Paleontologists Debunk Standard Claim that Protoceratops Fossils Inspired Legend of Griffin

Amongst doubtlessly the most broadly promoted examples of fossil folklore is a supposed link between the Central Asian horned dinosaur Protoceratops and the griffin, a gold-guarding legendary creature combining functions of lions and birds. First proposed in the 1990s, this geomyth postulates that tales of Protoceratops fossils were transmitted westward along alternate routes from Asian gold mines to report griffin lore among the many feeble Greeks. An assessment of the Protoceratops-griffin link, nevertheless, finds it uncompelling.

The Protoceratops-griffin geomyth. The foundation that fossils of Mongolian horned dinosaurs impressed or influenced the mythology of the griffin, feeble chimaeras of birds and lions in accordance to outdated archaeologists, is one in all doubtlessly the most neatly-appreciated and promoted examples of fossil folklore in as a lot as date times. This conception, first proposed in the early 1990s, has bought tiny in the fashion of tutorial scrutiny, nevertheless. Portray credit: Witton et al., doi: 10.1177/03080188241255543.

The Protoceratops-griffin geomyth. The foundation that fossils of Mongolian horned dinosaurs impressed or influenced the mythology of the griffin, feeble chimaeras of birds and lions in accordance to outdated archaeologists, is one in all doubtlessly the most neatly-appreciated and promoted examples of fossil folklore in as a lot as date times. This conception, first proposed in the early 1990s, has bought tiny in the fashion of tutorial scrutiny, nevertheless. Portray credit: Witton et al., doi: 10.1177/03080188241255543.

The train link between dinosaur fossils and griffin mythology used to be proposed over 30 years ago in a assortment of papers and books written by folklorist Adrienne Mayor.

These began with the 1989 Cryptozoology paper entitled ‘Paleocryptozoology: a demand collaboration between classicists and cryptozoologists’, and used to be cemented in the seminal 2000 e-book ‘The First Fossil Hunters.’

It means that an early horned dinosaur of Mongolia and China, Protoceratops, used to be came upon by feeble nomads prospecting for gold in Central Asia.

Tales of Protoceratops bones then traveled southwest on alternate routes to inspire, or on the least have an effect on, tales and art of the griffin.

Griffins are one of the most most oldest mythological creatures, first acting in Egyptian and Heart Eastern art in the midst of the 4th millennium BCE, sooner than turning into standard in feeble Greece in the midst of the eighth century BCE.

Protoceratops used to be a 2-m-long dinosaur that lived in Mongolia and northern China in the midst of the Cretaceous duration, between 75 and 71 million years ago.

Cherish griffins, Protoceratops stood on four legs, had beaks, and had frill-treasure extensions of their skulls that, it’s been argued, will be interpreted as wings.

In the first detailed assessment of the claims, University of Portsmouth Trace Witton and his colleagues re-evaluated historical fossil data, the distribution and nature of Protoceratops fossils, and classical sources linking the griffin with Protoceratops, consulting with historians and archeologists to totally model the outdated, non-fossil based fully peek of griffin origins. In the waste, they came upon that no longer one in all the arguments withstood scrutiny.

Suggestions that Protoceratops would possibly per chance well be came upon by nomads prospecting for gold, for instance, are unlikely when Protoceratops fossils happen a total bunch of km away from feeble gold sites.

In the century since Protoceratops used to be came upon, no gold has been reported alongside them.

It also looks uncertain that nomads would have viewed powerful of Protoceratops skeletons, despite the incontrovertible reality that they prospected for gold where their fossils happen.

“There would possibly be an assumption that dinosaur skeletons are came upon half of-uncovered, lying round nearly treasure the stays of unprejudiced no longer too long ago-deceased animals,” Dr. Witton talked about.

“However in most cases speaking, appropriate a fraction of an eroding dinosaur skeleton will be viewed to the bare witness, unnoticed to all as a substitute of for sharp-eyed fossil hunters.”

“That’s nearly absolutely how feeble peoples wandering round Mongolia encountered Protoceratops.”

“In the occasion that they wished to behold more, as they’d must if they were forming myths about these animals, they’d need to extract the fossil from the surrounding rock.”

“That is no tiny project, even with as a lot as date tools, glues, protective wrapping and preparatory ways.”

“It looks more attainable that Protoceratops stays, by and mountainous, went unnoticed — if the gold prospectors were even there to behold them.”

Equally, the geographic spread of griffin art via historical previous would no longer align with the scenario of griffin lore initiating with Central Asian fossils after which spreading west. There are also no unambiguous references to Protoceratops fossils in feeble literature.

Protoceratops is unprejudiced griffin-treasure in being a four-limbed animal with a beak. There are no longer any details in griffin art suggesting that their fossils were referenced but, conversely, many griffins were clearly unruffled from functions of living cats and birds.

“Every thing about griffin origins is in accordance to their outdated interpretation as imaginary beasts, appropriate as their appearance is fully explained by them being chimeras of enormous cats and raptorial birds,” Dr. Witton talked about.

“Invoking a role for dinosaurs in griffin lore, especially species from a ways-off lands treasure Protoceratops, no longer only introduces pointless complexity and inconsistencies to their origins, but additionally relies on interpretations and suggestions that don’t withstand scrutiny.”

“It is serious to distinguish between fossil folklore with a factual foundation — that is, connections between fossils and legend evidenced by archaeological discoveries or compelling references in literature and art work — and speculated connections in accordance to intuition,” talked about Dr. Richard Hing, also from the University of Portsmouth.

“There would possibly be nothing inherently scandalous with the foundation that feeble peoples came upon dinosaur bones and incorporated them into their mythology, but we need to root such proposals in realities of historical previous, geography and paleontology. Otherwise, they are appropriate speculation.”

The crew’s paper used to be published this week in the journal Interdisciplinary Science Reviews.

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Trace P. Witton et al. Did the horned dinosaur Protoceratops inspire the griffin? Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, published online June 20, 2024; doi: 10.1177/03080188241255543