The Smithsonian and The University of Utah Eager to Excavate


The Carnegie Museum of Natural History would begin the process of forfeiture of permission to excavate at the Dinosaur National Monument quarry in late 1922. The Smithsonian had aspirations of obtaining a mounted skeleton cast of a Diplodocus from the Carnegie Museum, but was denied personally by Andrew Carnegie himself (Beidleman, 1956). The National Museum would eventually fulfill those aspirations, but not until after Carnegie’s cessation of quarry work.

The Carnegie left in place two partially excavated skeletons of Diplodocus at the quarry, No. 355 and No. 340. Dr. Charles Gilmore of the National Museum would supervise the excavation of No. 355 from May 15th to August 8th of 1923. The remains of Diplodocus that would eventually be mounted in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History arrived in Washington D.C. via railroad later that year (“Giant Fossil Reptile Taken To Capital”, 1923).


The University of Utah had been anxious to participate for years in the excavations at Carnegie Quarry. Dr. Pack of the University’s Geology Department wrote United States Senator Reed Smoot requesting that the Senator help authorize the University of Utah to excavate. Smoot redirected this request to National Park Service Director Arno Cammerer, but nonetheless the University of Utah would be delayed in having access to the quarry (Beidleman, 1956).

On August 28, 1923, the Department of the Interior granted permission to the University of Utah to excavate, alleviating dissension among Uintah Basin locals that the fossil treasures of the state were being taken away (Beidleman, 1956). Earl Douglass of the Carnegie Museum would supervise the excavations until April 1924, when supervision was transferred to University of Utah Paleontologist Golden York.



Although only a year in duration, the University of Utah excavations were surprisingly productive.  Specimen No. 340, a Diplodocus, which had been left by the Carnegie Museum, and was located partially under No. 355, the Diplodocus specimen that had been shipped to the Smithsonian. A Stegosaurus specimen and an Apatosaurus specimen were also excavated. Possibly the most remarkable specimen recovered was a reasonably complete Allosaurus skeleton with a complete and articulated skull (“University of Utah Colleciton”).

After the excavations were completed, nineteen covered wagons filled with the bones of Jurassic beasts traveled to Salt Lake City, where they would end up in the center of town, parading the fossils down State Street, and then to the Utah Museum of Natural History. Utah’s iconic dinosaurs, which had been transported across the country for years, were finally in the hands of their home state (“A Dinosaur Caravan”, 1924).

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