Museum of National History
The Museum of National History was our first destination.
This ramshackle building of a museum contains some surprising gems of exhibitions. There's a stuffed example of virtually every endemic species of mammal, bird and fish on display, with room after room literally stuffed (pun intended) with dead animals. The rooms are divided into the different geographical regions (desert, steppe, mountains) displaying the animals in a simulated natural habitat, which makes it all the more worthwhile to visit. Only the dedicated camel exhibition seemed a bit weird to me, as it focused solely on the domesticated aspect of the animals, rather than the very few herds of wild Bactrian camels that still roam the Gobi.
However, as interesting as the dead animals may be, the highlight of the museum is their exhibition on the extinct species which put Mongolia on the map in the first place: Dinosaurs! Room after room was filled with fossilized dinosaur eggs, bones and a few reconstructed skeletons.
While the most special fossils have moved to museums in London and New York the Mongolian Museum of National History still keeps one of the most famous fossils every found on display: a velociraptor and protocerotops which were buried alive in the midst of mortal combat. It is thought that the two were buried alive by a sand dune collapsing on top of them.
All very interesting and nice to see, and we were already on our way out when we noticed on our map of the museum that we had completely missed the absolute highlight of the museum: the two-story high dinosaur room, which contains several fully reconstructed dinosaur skeletons including the complete fossil of a 3 metre tall tarbosaurus.