Town Aims to Honour Gideon Mantell with a Life-size Dinosaur Monument

An ambitious project to install a life-size iguanodontid in the town of Lewes (East Sussex, England), to commemorate the work of one of the most important contributors to the early study of dinosaurs, is gathering pace.  The dinosaur-themed monument would act as a fitting tribute and memorial to Dr Gideon Mantell who made such a significant contribution to the nascent science of palaeontology in the early part of the 19th Century.  Mantell was born in the town of Lewes (1790), for most of his adult life, he dedicated his spare time to studying the amazing fossilised bones of ancient vertebrates that were being found in the local quarries. Mantell is credited with the discovery of the second dinosaur to be scientifically described (Iguanodon) and many of Mantell’s fossils are now part of the Natural History Museum’s dinosaur fossil collection.  Internationally renowned model maker, Roby Braun has been commissioned to create a 7-metre-long model of an iguanodontid (Mantellisaurus), to honour the work of this dedicated and disciplined scientist whose research was never really given the plaudits that it deserved during his lifetime.

Gideon Mantell (1790-1852)

Gideon Mantell.

Gideon Mantell (1790-1852).

The endeavour, entitled “The Lewes Dinosaur Project” will be officially launched at the Lewes Fossil Festival that starts this weekend (16th/17th September).  Suggestions are being invited as to where best to locate the 3-metre-high dinosaur monument.  Debby Matthews, of the community interest company working on the proposals commented:

“It will be pretty large and will need a stable base where it can be viewed.  There will be a plaque with it describing the links between Gideon Mantell (or his wife), finding the first teeth and bones of an unknown, ancient land animal.”

Local Newspapers Cover the Story

Gideon Mantell newspaper article.

Gideon Mantell article.

Picture Credit: Sussex Express

Mantellisaurus – Revising the Iguanodonts

The giant, plant-eating dinosaur that Mantell described (Iguanodon), was a member of a highly successful and diverse family of dinosaurs (Iguanodontidae), that had a global distribution and formed one of the dominant terrestrial faunas of the Early Cretaceous (although the group did persist until the very end of the Age of Dinosaurs).  As more fossils of iguanodontids have been described, so the “English Iguanodon”, identified by Mantell has been reassessed, the holotype fossil material for Iguanodon (I. bernissartensis) now comes from Belgium.  However, in 2007 the genus Mantellisaurus (M. atherfieldensis) was erected and includes iguanodontid fossil material from the Wessex and Vectis Formations of southern England and the Isle of Wight.  The genus name honours Dr Gideon Mantell.

Comparisons of Different Iguanodonts

Skeletal comparisons (iguanodontids)

Iguanodontid comparisons. D. bampingi is regarded as Nomen dubium.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur from original skeletal drawings by Gregory S. Paul

Gideon Mantell Honoured in the Hintze Hall of the Natural History Museum (London)

Earlier this year, Everything Dinosaur reported on the refurbishment of the main hall at the London Natural History Museum.  “Dippy” the popular Diplodocus exhibit was replaced with a Blue Whale skeleton.  However, in one of the “Wonder Bays” that surrounds the enormous cetacean, there is a dinosaur.  The spectacular Hintze Hall displays a mounted skeleton of a Mantellisaurus.  The specimen (NHMUK R5764), is one of the most complete dinosaur skeletons ever found in the British Isles and it is fitting that the Natural History Museum should pay tribute to the contribution made by Dr Gideon Mantell in this way.  Now it’s the turn of the town of Lewes to set about honouring one of its most famous former residents.

The Mounted Skeleton of Mantellisaurus on Display at the Natural History Museum

Mantellisaurus on display.

Mantellisaurus on display in the Hintze Hall.

Picture Credit: The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

Weekend Fossil Festival

The model on which the dinosaur would be based can be viewed at the two-day Fossil Festival (16th/17th September).  A screening of the ground-breaking Steven Spielberg directed, “Jurassic Park” will take place at 4pm Saturday afternoon as part of the dinosaur themed festival activities.

On Sunday, the Linklater Pavilion in the town will be hosting a range of dinosaur related, family-themed activities as the community aims to raise the profile of the project.

The Fossil Festival Flyer

Mantell Fossil Festival flyer.

Gideon Mantell Fossil Festival flyer.

Picture Credit: Debby Matthews

The website of the Lewes Dinosaur Project: The Lewes Dinosaur Project

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