Feature Article - May 2002
by Do-While Jones

Dinotopia

“Few subjects have captured our imagination as entirely as the lost world of the dinosaur. But what if dinosaurs had not vanished entirely? What if today, hidden somewhere on Earth, there’s a mysterious land where dinosaurs still not only exist, but coexist with man?” - Michael Eisner, Head of Walt Disney

Given the question that Michael Eisner asks, it is tempting to begin this essay in Rod Serling’s style:

Meet Adrienne Mayor, an evolutionist whose passions include history and paleontology. These last two interests have combined to lead her on a fascinating journey. She thinks she is traveling from Greece through Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan, to southwestern China; but, in point of fact, her final destination is … the Twilight Zone.

We will resist the temptation to make this essay a parody because we have to be especially sure to adopt a serious attitude. Adrienne Mayor’s book is no joke.

According to her publisher, “Adrienne Mayor, a classical folklorist, investigates the historical and scientific realities embedded in Greek and Roman myths. Her articles on ancient natural history have appeared in many scholarly and popular journals.” For some reason, she became particularly interested in griffins.

Griffins

“This animal was no simple composite; it didn’t seem to belong with the obviously imaginary hybrids of Greek tradition like Pegasus (a horse with wings), the Sphinx (a winged lion with a woman’s head), the Minotaur (a man with a bull’s head), and the half-man, half-horse Centaurs. Indeed, the griffin played no role in Greek mythology. It was a creature of folklore grounded in naturalistic details.

Unlike the other monsters who dwelled in the mythical past, the griffin was not the offspring of gods and was not associated with the adventures of Greek gods or heroes. Instead, griffins were generic animals believed to exist in the preset day; they were encountered by ordinary people who prospected for gold in distant lands. 1

Griffins are typically described as a race of four-footed birds having the beaks of eagles and the claws of lions, probably not flying but leaping in the air and digging in the ground, living in the desert wilderness ferociously guarding hoards of gold. The legend of the griffin dates from at least 675 B.C., when the Greek adventurer and writer Aristeas met the nomadic Scythians near the foot of the Tien Shan (Heavenly) Mountains. For the next thousand years legends flourished of the gold of the Scythians and of the fierce warriors and creatures guarding it. 2

The griffin was much more than a static decorative motif; it was imagined and depicted as a real animal with recognizable behavioral traits. … I sought out that unique bronze metope, a decorated plaque created for the Temple of Zeus in about 630 B.C. The artist had portrayed a fierce mother griffin with a baby griffin nestled under her ribs (fig 1.5). Sarah Morris, now a professor of classical archaeology at UCLA, showed me another griffin family scene on a Mycenaean vase of about 1150 B.C., painted well before the first known written accounts of the griffin. In that vignette, a griffin pair tends two nestlings. What inspired such naturalistic images of griffin life? The imagery of griffins did not follow any standard mythological narratives-instead, the artists seemed to be imagining the behavior of an unusual animal they had heard described but had never seen. 3

The Athenian playwright Aeschylus (b. ca. 525 B.C.) … describes the lonely caravan trails leading to a desolate country where nomads prospect for gold, a desert inhabited by monstrous Gorgons who magically turn living things into stone, and by fearsome griffins. The griffins Aeschylus likens to “silent hounds with cruel, sharp beaks.” Despite the poetic license granted by tragedy and myth, Aeschylus was a careful zoologist--he takes pains to distinguish the wingless eagle-beaked griffins from actual winged eagles. 4

Herodotus scoffed at the idea of a race of one-eyed men, but he expressed no doubts about the existence of griffins. 5

A few decades after Herodotus, in about 400 B.C., another Greek from Caria, a physician named Ctesias … explained why Asian gold was so notoriously hard to obtain. It came, he said, from “high mountains in an area inhabited by griffins, a race of four-footed birds, almost as large as wolves and with legs and claws like lions.” 6

In A.D. 43, the geographer Pomponius Mela had reported that fierce griffins guarded gold in a sunbaked wilderness of Scythia. Summarizing the work of Aristeas, Herodotus, Pomponius Mela, and “many other authorities” (now lost), Pliny agreed that griffins were encountered in the vicinity of Scythian gold mines. … Pliny added an intriguing new detail: “The griffins toss up gold when they make their burrows.” This is the first mention of griffin nests! 7

Ms. Mayor cites many other historical accounts of griffins, from a variety of sources. We don’t have room to quote them all in this newsletter. Suffice it to say, that Ms. Mayor accumulated enough data to convince herself that the ancient Greeks and Romans believed that griffins really existed. This puzzled her, because, as she says,

We now know, of course, that no aggressive, wolf-sized, four-legged flightless “birds” ever coinhabited the earth with humans. So what could account for consistent reports of such an animal? 8

How do we know that griffins never lived at the same time as humans? Why do we feel justified in rejecting so many historical accounts that say they did? Do we have any legitimate reason to doubt so many witnesses? What kind of evidence would we need to verify that their stories are true? But we must not digress. We need to return to Ms. Mayor’s journey.

She tells us,

As a child, I was powerfully drawn to stones and bones. By age eleven I told my parents I wanted to be a paleontologist. Pursuing my dream of becoming a paleontologist, I studied geology in college. Here I learned rocks, I learned minerals, I learned invertebrate fossils. My head was stuffed with facts. Later in graduate school I learned vertebrate fossils, and I learned bones, and anatomy, and evolutionary theory. I handled bones, and my wish to study fossils themselves became a reality. It has been my joy and delight to pursue my career. 9
Adrienne Mayor wrote to us to tell us this quote is improperly credited.

Given this background, she could not help but notice the remarkable similarity between the description of the “mythical” griffin and reconstructions of Protoceratops. In fact, she has published drawings and photographs showing how much Protoceratops and Psittacosaurus must have looked like griffins.

Like me, and many other people of my generation who loved science even when we were children, she read all the books written by Roy Chapman Andrews. She was very familiar with his 1922 expedition.

Following ancient caravan trails from China through the desolate landscape in southwestern Mongolia, the team discovered--on the surface or only partially embedded--a multitude of fossils. The men were incredulous at the sheer numbers: in Andrews’s words, remains appeared to be “strewn over the surface almost as thickly as stones,” and the ground seemed “paved with bones.” Many of the species were dinosaurs new to science, and Andrews’s team was the first to recognize dinosaur nests and eggs. The spectacular finds were shipped to New York with great fanfare.

On their very first afternoon at the site called Flaming Cliffs, about 30 miles (48 km) from the Altari Mountains, Andrews and each member of the Central Asia Expedition had located a dinosaur skull. In two weeks they gathered over a ton of fossils from the red sediments; and in two summers they excavated the bones of more than one hundred Protoceratops and Psittacosaurus skeletons, related denizens of the Cretaceous period (ca. 100-65 million years ago). Andrews’s original photographs show dinosaurs emerging from the ground that combine features of birds and mammals in a very striking way. The body of the hatchet-faced Protoceratops is about 6 to 8 feet (about 2 m) long, roughly the size of a lion, and has four limbs, but the head has a nasty-looking beak, large eye sockets, and a thin, bony frill at the back of the skull (figs 1.10, 1.11). The smaller (4 to 6 feet long, about 1.5 m) Psittacosaurus (“parrot-beaked”) has very prominent jugals, or cheek projections. In these deserts, the exquisitely preserved skeletons are frequently fully articulated, with the beaked skulls still attached. “Tiny surface features--grooves and pits that mark the routes of blood vessels and nerves”--are still evident. 10

In other words, Andrews found many skeletons of creatures that resembled griffins in exactly the location where griffins were said to have lived, guarding gold. But, it gets even better! Not only are the fossil beds very near to gold deposits, sometimes gold is even found in the dinosaur nests.

Mayor knows that there are numerous historical accounts of creatures that look like a particular kind of dinosaur guarding gold in a particular area. She knows that skeletons of that particular kind of dinosaur have been found in association with gold in that very area. What is the obvious, logical conclusion to draw from all this data?

That’s not the conclusion she drew. She concluded that the ancient Greeks and Romans were, “the first fossil hunters.” She thinks they must have been really good paleontologists because they were able to reconstruct not only the dinosaur’s shape, but also the social behavior of dinosaurs from the bones.

Yet “paleontology” is missing in the standard lists of the great cultural inventions of the Greeks and Romans. How did modern science and history come to lose the significant palaeontological discoveries, thoughts, and activities of classical antiquity? 11

She can’t understand how the Greeks and Romans could have been such great paleontologists, and science and history lost sight of that. Could it be that the Greeks and Romans weren’t terrific paleontologists? Could it be that they were just good historians who accurately recorded the appearance and behavior of animals they actually saw?

She marvels that,

… the reconstruction of the griffin by the Saka nomads and their literate Greco-Roman reporters came very close to our most up-to-date knowledge about protoceratopsids. 12

Ancient artists portrayed griffins defending their young, a scenario that was described by Aelian. 13

Modern paleontologists found fossils of adult dinosaurs near eggs, and these “scenes were misinterpreted as egg stealing rather than nesting until Mark Norell and Michael Novacek of the American Museum of Natural History discovered an assemblage of a dinosaur protecting its own eggs in 1993.” 14

In other words, the ancient Greeks and Romans knew things about dinosaurs that we didn’t figure out until 1993. She thinks they inferred it from bones, rather than actual observation. Therefore, they had to be better paleontologists than modern ones.

Our understanding of how dinosaurs must have moved has been greatly increased in recent years by computer modeling and simulation (funded in large part by producers of programs like Dinotopia, Jurassic Park, Disney’s Dinosaur, etc.) But those great paleontologists of the Greco-Roman era were supposedly able to figure out dinosaur behavior without the aid of computers. And, somehow, according to Mayor, history and science overlooked their exceptional ability to determine the living characteristics of creatures known only from fossils.

But how could gold turn up in a dinosaur’s nest? Gold in the Altai comes from igneous rocks millions of years older than the Cretaceous sediments that hold dinosaur bones. But gold sand is continually washed down from mountains by rain and streams. Gravity on slopes and strong winds then scatter gold-bearing sand over the geologically younger sediments. 15

Yes, that’s what happens today. It no doubt also happened in Greek and Roman times, too. That’s why the gold prospectors were there in the first place. The gold nuggets would have been washed down onto the ground the griffins walked on.

Since those “Cretaceous” sediments contain bones of creatures that were reported to be alive by many credible witnesses, it is reasonable to think that they are actually modern sediments, just a few thousand years old. What makes evolutionists so sure they are “Cretaceous”? It is simply because they contain fossils of dinosaurs that (they think) only lived in the Cretaceous period.

Neades

Griffins aren’t the only “prehistoric” beasts that were observed in Greco-Roman times.

Plutarch clearly states that some of the immense bones of Samos were displayed as the remains of Dionysus’s war elephants. This is an astonishing moment in the history of paleontology, because the remains of mastodons (prehistoric elephants) do exist in the bone beds of Samos. Plutarch’s statement means that, some 1,700 years before Cuvier, fossil mastodons were correctly recognized as a species of elephant! 16

Either, that, or it means that mastodons were recognized as elephants because they were actually seen and used in war more than 1,700 years before Cuvier.

Long before the Greeks knew about elephants, however, a different interpretation of the huge bones of Samos had prevailed. “Some also said that at Phloion the very earth had cracked open and collapsed upon certain huge beasts as they uttered great and piercing cries.” Here Plutarch refers to a much older legend about monsters unique to Samos called the Neades. The Neades supposedly inhabited Samos in primordial times, before human beings arrived. Our earliest source for that legend is Euagon, a historian of Samos who lived in the fifth century B.C., some five hundred years before Plutarch. According to surviving fragments of Euagon’s lost work, the Neades’ shrieking raised such a din that the ground was torn open and swallowed them. …

The Neades were proverbial throughout the Greek world because of a humorous saying, “So-and-so shouts louder than the Neades!” 17

“Euphorion says that in primeval times, Samos was uninhabited except for dangerous wild animals of gigantic size, called Neades. The mere roar of these awesome beasts could split the ground.” Aelian continues, “Euphorion says that their huge bones are displayed in Samos.” 18

Like griffins, the Neades were thought of as real animals of a specific landscape where people saw curious prehistoric remains. 19

We don’t doubt her data, but we question her conclusion. First of all, instead of asking, “If a tree falls in a forest, and there is nobody there to hear it, does it still make a sound?” we might ask, “If the Neades lived before there were any humans to hear them, how would people know that they made loud noises?”

Since there aren’t any bones to fossilize in the trunk of an elephant, and since elephants weren’t known in Samos 500 years before Plutarch, how would the people have guessed that Neades could make the loud trumpeting sounds that we know elephants can make using their trunks?

The idea that Neades could trumpet so loudly as to cause an earthquake is clearly an exaggeration, but it might be based on observation. According to Mayor, earthquakes are known to happen in that region. We now know that elephants “hear” through their feet. Actually, they can sense ground vibration. At the beginning of an earthquake, a Neade might feel the ground start to shake before a person would. Frightened by the ground shaking, the Neade might trumpet very loudly. A person standing nearby would hear the sound just before feeling the earthquake, and could reasonably conclude that sound caused the earthquake.

But, to someone prejudiced by years of evolutionary indoctrination, it is impossible to believe that people knew what mammoths looked like and sounded like because they actually saw them and heard them. The only explanation must be that ancient people found the bones and perfectly reconstructed the creatures that once contained those bones. Those ancient people must have been such good paleontologists that they not only correctly inferred shape, but also sound and social behavior as well.

Dragons

In an attempt to support this argument, she spends 10 pages 20 talking about how much the legendary dragons of China look like the dinosaurs that once lived there. She even says that the Chinese people refer to dinosaur bones as “dragon bones.” Clearly, the ancient Chinese must have been great paleontologists, too. The only other explanation is that they actually saw living, breathing dragons.

Giants

Ironically, when it comes to giants, she is amazingly inconsistent. She devotes 58 pages 21 to the discoveries of enormous human-like bones buried in caskets with bronze-tipped spears. Many of the skeletons were 15 feet tall, or taller. Both the Bible and Greek mythology contain stories about giants that lived a thousand or more years before Christ, so one might expect her to come to the conclusion that mythological stories were based upon accurate reconstructions of large human skeletons.

But, no. Her conclusion is that these excellent paleontologists, who recognized the bird-like characteristics of dinosaurs 2,000 years before modern paleontologists did, who correctly inferred shape, sound, and social behavior of dinosaurs from bones alone, could not tell a human skeleton from a mammoth. She has never seen any one of the dozens of giant skeletons that were mentioned in historical documents, but she is absolutely convinced that none of them were human. Every single one was a misidentified mammoth.

Here is how she dismissed the report of Pausanias.

This report is interesting for several reasons. First, Pausanias uses a technical anatomical term for kneecap. If Pausanias was a doctor, as some believe, his vocation would explain his use of medical terms, his fascination with the anatomy of extraordinary skeletons, and his interest in visiting sanctuaries of Asklepios, the god of medical arts, where gigantic remains were commonly exhibited. In the sanctuary of Asklepios at Asopos (southern Peloponnese), for example, Pausanias examined bones that were “enormous but apparently human.” At a sanctuary of Asklepios at Megalopolis, another collection of immense bones seemed “much too vast for a human being,” but the curators told Pausanias that they belonged to one of the giants of early myth. (If the giant remains in these temples were mammoth bones, the skulls must have been missing, since Pausanias tells us he examined an elephant skull and tusks in a temple in Italy.) 22

Pausanias doesn’t say the skulls were missing. He doesn’t say that he examined headless skeletons. Don’t you think he would have mentioned it if they were decapitated? She just assumes they were missing because someone with his medical credentials would have instantly recognized that the bones were mammoth bones if he had seen the skull. He didn’t recognize them as mammoth bones, therefore (she concludes) the skull must have been missing. But, there isn’t any reason to believe the skulls of all the skeletons he saw were missing. Maybe he thought the skeletons were “apparently human” because they were complete, including the skulls, which were just like ours, only larger.

According to forensic anthropologist Douglas Ubelaker, nonhuman bones, especially femurs, can fool even the most experienced medical experts. In his study of modern FBI files, he found that about 15 percent of “human” bones thought to be those of murder victims turn out to be animal bones. Ubelaker points out that the similarities of mammal anatomy, the finder’s expectations, and the context of the discovery encourage the misidentification as human. Those same factors figured in antiquity. 23 [emphasis supplied]

We certainly agree with that statement, especially the part about “the finder’s expectations.” That’s why animal bones are consistently misidentified as “hominid ancestors.” If experts can’t always identify bones of creatures that are well known, how can they positively identify the bones of the entirely imaginary Eosimias, or other unknown human ancestors? But that’s an entirely different subject.

Out-Of-Place-Artifacts

It is little known to the general public that “out-of-place-artifacts” are frequently found. These are fossils that don’t belong to the supposed time period of the rock layer as defined by the evolutionary time scale of the geologic column. For example,

In the Congo in the 1980s, paleontologist William Sanders found a large Stegodon tooth from the Pliocene in a human habitation site of the Pleistocene epoch. The out-of-place tooth of a mastodon that went extinct millions of years before humans appeared on the scene “could only have gotten there if some African hunter had brought it home as a curio 21,000 years ago,” observes Sanders.

But the topic is considered marginal. Fossils discovered in ancient sites “are rarely saved or studied,” laments David Reese, one of the few zooarchaeologists to specialize in identifying prehistoric remains from Mediterranean sites. 24

The occasional prehistoric fossil or tooth that turns up in an ancient site is an anomaly. Many anomalies are simply ignored because they don’t fit the search image for edible or sacrificial animals. Even when archaeologists do take note of fossils, such finds are often misidentified and misplaced. A fossilized bone or tooth might be recorded in the back pages of field notes, and if published in excavation reports at all, it appears as miscellany in a footnote or appendix.

According to David Reese, it’s not uncommon for fossils excavated by classical archaeologists to be mistaken for modern species. Paleontologists rarely have a chance to examine vertebrate fossils unearthed by their archaeological colleagues from ancient sites. 25

Mayor believes that ancient people collected fossils. How else could a mastodon’s tooth have found itself into an ancient human site? It never occurs to an evolutionist that it could have gotten there the same way a gazelle’s tooth could--somebody killed it (or found it dead) and took the tooth to make into a necklace, or tool, or who-knows-what.

Our point is that out-of-place artifacts might not really be out of place. The only thing that makes them out of place is that they aren’t where the theory of evolution says they should be. Whenever they find the fossil of a “prehistoric” beast in a historic archeological site, they don’t report it because they think it doesn't belong there. That’s why there aren’t any reports of prehistoric fossils found with historic artifacts. All the data appears to support evolution because only data consistent with evolution is reported. Remember, we didn’t claim, “Many anomalies are simply ignored simply because they don’t fit …”. We are just telling you what the evolutionists themselves say.

The Twilight Zone

If we had begun in Rod Serling’s style, we would have ended the essay this way:
Adrienne Mayor--historian, paleontologist, but above all else, an evolutionist--returning from a journey into parts unknown, but not entirely forgotten. Haunted by compelling evidence she does not want to believe, unwilling to live in a world where dinosaurs lived alongside man, she retreats into a fantasy world where dinosaurs died out millions of years ago, and lives quite contentedly in … the Twilight Zone.

But that would be too harsh. We aren’t trying to attack or ridicule Adrienne Mayor. In fact, we have the highest regard for her scholarship. We wish everyone would read her book, The First Fossil Hunters because it contains so much excellent information. We quoted 25 passages from it, and didn’t quote another 25 or more simply because we didn’t have room in the newsletter for them. She had a lot of good stuff to say about dragons and giants that we did not quote.

The point we are trying to make is that Adrienne Mayor is typical of so many people who, when faced with undeniable evidence that dinosaurs were reported alive from 1200 B.C. to 600 A.D. by respected historians, they reject the evidence because of evolutionary prejudice.

Dinosaurs did coexist with humans. There is excellent historical data with palaeontological support to show that they did. But because that would show that the dates assigned to the geological column are wrong, evolutionists reject the evidence.

What more evidence could one ask to prove that dinosaurs lived 2,000 years ago? Why is it that people who will accept part of a jaw as evidence of a “missing link” between apes and humans, won’t accept tons of bones matching the description of animals described in ancient literature as evidence that those animals actually were alive at the time? The answer, of course, is that evidence is irrelevant when prejudice reigns supreme. The scientific evidence is overwhelmingly against evolution, but evolution is still held by many simply because of prejudice.

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Footnotes:

1 Mayor, The First Fossil Hunters, page 16 (Ev)
2 ibid. page xvi
3 ibid. page 26
4 ibid. page 29
5 ibid. page 30
6 pages 30-31
7 pages 31-32
8 page 38
9 ibid. page xiii
10 ibid. page 40
11 ibid. page 3
12 ibid. page 51
13 ibid. page 50
14 ibid. page 50
15 ibid. page 45
16 ibid. page 55
17 ibid. pages 55-57
18 ibid. page 58
19 ibid. page 58
20 ibid. pages 130-139
21 ibid. pages 72-129
22 ibid. page 115
23 ibid. page 80
24 ibid. page 165
25 ibid. page 168