A Visit to Dinosaur Court | Science | Smithsonian

A Visit to Dinosaur Court

See a gallery of images from a monument to a time when naturalists were only just beginning to understand prehistoric creatures

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In 1854—long before galleries of robotic dinosaurs would become a common sight—artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins unveiled a menagerie of sculpted dinosaurs that was unlike anything seen before. Constructed with the scientific guidance of anatomist Richard Owen, the massive restorations were placed in what has come to be known as “Dinosaur Court” at Sydenham Hill, South London. The site has become one of the must-see sites for paleontologists and dinosaur fans. The dinosaurs and other visions of prehistoric life Hawkins created are sorely out of date and represent Owen’s peculiar view of dinosaurs as the acme of reptilian evolution. But the site is remarkable for precisely this reason—the Dinosaur Court is a historical monument to a time when naturalists were only just beginning to become acquainted with the prehistoric creatures. (After all, Owen himself had coined the term “Dinosauria” only a little more than a decade before.)

Randall Irmis, curator of paleontology at the Utah Museum of Natural History, visited the historic landmark in 2009 and was kind enough to share a few of his photos from the trip. View the gallery below for a look at the dinosaurs of Sydenham Hill, along with some of the other Mesozoic creatures Hawkins restored alongside them.

Ichthyosaurus. (Randall Irmis)
Iguanodon. (Randall Irmis)
Megalosaurus. (Randall Irmis)
Mosasaurus. (Randall Irmis)
Plesiosaurus. (Randall Irmis)
Pterosaurs. (Randall Irmis)
Teleosaurus. (Randall Irmis)
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About Brian Switek
Brian Switek

Brian Switek is a freelance science writer specializing in evolution, paleontology, and natural history. He writes regularly for National Geographic's Phenomena blog as Laelaps.

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