Kielan-Jaworowska, Zofia | Hunting for Dinosaurs

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  • First English language edition of this important and copiously illustrated account of the major Polish-Mongolian Palaeontological Expeditions by their leader, Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska (1925-2015). Originally published in Polish under the title Polowanie na Dinozaury, and translated by the Israel Translation Society.

    As a teenager in occupied Poland, Kielan-Jaworowska enrolled in clandestine classes at the University of Warsaw and served as a medic in the Polish resistance. In 1945 she began volunteering at Warsaw’s Zoological Museum where she met leading vertebrate palaeontologist Roman Kozłowski, who supervised her master’s and doctoral research on the fossils of marine invertebrates.

    The Polish-Mongolian expeditions, three of which Kielan-Jaworowska led between 1963 and 1971, resulted in the excavation of thirty-five tons of fossils. They “added greatly to our understanding of the diversity of dinosaurs. The material collected in those few years provided material for major portions of the careers of five or six Polish scientists” and “the scientific descriptions of dinosaurs that soon began to flow from the expeditions were almost exclusively written by Polish women, women who up to then had published on Paleozoic invertebrates” (Dodson, ”Polish Women in the Gobi – In Loving Memory of Halszka Osmólska”, American Paleontologist, Vol. 16, No. 3, Fall 2008).

    Among the “spectacular discoveries” were “Late Cretaceous vertebrates (about 80 million to 75 million years old) in the Nemegt Basin, including the 'fighting dinosaurs' (a kick-boxing Velociraptor locked in a death pose with a plant-eating Protoceratops), the awesome forelimbs of Deinocheirus (an ostrich dinosaur) and the mammal specimens she would go on to study. Nothing stood between Kielan-Jaworowska and her work: in 1971, having suffered a ruptured eardrum during a Gobi sandstorm, she travelled back to Warsaw for surgery, and then returned immediately to resume field work. As fossils from the expeditions came pouring in, she navigated cold-war roadblocks to establish ties with leading Western scholars, notably those in Britain, France and the United States, anticipating political glasnost (openness) by a good two decades. She built a science network from her hub in Warsaw, with spokes running to research programmes worldwide. For a discipline built mainly on the study of fossil teeth and jaw fragments, Kielan-Jaworowska's discoveries were a game-changer. Because of their stunning completeness, the species she painstakingly collected and described have become points of reference in the study of early mammals” (Cifelli, “Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska (1925-2015)”, Nature volume 520, number 158, 2015).

    Hunting for Dinosaurs is a detailed account of the expeditions, from preparation to travel, the day-to-day work of the palaeontologists, and their interactions with locals. It is particularly well illustrated, with numerous photos of the excavations in progress, landscapes, team members, and Mongolian people and historic sites.

  • ...Translated from the Polish. Cambridge, MA & London: MIT Press, 1969.

    Oblong quarto. Original black cloth. With the dust jacket. Illustrations from black and white photographs throughout. A little spotting and rubbing to the cloth, faint toning and some small spots to the endpapers. A very good copy in the jacket, which is rubbed as usual, and has some small spots, a few small chips, and short closed tears repaired with tape on the verso.