Friday, June 17, 2011

Geomythology - Part III

Today I wanted to talk about another aspect of geomythology (see Part I and Part II here).  Here are some more examples of "A geologic feature or phenomenon which has inspired a folklore explanation."

Adrienne Mayor is a researcher who has published a lot on "folk science", the intersection between science and folklore - specifically how some pre-scientific cultures have interpreted fossils. Two interesting books she has written are The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times and  Fossil Legends of the First Americans.

Imagine you lived a few thousand years ago farming in what's now China and found something similar to the following fossils:

Might you not imagine the following animal?

This is a picture of me about 10 years ago next to some mastodon bones found in Hyde Park, NY.

What might you think if you found a giant femur (thigh bone) like this thousands of years ago?  Would it be unreasonable to think it belonged to a giant?

Some have even speculated that Pleistocene pygmy elephant skulls, like those found in places like Sicily, may have inspired legends of cyclopes due to the large hole in front of the skull where the trunk attached.

Might a protoceratops fossil have inspired the legendary griffin?

Interesting to speculate about, probably impossible to show conclusively.

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