42. Protoceratops in Bedrock, 1926


One of the most sensational events of the 1920s was the discovery of dinosaur remains in Mongolia. The Central Asiatic Expeditions were sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History and led by the flamboyant Roy Chapman Andrews. In 1923 they found abundant remains of a new kind of dinosaur, a primitive ceratopsian that was named Protoceratops andrewsi. The illustration at left shows a skull that was photographed as it was found, after some of the fine red sandstone had been chiseled away and cleaned up.


The discovery of Protoceratops was promptly announced by Walter Granger and William K. Gregory that same year in the American Museum Novitates; but this popular article, published several years later by the same authors, seemed more appealing for this exhibition, with its full-page sepia-toned photographs.

Another photograph in this issue (see right) shows Andrews holding a clutch of stone eggs. Perhaps the most newsworthy find of the expedition was the discovery of dinosaur nests containing fossilized eggs, for this was the first positive evidence that dinosaurs did indeed lay eggs. Since the eggs were found associated with more than seventy specimens of Protoceratops, it was naturally assumed that Protoceratops laid the eggs. Recent discoveries suggest that the nests actually belonged to Oviraptor, another dinosaur discovered on the Expedition, which for fifty years has been accused of stealing eggs, rather that laying them.


Matthew, William D.; Granger, Walter. "The most significant fossil finds of the Mongolian expeditions," in: Natural History, vol. 26 (1926), pp. 532-534. This work was on display in the original exhibition as item 42.

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