Pterosaur Depictions in Ancient Art: Contenders or Pretenders?

Posted by Chris Parker
Sep 05 2006

 

Here we present several pieces of ancient art, which we believe may depict examples of several types of pterosaurs, an indication that these creatures lived with the artists that recreated them.

Finding these crratures in ancient art isn’t easy (if we’ve found any) because the modern likenesses of these creatures have been guess-timated from mostly incomplete fossils.

It’s quite possible that some depictions from ancient art could be entirely accurate but go unnoted because the modern depiction is in fact, inaccurate.

For instance, Pterodactylus Kochi, one of the most common pterosaur fossils is most often drawn without a head crest. However, as can be seen from a fossil example below, recently it has been surmised that they did in fact have a head crest. You can find both versions on the internet, but we think the version with a head crest might be the pterosaur represented by the Cameroun and Scrimshaw pieces below. (on the article page) It’s of course entirely possible that some of them were crested and others were not.

There are so many types of pterosaurs, that making an identification of a particular “type” is difficult. As we’ve said, they are apparently like dogs in their variety of size, shape and physical characteristics.

Also, of course, there are possible misidentifications because of birds with similar characteristics. Among the “pretenders” are peligans and herons. If the ancient art under examination includes a distinctive head crest or batlike wings, it certainly assists with the identification of a pterosaur. Also, we are not aware of any birds (at this time) that have a distinctive prong or notch on their hindskulls as we find on some of these pieces.

We present here a few more pieces of ancient art and let you determine if they in fact are pterosaur contenders-or pretenders.

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