The Carnegie’s Colossal Collecting

Excavations continued from 1909 on with semi-regular shipments being made to Carnegie Museum. Carnegie Museum was interested in pursuing patenting on the ‘Carnegie Quarry Placer Claim.’ The case which Douglass filed to the General Land Office was unusual as fossils were not officially listed as a placer deposit nor as a mineral entry, thus the case was denied.

Relentlessly, Douglass appealed, citing the General Land Office’s policy that mineral entries must have “economic value for use in the sciences,” which he argued described the fossils being excavated. Despite this clever tactic, the Carnegie Museum would again be denied the claim (Beidelman, 1956).

Men Excavate at Dinosaur National Monument

However, after the land surrounding the quarry was designated as a National Monument by Woodrow Wilson in 1915, the Carnegie was granted a permit to continue excavations at the quarry. The Carnegie would request the renewal of this permit annually, until the cessation of their excavations in 1923 (Beidelman, 1956).

The Carnegie Museum added an unprecedented amount of dinosaur fossils to their vertebrate paleontology collections during the excavations at the Carnegie Quarry of Dinosaur National Monument. Bones of Late Jurassic dinosaurs excavated from the Carnegie Quarry can be seen in museums throughout the United States and even the world. A right femur of Diplodocus longus excavated by the Carnegie Museum, is on exhibit in the South African Museum in Cape Town (McIntosh, 1981).


DNM blacksmith shop (office)

Although Carnegie Quarry would eventually be molded into a completely novel in situ exhibit, the now mounted skeletons that were found excavated from the quarry have fueled the imagination of  generations of museum visitors who have felt dwarfed by these “terrible lizards” in exhibit halls. The Carnegie excavations were not only revolutionary to the field of vertebrate paleontology, but they also illuminated the cultural icons that are dinosaurs.

Douglass, G.E. 2009. Speak to the Earth and It Will Teach You: The Life and Times of Earl Douglass 1862-1931. Book available on Amazon

McIntosh. Annotated Catalogue of the Dinosaurs (Reptilia, Archosauria) in the Collections of Carnegie Museum of Natural History. 1981. Available through Carnegie Museum

As an open science, open source initiative, all fossil data and many of the records and images on this website are licensed in the public domain. However, not everything has the same license, so please check for license information in the caption or metadata before use. Dinosaur National Monument mural artwork, including the full-color illustrations of dinosaurs and other animals, is owned by the National Park Service and may be used freely for non-commercial purposes with the credit: "NPS Artwork by Bob Walters and Tess Kissinger."

For fossil fans who code or design, there are also a number of ways to be a part of the Digital Quarry Project. To contribute, visit our GitHub project page.