A number of years ago, an article in Archaeology got me to thinking about mythological creatures like griffins. The earliest humans must have certainly been confounded upon stumbling across fossil finds likely influencing creation myths in nearly every culture:
Greek writers began describing the griffin around 675 B.C., at the same time the Greeks first made contact with Scythian nomads. Griffins were described as guarding the gold deposits in the arid hills and red sandstone formations of the wilderness. The region of Mongolia and China where many Protoceratops fossils are found is rich in gold runoff from the neighboring mountains, lending some credence to the theory that these fossils were the basis of griffin myths.Dragons have existed in literary mythology at least since Beowulf. A Texas fossil unearthed in 1971 and reported in a story on NPR before they archived on the Web, had me thinking about the dragon myth. Now scientists have constructed a reproduction of a creature named Quetzalcoatlus. NPR reports:
The natural world's long-distance flight champions are seagoing birds that fly up to 6,000 miles nonstop. But now, two scientists are proposing to give the honor to the pterosaur, a massive creature from the distant past.What other fossils will be found that say, "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the Garden?"
Above the dinosaur exhibit at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Museum of Natural History, a giant pterosaur skeleton hangs from the ceiling. This is a Quetzalcoatlus, thought to be the largest flying animal that ever lived. It has a massive skull with a beak-like mouth, and its wingspan takes up almost the entire ceiling.
"It would have been a very bizarre animal to see fly above you or walk around on the ground," says Mike Habib, a specialist in biomechanics from Chatham University. "It would look like a strange amalgamation of a classic modern reptile, bird, giraffe and bat all squeezed into one."
Writer and scholar Reza Aslan was 15 years old when he found Jesus. His secular Muslim family had fled to the U.S. from Iran, and Aslan's conversion was, in a sense, an adolescent's attempt to fit into American life and culture. "My parents were certainly surprised," Aslan tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.