old bones


[F]or all of the available examples of fossilized bones, no one in the early world of paleontology had ever discovered a complete and intact fossilized skeleton. This lack of information forced Owen to extrapolate about dinosaurs’ size and shape from examples of teeth, rib bones, and spikes, and to make educated guesses about their position in dinosaurs’ unique morphology. In the late 1840s, Owen commissioned Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, a British artist and amateur scientist, to build the first life-size sculptures of dinosaurs based on speculations by Owen and Gideon Mantell, the British paleontologist who had done the first work on iguanodons. Hawkins created them for the Great Exhibition of 1851 in Hyde Park, and after the close of the exhibition helped to transport them in 1852 to Sydenham, a suburb south of London, where an enlarged version of the Crystal Palace was rebuilt on what became Crystal Palace Park. The dinosaur sculptures were made of iron skeletons and fashioned from bricks and concrete, a hybrid form that evoked both the prefabricated steel-and-glass structures that comprised the original Crystal Palace as well as the brick and mortar of traditional English architecture.

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