Greetings all. Every child with a rough grasp of what life was like in Late Jurassic North America probably knows the Morrison Formation’s main characters. If such a child were to be asked to name the meat-eaters from that formation, the name Ornitholestes would definitely pop up, likely somewhere around third or fourth place.
Ornitholestes was a 6-foot long coelurosaurid theropod dinosaur that lived in western North America during the late Jurassic Period, 155-145 MYA. It is commonly depicted scampering about in the forest, or along the edge of the forest, or sneakily hiding in the shadows out of sight of the larger predators. With the likes of Allosaurus and Torvosaurus stomping around, it’s easy to see why paleo-artists have relegated little Ornitholestes to a bit-part on the Jurassic stage.
But I like to think that Ornitholestes‘ part was much bigger in the never-ending drama of Mesozoic life. Let’s look at its body. I’ve already stated that it was 6 feet long and was therefore about 2 feet tall – large enough to bite you on the knee. It likely weighed a hundred pounds or a smidge less than that – certainly not more. Its skull is worth looking at. Contrary to what has been commonly portrayed, it DID NOT have a little Ceratosaurus-like crest on the end of its nose. That mistake was made when a dislocated bone was mis-identified as a nasal crest. The skull was thin and deep, like a battle axe, and based upon its structure and that of its neck, it likley had a very strong bite. The teeth are small, but they are rather thick in cross-section. A powerful bite and thick teeth? This makes Ornitholestes sound like a precursor to the tyrannosaurs, and no wonder, because the tyrannosaurs are, in fact, highly-evolved coelurosaurs – the same group that Ornitholestes belonged to. The eye sockets on this baby were huge, so it is likely that Ornitholestes was a nocturnal hunter. As for its body, it was a bit on the muscular stocky side, so it was physically strong. It was equipped with long arms ending in three hook-like claws on each hand, and it had a long tail. We can also be fairly sure that Ornitholestes had a coat of thin whispy fur-like feathers on its body since other coelurosaurids that were more primitive and more advanced that Ornitholestes had feathers.
So what can we determine? It was strong for its size, its jaws could crack through eggshells and small bones, it could run, and it could grapple. In short, Ornitholestes was the hyena of the Jurassic savannah.
Hyenas are nothing to laugh at (I’m sorry, that was bad). Hyenas have a reputation for being scavengers, likely because they are commonly seen picking at the leftovers of the lions’ dinner, and because their jaws are the strongest jaws pound-for-pound of any meat-eating animal on the African plains – good for cracking through thick bones of carcasses. But in reality, hyenas are effective hunters as well. They are pack hunters, like lions or wolves, and it’s not unusual to see a gaggle of them, panting and bare-teethed, running down a zebra or a wildebeest.
Was Ornitholestes the same way? Unfortunately, fossils rarely provide evidence for animal behavior. The fact that Ornitholestes fossils are so rare doesn’t help matters. But I dare say that these carnivorous critters were a serious threat to dinosaur mothers who had eggs to protect, they likely did significant danage to hatchlings, they preyed upon smaller animals like thick-boned mammals, and assuredly were seen scavenging carcasses left by other larger meat-eating dinosaurs.
A while back, I drew a picture of Ornitholestes and posted it to this blog. However, it was an “old school” picture portraying Ornitholestes covered in scales. I have recently made an updated version, and I’m posting that image below.
In addition to the feathers, I’ve also slightly altered the shape of the skull to be a little more accurate. I always try to improve my work, and I dare say that a few years from now after my skills have improved further, I’ll make a drawing of this guy that’s even better than the one you see here.
Keep your pencils sharp, people.
I know that it’s been a while, but here is my latest addition of paleo-art to this blog. Behold – Alamosaurus, a behemoth of a sauropod that roamed Texas during the late Cretaceous Period. Alamosaurus was a member of the “titanosaur” family, which is more well-known from species found in South America, Europe, and Africa. No complete skeleton of Alamosaurus has ever been found, so we only have a rough idea about what it looked like, and we’re not even sure how big it was when it was fully grown. The most common estimate that I’ve seen is that it was somewhere around 65 – 70 feet long, but it might have been bigger than that.
Because no complete specimen of Alamosaurus has been found, you’re going to see a lot of variation in paleo-art reconstructions of this animal. From what I’ve gathered, a lot of the pictures that are visible on the internet these days are inaccurate. Alamosaurus had a massively thick neck, but its tail was not correspondingly long or massive. The presence of osteoderms along its back are a guess, since other titanosaurs, notably Saltasaurus, were known to have had them.
Hello all. A week ago, I attended the Thunderbird Mid-Summer Pow Wow which takes place at the end of July at the Queens County Farm Museum. I have been coming to this place, and the associated Green Meadows Farm Petting Zoo (which I originally thought was part of the QCFM, but later learned that it’s an entirely separate organization) ever since I was in pre-school. Chances are if you went to pre-school or elementary school here in Queens, New York, that around October you came to this place for some pumpkin picking. I enjoy coming here for the special events that they host, and among them is the yearly gathering of the Indian tribes from across the Americas to represent and honor their heritage – from Canada to Ecuador, and everywhere in between.
As a historian specializing in tribal cultures from ancient times to modern times, I feel that behooves me to come to events like this as often as I can in order to keep up my credibility as a historian and quasi-anthropologist. Also, I just love coming here purely for it’s own sake – I greatly enjoy coming to this place, I enjoy the “rendezvous” like atmosphere, and of course, I love the music and the dances. The food isn’t bad either!
The pow wow was a three-day event, and I arrived on saturday July 30. The weather was forecasted to be pretty bad that weekend, and on Friday, the first day of the festivities, it poured. When I arrived on Saturday, the sky was gray and heavy, and there were warnings that there would be occassional showers throughout the day.
Although it’s called a “museum” the QCFM is working farm where they grow crops and raise livestock. In fact, it is the last fully-operational farm left in all of Queens County. It’s a large place, and the pow wow events were confined to the front portion of the farm where the gate and most of the buildings are. The center and rear of the farm were pretty isolated, aside from a few farm workers and some families looking at the animals in their pens.
I enjoy walking amidst the gardens and crop fields. As I’ve said in previous posts on this blog, although I’ve lived my whole life in the city, I’ve always been more of a country person at heart, and this place allows me a certain amount of escapism.
Just beyond the gardens is the cornfield. they grow the corn in the form of a maze which is then enjoyed by the children during autumn. When I was there, the corn stalks were five and a half feet high, up to my chin.
You’re probably expecting me to post pictures of the pow wow celebrations, but I deliberately took NO pictures of this. The dancers, musicians, and story-tellers that were present here have strong feelings about having their pictures being taken. Remember, these people are not tourist attractions. They are people deserving of respect, and I felt that it would not be appropriate to be snapping pictures of people when they don’t want to be photographed. Besides, in this age when everyone who attends a concert records it on their smartphone rather than sitting back and enjoying the show, I am adamant in not allowing technology to get in the way of an immersive sensory experience. So, no photos. Don’t like that? Tough.
Behold my masterpiece.
This is the fifth T. rex drawing that I’ve posted to this blog, and it is the hardest drawing that I have ever had to make. Every individual scale was done by hand, one by one. This drawing took me months to finish. To give you a better idea about the utterly insane amount of detail, the actual drawing of the dinosaur itself from the tip of its nose to the tip of its tail measures precisely 24 inches. Most of the drawn scales measure at only one millimeter in diameter.
As you can see, it is done in the same pose as my previous two full-body T. rex drawings, but I made some noteable improvements:
- Slightly changing the shape of the skull – my original one looked a little too much like Tarbosaurus rather than Tyrannosaurus.
- Not making the face as shrink-wrapped as the original head drawing was.
- Making the neck more detailed and fuller.
- Changing the position of the hands to be more anatomically correct.
- Making its body fatter – the original was too skinny.
- Making the tail thicker and fatter to properly counter-balance the now-heavier front half of the body.
- Changing the shape of the feet.
This drawing was made on several sheets of 8.5 x 11 printer paper, with just an ordinary No. 2 pencil…and a whole lot of patience.
A while back, I asked you, the reader, if you had any requests for articles and artwork that you would like me to do, but I received no reply. However, I recently looked at the search terms that come up on this blog’s administration page. Most of the terms concern subjects that I’ve already written about or illustrated, but there were a few others on subjects that I haven’t touched yet, or have only just alluded to. Terms which showed up frequently were (in order of frequency):
- Alamosaurus (12)
- Caenagnathus / Chirostenotes (9)
- Pterosaurs (8)
- Liopleurodon (7)
- Mosasaurs (6)
- Dakotaraptor (5)
- Velociraptor (in color) (5)
- Suchomimus (4)
- Carnotaurus (3)
- Oviraptor (3)
Others caught my interest as potential future art or writing projects, including:
- Allosaurus courting
- Allosaurus head
- Allosaurus walking
- Dinosaurs of Texas
- Dracorex head
- Iguanodon head
- Pachycephalosaurus keeping shelter
- Triceratops eating
- Tyrannosaurus juvenile
- Lacrimal horns on dinosaurs
- Mesozoic turtles
- What dinosaurs lived on Long Island?
The last three sound like interesting research projects. Anyway, based upon what I have seen, I think that I can gauge what you would like me to do. So, I’m treating these statistics pretty much like a to-do schedule. Right now, I’m really hammering on a super-detailed drawing of a full-body T. rex, which I hope to have finished within one or two weeks, and then put up here for you to admire and comment on. After that, I’ll focus on the items on these two lists – the “frequency list” will take priority. I’m happy to say that some of these terms are on things that I’ve had in the back of my mind for a while, so this will give me the impetus to do them. Take care everybody, and keep your pencils sharp.
Louis Antoine de Bougainville (November 12, 1729 – August 31, 1811) was a French scholar, military officer, and explorer. He was a brilliant mathematician, gained fame for himself fighting in the French and Indian War, he became the first Frenchman to circumnavigate the globe, and he conducted an extensive exploration of the South Pacific. Bougainville Island, where a ferocious battle took place during World War II, is named after him.
This is a drawing as he would have looked in his 20s during his service in the French and Indian War as a captain in the French Army and as the aide-de-camp to Gen. Louis Joseph, Marquis de Montcalm. Made using a combination of No.2 pencil, colored pencils, and markers. The portrait that you see is based upon several existing portraits of him from later in life (none of them being full portraits), especially his distinctive blue coat with the gold Celtic-style braiding.
For more info, read the following:
Two years ago, the first edition of my history book Four Days in September: The Battle of Teutoburg was published by Trafford Publishing. Since then, my book has been taken on by a well-known military history publisher based in Britain called Pen & Sword Books. Now, the book’s second edition, which is much more accurate and full of new information that wasn’t available two years ago, has been released. I just received my complimentary author’s copies of the books in the mail today, and I’m happy.
If you or somebody that you know likes ancient Roman history, German history, or military history in general, then order a copy of Four Days in September: The Battle of Teutoburg, 2nd Edition today! Available on Amazon!
Chasmosaurus was a common genus of ceratopsian dinosaur found in North America, especially Alberta, Canada circa 75 MYA. This creature is so recognizable due to its rectangle-shaped frill that it has given its name to a whole slew of other ceratopsians that are related to it – the “chasmosaurine” ceratopsians.
Made with regular No. 2 pencil on plain white printing paper. The actual drawing of the creature from the tip of the beak to the tip of the tail measures just a smidge over seven inches. Scanned at 600DPI to show as much of the detail as possible.
Keep your pencils sharp, everybody.
I just now hashed out a sketch of the famous Early Permian pelycosaur Dimetrodon – specifically, this is Dimetrodon grandis, one of the largest North American species, measuring at 10 feet long. There’s been a bit of buzz about this wide-ranging genus in recent weeks due to a new species discovered in Canada.
For more info on Dimetrodon, click here:
Today marks the 100th anniversary one of the most important dates in modern European history. On the Monday after Easter in 1916, a group of young heavily-armed men dressed in military uniforms stood outside the front doors of the General Post Office in central Dublin. There, one of their number, a young poet named Podraigh Pearse (the name is often Anglicized as Patrick Pearse), read a document called “The Proclamation of the Irish Republic”. In front of a curious and ever-growing crowd, he called for full and complete independence from British rule, which had existed in Ireland since the Middle Ages. Then, taking up defensive positions within the post office and elsewhere in the city, Pearse and his fellow rebels awaited the inevitable British military response. What happened next has become a core part of Irish history and cultural legend.
In its immediate sense, the Easter Rising was a failure – all of the defensive positions were taken by British forces and the ringleaders were executed. However, it marked a sea change in Irish nationalism. Previous Irish rebellions had been essentially one-offs, flaring up and then being supressed, with many decades of down-time taking place between each independence attempt. In one circumstance, a whole century went by without any hostilities. However, after 1916, many Irish now made a concerted effort to drive the British out of Ireland for good. This resulted in the rebellion which finally culminated in Irish independence in 1922. I’m certain that the 100th anniversary of Irish independence in 2022 will result in massive celebrations seen throughout the country.
Since the Easter Rising of 1916 is clearly seen by many as the initial spark that led to Ireland becoming free after nearly 800 years of British rule, the 100th anniversary of this event is being marked with great celebration within Ireland itself and amongst Irish populations elsewhere. PBS has regularly been airing programs about this event, a play was created commemorating it, and Irish and British news media have been crackling with item pieces on this event and how it has effected modern Anglo-Irish politics. Both the Easter Rising and its anniversary are important historical and cultural milestones, especially for the people of the British Isles, and I’m happy to see that there has been a lot of conscious media attention on it.
I wish that I could say that there was more, especially in the United States, where the mainstream media don’t seem all that interested in such things. I remember that the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg in 2013 received minimal media attention. The 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War in 2015 received hardly any attention at all, and the 250th anniversary of the passing of the Stamp Act of 1765, also in 2015, which many people see as one of the defining moments in the move towards American independence from Britain, received absolutely NO RECOGNITION WHATSOEVER! To a historian like myself, this is nothing short of deliberate historical and cultural extermination, a detestable process in which the hallmarks of people’s history are ignored or discarded in favor of other things which we are brainwashed into thinking are more important. The reason for this is disturbingly simple – nobody in the US really gives a damn about such things anymore. In today’s fast-paced tech-obsessed reality TV-obsessed society, things like history are seen as boring and irrelevant. I once worked with someone who hated history because, in her words, “it’s of no use to me now”. I can’t stand it when people have this mindset of “if it doesn’t benefit me personally, I don’t need it”. In a way, I can understand this way of thinking. Really, are all of those names and dates really important to your normal day-to-day affairs? Probably not. However, as the old saying goes, those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. When people lose sight of their own cultural heritage, it makes it all the easier for them to be manipulated and molded by those who are in power, either at home or abroad. I’ve been seeing this for years with the emergence of so-called “sheeple”.
In Europe, including Britain and Ireland, history is a living breathing thing. It’s a palatable thing in the air and earth. In America, I don’t see this. I see people who are only concerned with the present and the future, and give little to no thought about the past. No wonder that college and university history programs are dying all across this country. No wonder that having a history degree is considered useless when looking for a job. What will happen in 2025 when America has the 250th anniversary of the beginning of the Revolutionary War? Or in 2041 with the 100th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor? Sure, there will probably be a handful of quick news items on it, and maybe a few special edition magazines seen on news stands, but aside from that, I dare say that these upcoming important anniversaries will be acknowledged by a collective shrug. People in the US will take a quick note of this, say something like “Oh, that’s interesting”, and then move on to what they were doing before and give no thought to it for the rest of the day.
For me, this is sad. I place great value on history and historical memory. I’m sure a lot of other people in the United States do too, but for the most part, I don’t see it. I see people who are losing sight of their historical heritage more and more with every passing year. Is it any wonder why we’ve been seeing platitude-spouting demagogues taking center stage in American politics? When history is forgotten, history can get twisted around to suit other people’s ends. American historical memory is being constantly re-written so that people here imagine that things played out differently than they actually did. Incorrect facts are being constantly touted as cold hard truth. Historical characters are cast in exclusive good/bad, black/white relationships to each other with no gray area in between. TV channels, such as “The History Channel” of all things, have replaced informative programming with, well let’s be frank, bullshit. The History Channel, which by the way is no longer called that, is now dominated with programs on aliens, rednecks, Alaska, the Bible, doomsday, and Nostra-fucking-damus.
I look at all of this for what it is – the gradual eroding of history, the altering of historical memory, and by extension the manipulation of culture. In Europe, history is alive and well. In America, it’s dying.