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Hitchcock (was Feduccia)
Dinosaur trackways discovered in 1802 in the Connecticut Valley were called
the footprints of Noah's raven. ..... In the spring of
1802, fossil dinosaur tracks were discovered in a Late Triassic red sandstone
slab in the Connecticut Valley near South Hadley, Massachusetts by a farm boy
named Pliny Moody. Naturalists from Harvard and Yale Universities dubbed
these the tracks of "Noah's Raven" despite their large size.
Actually, the name "Noah's Raven" was jokingly applied by neighbours
of Pliny Moody (the farmer on whose land the slab was found). His
neighbours also good-spiritedly said Moody must have had very heavy
poultry. The name stuck, but was never originally applied by
scientists, or ever even taken seriously (by ANYONE - scientists or
At the time, dinosaurs had not been discovered, and the only
three-toed animals known were birds. Given these tracks were in
stone, they were assumed to be ancient - e.g. from Biblical times
(hence, "Noah's" raven).
I believe the name predates Hitchcock's studies on tracks (i.e. it
was coined sometime between 1802 and 1836)
(Noah's Raven is presently on display at the Pratt Museum; specimen
AC 16/2. There is a photo of it on this page:
This slab is therefore the first dinosaurian remains from North America.....
He visualized the Late Triassic Connecticut Valley fauna as
comprising flightless birds of numerous shapes and sizes, somewhat
resembling ostriches and moas, striding across the landscape.....
Although the nature of dinosaurs became fairly clear during
Hitchcock's lifetime, he never abandoned the idea that the Triassic
footprints were traces left by birds."
Incidentally, in 1820 and 1821, skeletal remains (hollow long bones)
were found in the "Red Sandstone" of Connecticut (probably Portland
Ss or New Haven Arkose; as far as I know the specimens are lost;
anyhow, they are Newark Supergroup, Late Triassic or Early Jurassic
depending on which fmn. they are from). Hitchcock even says (can't
remember which ref., sorry) that although these are scrappy remains
(they point to the fact that something birdlike was living in the
Connecticut Valley at the same time as the tracks.....)These skeletal
scraps are probably dinosaur - as they are long hollow bones. But
Hitchcock thought they WERE birds - as dinosaurs were not known at
the time! (So although he advocated a bird rather than dinosaur
origin for many of the BIPEDAL tridactyl trackways, right up until
his death, he was also correct b/c the skeletal specimens he had
pretty much "did" make the tracks. They were merely misidentified as
....Quite a few of the footprints that Hitchcock studied are
preserved on slabs in the Pratt Museum of Amherst College, Amherst,
(Actually, a few HUNDRED specimens studied by Hitchcock are at the
Pratt! CH Hitchcock published the catalog in 1865 (as an appendix in
Edward Hitchcock's Supplement to the Ichnolopgy of New England. If
interested I have a pdf facsimile here:
For further info on Hitchcock, the Amherst collection, and Newark
Supergroup tracks, go to:
Triassic-Jurassic Footprint Project
Smith, N. 1820. Fossil bones found in red sandstone. American Journal
of Science series 1, v2, p146-147.
Hall, J. 1821. Fossil bones found in East-Windsor, Connecticut.
American Journal of Science series 1, v. 3, p.247.
Hitchcock, E. 1836a. Ornithichnology - Description of the foot marks
of birds, (Ornithichnites) on new Red Sandstone in Massachusetts.
American Journal of Science (series 1) v29, p307-340.