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Meet Archaeopteryx, the most valuable fossil in the Natural History Museum! 

Archaeopteryx type specimen fossil in the Natural History Museum

Pronounced Ark-ee-op-ter-ix, this is believed to be the earliest bird ever discovered. This fossil was found in Germany in 1861, just two years after Darwin had published On the Origin of Species. This helped prove the value of his ideas. Never before had such a clear link between the animals of today and extinct creatures been discovered. It has teeth and claws like many dinosaurs yet is covered in feathers and seemed adapted to flight. Some people found its discovery so incomprehensible they thought it must be an angel!  

Paleoart of Archaeopteryx sat on a branch
What Archaeopteryx might have looked like.

This fossil is so well preserved it has been designated the ‘type specimen’ for the species. This means it is the best version we have in the world and all other possible Archaeopteryx finds are compared to this one. It seems the creature fell onto a muddy riverbank and was quickly covered up with another level of thick clay like mud, preserving it intact and flat.  

Bird Brained?

Recent studies have also managed to 3D map the inside of its skull. Bird brains are squeezed so tightly inside their skulls that it leaves an imprint of the shape of the brain on the inside of the bone over time. By reconstructing Archaeopteryx’s brain they could see it had a big enough brain to actually fly, not just glide or flap about. It had excellent eyes and co-ordination just like modern birds.  

Sinornithosaurus, a flightless feathered Chinese dinosaur
Sinornithosaurus, a flightless feathered Chinese dinosaur

Recent fossil discoveries in China have also shown many more dinosaurs with feathers. Not for flight but for display and for warmth. It could be that many more dinosaurs we know were covered in feathers, and looked more like giant chickens than the scary creatures we picture today! In February 2020 the Royal Mint released a series of 50p coins with british dinosaurs on them. Drawn by real scientist paleoartists, one depicts the Megalosaurus with a coat of feathers! 

Originally published March 22, 2018

The Beatles had a famous song (at least one) where they sang, “Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes, and she’s gone.” They were not talking about the Lucy you’ll meet on your THATNat hunt at the Natural History Museum in London, (but she was named after this song!) but imagine this tiny human living many, many years ago. She probably had a few happy moments, with sun in her eyes. Or at least we like to think so. Lucy was not a human; however, she was not an ape either. So, what was she?

Discovered in Ethiopia, Lucy belongs to a group of pre-human creatures called Australopithecus. There is a lot of speculation about her, but scientists are pretty sure that she is a female – because of her pelvic bone – and that she walked upright like a human. This was a big deal back in the 1970s.

Today we know more about our early ancestors, but of course it’s hard to know a whole lot about Lucy, who lived around 3.2 million years ago. We learn a lot from her, especially from teeth – of which Lucy has precious few left. You’ll find out more during the THATNat huntDinosaurs and Extinct Beasts.

Keep this blog in mind if you want to have a few bonus points in your pocket when you arrive!

THATMuse stands for Treasure Hunt at the Museum. Our mission is to engage hunters on their scout for treasure (the art of the museums), by injecting a bit of adrenaline, interaction and learning into your museum visit. Teams of 2 to 4 people photo themselves in front of as many treasures as possible within the given amount of time. Poof! The very notion of “Museum Legs” disappears. Our goal? To make hunters want to – voluntarily – return to the galleries after their hunt. That’s why we provide excess treasure: it’s inconceivable to find all your treasure within a 90 min to 2 hour hunt, thus the need to strategise. After a 2-hour visit, do your kids typically lead you back into the museum?

WHERE ARE WE?

THATMuse started out as THATLou (au Louvre) in 2012, expanded to create THATd’Or (Musée d’Orsay) in 2013, took a dip outside the museums with THATRue (Latin Quarter and Marais) in 2014 & by 2015 was commissioned by the British Museum to create a hunt for one of their Friday Lates. That’s when we realized we were losing track of all our names & united under THATMuse. We now have more than 25 themes across the V&A, Natural History Museum, British Museum, in addition to our Paris treasure hunts. THATConcept is the same across, all you need are freshly charged batteries in your phone/camera, comfy shoes & a keen sense of curiosity!

WHY ARE WE?

If stretched out to a straight line, the Louvre would measure 8 miles (15 KM). The British Museum has a collection of 8 million pieces. The Musée d’Orsay has the single most important Impressionist collection in the world…Need we point out the crowds and lines and elbows that come with both lines and crowds? Henri Loyrette, former director of the Louvre, said 80% of 35K visitors a day go straight to the Mona Lisa and then leave the museum!

That’s a crime THATMuse looks to solve, focusing you on a theme, whilst expanding interest in quieter corners you might not think to visit on your own. Moreover it’s FUN, inevitably pumping adrenaline in the chase to capture as much treasure within the given time. You can opt for “friendly competition” (if another family surfaces for the same theme and date) for a social element or some families of 4 prefer to break up into two teams, one parent & child against each other.

Talking THATsmack to drum up museum anticipation is key, after all – and the THATMuse blog has posts per theme, making your treasure hunt educationally flexible. Hunters can read about their treasure before even making it to Paris or London (blog print-outs are useful for long plane rides), picking up on bonus answers before the hunt – important points that may just beat their sibling’s team (meanwhile surreptitiously planting an Art History seed!).

Following your hunt we send you a password to access (& join!) the annals of fellow THATHunters on our Gallery Page, where you can upload some team photos, scores, team name, where you’re from, etc. Not only can you compare notes on other teams’ romps, having your kids see other kids’ bonus photos may just reinforce the story of St George of who that Venus de Milo was!

WHO ARE WE?

An American (Daisy de Plume, Founder and Creative Director), an Argentine (Hernan, CEO), a Brit (Annie, head of French Operations), an Aussie (Raelene, Musée d’Orsay consultant) and a Swiss-Australian-Brit (Barbara, Graphics Consultant). Lest we forget Daisy and Hernan’s two culturally-confused, trilingual sprouts, Storsh and Brooksie, who are keen to help create silly bonus questions for our Kid-Friendly themes! You can meet the team here

The Louvre is a tourist’s obligation just as much as the Eiffel Tower, yet a palace of 65,000m² with 35,000 pieces of art certainly overwhelms! Henri Loyrette, former director of the Louvre, said that 80% of visitors go for the Mona Lisa & then leave.

THATConcept is identical to our other hunts: photographing your team in front of as many pieces as possible within a given amount of time (90 mins to 2 hrs). Additional THATMuse bonus challenges are embedded in your treasure text, ensuring that hunters read about their treasure — making the hunt educationally flexible, fun & interactive!

For information on extras you could add to your booking, please click here.

With over 8 million objects in the British Museum, or “World’s Museum” can overwhelm. We help thread together their collection from Greece (Parthenon frieze), Egypt (Rosetta Stone), Mesopotamia (Lion Hunt), the Americas and Asia whilst injecting fun into your visit!

The Musée d’Orsay has the single most important collection of impressionist art in the world with works by Degas, Monet, Renoir, etc. Famously housed in a former railway station, the open space is complicated. We help make sense of it, with fun, focused treasure hunts for groups, families and corporate team building!

THATRue (our street hunt) is reserved for group hunts of 12+ people or offered as a museum hunt add-on. We’re happy to customise a Hen/Stag harty hunt of just a few teams & have hosted team-building corporate hunts of up to 200 people simultaneously.