, agate, and jasper. Thailand’s largest log of opal petrified wood was found in Suranaree subdistrict where the museum is located.

2.Petrified palm wood
It has a prominent rod-like structurewithin the regular grain of the petrified wood.This well defined rod-like structure appears as spots, tapering rods, or continuous linesmaking it the favorite among rock collectors. The petrified palm woods are locally rich in Nakhon Ratchasima, especially in Suranaree subdistrict but very rare elsewhere.

3.Petrified wood with various ages
The petrified woods of angiosperms plants have been found in Nakhon Ratchasima. Their ages vary from early Pleistocene (800,000 years ago) and early Cretaceous (140-120 million years ago). The country’s largest petrified coniferous wood (1.75 m in diameter) from late Jurassic (~150 million years ago) has been found in Pak Chong district.Late Jurassic coniferous petrified wood from Pak Chong district, Nakhon Ratchasima

Petrified WoodDiversity in Cenozoic EraClassification researches of Cenoozoic Era petrified wood found that they were at least 19 families of 32 genera, 60 species in the area of NE-Thailand.

List of Petrified wood families
Anacardiaceae, Irvingiaceae, Annonaceae, Lecythidaceae, Apocynaceae, Leguminosae, Burseraceae, Lythraceae, Combretaceae, Meliaceae, Datiscaceae, Menispermaceae, Dipterocarpaceae, Sonneratiaceae, Ebenaceae, Thymelaeaceae, Euphorbiaceae, Flacourtiaceae, Palmae
These plants are similar to those in the mixed deciduous forest of the present time. This indicates the existence of the mixed deciduous forest and the seasonal climate in the area during the Cenozoic Era. Similar petrified woods of the same period were also found in Myanmar and Bangor of India, indicating the existence of similar floras there.


2. Ancient Elephant 

         The second building is showing “Ancient Elephant fossils” were found underground near the Mun River at Tha Chang subdistrict, Mueang, Nakhon Ratchasima where one of the most amazing world discovery. There are many ancient elephant fossils to 10 genus from 43 genus worldwide.


Most people believe that “Dinosaur” is the world largest animal ever existed on the Earth. But, that was long time ago in the ancient world. What’s about nowadays? Of course! It’s an ‘Elephant’, the biggest creature that is closely relating with both human culture and evolution over 2 million years ago (Ma) till present.


Ancient & Modern Elephant

Elephant comes from the Greek word “elephas” means ivory, which refer to their tusks. They are classified to the order Proboscidea, one of placental mammals.Early probosdiceans (lived about 55 Ma) were just the same size as a pig and had no tusk. Their descendants were widely spread and gradually evolved from the primitive types to more than 124 different species only two modern proboscideans, African and Asian elephant, survive at present.


Elephant…Thai National Treasure
The elephant has had a long association with Thai tradition and history.A white elephant was honored to be a Thai Royal war elephant when the king waged war against an invading enemy in Sukhothai and Ayutthaya period. In Rattanakosin period, elephant was appeared white on Thai red flag and was royal stamp of King Rama V.Therefore, elephant is formally acknowledged as a Thai National Treasure until this present time. The 13thMarch was declared as the National Elephant Day since B.A. 2506.


Khorat… Land of Ancient Elephant

Amazing elephant graveyard! Extraordinary rich of ancient elephant fossils, 16-0.8 million years (Ma), were found underground near the Mun River. It covers 4,000 acres at Tha Chang subdistrict, Mueang district, Nakhon Ratchasima province, northeastern Thailand. It is expected that there were about hundreds elephants which is one of the most amazing world discovery.Tha Chang yielded a rich ancient elephants fossils as high as 9 genus and 24 species from 42 genus and 175 species worldwide. There are genera;

1)ProdeinotheriumIt was the size of a small elephant, about 9 ft at the shoulders, but differed from elephants in possessing a pair of downward curving tusks on the lower jaw. It once lived in Africa, Europe, and Asia in the early and middleMiocene, 16-10 Ma.

2) ProtanancusIt was the elephant with two uppers and two lower spade-like tusks. It was surviving during 16-11 Ma.
3) GomphotheriumIt was about 3m (9.8ft) high, and bore a strong resemblance to a modernelephant. It had four tusks; two on the upper jaw and two on the elongated lower jaw. The lower tusks are parallel and shaped like ashovel, 10-6 Ma
4) TetralophodonIt was about 3 m (10 ft), extinct genus loosely related toelephants, had fourtusks. It had atrunk. They were very widespread and successful elephant. It lived through theMioceneandPlioceneepochs, 10-6 Ma.

5) SinomastodonSinomastodonor Chinese mastodon was very similar to modernelephants. Several species are known from China,S. hanjiangensisfrom the Late Miocene and Early Pliocene, 11-3 Ma. ThaiSinomastodonis younger than Chinese species. They immigrated and lived in Thailand during the Pliocene to Pleistocene epochs, 5-0.8 Ma.
6) StegolophodonStegolophodonwas agomphotherewith fourtusksand atrunk. It lived in theMioceneandPlioceneEpochs, and may have evolved intoStegodon, 10-1.6 Ma.This genus is the direct ancestor ofStegodo\n.
7) AnancusAnancusis an extinctgenusofgomphotherethat have been found in Africa, Europe, and Asia.Anancusstood around 3m (9.8ft) tall, and closely resembled a modernelephant. It had two tusks, whereas most other gomphotheres had four. And had somewhat shorter legs, its tusks were much longer than that of modern elephant, up to 4 m (13 ft). It once lived during the lateMioceneand earlyPleistocene., 3-1.5 Ma
8) StegodonSomeStegodonspecies were among the largest of all ancient elephant, 4 m high. Two upper tusks reach 3 m long nearly straight tusks. 11.6 Ma -11,000 years ago.
9) ElephasE. maximusis one of two survivinggenerain theorderofProboscidea. The genus is very closely related to themammothgenusMammuthus, (10 Ma to recent)

Fossil ValueTha Chang an original fossil site, is regarded as an ‘ancient elephant cemetery’… the world remarkable paleontological site. Moreover, there were also various ancient animals such as rhinos, giraffes, horses, wild pig, and primate as well as carbonized wood. The discovery of these faunas is like a book of life history and evolution in and ancient geography and climate. This area could be developed for an eco-tourism that will be benefit for local villagers and government.

3. Dinosaur


           “Dinosaur” was coined in 1842 by Sir Richard Owen, a pioneering British comparative anatomist. It is from the Greek roots, deinos (terrible, fearfully, great) and sauros (lizard or reptile) and means a fearfully great lizard. Nowadays, there are more than 340 species discovered worldwide.
In Thailand, Dinosaur was found in the northeastern plateau, Khorat Plateau. It might be the land of origin of Dinosaur both sauropod (plant-eating) and theropod (meat-eating) which later evolved and distributed to other territories. The evidence was from a sauropod remains, Isanosaurus attavipachi which is 210 Ma in age and was found in Chaiyaphum province. This fossil is older than the other sauropods fossils that were previously found in the world. Moreover, tyrannosaurid theropod fossils, Siamotyrannus isanensis (130 Ma) was found in Khon Kaen province. It was recognized as the world oldest tyrannosaur compared with other tyrannosaurs which are not over 100 million years old. Siamosaurus suteethorni is the first Thai theropod (130 Ma) that had distinct crocodile-like snout. The most complete sauropod skeleton in Thailand is Phuwiangosaurus sirindhornae (130 Ma) which found in Kalasin provinece. The first Ceratopsia was Psittacosaurus satayaraki (100 Ma) that found in Chaiyaphum province.

In Nakhon Ratchasima, the southwest edge of the Khorat Plateau, especially in Suranaree and Khok Kruat subdistricts, was once a habitat of at least three dinosaurs, allosaurid, iguanodontid, and sauropod, and other associated fauna including pterosaur, hybodont shark (Thaiodus ruchae), lepidotes fish, crocodile, and turtle. The fossils were excavated by the Thailand-Japan Dinosaur Excavation Project (year 2007 to 2009). The identifications of these dinosaurs in specific level are under studied.

Allosaurid was meat-eating dinosaur, with a massive head, short neck, and bulky body with three fingered forelimbs. It has a distinctive bony bump over the eyes. It was the most abundant, and probably the largest predator in the Late Jurassic period in the lands. The Khorat allosaurid, a Thailand largest theropod, had reach 10 m in length and probably be a new species.

Iguanodont is an ornithischian, plant-eating, that lived during the late Jurassic to Cretaceous period. They had been primarily quadrupedal, but also capable of bipedal walking. Its thick and column-like hind legs and shorter and thinner front legs. The middle three fingers on each hand were jointed together by a pad of skin. The fifth finger could curl to grasp food and the thumb was long spike.

Sauropod was herbivorous (plant-eating), usually long-necked quadrupeds (four-legged), with spatulate (spatula-shaped: broad at the base, narrow at the neck) teeth. They had small heads, huge bodies, and tended to have long tails. Their legs were thick, ending in blunt feet with five toes, though only three bore claws. It was first appeared in the late TriassicPeriod. By the Late Jurassic (150 Ma), sauropods were widespread (especially the diplodocids and brachiosaurids). By the Late Cretaceous, those groups had mainly been replaced by the titanosaurs, which had a near-global distribution. Khorat sauropod, Early Cretaceous, had a tooth form, peg or pencil shape, like that of Phuwiangosaurus and possibly it was primitive to Nemegtosaurus, that once lived during Late Cretaceous in Mongolia. Pterosaur: it was first appeared in the Triassic Period, continued to evolve during the Jurassic, and declined during Late Cretacesous.
           Pterosaurs are the earliest 
vertebrates known to have evolved powered flight. Their wings were formed by a membrane of skin, muscle, and other tissues stretching from the legs to a dramatically lengthened fourth finger. Early species had long, fully-toothed jaws and long tails, while later forms had a highly reduced tail, and some lacked teeth. Many sported furry coats made up of hair-like filaments which covered their bodies and parts of their wings. Surprisingly, the teeth of pterosaur were also found during excavation in Khorat.

  The age of Khorat dinosaurs
Fossils of the dinosaur from Suranaree and Khok Kruat subdistricts were found in calcareous conglomerate of Khok Kruat Formation which is the upper formation of the Khorat Group. It is Abtian and Albian epochs of late Early Cretaceous (ca. 100 million years ago)

  Fossil value
Fossil is “the keys to the past”. The presence of dinosaur and other faunas such as fish, turtles, soft-shell turtles, crocodiles indicate that once the environment were freshwater river and swamp. The disassociation of bone elements indicate the transportation from the original dead site to deposit in the Suranaree and Khok Kruat sites.

         Prof. Dong Zhiming and Dr. Yoichi Azuma were examining the Khorat dinosaur fossils. The fossils is important for the study of various sciences, geography, geology, paleontology, and paleobiology, etc. Therefore, the Khorat dinosaur would help to complete the dinosaur history, especially for the history of Asian dinosaur. It could be a learning center for not only researcher, but also students and the public nearby.
Dinosaur is essential to sciences. It would be eternal benefit both for academic and natural heritage. Thus, Northeastern Research Institute of Petrified Wood and Mineral Resources, Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University (NRRU) aims to collect and conserve in the Dinosaur Museum, one of our three museums that you should not miss!