Colorado dinosaur discoveries – Theiophytalia

Theiophytalia skull
The Theiophytalia was named after the Garden of the Gods, where the dinosaur skull was first discovered in 1878. Confirmation of the find, however, did not come until 2006. | Photo by Anky-man /


The Theiophytalia is a recent dinosaur discovery, though it is based on a partial skull that was found by Colorado College professor James H. Kerr east of the Garden of the Gods Park outside Colorado Springs in 1878.

The skull was turned over to paleontologist Othniel Marsh in 1886, and he wrongly identified it as being from a Camptosaurus because he assumed the skull came from the Morrison Formation and the Jurassic era.

The skull was stored at the Peabody Museum at Yale University until 1997, when it was loaned to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science so that casts could be made for the museum and park.

Ken Carpenter, a paleontologist at the Denver museum, noticed several irregularities in the skull and, based on further study with museum volunteer Kathleen Brill, determined it to be from a different dinosaur from the Cretaceous era about 112 million years ago.

In 2006, Carpenter and Brill named the dinosaur Theiophytalia, or or “belonging to the gods,” after the park where it had been discovered more than a century earlier.