Fossil bones of dinosaur Iggy the Iguanodon go back on display at Maidstone Museum

By Richard Moss | 31 May 2014

One the most significant dinosaur discoveries of the Victorian period, Iggy the Iguanodon, goes back on display at Maidstone Museum

an old sketch of dinosaur bones
Original sketch of the Maidstone Iguanadon© Maidstone Museum
The bones of a dinosaur whose discovery enabled palaeontologists to figure out the anatomy of the mighty Iguanodon have gone back on display for the first time in ten years in the county where they were first discovered by a Victorian quarry owner.

Iggy the Iguanadon has always been a popular feature of Maidstone Museum and this week the original cast of the exact arrangement of the Iguanodon bones - as they were found by Mr WH Bensted - have taken pride of place in the Kent Earth Heritage Gallery.

A herbivore that lived from the late Jurassic Period to the late Cretaceous Period the dinosaur is estimated to have weighed about 3.5 tons and reached a length of up to 13 metres.

Its fossilised skeleton was unearthed in 1834 during the excavation of a quarry in the Queen’s Road area of Maidstone. Quarry blasting uncovered what appeared to be a bone from an animal of tremendous size and after careful investigation by Bensted, it was found to be one piece of a partial skeleton. A skeleton of an Iguanodon.

The Museum holds Benstead’s notebook which records his momentous discovery along with sketches:

“The remains of the Iguanodon were discovered by one of the workmen blasting the layer with gunpowder, the bore being placed in the middle of a rise, or mound in the stone,” wrote Bensted.

“The separation of the mass was so complete, that some parts were thrown by the force of the powder to a considerable distance, and a month had elapsed before I had fitted the fragments together in their relative places.”

Fortunately Bensted interest and dedication conserved most of the fossil and he “sketched the mass as far as it went”. 

His efforts were not in vain as the "bone bed" became one of the first dinosaur fossils to be identified as such – a fossil – by Gideon Mantell (1790 – 1852).

“The fact that Maidstone Museum has the cast of the exact fossil which helped Mantell work out how an Iguanodon fitted together is amazing,” says the Museum’s Interpretation Manager Amy Adams.

“The actual bones themselves are housed in the Natural History Museum but our cast is intriguing as it shows how the bones lay when they were discovered, you can just imagine the amazement of Bensted when he discovered it.”

Iggy the Iguanadon is part of a collection of 40,000 fossils at Maidstone Museum, which is contains over 660,000 artefacts and specimens.

Regarded by many as one of the best regional museums in the South East, its treasure trove of objects includes extensive Anglo Saxon, art, sculpture, ceramics collections and the medals and memorabilia from the Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regimental collection.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

More pictures:

a rough sketch of a large lizard with annotations
an original hand sketch of an Iguanadon by Bensted the quarry owner© Maidstone Museum
an old notebook with the words Geology of Maidstone
Benstead's notebook © Maidstone Museum
a drawing of a dinosaur skeleton
The Iguanadon Skeleton© Courtesy Maidstone Museum
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Latest comment: >Make a comment
Perhaps it's interesting to note that the fossil, the famous "Mantell-Piece", is no longer considered to belong to Iguanodon. Some scientists refer it to Mantellisaurus and it has also be named a genus of its own, Mantellodon.
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