Ta Prohm temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia, hides a dinosaur

The Tomb Raider Temple's Hidden Dinosaur

The Tomb Raider Temple's Hidden Dinosaur

Atlas Obscura
Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
March 27 2014 9:46 AM

The Hidden Dinosaur of Ta Prohm Temple

Whoa, wait. Is that a stegosaurus in the middle?

Photo: Dennis Jarvis/Creative Commons

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Stegosaurs roamed Europe and North America during the late Jurassic period, roughly 150 million years ago. Judging from a small carving in an Angkor temple, one or two may have spent some time in Cambodia, too — in the 12th century AD.

A carving on the wall of the Ta Prohm temple, built in the late 1100s, bears more than a passing resemblance to the round-backed dinosaur. Since a 1997 guidebook first pointed out the strange carving, creationists have held up the Ta Prohm dinosaur as proof that humans and stegosauruses once co-existed in Cambodia. There is even a replica of the carving on display at the Creation Evidence Museum in Glen Rose, Texas.


While the carved animal does seem to have a row of plates along its spine, it's not the most compelling argument for revising the prehistoric timeline. The bas relief could be a depiction of a rhino or chameleon, with the "plates" forming a stylized version of foliage. But the curious carving adds another element of intrigue to the gorgeously ruined Tomb Raider temple.

More dinos to discover:

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Ella Morton is a writer working on The Atlas Obscura, a book about global wonders, curiosities, and esoterica adapted from Atlas Obscura. Follow her on Twitter.