And now for something completely different!
The world has seen a long and illustrious legacy in which two outstanding things are combined to make a third, even more outstanding thing: Han Solo and Chewbacca. Computers and Motors (robots). Rum and Coke. The Avengers. Space and anything. And of course, sword-chucks.
I recently learned from my advisor that (in kind of old news) we can add Greek Myths and Dinosaurs to that list. If that doesn’t make your heart rate go up, you should just stop reading. Since I’ve been kind of enamored of both those subjects since before I could read (dinosaurs) and just after I could read (Greek myths) the news certainly made my heart skip a beat.
In short, the theory is that fossils unearthed by the tectonically active landscape of Greece itself inspired many creatures of Greek mythology. There’s apparently been a book about it for more than a decade that I’m embarrassed to have never heard about.
There are oodles of fun fossil-based explanations: Gold-guarding griffons? Pterodactyls found in gold mines. Cyclopses? Mastadon Skulls. Titans? Enormous Thigh bones. Just my speculation, but I bet you could make an argument for fossils inspiring hippocamps, dragons, chimeras and all sorts of other beasties as well.
The idea of fossil inspired myths makes a great story. Perhaps too great. Historical explanations that come in such neat baskets set off my historian-hat warning-clarions. Perhaps fossils seeded some myths. Perhaps the Greeks made fossils fit in with existing myths. Perhaps some paleontologists and historians met in a dark room and plotted to make me excited for no reason.
It’s important to keep in mind that we are all suckers for a good story that seems to fit the facts. But regardless of how complete the story is, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t enjoy them as long as we keep in mind that they are in fact, stories.