Everyone knows Brontosaurus. As a child, I used to dream of epic battles between the mighty “thunder lizard” and the fearsome T. rex. He was one of the most famous dinosaurs of all – a part of pop culture – until a certain fact came to light: He never truly existed!
Othniel C. Marsh, an American paleontologist, described and named “Apatosaurus ajax” in 1877, though the remains were fragmentary. Two years later, in 1879, he named “Brontosaurus excelsus” based on a more complete specimen. However, the bones that were assembled to reconstruct the creature came from more than one dinosaur.
For many years scientists suspected that Marsh had acquired the wrong skull for Apatosaurus, but it wasn’t until 1975 that two scientists, Dr. John McIntosh from Wesleyan University and Dr. David Berman of the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, proved it. The head that Marsh had mounted on what he called Brontosaurus was from another sauropod named Camarasaurus.
I had the honor of working with Dr. Berman in the late 80s working as a scientific illustrator for the Carnegie Museum. I was creating detailed studies of the actual Camarasaurus skull Berman used to debunk the Brontosaurus myth.
I decided to produce this piece on metal because at the time Andrew Carnegie was creating the steel industry in Pittsburgh, he was also frantically searching for dinosaur bones to fill his new natural history museum. It seemed to be the perfect fit. Another Apatosaur species ” Apatosaurus louisae” was named after Andrew Carnegie’s wife, Louise. Carnegie financed most of the excavations of the quarry at Dinosaur National Park and had many of the specimens sent to Pittsburgh, where they still stand in the museum that bears his name.
The art shows the Camarasaurus skull pushed back into the shadows by the Apatosaurus skull.