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The Griffin, The Mermaid, And The Giant Cyclops

Decent Essays
Throughout History and across cultures humans have always tried to make sense of scientific phenomena through stories. The stories attempt to explain scientifically unknown events such as natural disasters, astronomical or geological phenomena, or agricultural failures or successes. The stories serve to protect citizens, to explain the unexplainable, and to justify traditions. These folklore stories often stem from encounters with nature and are expressed through cultural traditions. Rocks, minerals, and fossils discovered by ancient peoples often became the fodder of folklore. Early fossil discoveries guided folklore and helped to define cultures’ belief systems as seen through art, literature, and traditions. The Griffin, the…show more content…
Accordingly, Mayor and Heaney suggest that the Saka-Sythians saw the unknown skeleton fossils and used prior knowledge of known animals to construct what became known as the Griffin. The word, Griffin, is derived from a Greek word ‘gryps' meaning ‘gold.’ Because the Griffin bones were generally found near gold, the Saka-Sythians made the simple connection that Griffins liked to nest with gold and protect it from thieves (Mayor 45). Fossils could have been uncovered by ancient Sythians and, consequently, been the basis of the Griffin legend, because of a number of geological factors surrounding their discovery. The Gobi Desert has little vegetation and is, therefore, highly susceptible to erosion. Fossils, along with gold particles that were in great demand, washed down from the vegetation-less mountainsides. The desert is made of soft, red, dirt which contrasts well with the white bones, making fossils easy to spot sticking out of the ground after being uncovered by erosion. Similar to recent times, Protoceratops fossils were abundant and easily collected by ancient peoples (“The Gobi Desert”). According to Russell and Currie (Mayor 43), the fossil beds would have yielded “constantly emerging, fully articulated skeletons of beaked dinosaurs.” Paleontologist Michael Novacek also describes the ease with which Protoceratops fossils were found on his 1993 expedition to the Gobi desert with fellow paleontologist
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