While always keeping an eye forward to the future, Popular Science has had a fixation with all things prehistoric. Here, a look back through the archives at a selection of curated articles from the 1930’s, 40’s and beyond on everything from tar pit fossil traps to prehistoric humans.
Check out the gallery, and the Land of the Lost trailer, here!
The American Museum of Natural History has always been the world’s premier natural history museum, and when their renovated dinosaur exhibit reopened in 1995, Popular Science was there to cover it.
Cave Machine Helps Find the First American
To uncover the remains of 25,000-year-old campsite, archeologist Frank Hibben had to get a little creative. According to this 1942 Popular Science article, Hibben set up a special pump at the mouth of the cave to remove the dust, exposing artifacts that, at the time, represented the oldest evidence of human habitation in America.
Back in the days before computer graphics, if you wanted to see dinosaurs, you actually had to go to a museum. And in 1987, you could see more than just bones. That year a massive dinosaur road show toured the country, featuring life reconstructions and vivid paintings.
World’s Biggest Trap Yields Bones of Prehistoric Animals
For millennia, tar pits in California trapped all manner of creature in their gooey embrace. However, bad luck for animals like that squirrel is great luck for paleontologists, who, in this 1937 article, turned the tar trap into a one-stop fossil shop.
Found: Wonders In A Secret Cave
While the caves in Lascaux, France, have the best-known cave paintings in the world, new examples of Stone Age art have been discovered recently, as well. In this 1995 article, Popular Science explored newly discovered paintings in Gotto Chauvet, France.
Dinosaurs, Biggest Of Them All?
In 1997 the dinosaur heavy weight predator division got even more crowded with the discovery of Giganotosaurus, an 8-ton meat eater and one of the largest terrestrial predators in the history of the planet.
Dinosaurs: A Missing Link
The discovery by an Argentinian team of new dinosaur fossils in Antarctica in the February of 1993 caused scientists to reconsider what they previously thought they understood about the way in which the continents separated long ago.
Of Elephants and Dinosaurs
In this 1997 article, Popular Science compared the decline of elephant populations to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Unfortunately, since elephants are still with us, the most notable aspect of the article is the mistake in the second sentence that misidentifies the date of the extinction of the dinosaurs by 5 million years.
FYI: Time Travel
In this issue of Popular Science, we noted the irony in asking “when” with regards to time travel… It still hasn’t happened (except in the movies), but you can put money on our coverage of it (that and any jet packs).
After 75 million years encased in rock, the dinosaur Parasaurolophus started singing again, thanks to some modern medical technology. As Popular Science reported in 1996, researchers at Sandia National Laboratory and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History ran the dinosaur skull through a CAT scanner, and then used the digital image as a blueprint for reconstructing Parasaurolophus‘ tuba-like crest.
Explorers Hunt Prehistoric Animals in Lost Worlds
Back in the days when some areas of the globe remained unexplored, this 1937 article chronicled the push of scientific exploration during the inter-war period. While definitely a ripping yarn, not all of this article would hold up to modern fact checking.
The Physics of Time Travel
In 2002, CalTech physicist Kip Throne re-examined some work by Albert Einstein and Nathan Rosen on black hole bridges now popularly known as wormholes. Thorne calculated that traveling through a wormhole would allow someone to skip a couple million years of space flight and end up at the other side of the universe. Of course, there’s still no going back in time.
Ice-Age “Zoo” Lives
Remember those California tar pits that served as one stop fossil shops for the scientists? Well, models of the fossilized creatures were formed from those fossils and turned into a very unique “zoo” back in 1944.
The Dinosaur Hunter
Back in 1996, paleontologist (and member of the 1997 edition of People’s Most Beautiful People) Paul Sereno discovered a giant carnivorous dinosaur that rivaled the T-rex in size. He found it in Morocco, and named it Carcharodontosaurus.
Oldest Known Dinosaur
Discovered by Paul Sereno, Herrerasaurus still ranks as one of the oldest dinosaurs ever found. A small meat eater, Herrarasaurus lived about 230 million years ago.