The fossils were discovered and extensively studied in the early part of the 19th century. Many excavations have taken place on Samos Island and fossils have been brought to collections of various natural history museums in the cities of Berkeley, Chicago, New York, New Haven, Cambridge, Washington (all USA), London (England), Frankfurt, Darmstadt, Hamburg, München, Berlin (all Germany), Lausanne, Basel, Geneva (all Switzerland), Vienna (Austria), Budapest (Hungary), Padova (Italy), Athens and Mytilini on Samos. The 84 mammalian species are well-preserved and most are almost known from skulls. The fossils were found in about 12 bone horizons.
Before 1852 travelers brought fossils from Samos to the University of Padova. This collection which is still in Padova was forgotten. The Samos fossils were rediscovered by Charles Immanuel Forsyth Major in 1887. He claimed to have used the two ancient myths a suggestive indication that there were fossils on Samos. Major was part of an expedition of natural history to the Aegean Archipelago which was funded by the family Barbey-Boissier (hence the giraffid Samotherium boissieri in honor of Madame Boissier). Major deposited most of the collection in the Geological Museum of Lausanne. This collection has now moved to the University of Lausanne. Some bones were also given to the museum of Geneva and Basel by Major. Major excavated on Samos twice; the first excavation was in 1887, the second in 1889.
T. Stützel and A. Hentschel collected for the museum in München from 1897 to 1902. The antelope fossils housed in München were described by Schlosser (1904) and the giraffes were described by Schlosser (1921) and Bohlin (1926). The collections in Frankfurt, Darmstadt and Hamburg are particularly extensive and interesting. Many of the Vienna specimens have receipts from Karl Acker. Acker was an ambassador of Austria on Samos when Samos was an independent country. Acker was also a wine merchant. He knew that the value increased by the completeness of the fossil and he collected and prepared carefully. Acker’s specimens have exquisite preservation. The last major collection was made by Barnum Brown for the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) during 1921-1924 and Brown was a professional excavator. The AMNH fossils from Samos are well prepared. Brown opened at least seven quarries (Q1 to Q6 and QX, Fig. 1) whose numbers have nothing to do with age or stratigraphy. Brown concentrated on the fossil bones of Q1 (Brown 1927) (Fig. 6). While on Samos, he was accompanied by his wife Lillian who even wrote a book about their excavations and life on Samos (Brown, L. 1951: Cleopatra slept here. Dodd-Mead Press, New York). After the completion of the excavations in 1924, Brown had difficulty bringing the collection to the American Museum of Natural History in New York because Greek palaeontologists tried to prevent him from exporting the fossils. However, after some type of official court case Brown was eventually allowed to take the entire collection to the US. This was achieved by the influence of an American, Maria Tsipouras, who was married to a Greek who was high up in the army hierarchy in Greece. In a letter Brown mentioned a sizable collection from a private collector which he was contemplating in purchasing. Certain specimens at the AMNH without locality data may be from that collection. Sixty crates of fossils were shipped by Brown to New York.
Figure 6. The 1921 excavation
After 1924, the excavations continued by K. Acker in 1935. J. Melentis in 1963, excavated primarily at Q1 (Melentis 1968). He incorporated his finds to other finds in the possession of Stelios Ligizos, a pharmacist. Solounias in 1976 was the only one who excavated for small mammals. They were found in locality S3. The small mammal material is at Carnegie in Pittsburg and in University of Colorado Museum in Boulder (Black et al. 1980). Besides the Lausanne and the New York collections, no stratigraphic or locality data exist for any other museum collection. More recently, Dimitrios Kostopoulos, George Koufos and other scientists have been excavating various localities from 1990-2006 (Kostopoulos et al. 2003). For example they have collected bones from Q1 and S4 (Koufos et al. 1997).