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During the first decades of the 20th Century, the dentist and amateur paleontologist Virginio Caccia built an important collection of fossils collected in the terrains of the San Colombano hills, in Lombardy. After collecting, Caccia would prepare his fossils and classify them, backed up by the help of professional paleontologists from the Pavia University and from the Italian Society of Natural Sciences in Milan. In 1927 he gave his collection to his fellow citizens of San Colombano al Lambro, to make them available to anyone, by exposing them in a museum.

Virginio Caccia (1870-1951), the author in 1900 of an important publication for odontologists, published some of his paleontological studies in “A proposito di un dente di Elephas primigenus" ("Concerning the study of a tooth of Elephas primigenius", in 1927) and “Appunti sull’apparato dentale nel Cervus elaphus fossile” ("Notes on the dental apparatus of Cervus elaphus", in 1928). In 1929 he authored a limited edition of his Geo-history of the San Colombano hill, where he reviewed all published literature concerning his favourite subject.

The collection contained many marine fossils among which specimens of the Calabrian so-called "Dwarf fauna", made of very small gastropods, together with other molluscs and foraminifera. Marine fossils come from upper Miocene to Pleistocene sediments. The terrestrial fauna, instead, was composed of mammal remains collected in the Quaternary alluvium.

After being brought to the Pavia University for study, many of the fossils were taken back and are today exposed in the Museo Paleontologico e Archeologico Virginio Caccia, instituted in 1979. Some fossils remain in the Pavia University.

Selected texts

«I completed the study of the argument I aimed at since a long time, as far as my knowledge and my means of enquiry allowed me, with the wish that others, in a better form, will make up for my shortcomings.»

They said about him

«The long study and great love that moves him towards the noblest sciences, at times took his sense of the measure. The matter grew insensibly in his hands, so that the stream gets out of its natural bank and floods the nearby and faraway fields.» - Luigi Cazzamali (1929)

Further reading

Caccia V. (1929). Geo-storia del colle di S. Colombano al Lambro e di alcune altre zone fra l’Adda ed il Ticino, Stradella e Piacenza. Cairo & Rulfi, Codogno (MI).

Caccia V. (1934). Cranio fossile di Bos primigenius nell'alluvione lambrana in territorio di S. Colombano al Lambro. Archivio storico per la città e i Comuni del Circondario e della Diocesi di Lodi 3-4: 211.

Caccia V. (1935). Uno sguardo geo-idrografico alla Valle Abduana dalla fine del Pliocene all'Era attuale. Archivio storico per la città e i Comuni del Circondario e della Diocesi di Lodi 1-2: 3.

Falconi B., Porro A. & Franchini A. F. (2011). Virginio Caccia, dentista e naturalista di fine Ottocento. Atti del XI Congresso nazionale della Società Italiana di Storia della Odontostomatologia, Pavia: 150-162.

Guioli S. & Brambilla G. (2003). La “fauna nana” (Brachiopoda e Mollusca) di San Colombano al Lambro (Lombardia - Italia NO): revisione e nuova interpretazione della Collezione Patrini. Atti della Società italiana di scienze naturali e del Museo civico di storia naturale di Milano 144: 197-209.

Soldan D. M. & Cuccaro T. (2007). Il museo paleontologico “Virginio Caccia” di San Colombano al Lambro (MI). Paleoitalia 16: 29-32.

On the web

Museo Virginio Caccia

Text and photographs by Luca Jaselli
By kind permission of Museo Virginio Caccia, San Colombano al Lambro (MI)