Dinosaurs are back in Oxford!

Dinosaurs are back in Oxford!

3.5 tons, around 10 metres long. Large, narrow head with a massive toothless beak. Could move on two or four legs, but was faster on two – up to 15 mph. This is Iguanodon, frequent inhabitant of what is now Oxfordshire, around 125 millions years ago. Thanks to the Oxford Univeristy Museum of Natural History you can admire the reconstruction of it’s skull in our display window on Broad Street!

 “If you ask most people to name a dinosaur, the chances are they would give a North American example such as Tyrannosaurus rex, but the term ‘dinosaur’ was actually invented by a British palaeontologist for fossils found in the UK. Oxford was at the very forefront of these early dinosaur discoveries, and exciting dinosaur research is still going on within the museum collections today.” says Eliza Howlett, Earth Collections Manager of the Museum.

The Oxford University Museum of Natural History collections include over 1,200 dinosaur specimens. Many of them are of great scientific importance. Highlights include the world’s first named dinosaur, Megalosaurus bucklandii, and the world’s first sauropod dinosaur, Cetiosaurus oxoniensis. The collection also includes more recent acquisitions such as Juratyrant langhami, a relative of Tyrannosaurus rex from Dorset, which was purchased in 1992.

A very close relative of Iguanodon is Cumnoria, as both are from the same group of dinosaurs called ornithopods. The Oxford Univeristy Museum of Natural History has its almost complete skeleton, found in Chawley Brick Pits in Cumnor Hurst in 1879. Definitely worth seeing!

Dinosaurs in Oxford

During the Middle Jurassic period England was a very warm part of the world. Warmth and humidity created perfect conditions for vegetation, which was ideal for the existing species of dinosaurs. Oxfordshire was covered by shallow tidal sea with a vast network of small islands and lagoons, which definitely helped in preserving a large number of fossils.

In 19-th century a number of brick pits in and around the city in conjunction with growing scientific interests created a great opportunity for many discoveries to come to light, although many of them took place even earlier. The first known illustration of a dinosaur bone was published in Robert Plot’s book The Natural History of Oxfordshire in 1677.

The bone was found in a limestne quarry near Chipping Norton, and was thought by Plot to be the bone of a giant. Sadly, the specimen itself has never been discovered in the Oxford University collections, but palaeontologists have been able to identify it from the original drawing as part of the thighbone of the carnivorous dinosaur Megalosaurus.

Megalosaurus is in fact the first dinosaur to be scientifically described. The bones were found over a number of years in underground mines at Stonesfield. The most famous specimen, part of a lower jaw, was in the collections of the Oxford Anatomy School at Christchurch in 1797, and was purchased for ten shillings and six pence. Click here to read more.

Also on display in the Museum of Natural History is the skeleton of Eustreptospondylus oxoniensis. The skeleton comes from a young animal, and is the most complete example of Middle Jurassic theropod (carnivorous dinosaur) from anywhere in Europe. The bones were found at Webb’s Brick Pit in Summertown in 1870.


Dinosaurs at Boswells

If you are in the mood for more dinosaurs have a look at our great selection of dinosaur themed toys. Also, don't forget to have a look at our amazing display window with the Iguanadon head from the Natural History Museum. Why did the dinosaur cross the road? Why to get to Boswells of course!

Visit the Museum

Oxford University Museum of Natural History is open daily, 10am - 5 pm, and admission is free. This year, the Museum has been chosen as one of six finalists in the prestigious Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2015. The annual prize, which is widely regarded as the most prestigious award for UK museums, surveys galleries and museums across the UK and selects those which have demonstrated exceptional creativity and ambition over the past twelve months. The winning museum will be announced on 1 July. Good luck! Take a walk through Oxford University Museum of Natural History - watch the video:



main image © Julius Csotonyi

4th June 2015

Back to news