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The supposed ‘Tyrannosaur’ pictogram

The supposed ‘Tyrannosaur’ pictogram

In October/November 1924, a Dr Samuel Hubbard (not the well known entomologist, S Hubbard Scudder, 1837-1911), curator of archaeology for the Oakland (California) Museum of Natural History and working for the Doheny Scientific Expedition, found pictograms on the cliff walls of Hava Supai (or Havasupai) Canyon (Arizona, USA). Most of the pictograms consist of human figures and well known local fauna, including ibex, horse, deer and birds; remarkably, though, one depiction is said to resemble a Tyrannosaurus Rex; according to some accounts, the beast is poised ready to eat a human, while according to others, fossilised dinosaur footprints were found nearby, whilst it has also been claimed that the pictograms are covered by a ferruginous patina. Some accounts change the details. The expedition is sometimes said to have taken place in 1894-5 (muddling an account in which E L Doheny, who funded the expedition, first visited the Canyon) and there are alleged quotes from Hubbard:

Taken all in all, the proportions are good… [The dinosaur is] depicted in the attitude in which man would be most likely to see it: reared on its hind legs, balancing with the long tail, either feeding or in fighting position, possibly defending itself against a party of men.

These sorts of claims are easy to deal with. For a start, the picture of the pictograph says a great deal. Firstly, it is reproduced without context; we are not shown other figures from the same rock-face or others from the canyon, against which it might be possible to evaluate it. Is the picture even reproduced the right way up? Even allowing that it is, what does it show? There is an outline that somewhat resembles a Tyrannosaurus, but there are problems with the tail, the length of the neck and the lack of front legs. The idea that Tyrannosaurs dragged their tails along the ground may have been current in the 1920s, but it has not been believed for many years now, so if the pictogram really does show an eyewitness depiction of a giant meat-eating dinosaur, we need to explain why it is depicted in an incorrect position. A more economical hypothesis is that the pictogram shows something else that bears a slight resemblance to the way Tyrannosaurs were once thought to have looked. It is certainly not evidence that the artist had seen a living Tyrannosaur.

10 Responses to A ‘tyrannosaur’ pictogram

  • Mary says:

    I would Actually Ladies or Gentlemen state to you, Dr Sammuel Hubbard was a very well known entomologist this man was very well known for all his accomplishments and working curator of archaeology for Oakland Californias
    museum of natural history and also worked for, Doheny scientific expedition that also studied the pictograms that were found I beleive for once you people need to give credit where its due your so afraid someone could possibly
    be accurate on dates of dinosaurs with man other than you 250 million bull crap look at all the so called ones you have found that were not the right direction,people these were american indians, oh and remember they were uncivilized
    too! I guess it looks more like a girrafe to you. I beleive you should be ashamed of your selves for discrediting his great work.

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      Regardless of Dr Hubbard’s eminence in the field of entomology, his ability to discern a dinosaur in a squiggle does not instil confidence in his abilities at reading petroglyphs or rock art.

  • Steve says:

    My guess is turtle.
    Creationists finding “evidence” that people and dinosaurs coexisted will probably never cease.

  • Paul Stevenson says:

    Masses of artistic impressions of dinosaur like creatures appear all over the world!
    One obvious example to check out is the image found in Cambodia from the Khmer civilisation at Angkor Wat and is covered with ornate carvings that depict familiar animals like monkeys, deer, water buffalo, parrots, and lizards. However, one column contains an intricate carving of a stegosaur-like creature.
    Cave paintings by North American Anasazi Indians around 150 BC, and a Mesopotamian cylinder seal from the middle East dated 3300 BC, both show the same detailed animal, most probably a Brontosaurus.
    There are numerous other examples.
    Are we expected to believe that these people imagined such creatures out of thin air or that they dug up fossil remains and pieced them together to gain an artists impression? Or could it be that in our own not so distant past before mass media dinosaurs still existed and were recorded in our art as well as literature and folklore.
    Unfortunately no matter what evidence is provided, certain strains of evolutionists will never accept data that contradicts their own theories.

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      Paul, if (non-avian) dinosaurs and humans have ever co-existed, why don’t we find dinosaur bones on sites with human occupation? Don’t respond with claims of fossilised footprints: show me the bones. Animal bones of all sorts are found on most archaeological sites (except those with very acidic soils), yet there is not one instance of a dinosaur bone among all these collections.

      The supposed stegosaur carving at Angkor WatThe problem with relying on artistic depictions is understanding the nature of artistic conventions. Your stegosaur at Angkor Wat looks to me like a boar (although the blog I’ve linked to also points out similarities to a rhinoceros); it is indeed a familiar animal in south-east Asia. The claims for native American dinosaur representations are, frankly, laughable. The mesopotamian cylinder seals don’t show dinosaurs: they show what are clearly mammals whose necks have been stretched by the artist to intertwine them for artistic reasons. They are not photographic depictions of reality!

      It strikes me that you are looking at some very sensationalist and unreliable websites. You need to read more about the artistic conventions of past societies before jumping to unsupportable conclusions.

      • I’m all good with the argument that stylistic representations distort what images look like to distant viewers such as ourselves, however, with your image (in the comment) I have a couple of observations

        1. Boars don’t have tails anything like that
        2. Nor do they have spinal plating (they’re mammals)

        A rhinoceros might fit better, although they don’t have spinal plating either (they’re also mammals) and they have a horn, which is missing from this image.

        Also what is the context of the image and has the bordering relief carving been identified? It looks like spiralling serpents to me. A reptilian context.

        And correct me if I’m wrong, being Angkor Wat, it has religious significance. In this case I recall the immense details of that incredibly impressive piece of architecture documenting the ‘(?)14 worlds’ or heavens of Hindu mythology. If someone from the era found the bones of a stegosaurus while quarrying for the materials, wouldn’t they want to carve it on one of the worlds, perhaps the underworld?

        Again, context please :)

    • chent says:

      1. Brontosaurus isn’t a thing (petty, I know)
      2. Angkor Wat was built in the 12th century CE. To suggest that humans and dinosaurs coexisted so recently is just ridiculous.
      3. You’re missing the purpose of this website, I’m guessing due to a lack of understanding of scientific method. The articles here are to refute claims by bad archaeologists that their conclusions are the only possible explanation for their finds. There is no reason to believe that dinosaurs coexisting with humans is the only possible explanation for a squiggly cave painting. Occam’s Razor, bro.

  • Alex says:

    Wow. It doesn’t even look like a dinosaur! Can’t they get any better evidence?

  • Terrible Niko says:

    it just look like the average penis ejaculating drawing that has been repeating on walls all over the world even to this current day, l mean just look at the concave seperation of the alleged t-rex body and the sole leg, its the same the glans have with the penis body, even its shoting the semen, the alleged t-rex head, toward the direction the depicted penis is facing

Agree or disagree? Please comment!