Zoo Chorzów, or the Silesian Zoological Park, is positioned a stone’s throw from the centre of Katowice within the Higher Silesia area of southern Poland. The zoo was based on its present location in 1954, as a part of the Socialist-era post-mining growth of a giant metropolis park additionally together with an amusement park, a planetarium, a sports activities centre and an artwork gallery. And there’s dinosaurs.
The Dinosaur Valley part of the zoo, or the Kotlina Dinozaurów, was completed in 1974. Initially, there have been sixteen fashions representing seven species: Tarbosaurus, Nemegtosaurus, Saurolophus, Protoceratops, Saichania, Prenocephale and Gallimimus. You’ll discover these are all Mongolian taxa. These dinosaurs had been all constructed to commemorate the succesful Polish palaeontological expeditions into Mongolia within the sixties and early seventies, lead by Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska, for it’s she.
Who, I fail to listen to you ask? We’ve all been sleeping on Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska (an Jap-European lady forgotten by historical past? Perish the thought) however you’re positively aware of a few of her discoveries. That well-known fossil of the Velociraptor and Protoceratops locked ceaselessly in mortal kombat? That was her what discovered that. Today it’s principally Roy Chapman Andrews who’s related to Mongolian dinosaurs, however Kielan-Jaworowska deserves as a lot if no more credit score in the case of our information concerning the prehistoric Gobi desert. I’ve ordered certainly one of her books on-line final winter, but it surely appears to have gotten misplaced within the mail. If I ever do get it I would share my ideas right here.
I’ve been looking out the net far and vast, grinding web page after Polish web page by means of Google Translate, fruitlessly looking for out who was the designer behind the dinosaurs, till I spotted I used to be considering improper. These had been inbuilt communist occasions, when the collective triumphs over the person. The nice working folks of Silesia had been the authors behind these artworks, and that’s the story we should go along with. Niech żyje rewolucja!
(However learn the feedback!)
What I wish to know, and couldn’t discover out, is that if Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska herself had any enter within the design and look of the dinosaurs. Having handed away in 2015 at a venerable age, sadly we are able to now not ask her. I’ve cause to consider the designers behind these fashions had been had been paying a minimum of some consideration to the sience and the fossils. Learn on.
The dinosaurs had been constructed out of metal mesh and cement, in no way dissimilar from the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs. These are, in fact, not almost as outdated, however nonetheless closing in on 50 years. Fairly respectable, all in all. The truth that they weren’t made from fibreglass lends them a sure gravitas.
The dinosaurs stood for over 20 years of their unique states. In 2000 and once more in 2009 the entire space obtained an replace, with the dinosaurs getting new paint jobs and a few new, extra fashionable (and fewer fascinating for our functions) fashions being added.
To today, all sixteen unique dinosaur fashions stay at their unique spots, however they’ve been joined by a fibreglass T. rex head, an Edaphosaurus bench and a few Neanderthals. Additionally a complete bunch of greenery has grown in.
These had been all of the historic images I might discover.
So anyway. I went to Poland. Possibly I ought to have led with that.
I arrived at Zoo Chorzów a number of days into my journey, a bit knackered from strolling from my lodgings in Katowice and spending the morning and early afternoon driving the curler coasters on the close by amusement park. Nonetheless, I used to be decided to see these classic dinosaur fashions for myself, and to take some footage dwelling.
Strolling by means of the Kotlina Dinosaurów is like strolling by means of historical past. These are huge statues, colossal, monolithic representations of how dinosaurs had been seen within the days of the Warsaw Pact. Fairly unbothered by Western affect, they’re each unusual and acquainted to our eyes. On the opposite facet of the border, Zdeněk Burian was on the top of his fame and it’s in his custom these fashions needs to be positioned. Somebody I confirmed them to referred to as them barely grotesque, however then once more, the identical is perhaps mentioned of Burian’s work.
Two of the sixteen unique fashions are of Tarbosaurus. That is the primary one you see upon getting into the valley, threatening a Gallimimus (the opposite is within the background). They’ve three fingers, a considerably humanoid stance, blocky heads and, like the entire greater fashions, dragging tails. But there’s additionally a modernity to them, expressed by means of their dynamic poses. They’re clearly energetic, harmful predators moderately than the lumbering sluggers that, for example, Bev Halstead was suggesting tyrannosaurs to be round this time. The 2000 paint jobs gave them slit-pupil snake eyes. That’s a little bit of a trope and we should always most likely retire it, but it surely does give each of them a full of life character absent from the Gallimimus, whose eyes are simply glazed-over orbs. Not all dinosaurs are created equal.
There are two extra Gallimimus, each a lot smaller than the one above. This one has the low-slung fleeing posture with the outstretched neck. Once more, care has been taken to make this one look quick and dynamic.
The third Gallimimus is much more demure, with its head touching the bottom. I don’t know what the concept behind this one was. It’s turned the improper approach round to be consuming (historic images present me it was at all times on this spot, so it hasn’t been moved or something). Is it consuming, sleeping, placing its head within the sand like an ostrich doesn’t? If the Polish indicators clarify it I couldn’t learn them. All the fashions are exhibiting indicators of wear and tear and tear, but it surely’s fairly noticable with this one, the options on its head all however eroded away.
Nothing towers over the pathways like a sauropod, and the 2 sauropods listed below are the rarely-seen Nemegtosaurus. It was a brand-new species, discovered and described by the Polish workforce, so seeing it right here most likely isn’t that a lot of a shock. The selection to signify solely Mongolian dinosaurs is paying off. That is the one standing round idly. The opposite one is getting attacked, however we’ll get to that one. The Edaphosaurus bench was added in 2009, I consider. These newer additions do add a contact of kitsch to this monolithic dinosaur valley.
Nemegtosaurus is, famously, recognized solely from a cranium, and you recognize what? They’ve accomplished a fairly good job reconstructing it. If you recognize your dinosaurs, the blocky head and the far-up, massive eyes will look very recognizable. That is what leads me to suppose that the workforce behind these statues did have an skilled on board, or a minimum of truly paid consideration and appeared on the fossils. This was on no account a given within the seventies! Against this, the arms and toes aren’t nice, even for the time. However we don’t have a submerged sauropod right here; it stands fimly on land, similar to the opposite Nemegtosaurus.
Old-fashioned hadrosaurs have a tendency to attract the brief straw, however this Saurolophus is fairly cool. Its dramatic pose over the pond is a bit heroic, even. The paintjob from 2000 is tasteful and delicate, however does emphasize the crest. A believable alternative. This one has been given distinguished cheeks, virtually jowls. That appears to be a pattern that comes and goes. You possibly can’t fairly see it right here, however its arms are webbed; an odd outdated trope that refused to die.
The second, smaller Saurolophus fares much less properly. Its face has extra exaggerated “duck invoice” options, although the wrinkles on its face give it numerous character. It’s precisely the correct measurement for youths to climb on, which they do with out hesitation. Its crest appears to have damaged off.
Solely Saichania, the ankylosaur, has been given a single mannequin. It was on the time freshly-found however not but descibed by Kielan’s workforce, so it is a cutting-edge mannequin and it holds up surprisingly properly. Once more, the form of the cranium is admittedly fairly spot-on and the rings of armour across the creature’s neck are very properly noticed. In comparison with the belly-dragging scolosaurs that had been nonetheless being drawn up and sculpted en masse round this time, that is an especially good ankylosaur from the seventies and one of many highlights of the attraction.
The one factor that appears clearly outdated concerning the Saichania is its girth, or lack thereof. It’s a remarkably lean fellow, its total physique form extra like a monitor lizard lifting itself up than the barrel-shaped tank it could have been. That is excusable – little was recognized of Saichania‘s postcranial morphology.
In fact, you possibly can’t assist however discover Protoceratops in Mongolia. There’s 4 of them in whole. These three are grouped collectively, all with a barely totally different crest form. The odd factor about them, aside from their scrawny, lizardly frames by present requirements, is the tooth. Protoceratops have numerous tooth and the sculptors have elected to indicate them as little fangs protruding of their higher jaw, a really curious alternative. The paint job from 2000 once more does a superb job of remaining low-key whereas emphasizing the animal’s show options.
Considered one of Kielan’s most well-known finds, the Combating Dinosaurs of Mongolia, has been given this magnificent interpretation, that means Velociraptor makes a cameo look. It’s headless. Its head might be meant to be buried within the sand, like Protoceratops‘ foot. Are they meant to be sinking in quicksand? By the way, I feel that is the most effective wanting of the 4 Protoceratops.
Prenocephale doing the same old pachycephalosaur factor. Like Nemegtosaurus, Gallimimus and Saichania, Prenocephale was a brand new Polish discover. See how a lot we’ve to thank Zofia Kielan for? You’ve most likely observed how worse for put on a few of the fashions are, and the correct Prenocephale has sadly misplaced a part of its head.
Lastly, these two titans are among the many hottest of the dinosaur fashions; it was arduous to get images with out folks swarming round. No fences or something separate the paths from the dinosaurs, nothing discourages you from getting up shut. It is a Tarbosaurus launching itself full-on into the neck of Nemegtosaurus. You like to see it. The blood on the tooth is a 2000 addition, however the implied motion, the way in which the large shock of the affect is communicated by means of these concrete colossi, is sort of exceptional.
The pose of the sauropod is qute complicated and appears awkward from some angles. Its left entrance leg is swung up within the air, its proper entrance leg transferring beneath it as its weight is being shifted by the affect from the carnivore. It’s a consequence of trying to create, in metal and concrete, a scene as dynamic and explosive as this. The dragging tails from each animals barely let the facet down, however which may merely be a necessity to hold all that weight.
It’s fascinating how expressive the animals are, with out being too anthropomorphized. Even with the snake pupils, there isn’t any malice within the tyrannosaur’s eye, simply reptilian indifference. It is a good angle, however up shut you possibly can see there’s some lacking tooth and different lacking bits, leaving holes of rotting concrete of their place. Time and the weather are taking their toll, in addition to the fixed touching from the guests.
After rounding up the dinosaurs of Kotlina Dinosaurów, which galvanized me for a lot of causes, I took my abused, blistered toes for a lap across the zoo and was handled to shows from monkeys, giraffes and elephants, in addition to a small however lovely aquarium. Round 4 o’ clock, the rains got here in and I spotted I had accomplished all I had wished to do in Poland. I’m positive I’ll be again sometime. The entire Silesian Park complicated alone has a complete trip’s value of issues to do.
I need to go away you with some parting ideas. Allow us to forged our minds again to our latest dialog on the podcast with Mark Witton on the unsure destiny of the a lot older Crystal Palace Dinosaurs. There’s an fascinating dialogue there concerning the dividing line between what’s cultural heritage, value preserving, and what’s dated kitsch that may be safely relegated to the scrap heap as soon as the time for brand new developments comes (or when they’re dilapidated past saving). The standing of the CP Dinosaurs as the previous is in fact past query, however in different circumstances the road can get blurry certainly. Marc Vincent introduced up the unique dinosaurs of Blackgang Chine on the Isle of Wight, additionally stemming from the Nineteen Seventies. These had been not too long ago unceremoniously scrapped to make room for extra fashionable however much less distinctive dinosaur fashions. Are you able to make the case that these goofy issues had been value saving? Did the administration of Blackgang Chine commit an act of vandalism?
What, then, about these Silesian dinosaurs? Are they sufficiently old, particular sufficient, essential sufficient, useful sufficient to maintain round for an additional fifty or hundred years? If they’re, certainly they want higher care than they’re getting proper now. If Chorzów Zoo stays its present course, these fashions will proceed to say no till they go the way in which of the Blackgang Chine dinosaurs and are changed by, in the most effective case, some generic Wolter Design fashions.
Possibly that’s merely the pure order of issues. Possibly you possibly can’t, metaphorically, protect the whole world in formaldehyde. Now, folks pose near, and incessantly on high of, the dinosaurs with their youngsters. Children mess around them, contact them, climb them. There’s no fences, no guards telling them off. Possibly there may be some worth to that, as properly. However for those who, like me, need to see the dinosaurs of Silesia within the flesh, I recommend you do it sooner moderately than later.