Palentologist Andrea Tintori has identified what appears to be the cross-section of a dinosaur skull fossil embedded in a slab of stone in the balustrade of the Cathedral of St. Ambrose in Vigevano, a small town 20 miles west of Milan.
The fossil is embeded in a rose-colored calcareous stone called Broccatello, quarried in the Italian Swiss town of Arzo. This kind of stone is about 190 million years old, the Lower Jurassic period, and the area it comes from is known as a rich source of fossils.
The original stone workers who cut the slab during the construction of the Cathedral (1532 to 1660) sliced themselves off a cross-section of 11.8-inch dinosaur skull without realizing it. Then they did it again, and in fact Tintori found another section of the same skull in a nearby slab.
‘Fossils such as these are very rare in the world and in Italy, in this rock type, unique,’ Tintori told the newspaper, La Repubblica. [...]
‘Initially I thought it could be the fossil of a Ichthyosaurus,’ he said referring to giant marine reptiles that resembled fish and dolphins.
‘But now I’m convinced it is a dinosaur, even if examining it in its present condition it is impossible to say much more … not even whether it was flesh-eating or plant-eating,’ Tintori said.
The reptile’s cranium, its nasal lobes and numerous teeth are ‘clearly visible,’ the paleontologist explained.
Tintori hopes he’ll be allowed to remove the stone so he can have it scanned, replacing it with another slab of the same type of stone quarried from the same place. I don’t know if the church would be amenable to that. Meanwhile, he will create a 3D reconstruction of the skull based on the visible cross-section.