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MOST IMPORTANT DATES of fossil (and esp. dinosaur) discoveries (pleistocene-1842)



Good day!
As a student of history, I was wondering which are the most important dates in 
finding and collecting fossils, especially dinosaur ones. This is a summary I 
have made. Any comments appreciated. As always, excuse my bad english. Some 
scientific terms or names of historical persons may also be not 100 % correct 
in this language. Maybe I've also forgotten some important persons, but 
hopefully not many. 

Older Paleolit (Stone Age, app. 1.0 - 0.25 Ma ago) - for the first time in 
history, human (H. erectus) is collecting fossils for aesthetics and maybe even 
practical purpose (about 800.000 yrs ago?)

Middle Paleolit (Stone Age, app. 250.000-40.000 yrs ago) - In some Burgund 
caves (France) depots of fossils (mollusc shells) collected 50.000 yrs ago have 
been found. H. s. neanderthaliensis was making necklaces from them.

Neolit (app. 8.000-5.000 BCE) - collections of fossilized fish and shark teeth 
in Egypt

Bronze Age (app. 3.000-1.000 BCE) - another collection of shark teeth (extinct 
*Precarcharodon*)on Malta 

3.000-2.000 BCE - travellers on the famous Silk road encountered dinosaur 
fossils for the first time. Their reports gave rise to the old Babylonian myths 
of Gryphon (or Griffon), Sirush and other unreal animals/ Cave printings of 
animals making dinosaur tracks in SW Africa/ Indians living in western areas 
underlain by mesozoic sedimentary rocks explained dinosaur bones as the remains 
of former animals (also think of large tertiary mammals, like *Uintatherium*, 
as of "thunder horses")  

16th Century BCE - in old China first mentions of dinosaur bones in medical 
texts

1.000-500 BCE - Greeks already knew fossils and even installed some of them in 
their temples. Central nasal holes in skulls of prehistoric dwarf elephants 
(_Elephas falconeri_) were the source for Homer's Cyclops. Some fossils were 
also such source for legends of Giants, or giant animals (mammoth tusks gave 
rise to a legend of giant boar).
Anaximander of Miletus (610-546 BCE), Xenophanes of Colophon (565-470 BCE) and 
Empedocles of Acragas (492-432 BCE) are already thinking of fossils and also 
collect them.

300 BCE - first description of a dinosaur fossil appears in a book from chinese 
scholar Chang Qu, who describes the find of a "dragon" bones in Wucheng, 
current province of Sichuan

1st Century BCE - Hellene geographer and historian  Strabon (ca. 64 BCE-19 CE) 
states that nummulites are not lenses, but former animals/ Emperror Augustus 
(63 BCE-14 CE, ruled 31 BCE-14CE) had a collection of large bones housed in his 
villa. He though they were remains of an extinct race of humans related to the 
gods.

1st Century CE - Pliny the Elder (23-79 CE) assigned fossil shark teeth as 
"tongue stones" (glossopetrae), falling from the sky. He also gave name to 
ammonites, according to the horns of egyptian god Amon.

414 - chinese buddhist monk Fa Hsien (ca. 337-422) mentions dinosaur bones from 
the Gobi desert in writings from his travels ("The Record of Buddhist Kingdoms")
 
5th Century - one of patres ecclesiae, Aurelianus Augustus (St. Augustine, 
354-430) collected fossils, which he considered to be from a giant people

10th Century - now extinct Moa living in New Zealand gave rise to the tales of 
a giant bird Rukh (Roc, or Noh) in famous Arabian nights./ Fossils of 
phorurshracid _Titanis walleri_ were perhaps the base for indian tales of 
"thunderbird".

14th Century - italian poet and writer Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) found 
giant bones which he though of as belonging to mythical Polyphemos.

15th/16th Century - Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) is the first person ever to 
understand the true nature of fossils.

1556 - Konrad von Gessner (1516-1565) depicts all then known fossils in his 
book, but he is far from understanding what do they mean

1590 - medieval Europe is full of stories about dragons (incl. many ours, sadly 
they are all ending with dragons death from the sword of some prince)
The head of a dragon sculptured by Ulrich Vogelsang for the city of Klagenfurt, 
Austria was modeled on a "dragon skull" found by quarrymen in 1335. It is now 
known to be that of an Ice Age wooly rhinoceros./ Mount Pilatus in Switzerland 
abounds in pterodactyl fossils, and with stories of fight between men and 
dragonets-small, scrawny winged dragons. 

1665 - german Jesuit scientist Athanasius Kircher (1601/2-1680) writes 
"Underground world" (Mundus subterraneus), first printed work on geophysics and 
vulcanology, he also mentions dragons and big lizzards there

1666 - danish anatomist and geologist Nicholaus Steno (1638-1686) realises that 
"glossopetrae" are not serpent tongues turned to stone, but were instead teeth 
that once belonged to sharks/ In about the same time british biologist Robert 
Hooke (1635-1703) is the first person ever to examine fossils with a 
microscope/ Both men already understood the process of fossilization

1676/7 - first published record of a dinosaur bone (described as a giant human 
(elephant?) thigh bone) by british vicar and professor of chemistry Robert Plot 
(1640-1696), first custodian of the Old Ashmolean museum 

1699 - head keeper of the Ashmolean museum from 1690, Edward Lhuyd (1670-1709) 
assignes name to cetiosaurid tooth, *Rutellum implicatum* (today, it's nomen 
oblitum), this is first scientific name ever assigned to a dinosaur fossil

1728 - first cataloguing of a dinosaur bone by John Woodward (1665-1728), 
british naturalist, physician and geologist

1763 - Richard Brooks reillustrates Plot's bone which he names *Scrotum 
humanum* (as a descriptive appelation). In 1768 Jean Baptiste Robinet described 
the specimen a real scrotum

1770 - In Maastricht, Netherlands giant skull of a mosasaur had been found. 
During the Napoleon wars, in 1795, it was carried to Paris, where Georges 
Cuvier (1769-1832) examined it. In 1828, he finally described it as _Mosasaurus 
hoffmani_. 

1787 - thigh bone of a dinosaur found in New Jersey

1795, 21st January - in France, giant bones were found. Cuvier stated it was 
from an elephant brought in by the Romans

1802/3 - discovery of fossilized tracks with 31 cm long footprints by Pliny 
Moody in New England. One set of footprints thought to be from "Noah's raven"

1806 - Lewis and Clark expedition finds dinosaur bones near Billings, Montana

1809 - Iguanodon bones found in Cuckfield by William Smith

1811 - Mary Anning (1799-1847), later "fossil lady" finds first ichthyosaur in 
South England

1818 - first dinosaur skeleton found in USA (likely that of prosauropod 
Anchisaurus)

1819 - british surgeon and paleontologist Gideon Algernon Mantell (1790-1852) 
writes about Iguanodon ("Proteo-saurus")

1823 - first fossilized coprolite found by rev. William Buckland (1784-1856), 
described later

1824 - world's first description of a recognized dinosaur fossil (although the 
term "dinosaur" didn't exist yet) by rev. William Buckland (theropod 
Megalosaurus)

1825 1st May - in his work "Fossils of the South Downs" G. A. Mantell describes 
ornithopod Iguanodon (second dinosaur genus to be described)

1832/3 - G. A. Mantell describes Hylaeosaurus, third dinosaur genus to be 
described, just these three are mentioned as dinosaurs in Owen's 1842 work 
(before this date also Streptospondylus-1830(?), Thecodontosaurus-1836/43, 
Plateosaurus-1837, Poekilopleuron-1838, Laelaps=Draptosaurus-1839 and 
Cetiosaurus-1841/2 were described, not to mention "Ceratops"-1815 and 
"Protorosaurus"-1830)

1836 - american naturalist Edward B. Hitchcock (1793-1864) reported the 
discovery of tracks of what he believed were giant birds from late Triassic 
deposits of the Connecticut Valley. The tracks were first found by Pliny Moody 
back in 1802/3.

1841 2nd September - british scientist Richard Owen (1804-1892) has a lecture 
about primeval reptiles, still not using name Dinosauria

1842 - the same man names Megalosaurus, Iguanodon and Hylaeosaurus *Dinosauria* 
(fearfully great lizzards).
                                 
                                 Thanks, Vlad  




 
   

 
  

  


  
 
  
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