UC Berkeley's historic Campanile tower turning 100 years old

Lyanne Melendez Image
Friday, January 23, 2015
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UC Berkeley's most recognized symbol, the Sather Tower, most commonly known as the Campanile is turning 100 years old. What many don't know is that the Campanile has a large collection of fossils.

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- UC Berkeley's most recognized symbol is the Sather Tower, most commonly known as the Campanile. The tower is turning 100 years old and it's cause for much celebration at Cal. The observation deck has 61 bells, but what many don't know is that the Campanile has a large collection of fossils.

The Campanile is one of the largest bell and clock towers in the world. Students at Cal know what to expect every day at noon.

Former Cal student Brian Tang, is one of the few people who can masterfully play this instrument consisting of 61 bells. "Most people play it with their fists partly because it gives you enough strength to make the bells ring," Tang said.

When it was first being built, there were only 12 bells designed for the tower.

Today the original ones aren't hard to identify because they have the name Jane K. Sather on them. She donated large sums of money to the university.

Over the years they've added more. There are 61, including the 11,000 pound great bear bell, which features artist Ruth Asawa's carvings of young bears. It is open to the public.

What many don't realize is that inside the Campanile is also a large collection of fossils housed there even before the tower was entirely completed. "This is part of our fossil heritage. This is the record of prehistoric life in California right in our back yard," Cal paleontologist Mark Goodwin said.

The highlight of this collection is the large number of fossils from La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. Paleontologists from UC Berkeley were the first to collect them. "Starting about 1912 and brought them back to the University of California Berkeley campus," Goodwin said.

There is a tray of saber-toothed cat skulls. While the large canine tooth is missing, you can see how sharp the front teeth were. "That jaw will open up and pierce the flesh," Goodwin said.

The tower is conveniently located near the Valley Life Science building making it easy for students to analyze them.

And so these old bones live in perfect harmony with the sounds of the past.