IMAGE: A dinosaur leg bone on display in Zhengzhou, in China's central Henan Province, on Tuesday.
EyePress via AP
Visitors look at a dinosaur leg bone on display in Zhengzhou, in China's central Henan Province, on Tuesday. Parts of the 18-meter dinosaur were dug up and eaten by locals as traditional medicine, scientists said Tuesday.
updated 7/5/2007 2:33:31 AM ET 2007-07-05T06:33:31

Villagers in central China spent decades digging up bones they believed belonged to flying dragons and using them in traditional medicines. Turns out the bones belonged to dinosaurs, and now scientists are doing the digging.

Until last year, the fossils were being sold in Henan province as “dragon bones” at about 25 cents a pound, scientist Dong Zhiming said Wednesday.

The calcium-rich bones were sometimes boiled with other ingredients and fed to children to treat dizziness and leg cramps. Other times they were ground up and turned into a paste applied directly to fractures and other injuries, he said.

Dong was part of a team that recently excavated in Henan’s Ruyang County a 60-foot-long plant-eating dinosaur that lived 85 million to 100 million years ago. The find was shown to the public Tuesday.

Dong said that when the villagers found out last year the bones were from dinosaurs, they donated 440 pounds to him and his colleagues for research. Over the last two decades, the villagers had dug up an estimated 1 ton of bones.

“They had believed that the ’dragon bones’ were from the dragons flying in the sky,” said Dong, a professor with the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

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