Dr. Henri Kerkdijk-Otten

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Curator — Prehistoric Mega-Fauna Fossil Collection

Dr. Henri Kerkdijk-Otten

As a curator of the World Museum of Man's fossil collection of prehistoric animals, Dr. Henri Kerkdijk-Otten brings a life of experience with him in understanding the mega-fauna of our prehistoric world and their interaction with prehistoric humans. His interest and research today focuses on the DNA reconstruction and rebirth of prehistoric mega-fauna such as the aurochs and Ice Age horse. Who better than to know about resurrecting and breeding these beasts than someone who spent their childhood around farm life? Growing up in an eastern Netherlands farming family that raised cattle, his life from the an early age involved the breeding, customs and care of large animals. As an adult, he studied History at the University of Nijmegen, with a further specialization in the Middle Ages, Provincial and Roman Archaeology. He currently holds a doctoral degree in History.

Fostered by a multi-generational farming background and trips to Africa, Dr. Kerkdijk-Otten's life has been dedicated to nature and mega-fauna. In 2008 he came in contact with Stichting Taurus, a foundation that uses feral cattle and ponies in natural grazing schemes. He is currently involved as manager of Project Tauros, an international effort to recreate a bovine that is as similar to the prehistoric aurochs as possible, not only regarding phenotype and behavior but also genetically. This project is multidisciplinary and uses a diversity of sciences like archaeology, archaeozoology, cattle breeding, ecology, nature management, genetics and ancient DNA extraction. A similar international program is now being initiated by Dr. Kerkdijk-Otten for the prehistoric horse.

What has been invaluable in these international projects to re-establish Ice Age fauna is Dr. Kerkdijk-Otten's fantastic ability as a professional historian to step back and look at the "whole picture" from detailed information and analysis. The World Museum of Man's purpose of our fossil exhibition is to recreate what kind of place the prehistoric world was like for humans to live in and the interaction between the two. Dr. Kerkdijk-Otten's ongoing research, experience and interest is invaluable to our project, as well. His life of diverse experience, education, and passion for the past make for a splendid combination!