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The Dinosaur Mystery at Angkor Wat

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Photograph showing a Stegosaurus carved into the ancient walls of Angkor Watt

During the 12th Century AD there was some epic temple building being undertaken by the Khmer followers (Hindu native people) of King Suryavarman II, at Angkor Wat, Siem Reap Province, Cambodia. Originally built as a Hindu temple complex, the remains of Angkor Wat are now significant to the Buddhist religion and its image appears on the Cambodian national flag. Angkor Wat is now a major tourist attraction and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some eagle-eyed visitors have noticed an anomaly in a courtyard in the Rajavihara (now called Ta Prohm) temple, where there is a vertical column of stone carvings depicting animals and birds. One of the carvings looks very much like a dinosaur called a Stegosaurus, and therein lies a mystery.

When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth

Dinosaurs roamed the Earth over 200 million years ago and it's thought that they were wiped out during the nuclear winter following an asteroid strike around 66 million years ago. Dinosaur existence was unearthed during the 17th Century, but no-one (in western civilisation, at least) realised what the massive bones and fossil remains actually were. The word 'dinosaur', meaning 'terrible lizard', was invented by the British scientist Sir Richard Owen (1804-92) in 1842. The term 'Dinosauria' was used to describe the first three dinosaurs to be discovered - William Buckland's Megalosaurus and Mantell's Iguanodon and Hylaeosaurus, when it was thought during the Victorian era that all dinosaurs were from the same family of gigantic four-legged reptilian land creatures. We now know that was false thinking. Today the word 'dinosaur' is an umbrella term used to describe prehistoric creatures that lived on land, in the sea, or in the air. There were no humans around then to catalogue these events; all our knowledge comes from fossil records, and we're still discovering new dinosaur species today.

Jurassic Megastar

The Stegosaurus was a herbivorous quadruped that lived during the Jurassic Period over 150 million years ago. The remains of one was discovered in Wyoming by Othniel Charles Marsh in 1877 - while it lived it must have been a fearsome sight, armour-plated along its back and a hugely-spiked tail for defence. The creature had weighed approximately five tonnes - that's comparable to an African bull elephant. A lumbering great beast which was best left alone; even carnivorous dinosaurs such as Allosaurus would probably have given it a wide berth for fear of injury.

Cambodian Stegosaurus

We have established scientifically that humans and dinosaurs did not co-exist on Earth, although fantasy encounters between them make for good reading and visual enjoyment. But is it possible that dinosaurs were known about, perhaps many centuries earlier than accepted, by devout people in Asia? Was the Angkor Wat sculptor displaying artistic flair1, or did ancient Hindus actually know of the existence of dinosaurs some eight centuries before modern palaeontologists 'discovered' them? Perhaps Hoax or Fact has a definite answer? Nope, they declare: 'Possibly Fact. Ancient Hindus Possibly Carved the Stegosaurus Dinosaur'. In the interest of balance, Creationists believe that all creatures, including dinosaurs and human beings, were created at the same time (Genesis 1:24-31) by God, so they won't worry about the dinosaur carving. We will leave it up to the reader to form their own opinion, or just enjoy the mystery of the Cambodian Stegosaurus.

1It could be a boar depicted in front of a rising or setting sun, maybe.

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