Sixteen football-sized vertebrae belonging to a prehistoric whale dating back 5 million years ago were uncovered February 22 on the estate of Castello Banfi, in Montalcino, Tuscany. According to paleontologists, it could be the oldest whale ever found in this part of Italy, an area that was once covered with as much as 82 feet of water before the sea started its slow retreat millions of years ago to it’s current location some 18 miles away.
The whale is estimated to be 33 feet long, and is completely intact with the animal’s head pointed uphill towards the castle. “The whale dates from the Pliocene era when the Mediterranean was at its biggest”, says paleontologist Simone Casati. When the excavation is complete, Casati says the skeleton will be moved to Florence.