This underground museum is tucked within the Carpetana metro station in Carabanchel, a neighborhood in southern Madrid. Commuters rushing through the corridor can pause to admire informative panels about the fauna and flora that existed here 14 million years ago, replicas of fossils that were unearthed here, and even a reconstruction of an extinct type of mastodon.
In 2008, when workers were making improvements to the metro station, they discovered thousands of fossils while digging a pit. The Museum of Natural Sciences compiled the ancient specimens, making it possible to envision how this part of the city would have looked in the Middle Miocene.
At that time, the area that’s now Carabanchel was covered with meadows and savannahs that alternated with swathes of swampy areas and ponds. Thanks to fossilized pollen grains, it’s known that various trees—oaks, laurels, beeches, firs, and more—grew from the land. Bear dogs, pumas, rhinoceroses, deer, primitive horses, and giant tortoises roamed the terrain.
The small museum within the subway station displays replicas of some of these extinct animals’ fossils. You’ll see the jaws of an Anchitherium, a primitive three-toed horse; wild boar tusks; bear dog jaws; and the tusk from a Gomphotherium angustidens, a type of mastodon. The fossil replicas are placed near a panel depicting how the area would have looked during their lifetimes.
Look toward the new entrance, and you’ll easily spot the museum’s star feature: a reproduction of a mastodon in all its enormous glory, standing guard next to the elevators. Another interesting feature is in the long corridor that connects this newer area with the old lobby. There, a mural formatted like a comic strip tells the story of the current metro station and the recovery work that exposed the remains, as well as shows the relationships between the many species that lived here millions of years ago.
Know Before You Go
The only requirement to visit the Carpetana Museum is to buy a Madrid metro ticket. This is a station on Line 6 of the Madrid Metro (gray line).