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What are the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs?

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The Crystal Palace Dinosaurs are mostly not dinosaurs, and the four that represent dinosaurs—two iguanodons, a hylaeosaurus, and a megalosaurus—don’t look much like them by today’s standards.

The “dinosaurs” are a set of 30 statues sculpted from 1853 to 1855 by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. They were made for the landscapes around Crystal Palace Park, “the first ever attempt anywhere in the world to model extinct animals as full-scale, three-dimensional, active creatures from fossil remains.” The sculptures include:

plesiosaurs and icthyosaurs discovered by Mary Anning in Lyme Regis, as well as pterodactyls, crocodilians, amphibians and mammals, such as a South American Megatherium (giant ground sloth) brought back to Britain by Charles Darwin on his voyage on HMS Beagle.

In the tranquil and informative Open House video above, Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs trustees Ellinor Michel and Sarah Slaughter provide some history and context for the now-“comically incorrect” reconstructions.

crystal palace dinosaurs

The sculptures aren’t representative of how we might imagine dinosaurs and other extinct animals to look today but in that is part of the story of science and that’s what makes this site so important why it speaks to us still there is no absolute truth out there through science but it’s an improved understanding and improved knowledge and that’s what makes the crystal palace dinosaurs relevant for today the vivacity of the sculptures it was down to the skill of Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins the artist and that’s what captured the public’s imagination and what kept the site alive for the last 170 years.

the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs "Baxter print"
crystal palace dinosaurs
Next, watch The Crystal Palace Dinosaurs: The facts and fiction over 160 years.

Then watch these related paleontology videos:
How scientists solved this dinosaur puzzle
• Fossil hunting in unexplored dinosaur country
• Dinosaur Next in the Gobi, recorded with Google Glass
3D Printing Dinosaurs: The mad science of new paleontology
Rebuilding a real T. Rex with scientific research and new techology

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