Paleontology and geology

Paleontology and geology

Leonardo succeeded in developing a specialized expertise that was quite unusual for his time in what are now the disciplines of paleontology and geology. In the former, careful examination of fossils found by himself led Leonardo to a re-evaluation of the story of the Great Flood recounted in the Bible. He also studied rock formations and incorporated many geological elements in his paintings that have the centuries sometimes been subject to rather forced iconographic interpretations.

  • Leonardo’s studies of water and the laws of physics that govern their movement constituted one of the cardinal features of his scientific research. In the Codex Leicester, for example, the artist cites these four places where rock formations were modified over time by the effect of water flowing over them.

  • In both the Codex Atlantico and the Codex Leicester Leonardo refers to Golfolina, a narrow section of the Arno River with a well-known rock formation. In a passage in the Codex Leicester the artist indicates this as the point where the Tuscan river would have emptied into the sea from a great height in ancient times.

  • Leonardo gathered many fossils in the blue-veined sediment that characterizes the district of Collegonzi, and examined the stratification of the rock with rigorous attention. From these studies he dared to challenge the prevailing theory that the origin of fossils could be traced to the biblical Flood and in this way anticipated the birth of the science of paleontology.

  • Leonardo was struck by a fact that he found to be consistently associated with the sites where marine fossils could be found. While such remains were common in valleys that were once filled with sea water, there were no such traces in sites without such a geological past. To Leonardo this clearly demonstrated that the nichi to be found at higher altitudes could not have been carried there by the Great Flood.