Monte San Giorgio today

Geological setting

The topography of Monte San Giorgio was created at the same time as the surrounding Alps, when, 95 millions years ago, the “African” plate began to move northwards, progressively compressing the “Eurasian” plate. The powerful push of the African plate caused a series of deformations within a collisional zone, including the area of Monte San Giorgio in its southern part. The ancient seabed was pushed upwards, emerging from the water and building the mountain we know today.

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Quarries and mines

The bituminous shales of Monte San Giorgio have been exploited in mines above Besano since the first half of the 18th century. In 1830, studies were conducted on gas production from these shales for the street lightning of Milan, but this and other projects were quickly shelved. In 1861 Ticino’s government allowed several mines to open in the territories of Meride and Brusino, but these exploitation attempts also did not last very long.

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The fossiliferous levels

The most important fossil beds occur in the central part of the stratigraphic series, within the carbonate sedimentary rocks of marine origin (limestone and dolomite) that were formed during the Triassic. So far, six particularly rich fossiliferous levels have been identified within a more then 600 metres thick succession of rocks dating from the Middle Triassic and covering a period of four million years (from 243 to 239 million years ago).

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