Tendaguru, home of the Brachiosaurus

Monday December 04 2023

Villagers at a public gathering in Tendaguru Paleontological Site, Tanzania. PHOTO | UNIVERSITY OF DAR ES SALAAM


In the early 1900s, German pharmacist and mining engineer Bernhard Wilhelm Sattler, on his way to a mine south of the Mbwemkuru River at Tendaguru hill in Lindi, Tanzania’s southern coast, noticed enormous bones sprouting out of the base of a hill.

That was when Tanzania was under German colonial rule.

German palaeontologists and African labourers excavated the site and collected the remains and transported them to Germany.

Read: Where evidence of German colonial brutality is buried

The scientists and researchers noted the existence of 13 different types of giant “lizards,” some of which lived by eating plants and others by eating animal flesh.

The preserved remains of the “big lizard from Tanzania” are in the Museum of Natural History Berlin (Naturkundemuseum Berlin), which houses about 30 million collections of animal and plant kingdom objects.


In Tendaguru, its origin, tourists especially Germans, and students from local schools still flock to the site, where a statue of a dinosaur stands.

It took me about seven hours to travel by bus from Dar es Salaam to Lindi Municipality and then on to the palaeontological site.
There no official tour guides but one never lacks a person who knows his way around the site.

The Brachiosaurus is considered one of the largest dinosaurs to have ever walked the earth.

Antiquities researcher Dr Daniela Schliart said that the remains were excavated between 1908 and 1909.

Unesco in December 2022 named the Tendaguru Palaeontological Site a World Heritage Site.

The Tanzanian government is pressing for the return of the dinosaur remains from Germany.

It has also started programmes to conserve the Tendaguru Palaeontological Site through the Cultural Protection Fund.

Read: Germany matches DNA from skulls stolen from Africa to relatives in Tanzania

It wants to use the site to promote tourism, including the construction of the Tendaguru Information Centre at Mkwajuni.

Infrastructure projects are currently underway, including improving the road network.

University of Dar es Salaam Chancellor, former president Jakaya Kikwete, earlier in the year visited the site and asked scholars to conduct more research on archaeological fossils there.

“We cannot rely only on the fossils that were discovered by Germans many years ago. Let us also research extensively on discovering other remains as the Egyptians have been doing in their country,” said Mr Kikwete.