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 Japanese-European girl forgotten by historical past? Perish the thought) however you might be positively acquainted with a few of her discoveries. That well-known fossil of the Velociraptor and Protoceratops locked endlessly in mortal kombat? That was her what discovered that. Lately it’s largely 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 in regards to the prehistoric Gobi desert. I’ve ordered one in every of her books on-line final winter, nevertheless it 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 extensive, grinding web page after Polish web page by means of Google Translate, fruitlessly searching for out who was the designer behind the dinosaurs, till I spotted I used to be considering flawed. These had been inbuilt communist instances, 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 together 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 will not ask her. I’ve cause to imagine the designers behind these fashions had been had been paying not less than 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, after all, not practically as previous, however nonetheless closing in on 50 years. Fairly respectable, all in all. The truth that they weren’t product of fibreglass lends them a sure gravitas.
The dinosaurs stood for over twenty years of their authentic states. In 2000 and once more in 2009 the entire space acquired an replace, with the dinosaurs getting new paint jobs and a few new, extra trendy (and fewer fascinating for our functions) fashions being added.
To this present day, all sixteen authentic dinosaur fashions stay at their authentic spots, however they’ve been joined by a fibreglass T. rex head, an Edaphosaurus bench and a few Neanderthals. Additionally an entire bunch of greenery has grown in.
These had been all of the historic pictures 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 peak of his fame and it’s in his custom these fashions ought to be positioned. Somebody I confirmed them to known as them barely grotesque, however then once more, the identical is likely to be mentioned of Burian’s work.
Two of the sixteen authentic 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 slightly 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, nevertheless it does give each of them a vigorous 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 thought behind this one was. It’s turned the flawed manner round to be ingesting (historic photographs 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 displaying indicators of wear and tear and tear, nevertheless it’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 staff, 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 imagine. These newer additions do add a contact of kitsch to this monolithic dinosaur valley.
Nemegtosaurus is, famously, identified solely from a cranium, and you already know what? They’ve executed a reasonably good job reconstructing it. If you already know your dinosaurs, the blocky head and the far-up, massive eyes will look very recognizable. That is what leads me to assume that the staff behind these statues did have an knowledgeable on board, or not less than really paid consideration and regarded on the fossils. This was under no circumstances a given within the seventies! In contrast, the arms and ft aren’t nice, even for the time. However we don’t have a submerged sauropod right here; it stands fimly on land, identical to the opposite Nemegtosaurus.
Old style 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 selection. This one has been given outstanding cheeks, virtually jowls. That appears to be a pattern that comes and goes. You’ll be able to’t fairly see it right here, however its arms are webbed; a wierd previous trope that refused to die.
The second, smaller Saurolophus fares much less effectively. Its face has extra exaggerated “duck invoice” options, although the wrinkles on its face give it a whole lot of character. It’s precisely the proper dimension 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 staff, so this can be a cutting-edge mannequin and it holds up surprisingly effectively. Once more, the form of the cranium is basically fairly spot-on and the rings of armour across the creature’s neck are very effectively 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 in regards to 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 might have been. That is excusable – little was identified of Saichania‘s postcranial morphology.
In fact, you’ll be able to’t assist however discover Protoceratops in Mongolia. There’s 4 of them in complete. 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 selection. The paint job from 2000 once more does 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 one of the best wanting of the 4 Protoceratops.
Prenocephale doing the standard 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 seen how worse for put on a few of the fashions are, and the proper Prenocephale has sadly misplaced a part of its head.
Lastly, these two titans are among the many hottest of the dinosaur fashions; it was onerous to get pictures with out folks swarming round. No fences or something separate the paths from the dinosaurs, nothing discourages you from getting up shut. This can be 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 best way the large shock of the influence is communicated by means of these concrete colossi, is sort of exceptional.
The pose of the sauropod is qute advanced and appears awkward from some angles. Its left entrance leg is swung up within the air, its proper entrance leg shifting beneath it as its weight is being shifted by the influence from the carnivore. It’s a consequence of making an attempt 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 that 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. This can be a good angle, however up shut you’ll be able to 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 ft 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 executed all I had needed to do in Poland. I’m positive I’ll be again sometime. The entire Silesian Park advanced alone has an entire trip’s value of issues to do.
I wish to go away you with some parting ideas. Allow us to solid our minds again to our current 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 in regards to 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 spanking new developments comes (or when they’re dilapidated past saving). The standing of the CP Dinosaurs as the previous is after all 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 Seventies. These had been lately unceremoniously scrapped to make room for extra trendy 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, precious sufficient to maintain round for one more 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 best way of the Blackgang Chine dinosaurs and are changed by, in one of the best case, some generic Wolter Design fashions.
Possibly that’s merely the pure order of issues. Possibly you’ll be able to’t, metaphorically, protect the whole world in formaldehyde. Now, folks pose near, and regularly 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 effectively. However if you happen to, like me, wish to see the dinosaurs of Silesia within the flesh, I recommend you do it sooner slightly than later.