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Smithsonian, National Museum of Natural History


Triceratops at the Smithsonian

Artist reconstruction of Triceratops

An artists reconstruction of Triceratops, based directly on the virtual Triceratops. (artwork by Robert Walters)

Triceratops was a member of the plant-eating Ornithischian dinosaur group called the Marginocephalia, so named because of the architectural modifications that grace the rear of its skull. It lived 70 to 65 million years ago, and was one of the very last dinosaurs before they all became extinct 65 million years ago.

The original fossil was found in Wyoming in the 1880s, during the time of the great dinosaur discoveries in the American West. Hauled out of its quarry by horse-drawn wagon and shipped on the new Transcontinental Railroad , it was brought east from Wyoming and set up in the Smithsonian.

Original skeletal mount of Triceratops

The original skeletal mount of Triceratops, which premiered in 1905 at the Smithsonian. This was the world's first mount of a horned dinosaur. Years of experiencing heat, humidity, and vibration while on display had damaged the original bones, leading to this project.


Triceratops has been on display in the Smithsonian Institution since 1905. It was the first mounted Triceratops in the world and as such has stood as the idea of what a Triceratops should be. The original mount included skeletal elements from over a dozen different individual Triceratops, some of which weren't the same size and gave us bones that were too small for the skeleton. It also contained several sculpted elements that technicians made by hand, and the foot bones of a different dinosaur, a duckbill dinosaur, to replace missing Triceratops bones. We discovered recently that after nearly a century on display, enduring vibration and changes in heat and humidity, the Triceratops bones desperately need conservation.

Triceratops at the Smithsonian  |  Conservation  |  Computerizing Bones  |  Digital Dinosaur  |  Home

Walk sequence of the virtual Triceratops
A walk cycle of the virtual Triceratops

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