Wyoming’s Dinosaur Discoveries, by Jessica Lippincott, was published in 2015 as part of the Images of Modern America series. It’s a trade paperback featuring both black & white and color photos printed on heavy-weight paper, standard for the Images of America series.
Jessica Lippincott is the education director at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis, Wyoming, and so eminently qualified to compile this fascinating history of the fate of Wyoming’s dinosaur bones.
Wyoming’s Dinosaur Discoveries is essential reading for anyone interested in dinosaurs, as well as for anyone interested in the history of Wyoming!
The first dinosaur bone found in what would become Wyoming, that has been recorded, was in 1872. It wasn’t until 1877 that men would start searching deliberately for dinosaur bones with the intent of selling them to museums (or to be specific, either Edward Drinker Cope of the University of Pennsylvania or Othniel Marsh of Yale University).
Cope and Marsh were the antagonists of the “Bone Wars” which took place between 1877 and 1897, ending only with Cope’s death in that year. For twenty years the two men were rivals in collecting and identifying dinosaurs – and would actually instruct the men searching for and collecting dinosaur bones to destroy those they could not use to prevent the other from obtaining them.
The Bone Wars are not the subject of her book and Lippincott mentions it only briefly, since Cope and Marsh between them were responsible for so many dinosaur fossil finds in Wyoming.
What Lippincott covers is the fate of the dinosaur bones found in Wyoming over the years. If the bones were found on public land – and 50% of Wyoming lands is owned by the US government and is thus considered “public land,” those bones have ended up in museums around the country.
If the bones were found on private land, the owners of the land have typically sold those bones to museums in Europe or Asia.
Only a few of the dinosaur bones found in Wyoming are actually in Wyoming museums – not the least because, as the country’s least populated state, there are few museums here to begin with.
The purpose of Wyoming’s Dinosaur Discoveries is to document where the “major” dinosaur bones found in Wyoming now are.
Lippincott provides a photo of each skeleton – within which is a bone or bones found in Wyoming, and identifies who found it and in what museum in the US or the world it now resides. (Dinosaur skeletons are rarely found completely intact. If nothing else, usually the skull is missing because that’s the head is typically the easiest thing for a predator to detach and carry/drag away to eat later. So, a bone may be found in one bone bed, a connecting bone, from a different dinosaur of the same species, may be found in a different bone bed, and they’re all gathered together and one complete skeleton is put together.)
What makes this book fun, apart from the knowledge gained, is that the photo of each skeleton is provided by the museum where it is currently housed, so the reader gets to see how each museum has posed their dinosaur for display.
The only flaw in this book is that it is only 94 pages long. Each dinosaur/dinosaur bone is covered in only a few sentences, leaving the reader wanting to know more! But then…perhaps that’s the best part of the book, it stimulates the reader to do more research and thus, learn more about dinosaurs.
As an aside, anyone interested in dinosaurs or Wyoming history or both simply must read Bone Wars to learn about the lengths that Cope and Marsh went to to destroy each other.
Want to travel to see dinosaurs? Check out the Dinosaurs Brochure Box.