Mythology Busters Debunk That Dinosaurs Impressed Historical Griffin Folklore

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By Calvin S. Nelson

A scholarly article as soon as proposed that the griffin — a mythological beast with a raptor’s head, a lion’s physique, and eagle’s wings — was created by historical prospectors stumbling upon a dinosaur fossil whereas trying to find gold in Central Asia.

However one thing concerning the argument didn’t really feel proper to Mark Witton, a paleontologist on the College of Portsmouth in England, who with a colleague, now debunked the research over 30 years later in an Interdisciplinary Science Opinions article.

The Standard Griffin Legend

The thought, whose seed was planted by folklorist Adrienne Mayor in a 1989 Cryptozoology paper entitled, Paleocryptozoology: a name for collaboration between classicists and cryptozoologists, germinated within the public’s creativeness. It grew after the publication of Mayor’s 2000 e book The First Fossil Hunters, then turned a component of extra books, documentaries, and museum displays.

On one hand, the speculation’s foundation is commendable as a result of it entails artwork historical past, folklore, archeology, and paleontology. However on one other, it entails defective assumptions about these interdisciplinary foundations — then takes big leaps of logic about their connections.

Take the prospector principle. Griffins of legend had been mentioned to be guarding gold, however no Protoceratops fossils have been discovered below a couple of hundred miles from the closest gold deposits.

“In the event that they had been gold prospectors, they had been means off target,” says Witton.

There’s additionally no file of fossils resembling Protoceratops being present in historical instances. And there’s no option to hint the griffin legends from Central Asia to their first identified origins in Egyptian and Center Jap artwork 6,000 years in the past, by no means thoughts to their peak recognition in historical Greece in the course of the eighth century B.C.

Learn Extra: The Lore and Legends Behind 3 Medieval Monsters

Debunking the Mythology

Then, connecting all these potential claims turns into unrealistic. “It turns into a really lengthy chain of compounding hypothesis,” Witton says.

Witton and colleague Richard Hing, additionally a College of Portsmouth paleontologist, embarked upon a scientific have a look at the proof that fueled the speculation. They examined historic fossil information, investigated the places of Protoceratops fossils, and consulted classics students in addition to historians and archeologists to look at the speculation’s foundations. No particular person premise — a lot much less your complete logic chain connecting them — withstood the scrutiny.

Even essentially the most important — that an historical nomad would come upon a complete intact Protoceratops — approaches the absurd. A up to date paleontologist typically begins a discovery by discovering a small little bit of bone poking out of rock. Their experience informs them whether or not it could be a noteworthy specimen. Then they fastidiously excavate utilizing specialised instruments and methods.

“All we will say is, in the present day, fossils are tough to search out and they’re tough to extract,” says Witton. “We will’t assume that was any completely different hundreds of years in the past.”

Learn Extra: What Are Fossils and The place Are They Discovered the Most?

Dinosaur vs. Griffin

Additionally, the Protoceratops fossil doesn’t look notably griffin-like. Each creatures have 4 legs and a beak, however that’s just about the place the similarities finish. Even when a fortunate prospector did stumble upon an intact fossil, the timeline of the griffin’s emergence in each artwork historical past and historical literature doesn’t monitor with the time of the theoretical paleontology discover.

And there are not any information speaking the invention of a Protoceratops fossil, nor of that discovery’s information spreading from Central Asia to Egypt, then Greece.

Regardless of debunking this specific principle, the authors stress that fossils have been culturally vital all through human historical past and have impressed folklore.

“You will need to distinguish between fossil folklore with a factual foundation — that’s, connections between fossils and fantasy evidenced by archaeological discoveries or compelling references in literature and art work — and speculated connections primarily based on instinct,” Hing mentioned in an announcement.

Learn Extra: One-Eyed-Trying Mammoth Fossils Might Have Impressed Origins of the Cyclops

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Earlier than becoming a member of Uncover Journal, Paul spent over 20 years as a science journalist, specializing in U.S. life science coverage and international scientific profession points. He started his profession in newspapers, however switched to scientific magazines. His work has appeared in publications together with Science Information, Science, Nature, and Scientific American.

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