Teeth of a Megalosaurus, from a book by William Buckland

Ann Ronan Picture Library

Early Dinosaur Discoveries

In 1677, Robert Plot, an Oxford professor, described the bottom portion of a huge dinosaur thigh bone of Megalosaurus in The Natural History of Oxfordshire, though he thought it was from a giant human. Almost 90 years later, this bone was illustrated in an academic paper on British natural history.

Dinosaur trackways, or fossilized footprints, are more common than dinosaur bones and there are many in the Connecticut Valley in New England. In the early 1800s, a farm boy named Pliny Moody described birdlike tracks of many shapes and sizes in a rock slab in South Hadley, Massachusetts. He called them traces of "Noah's raven." Later, the Reverend Edward Hitchcock wrote about these and other tracks. He thought they were the footprints of giant prehistoric birds.