Department of Geology and Paleontology


300.000 items

Dražen Japundžić, MSc in Geology, museum adviser

27 collections

Krapina Pleistocene (Krapina diluvian man collection)

A study collection consisting of the remains of over nine hundred bones and teeth of Neanderthals, thousands of remains of Pleistocene fauna, and almost a thousand artefacts that were excavated and researched by our famous palaeontologist Dragutin Gorjanović-Kramberger at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. The importance of the Krapina diluvian man collection is threefold: first, it is still the world’s largest collection of Neanderthal bones from a single locality; secondly, almost all human fossil body parts are represented in the collection; and third, the historical context, within which the remains contained in the collection were found, was decisive in the formation of the early evolutionary interpretation of the origin of the modern man. Thousands of scientific papers, as well as thousands of pages of popular literature, are devoted to the collection.

Ammonite collections

Ammonite collections consist from the following sub-collections: fauna of the Upper and Middle Triassic of Croatia, cephalopod fauna of the Middle Triassic Kunovac Vrelo in Lika, cephalopod fauna of the Middle Triassic Gregurić brijeg in Samobor Mountains, cephalopod fauna of the Middle Triassic of Kuna Gora in the Croatian Zagorje, fauna of the Lower Triassic of Velebit, Lika, and Dalmatia, Lower Triassic ammonites of Southern Croatia, Anisic ammonites of Brotnja, Lika and Ladinic ammonites of Pirovište-Krašić, Žumberak. They contain 1,351 museum objects that are inventoried under 338 inventory numbers. This collection consists mainly of fossil cephalopods and a much smaller amount of accompanying fauna (shellfish, brachiopods, snails...) from different localities in Croatia. All samples are of Triassic age (250-210 million years).

After the integration of three former museums into one in 1986, the former Museum of Geology and Palaeontology became one of the departments of the Croatian Natural History Museum.

The heirs of the rich, more than a century-old tradition of the Department of Geology and Palaeontology are guided through their work by the fundamental missions of the museum profession. Employees of the Department take care of 27 unique geological-paleontological collections with a total number of specimens approaching the figure of 300,000. Continuous field research collects a large number of specimens that supplement the existing collections or create new collections.


Through the scientific and museum processing of certain fossil groups, from fragments of former life preserved in the fossil record, the curators of the Department research various aspects of evolutionary processes and, as mediators, bring extinct and ancient life closer to the public. They do so through various museum activities.


Inherently rare material is stored in the Department of Geology and Palaeontology, and each collection is unique and unrepeatable. In this light, two collections that have the status of zero category of monumental value should be highlighted - the Krapina Pleistocene Collection and the Holotype Collection.


However, numerous items from other collections are part of the museum’s rich geological-paleontological holdings, and they enchant with their scientific value or visual attractiveness. For example, the remains of mammoths, rhinoceroses and large deer from Slavonia, dinosaur footprints from Istria, fossil lizards from Dalmatia, ammonites from the Dalmatian Hinterland, Lika, and the Croatian Zagorje, fossil plants from all over Croatia, insects from the Croatian Zagorje, “Zagreb’s whale”, Brusina’s collections acquired throughout Croatia, collections of Tethys and Paratethys fossil fish, and so on indefinitely... Each of these individual segments of our collections can tell incredible stories.


Due to the richness and scientific significance of the holdings, the curators of the Department collaborate with numerous research institutions and museums around the world (University of Alberta, University of Kansas, Natural History Museum in Vienna, etc.). The centuries-old tradition of cooperation with the University of Zagreb (Faculty of Science, Faculty of Mining, Geology, and Petroleum Engineering) and other institutions (Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts – Institute for Quaternary Palaeontology and Geology, and the Croatian Geological Survey) and related museums in Croatia is also preserved.


In addition to the valuable holdings, the Department also keeps rich accompanying museum documentation, as well as archival materials that bear witness to the history of the Department itself, and are a curiosity and museum objects per se. In this way, the development of geological reflection can be traced together with the material foundations of scientific assumptions (such as Pilar’s scientific treatment of malacological material from Glinsko Pokuplje from 1873; Gorjanović’s interpretation of the origin of the modern man from 1904). Part of museum documentation and archival material is kept in the library of the Department of Geology and Palaeontology, which also contains a considerable number of old, valuable, and rare editions of professional books. Moreover, apart from those values, it exudes the traces of a very distant past and preserves the memories of our predecessors. It was precisely in that room that our great scientist and museum curator Dragutin Gorjanović-Kramberger worked and created.


The materials of the Department of Geology and Palaeontology are presented primarily through thematic museum expositions, as well as well-attended workshops and occasional lectures and interactive electronic publications.


In order for all this precious material, which is an essential part of the Croatian natural and cultural heritage, to remain accessible to the next generations and new scientific knowledge, it is necessary to adequately protect and preserve it for future generations.


Immediately after the Croatian Parliament passed a decision on the establishment of the National Museum back in 1836, Mijat Sabljar, a retired major and later a versatile museum expert, donated to the Museum a rich collection of ores and bivalves. His collection represents the foundation of today’s extensive and diverse geological and paleontological holdings of the Croatian Natural History Museum.


Following the example of Mijat Sabljar, who even at that time proposed the creation of natural history collections throughout the entire Croatia and Slavonia, which is why he is considered “the originator of museum thinking in Croatia”, his many contemporaries of various profiles also collected fossils and rocks from the areas near Zagreb, Slavonia, Srijem, and other sites. Often, due to political and other reasons, the collected samples ended up in more well-known museums, for example in Vienna and Budapest. However, since at that time, the Illyrian Revival was starting to flare up, and Croatian patriotism had a significant place in it, due to that, and also encouraged by monetary redemption, a significant part of the collected material remained in the Museum of that time. Hence, the geological and paleontological collections were expanded and enriched. “Museum commissioners” were even appointed in some places. They voluntarily and with great effort began to collect and purchase fossils and other natural objects for the Museum.


An unavoidable name, related to the very beginnings of the entire museum activity and to the important contributions made in the collection and identification of fossils, ores, and rocks, is the name of the Illyrian Ljudevit Farkaš Vukotinović. The geological segment of Vukotinović’s natural history work was continued by Spiridion Brusina, who in 1868 became the first “pristav”, i.e. the curator of natural history collections. He moved the natural history collections from the National Home Palace in Opatička Street 18 to the "public building, former old theatre" at Demetrova Street 1.

The name Spiridiona Brusina is particularly associated with a significant paleomalacological collection which contains more than 15,000 specimens of mostly brackish-water and freshwater bivalves and snails of Neogene age from various localities. Brusina collected and processed this extensive and significant collection for almost four decades, and the results of this work are not only the processed collections, but also the monographs that are widely known in paleontological circles: Fossile Binen-Molusken aus Dalmatien, Kroatien und Slavonien nebst einem Anhange; Gragja za neogensku malakološku faunu Dalmacije, Hrvatske i Slavonije uz neke vrste iz Bosne, Hercegovine i Srbiji and Iconographia Molluscorum fosillum in tellure tertiaria Hungariae, Croatiae, Slavoniae, Dalmatiae, Bosniae, Herzegovinae, Serbiae et Bulgariae inventorum.

Due to Brusina’s efforts, Gjuro Pilar, the first professional geologist, a man of European education and culture, took over the position of the curator of the geological and mineralogical collection in 1970. After returning from his studies in Brussels, Pilar acquired the necessary literature, aids, and instruments for the needs of geological scientific research and university teaching, and he scientifically processed the basic geological holdings of today’s Croatian Natural History Museum. Moreover, he acquired valuable comparative collections of fossils from abroad and he created the first permanent geological display. He was the first to scientifically process a geological museum collection, published in 1873 in the work Trećegorje i podloga mu u Glinskom pokuplju.


The collection of fossil flora from the Sarmatian deposits around Zagreb, which was also collected and studied by Gjuro Pilar, testifies that the object of interest and research of the naturalists and museum experts of the time were not only the remains of the fauna, but also of the rich and varied flora. The results of the research on fossil flora were presented in the comprehensive monograph titled Flora fossilis Susedana from 1883.

In 1880, after studying in Zürich, Vienna, and Tübingen, Dragutin Gorjanović-Kramberger became the so-called pristav, i.e. curator of geology and palaeontology of the National Museum. The world-renowned geologist, palaeontologist and paleoanthropologist gained his reputation at the end of the nineteenth century, when he discovered and announced to the European and global scientific public the sensational discovery of the remains of Neanderthals from Krapina. Even though Gorjanović-Kramberger is best known for the discovery of the Krapina Neanderthals, we must not ignore other segments of geological-paleontological materials that he collected and processed during his many years of dedicated work at the Museum, for example molluscs from the Neogene deposits of northern Croatia, Pleistocene mammals, Cretaceous and Miocene fish, and rock samples that represent the stratigraphy of Croatia. It should certainly be mentioned that Brusina and Gorjanović-Kramberger set the largest number of type species (holotypes) that are preserved in a separate, extremely significant and valuable collection of holotypes.

After the death of Gjuro Pilar in 1893, the Department of Mineralogy and Geology of the National Museum was divided into the Department of Geology and Palaeontology and the Department of Mineralogy and Petrography, and the scientific and professional work in the field of geology and palaeontology was led by Dragutin Gorjanović-Kramberger. Only in 1903, due to the increase in holdings, Ferdo Koch started working as a curator, and a few years after Koch, two more curators started working at the Museum: Marijan Salopek and Josip Poljak. Thus, the Museum, as well as the Department of Geology associated with it at the University, become the foundations of the future Croatian geological service.


During his many years of museum work, Marijan Salopek researched Triassic and Jurassic deposits of different localities. In the process he found, processed, and determined numerous fauna species, especially cephalopods, and he also formed valuable collections of ammonites.

Josip Poljak left a mark on the Museum of that time with his fifty years of work, and at the same time, he entrusted the Museum of today. In addition to enriching its holdings, his contribution to the Museum in general was immeasurably vast. A large part of the inventory book of geological and paleontological material was written in his calligraphic handwriting, and as a document of the time, it is important to mention the numerous glass plates on which important professional and historical data were recorded. Josip Poljak enriched the Museum’s activities in every way, and due to his efforts, new experts were employed: Ivan Crnolatac, Milan Herak, and Ante Milan.


We must not forget the curators of the recent period either, because their contribution to the enrichment, care, and professional and scientific work on the geological-paleontological holdings was extremely important. However, as the results of their work are still present and form part of the Museum’s activities today, we will not mention them by name on this occasion.


Major changes in the Museum took place in the 1960s, when the general progress of the City of Zagreb, and geology as a science, as well as the demands of visitors, required the modernization of the museum display. The study collections and the holdings for permanent display were chosen. All curators of the then Museum of Geology and Palaeontology (Ivan Crnolatac, Ante Milan, Melita Pavlovsky, and Krešimir Sakač) worked on the new display. The new organization of the Museum enabled more favourable working conditions for both local and foreign scientists. Hence, the visits and stays of foreign experts in the Museum became more and more frequent. Cooperation with schools and faculties, as well as with natural history and native museums in other places in Croatia, was also being strengthened.


An important year in the history of our Department is certainly 1986, when the Museum of Geology and Palaeontology was merged with the Museum of Zoology and the Museum of Mineralogy and Petrography into a unique Croatian Natural History Museum.

The Department of Geology and Palaeontology employs:


Dražen Japundžić, MSc in Geology, Head of the Department of Geology and Palaeontology, museum advisor
Manager of the osteological collection of mammals and reptiles, stratigraphic collections, and the Oligocene collection of Northern Croatia

Phone: +385 1 4851700

Marija Bošnjak, PhD, MSc in Geology, senior curator
Manager of the marine Miocene collection I, the marine Miocene collection II, the Italian Tertiary (Miocene) fauna collection, the Miocene and Pliocene freshwater molluscs collection, and the Valenciennesia collection

Tamara Đerek, MSc in Geology, senior curator
Manager of the collection of the Tertiary flora of Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia, collection of the Eocene flora of Promina, collection of the Carboniferous fossil flora, collection of the Nymphaeacae Tertiary deposits of Dalmatia and the collection of Paleozoic flora: Brušane, Ričice, Sv. Rok

Sanja Japundžić, MSc in Geology, museum advisor
Manager of the fossil fish collection, Paleozoic collections of invertebrates and comparative Czechoslovak Socialist Republic – England collection (Silurian-Devonian)

Katarina Krizmanić, MSc in Geology, museum advisor
Manager of the collection of holotypes, Mesozoic collections of invertebrates, collections of insects from the Sarmatian deposits of Radoboj, Miocene collections of sea urchins and collections of foraminifera from the Adriatic Sea

Nediljka Prlj Šimić, MSc, senior curator
Manager of the Eocene collections, the ammonite collection and the Tertiary fauna follection of the Paris Basin (Eocene)

Assistant Professor Davorka Radovčić, PhD, senior curator
Manager of the anthropological collection, the Krapina Pleistocene collection and the collection of casts of fossil and recent pongids and hominids

Davor Vrsaljko, PhD
In charge of the collections of Miocene and Pliocene freshwater molluscs and the Valenciennesia collection

Nives Borčić, senior museum technician