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The First Fossil Hunters: Dinosaurs, Mammoths, and Myth in Greek and Roman Times,9780691150130

The First Fossil Hunters: Dinosaurs, Mammoths, and Myth in Greek and Roman Times

by
ISBN13:

9780691150130

ISBN10:
0691150133
Format:
Paperback
Pub. Date:
3/27/2011
Publisher(s):
Princeton Univ Pr
List Price: $18.95

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Summary

Griffins, Cyclopes, Monsters, and Giants--these fabulous creatures of classical mythology continue to live in the modern imagination through the vivid accounts that have come down to us from the ancient Greeks and Romans. But what if these beings were more than merely fictions? What if monstrous creatures once roamed the earth in the very places where their legends first arose? This is the arresting and original thesis that Adrienne Mayor explores inThe First Fossil Hunters. Through careful research and meticulous documentation, she convincingly shows that many of the giants and monsters of myth did have a basis in fact--in the enormous bones of long-extinct species that were once abundant in the lands of the Greeks and Romans. As Mayor shows, the Greeks and Romans were well aware that a different breed of creatures once inhabited their lands. They frequently encountered the fossilized bones of these primeval beings, and they developed sophisticated concepts to explain the fossil evidence, concepts that were expressed in mythological stories. The legend of the gold-guarding griffin, for example, sprang from tales first told by Scythian gold-miners, who, passing through the Gobi Desert at the foot of the Altai Mountains, encountered the skeletons of Protoceratops and other dinosaurs that littered the ground. Like their modern counterparts, the ancient fossil hunters collected and measured impressive petrified remains and displayed them in temples and museums; they attempted to reconstruct the appearance of these prehistoric creatures and to explain their extinction. Long thought to be fantasy, the remarkably detailed and perceptive Greek and Roman accounts of giant bone finds were actually based on solid paleontological facts. By reading these neglected narratives for the first time in the light of modern scientific discoveries, Adrienne Mayor illuminates a lost world of ancient paleontology. As Peter Dodson writes in his Foreword, "Paleontologists, classicists, and historians as well as natural history buffs will read this book with the greatest of delight--surprises abound."

Author Biography

Adrienne Mayor is the author of Fossil Legends of the First Americans; Greek Fire, Poison Arrows, and Scorpion Bombs; and The Poison King, which was a finalist for a National Book Award in 2009. She is a research scholar in classics and history of science at Stanford University.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. ix
Introduction to the 2011 Editionp. xiii
Acknowledgmentsp. xxix
Geological Time Scalep. 2
Introductionp. 3
Historical Time Linep. 11
The Gold-Guarding Griffin: A Paleontological Legendp. 15
Earthquakes and Elephants: Prehistoric Remains in Mediterranean Landsp. 54
Ancient Discoveries of Giant Bonesp. 104
Artistic and Archaeological Evidence for Fossil Discoveriesp. 157
Mythology, Natural Philosophy, and Fossilsp. 192
Centaur Bones: Paleontological Fictionsp. 228
Large Vertebrate Fossil Species in the Ancient Worldp. 255
Ancient Testimoniap. 260
Notesp. 283
Works Citedp. 333
Indexp. 351
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.


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