Did Ancient Man See Dinosaurs? These Carvings and Artifacts Say Maybe

By Karen Harris

A carved relief of what is believed to be a Stegosaurus dinosaur at the ancient Khmer temple of Ta Prohm, part of the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia. (Photo by Jim Dyson/Getty Images)

The dinosaurs died out millions of years before the rise of humans…at least, that’s what most people believe. But there are some curious carvings, drawings, and figurines found all around the world that are alleged to be created by ancient cultures. Amazingly, these seem to show images of dinosaurs, and are so accurate that it makes us wonder, did ancient people see living dinosaurs? Or are these artifacts elaborate hoaxes meant to call into question the long-held theories about the age of the earth and the animals from prehistory? Let’s examine a few of them. 

The image of an alleged Stegosaurus (seen on the previous slide) can be seen at one of the temples at Angkor Wat.

The Angkor Wat Stegosaurus

The largest temple complex in the world, Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, when it was built in the 12th century, was a Hindu temple honoring Vishnu, but it later became a Buddhist temple. Ta Prohm, a temple on the Angkor Wat site, has an out-of-place carving that has attracted a lot of attention. It seems to show a living stegosaurus. The carving is a side view of the animal and shows a series of plates running down its back, in much the same way that was present on the stegosaurus. Naysayers point out that the body of the animal actually looks like a rhinoceros, rather than a stegosaurus and they theorize that the inclusion of the back plate was nothing more than artistic flair on the part of the carver. Still, the Angkor Wat stegosaurus is an interesting anomaly. 

The Acambaro Figurines of Mexico

An enormous cache of ceramic figurines was discovered in 1944 by a German immigrant named Waldemar Julsrud in Mexico. But Julsrud didn’t want to dig them out of the ground himself so he hired a local farmer to do the back-breaking work and offered to pay him a per piece rate. What the farmer uncovered was an amazing collection of pieces, many of which appeared to be dinosaurs. Some of the pieces were carbon dated when they were first unearthed and the results showed the pieces were made in 2500 BC. If authentic, the figurines seemed to show that ancient people living in what is now Mexico had knowledge of a wide range of dinosaur species. Subsequent dating efforts, however, point to a different conclusion…that the farmer, eager to keep the money flowing from Julsrud, crafted the majority of the figurines himself, or with the help of friends. 

The Ica Stones of Peru

A set of carved stones found in Peru in the 1960s, the Ica Stones are shallowly-carved andesite rocks that depict designs consistent with the Nazca or Inca cultures. While most of the stones show images of the plant and animal life of the area, a few of them have remarkably-detailed dinosaurs on them. Other stones are equally puzzling, showing medical procedures that were not known at the time they were alleged to have been carved, including a heart transplant and a cesarean section. At one time, the local rancher who found the Ica Stones confessed to carving them himself, but he later claimed it was a false confession made only because he feared he would be arrested and jailed for selling archeological artifacts. Nonetheless, the etchings of dinosaurs on the Ica Stones have puzzled people for years. 

The Anasazi Dinosaur Petroglyph of Utah

In Utah’s Natural Bridges National Monument, there are numerous petroglyphs etched into the rock faces by the Anasazi people, Native American who lived in the region as early as 1500 BC. Today’s Pueblo, Hopi, and Zuni people are descendants of the Anasazi. Many of the petroglyphs created by the Anasazi are curious and debatable, but none more so than the Anasazi dinosaur. Found under an impressive natural rock formation in the Utah park, the image seems to show a diplodocus, a four-legged dinosaur that went extinct more than 65 million years ago. Opponents of the dinosaur petroglyph claim that the image is that of a snake and the legs that are below the animal are nothing more than stains and weathering in the rock face. But because Utah has been the location of several excavated dinosaur fossils, the Anasazi drawing does make visitors wonder if the ancient people knew about the existence and extinction of the great dinosaurs. 

The Mesopotamian Cylinder Seal of Iraq

Cylinder seals are a common artifact from antiquity. The carved cylinders were used to stamp impressions into wet clay that would later harden. In Uruk in ancient Mesopotamia, in the area we now call Iraq, one particular cylinder seal shows something much different than the images of robed monks and animals that are found on other cylinders. This cylinder seal has a carving of two dinosaurs with their long necks intertwined. The presence of a dinosaur-like animal is astonishing enough, but the heads of both dinosaurs seem to match with the fossilized skulls of extinct dinosaurs. Dark shadows on the images match up to eye sockets and ear holes on the bones of the animals. Is it possible that the people of ancient Mesopotamia encountered living dinosaurs? Or did they try to imagine what the living animal would look like based on fossilized skeletons that were found in the area? 

Young Earth Creationists Use Ancient Dinosaur Drawings As Proof

The religious movement known as Young Earth Creationism contends that the Earth was created exactly as explained in the Bible and that the notion that the planet is millions of years old is incorrect. Proponents of this doctrine also believe that every animal joined Noah on the Ark during the great flood…including dinosaurs, which they insist, lived alongside ancient man. For the YEC, or Young Earth Creationism, followers, ancient depictions of man with dinosaurs is proof that the two species co-existed when the Earth was first created by God. 

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Karen Harris


Karen left the world of academic, quitting her job as a college professor to write full-time. She spends her days with her firefighter husband and four daughters on a hobby farm with an assortment of animals, including a goat named Atticus, a turkey named Gravy, and a chicken named Chickaletta.