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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Beowulf, Grendel and a preponderance of dinosaurs

The following quotes, unless otherwise stated, are from the book, After The Flood by Bill Carroll.

Dinosaurs and Man

Having established that the Bible mentions and describes dinosaurs, I wish to begin laying out the historical evidence for the coexistence of dinosaur and man after the Noahic Flood. I wanted to give the Bible evidence first, allow doubters to emit their first "Piffle!" and move on from there. Time to begin compiling the evidence.

Beowulf as history rather than fable

Beowulf is one of the earliest, classic works of the European origin. It is in poetic form. One single manuscript written in about 1000 AD survives although it is agreed that this is a copy of an original written long before. It is sometimes asserted to be a Christian fable but Bill Cooper disagrees:

"Firstly, there are no allusions whatever in the poem to any event, person or teaching of the New Testament. This is in sharp contrast to other Anglo-Saxon poems (The Dream of the Rood, and so on) that certainly are Christian in sentiment. There are definite allusions to certain facts and personages contained in the Old Testament, namely to God, the Creation, to Abel and to Cain, but these are no more than those same historical allusions that are to be met with in the other preChristian Anglo-Saxon genealogies and records that we have already studied (in chapter 7 of AFTER THE FLOOD). Like those records, and whilst likewise showing a most interesting historical knowledge of certain events and personages that also appear in the Genesis record, the Beowulf poem clearly pre-dates any knowledge among the Anglo-Saxons of Christianity per se.

In view of this, it is hardly surprising to find that the sentiments of the poem are strongly pagan, extolling the highly questionable virtues of vengeance, the accumulation of plunder and the boasting of and reliance upon human strength and prowess. Allusions are also made to blatantly pagan oaths, sacrifices, sentiments and forms of burial. But there are certainly no exclusively Christian sentiments expressed anywhere in its 3182 lines of text."


The personages in Beowulf are historical figures, not fictional

"Beowulf, the character in whose honour the poem was written, was no mythical figure. His place is firmly set in history. He was born the son of Ecgtheow in AD 495. At the age of seven, in AD 502, he was brought to the court of Hrethel, his maternal grandfather (AD 445-503) who was then king of the Geatingas, a tribe who inhabited what is today southern Sweden (and whose eponymous founder, Geat, also appears in the early genealogies--see chapter 7). After an unpromising and feckless youth, during which years were fought the Geatish/Swedish wars, in particular the Battle of Ravenswood [Hrefnawudu] in the year AD 510, Beowulf undertook his celebrated journey to Denmark, to visit Hrothgar, king of the Danes. This was in AD 515, Beowulf's twentieth year. (This was also the year of his slaying the monster Grendel which we shall examine shortly.) Six years later, in AD 521, Beowulf's uncle, King Hygelac, was slain.

Hygelac himself is known to have lived from AD 475 - 521, having come to the throne of the Geatingas in AD 503, the year of his father Hrethel's death. He is independently mentioned in Gregory of Tour's Historiae Francorum, where his name is rendered Chlocbilaichus.

There, and in other Latin Frankish sources, he is described as a Danish king (Chogilaicus Danorum rex), not a Geat, but this is the same mistake that our own English chroniclers made when they included even the Norwegian Vikings under the generic name of Danes. The Liber Monstrorum, however, did correctly allude to him as rex Getarum, king of the Geats. Saxo also mentions him as the Hugletus who destroyed the Swedish chief Homothus. Homothus, in turn, is the same as that Eanmund who is depicted in line 2612 of the Beowulf poem.

On Hygelac's death, Beowulf declined the offer to succeed his uncle to the throne of the Geatingas, choosing instead to act as guardian to Hygelac's son, prince Heardred, during the years of Heardred's minority. (Heardred lived from AD 511- 533. He was therefore in his tenth year when he became king.) Heardred, however, was killed by the Swedes in AD 533 (for giving shelter to the Swedish king's nephews--see Appendix 9), and it was in this year that Beowulf took over the reins of kingship. Beowulf went on to rule his people in peace for fifty years, dying at some 88 years of age in the year AD 583. The manner of his death, though, is particularly relevant to our study, as we shall see."


Carroll makes a strong case against the mythicalization, if you will, of Beowulf that took place in the 1800's as scholars began to portray the monsters in the story as "Trolls" and the people as mythical or idealized. Let's take a look at the story.

Understanding the language

"By the time of his slaying the monster Grendel in AD 515, Beowulf himself had already become something of a seasoned hunter of large reptilian monsters. He was renowned amongst the Danes at Hrothgar's court for having cleared the local sea lanes of monstrous animals whose predatory natures had been making life hazardous for the open boats of the Vikings. Fortunately, the Anglo-Saxon poem, written in pure celebration of his heroism, has preserved for us not just the physical descriptions of some of the monsters that Beowulf encountered, but even the names under which certain species of these animals were known to the Saxons and Danes.

However, in order to understand exactly what it is that we are reading when we examine these names, we must appreciate the nature of the Anglo-Saxon language. The Anglo-Saxons (like the modern Germans and Dutch) had a very simple method of word construction, and their names for everyday objects can sometimes sound amusing to our modern English ears when translated literally. A body, for example, was simply a bone-house (banhus), and a joint a bone-lock (banloca). When Beowulf speaks to his Danish interrogator, he is said quite literally to have unlocked his word-hoard (wordhord onleoc). Beowulf's own name means bear, and it is constructed in the following way. The Beo-element is the Saxon word for bee, and his name means literally a bee-wolf. The bear has a dog-like face and was seen by those who wisely kept their distance to apparently be eating bees when it raided their hives for honey. So they simply called the bear a bee-wolf. Likewise, the sun was called woruldcandel, lit. the world-candle. It was thus an intensely literal but at the same time highly poetic language, possessing great and unambiguous powers of description."


Names of dinosaurs in Beowulf's time

Wyrmeynnes - "wormkind, a race of monsters and serpents--the word serpent in those days meant something rather more than a snake"

giant Saedracan - "sea-drakes or sea-dragons"

Nicor (pl. niceras) - "the word has important connotations for our present study inasmuch as it later developed into knucker, a Middle English word for a water-dwelling monster or dragon."

Ythgewinnes - "...amongst the more generally named wyrmas (serpents) and wildeor (wild beasts)...there was one species in particular that was called an ythgewinnes, evidently a surface-swimming monster if its name is anything to go by, rather than a creature that swam at depth like the saedracan. Intrigued by it, Beowulf shot an arrow into the creature, and the animal was then harpooned by Beowulf's men using eoferspreotum, modified boar-spears. Once the monster was dead, Beowulf and his men then dragged the ythgewinnes out of the water and laid its body out for examination. They had, after all, a somewhat professional interest in the animals that they were up against. Moreover, of the monstrous reptiles that they had encountered at the lake, it was said that they were such creatures as would sally out at midmorning time to create havoc amongst the ships in the sea lanes, and one particular success of Beowulf's, as we have already seen, was clearing the narrow sea lanes between Denmark and Sweden of certain monsters which he called merefixa and niceras. Following that operation, the carcasses of nine such creatures (niceras nigene--Alexander mistakenly translates nigene as seven) were laid out on the beaches for display and further inspection."

Lyftfloga, Widfloga and Ligdraca - "The last monster to be destroyed by Beowulf (and from which encounter Beowulf also died in the year AD 583) was a flying reptile which lived on a promontory overlooking the sea at Hronesness on the southern coast of Sweden. Now, the Saxons (and presumably the Danes) knew flying reptiles in general as lyftfloga (air-fliers), but this particular species of flying reptile, the specimen from Hronesness, was known to them as a widfloga, lit, a wide (or far-ranging) flyer, and the description that they have left us fits that of a giant Pteranodon. Interestingly, the Saxons also described this creature as a ligdraca, or fire-dragon, and he is described as fifty feet in length (or perhaps wing-span?) and about 300 years of age. (Great age is a common feature even among today's non-giant reptiles.) Moreover, and of particular interest to us, the name widfloga would have distinguished this particular species of flying reptile from another similar species which was capable of making only short flights. Such a creature is portrayed in Figure 11.1, a shield-boss from the Sutton Hoo burial which shows a flying dragon with its wings folded along its sides. Its long tooth-filled jaws are readily seen, and the shield-boss can be seen to this day in its showcase at the British Museum. Modern paleontologists, working from fossilized remains, have named such a creature Pterodactyl."

Grendel

"But our attention must now be drawn towards another reptilian monster which was surely the most fiercesome of all the animals encountered by Beowulf, the monster called Grendel.

It is too often and mistakenly thought that the name Grendel was merely a personal name by which the Danes knew this particular animal. In much the same way as a horse is nicknamed Dobbin, or a dog Fido, this monster, it is assumed, was called Grendel. But, in fact, Grendel was the name that our forebears gave to a particular species of animal. This is evidenced by the fact that in the year AD 931, King Athelstan of Wessex issued a charter in which a certain lake in Wiltshire (England) is called (as in Denmark) a grendles mere. The Grendel in Beowulf, we note with interest, also lived in a mere. Other place-names mentioned in old charters, Grindles bee and Grendeles pyt, for example, were likewise places that were (or had been) the habitats of this particular species of animal. Grindelwald, lit. Grendelwood, in Switzerland is another such place. But where does the name Grendel itself come from?

There are several Anglo-Saxon words that share the same root as Grendel. The Old English word grindan, for example, and from which we derive our word grind, used to denote a destroyer. But the most likely origin of the name is simply the fact that Grendel is an onomatopoeic term derived from the Old Norse grindill, meaning a storm or grenja, meaning to bellow. The word Grendel is strongly reminiscent of the deep-throated growl that would be emitted by a very large animal and it came into Middle English usage as grindel, meaning angry.

To the hapless Danes who were the victims of his predatory raids, however, Grendel was not just an animal. To them he was demon-like, one who was synnum beswenced (afflicted with sins). He was godes ansaca (God's adversary), the synscatha (evil-doer) who was wonsaeli (damned), a very feond on helle (devil in hell)! He was one of the grund-wyrgen, accursed and murderous monsters who were said by the Danes to be descended from Cain himself. And it is descriptions such as these of Grendel's nature that convey something of the horror with which the men of those times anticipated his raids on their homesteads.

But as for Grendel's far more interesting physical description, his habits and the geography of his haunts, they are as follows:

At one point in the poem, Hrothgar, king of the Danes, relates to Beowulf the following information when describing Grendel and one of the monster's companions:

'Ic thaet londbuend leode mine seleraedende secgan hyde thaet hie gesawon swylce 1-wegen micle mearcsta pan moras healdan ellorgaestas. Thaera other waes thaes the hie gewislicost gewitan meahton idese onlienes, other earmscea pen on weres waeslmum sraeclastas traed naefne he waes mara thonne aenig man other thone on geardagum Grendel nemdon foldbuende...' (Emphases mine)

... the best translation of which is Alexander's:

'I have heard it said by subjects of mine who live in the country, counselors in this hall, that they have seen such a pair of huge wayfarers haunting the moors, otherworldly ones; and one of them, so far as they might make it out, was in woman's shape; but the shape of a man, though twisted, trod also the tracks of exile - save that he was more huge than any human being. The country people have called him from of old by the name of Grendel."

The key words from this passage, and from which we gain important information concerning the physical appearance of Grendel, are idese onlicnes when referring to the female monster, and weres waestmum when referring to the male. Those Danes who had seen the monsters thought that the female was the older of the two and supposed that she was Grendel's mother. She may have been. But what exactly do the descriptive terms tell us that is of such importance? Simply this: that the female was in the shape of a woman (idese onlicnes) and the male was in the shape of a man (weres waestmum), 'though twisted'. In other words, they were both bipedal, but larger than any human."


A dinosaur that walks upright, bipedal, carnivorous and fierce? One could picture T Rex or Allosaurus as a candidate for this creature. It is interesting to note that fossils of many bipedal carnivores have ferocious teeth, huge legs and tail, but comparatively small and weak forelimbs.

The slaying of Grendel

"Further important detail is added elsewhere in the poem concerning Grendel's appearance, especially when the monster attacked the Danes for what was to prove the last time. In lines 815-8, we are told, in the most graphic detail, how Beowulf inflicted a fatal injury on the monster by holding the creature in an arm lock, which he then twisted 'wrythan'(line 964). The poem then goes on to tell us that:

'Licsar gebad atol aeglaeca him on eaxie wearth syndolh sweotol seonowe onsprungon burston banlocan.'

Which may be translated thus:

'Searing pain seized the terrifying ugly one as a gaping wound appeared in his shoulder. The sinews snapped and the (arm) joint burst asunder.' (My translation)

For twelve years the Danes had themselves attempted to kill Grendel with conventional weapons, knives, swords, arrows and the like. Yet his impenetrable hide had defied them all and Grendel was able to attack the Danes with impunity Beowulf considered all this and decided that the only way to tackle the monster was to get to grips with him at close quarters. The monster's forelimbs, which the Saxons called eorms (arms) and which some translate as claws, were small and comparatively puny. They were the monster's one weak spot, and Beowulf went straight for them. He was already renowned for his prodigious strength of grip, and he used this to literally tear off one of Grendel's weak, small arms.

Grendel, however, is also described, in line 2079 of the poem, as a mutbbona, i.e. one who slays with his mouth or jaws, and the speed with which he was able to devour his human prey tells us something of the size of his jaws and teeth (he swallowed the body of one of his victims in large 'gobbets'). Yet, it is the very size of Grendel's jaws which paradoxically would have aided Beowulf in his carefully thought out strategy of going for the forelimbs, because pushing himself hard into the animals chest between those forelimbs would have placed Beowulf tightly underneath those jaws and would thus have sheltered him from Grendel's terrible teeth.

We are told that as soon as Beowulf gripped the monsters claws (and we must remember that Grendel was only a youngster, and not by all accounts a fully mature adult male of his species), the startled animal tried to pull away instead of attacking Beowulf. The animal instinctively knew the danger he was now in and he wanted to escape the clutches of the man who now posed such an unexpected threat and who was inflicting such alarming pain. However, it was this action of trying to pull away that left Grendel wide open to Beowulf's strategy. Thus, Beowulf was able in the ensuing struggle eventually to wrench off one of the animal's arms as so graphically described in the poem. As a result of this appalling injury, the young Grendel returned to his lair and simply bled to death."


The British Museum has an early Babylonian cylinder seal that pictures a man about to amputate a bipedal monster that is close in appearance to the description of Grendel. Beowulf would not be likely to have knowledge of such a seal, but it appears that man had discovered the way to defeat these bipedal monsters.

There is a stone carving in..."the church of SS. Mary and Hardulph at Breedon-on-the-Hill in Leicestershire. This church used to belong to the Saxon kingdom of Mercia. The stone itself is part of a larger frieze in which are depicted various birds and humans, all of them readily recognisable. But what are these strange creatures represented here? They are like nothing that survives today in England, yet they are depicted as vividly as the other creatures. There are long-necked quadrupeds, one of whom on the right seems to be biting (or 'necking' with) another. And in the middle of the scene appears a bipedal animal who is clearly attacking one of the quadrupeds. He stands on two great hindlegs and has two smaller forelimbs, and carries what appears to be armour plating on his back. His victim seems to be turning to defend himself; but with his hindlegs buckled in fear."

There are hundreds of historical references in England alone to dinosaurs or creatures thought to be dinosaurs on up to the 1400's, after which they slow to a trickle and stop. Today most people accept that dinosaurs lived millions of years ago and never lived at the time of man. The tale of Beowulf says otherwise.

"The Beowulf epic tells us that as for his haunts and habits, Grendel hunted alone, being known by the understandably frightened locals who sometimes saw his moonlit shape coming down from the mist-laden fens as the atol angengea, the terrifying solitary one. He was a mearcstapa (lit. a marsh-stepper), one who stalked the marshes or outlying regions, ('haunting the moors', as Alexander so powerfully renders it). He hunted by night, approaching human settlements and waiting silently in the darkness for his prey to fall asleep before he descended on them as a sceadugenga (lit, a shadow-goer, a night-walker). Gliding silently along the fenhlith (the waste and desolate tract of the marshes), he would emerge from the dense black of night as the deathscua (death's shadow). The Danes employed an eotanweard (lit. a giant-ward, a watcher for monsters), to warn of Grendel's approach, but often in vain. For so silent was Grendel's approach when he was hunting in the darkness of the night that sometimes an eotanweard himself was surprised and eaten. On one particular and long-remembered night, no less than thirty Danish warriors were killed by Grendel. Little wonder then Beowulf was rewarded so richly and was so famed for having slain him."

Beowulf is a poetic record of actual events and actual people. It is told in this manner and in fact genealogical records support the authenticity of the story. Of course, modern man has difficulty with the idea of dragons and carnivorous saurians killing and being killed by man. Yet Beowulf is presented in a factual rather than a mythical way. The people are real and the story is plausible as long as you are willing to concede that the animals are as described.

The famous tale is merely one of hundreds of historical accounts of clashes between man and dinosaur in the British Isles and surrounding territory.

Dinosaurs in history

The earliest recorded histories of mankind are full of episodes involving creatures that are difficult to avoid calling dinosaurs. I mentioned earlier the descriptions of Behemoth and Leviathan in the Bible:

"There are, of course, the famous descriptions of two such monsters from the Old Testament, Behemoth and Leviathan (Job 40:15-41:34), Behemoth being a giant vegetarian that lived on the fens, and Leviathan a somewhat more terrifying armour plated amphibian whom only children and the most foolhardy would want as a pet. The Egyptians knew Behemoth by the name p'ih mw, which is the same name, of course. Leviathan was similarly known as Lotan to the men of Ugarit. Babylonian and Sumerian literature has preserved details of similar creatures, as has the written and unwritten folklore of peoples around the world."

Bill Cooper, being an English historian, has concentrated on the histories of the peoples located in and around the British Isles. Here are some Saxon and Celtic sightings:

"The early Britons, from whom the modern Welsh are descended, provide us with our earliest surviving European accounts of reptilian monsters, one of whom killed and devoured king Morvidus (Morydd) in ca 336 BC. We are told in the account translated for us by Geoffrey of Monmouth, that the monster 'gulped down the body of Morvidus as a big fish swallows a little one.' Geoffrey described the animal as a Belua.

Peredur, not the ancient king of that name (306-296 BC), but a much later son of Earl Efrawg, had better luck than Morvidus, actually managing to slay his monster, an addanc (pr. athanc: var. afanc), at a place called Llyn Llion in Wales. At other Welsh locations the addanc is further spoken of along with another reptilian species known as the carrog. The addanc survived until comparatively recent times at such places as Bedd-yr-Afanc near Brynberian, at Llyn-yr-Afanc above Bettws-y-Coed on the River Conwy (the killing of this monster was described in the year 1693), and Llyn Barfog. A carrog is commemorated at Carrog near Corwen, and at Dol-y-Carrog in the Vale of Conwy.

Moreover, 'dinosaurs', in the form of flying reptiles, were a feature of Welsh life until surprisingly recent times. As late as the beginning of the present century, elderly folk at Penllin in Glamorgan used to tell of a colony of winged serpents that lived in the woods around Penllin Castle. As Marie Trevelyan tells us:

'The woods around Penllin Castle, Glamorgan, had the reputation of being frequented by winged serpents, and these were the terror of old and young alike. An aged inhabitant of Penllyne, who died a few years ago, said that in his boyhood the winged serpents were described as very beautiful. They were coiled when in repose, and "looked as if they were covered with jewels of all sorts. Some of them had crests sparkling with all the colours of the rainbow". When disturbed they glided swiftly, "sparkling all over," to their hiding places. When angry, they "flew over people's heads, with outspread wings, bright, and sometimes with eyes too, like the feathers in a peacock's tail". He said it was "no old story invented to frighten children", but a real fact. His father and uncle had killed some of them, for they were as bad as foxes for poultry. The old man attributed the extinction of the winged serpents to the fact that they were "terrors in the farmyards and coverts".)

This account is intriguing in many respects, not the least being the fact that it is not a typical account of dragons. The creatures concerned were not solitary and monstrous beasts, but small creatures that lived in colonies. Not at all like the larger species of winged reptile that used to nest upon an ancient burial-mound, or tumulus, at Trellech-a'r-Betws in the county of Dyfed, for example. But whilst we are in Wales, it is worth noting that at Llanbardan-y-Garrag (is Garrag a corruption of carrog?), the church contains a carving of a local giant reptile whose features include large paddle-like flippers, a long neck and a small head. Glaslyn, in Snowdon, is a lake where an afanc was sighted as recently as the 1930s. On this occasion two climbers on the side of a mountain looked down onto the surface of Glaslyn and they saw the creature, which they described as having a long grey body, rise from the depths of the lake to the surface, raise its head and then submerge again."


Dinosaur sightings after 1400 AD

1405 AD - 'Close to the town of Bures, near Sudbury, there has lately appeared, to the great hurt of the countryside, a dragon, vast in body, with a crested head, teeth like a saw, and a tail extending to an enormous length. Having slaughtered the shepherd of a flock, it devoured many sheep.'

After an unsuccessful attempt by local archers to kill the beast, due to its impenetrable hide,

'...in order to destroy him, all the country people around were summoned. But when the dragon saw that he was again to be assailed with arrows, he fled into a marsh or mere and there hid himself among the long reeds, and was no more seen.'

1449 AD - "Later in the 15th century, according to a contemporary chronicle that still survives in Canterbury Cathedral's library, the following incident was reported. On the afternoon of Friday, 26th September, 1449, two giant reptiles were seen fighting on the banks of the River Stour (near the village of Little Cornard) which marked the English county borders of Suffolk and Essex. One was black, and the other 'reddish and spotted'. After an hour-long struggle that took place 'to the admiration of many [of the locals] beholding them', the black monster yielded and returned to its lair, the scene of the conflict being known ever since as Sharpfight Meadow."

1614 AD - Sussex - 'This serpent (or dragon as some call it) is reputed to be nine feete, or rather more, in length, and shaped almost in the form of an axletree of a cart: a quantitie of thickness in the middest, and somewhat smaller at both endes. The former part, which he shootes forth as a necke, is supposed to be an elle [3 ft 9 ins or 1 l4 cms] long; with a white ring, as it were, of scales about it. The scales along his back seem to be blackish, and so much as is discovered under his belie, appeareth to be red... it is likewise discovered to have large feete, but the eye may there be deceived, for some suppose that serpents have no feete ... [The dragon] rids away (as we call it) as fast as a man can run. His food [rabbits] is thought to be; for the most part, in a conie-warren, which he much frequents ...There are likewise upon either side of him discovered two great bunches so big as a large foote-ball, and (as some thinke) will in time grow to wings, but God, I hope, will (to defend the poor people in the neighbourhood) that he shall be destroyed before he grows to fledge.'

"This dragon was seen in various places within a circuit of three or four miles, and the pamphlet named some of the still-living witnesses who had seen him. These included John Steele, Christopher Holder and a certain 'widow woman dwelling neare Faygate'. Another witness was 'the carrier of Horsham, who lieth at the White Horse [inn] in Southwark'. One of the locals set his two mastiffs onto the monster, and apart from losing his dogs he was fortunate to escape alive from the encounter, for the dragon was already credited with the deaths of a man and woman at whom it had spat and who consequently had been killed by its venom. When approached unwittingly, our pamphleteer tells us, the monster was...

'...of countenance very proud and at the sight or hearing of men or cattel will raise his neck upright and seem to listen and looke about, with great arrogancy.'

an eyewitness account of typically reptilian behaviour.

Again, as late as 27th and 28th May 1669, a large reptilian animal was sighted many times, as was reported in the pamphlet: A True Relation of a Monstrous Serpent seen at Henham (Essex) on the Mount in Saffron Waldon."
The last sighting of a dragon in this area is recorded in 1867.

Not just England

"But the British Isles are not the only place where one can find such reports. They occur, quite literally, all over the world. William Caxton, for example, England's first printer, recorded for us in 1484 the following account of a reptilian monster in medieval Italy. I have modernised the spelling and punctuation:

'There was found within a great river [i.e. the Po in Italy] a monster marine, or of the sea, of the form or likeness which followeth. He had the form or making of a fish, the which part was in two halves, that is to wit double. He had a great beard and he had two wonderfully great horns above his ears. Also he had great paps and a wonderfully great and horrible mouth. And at the both [of] his elbows he had wings right broad and great of fish's armour wherewith he swimmed and only he had but the head out of the water. It happed then that many women laundered and washed at the port or haven of the said river [where] that this horrible and fearful beast was, [who] for lack or default of meat came swimming toward the said women. Of the which he took one by the hand and supposed to have drawn her into the water. But she was strong and well advised and resisted against the said monster. And as she defended herself, she began to cry with an high voice, "Help, help!" To the which came running five women which by hurling and drawing of stones, killed and slew the said monster, for he was come too far within the sound, wherefore he might not return to the deep water. And after, when he rendered his spirit, he made a right little cry. He was of great corpulence more than any man's body. And yet, saith Poge [Pogius Bracciolini of Florence] in this manner, that he, being at Ferrara, he saw the said monster and saith yet that the young children were accustomed for to go bathe and wash them within the said river, but they came not all again. Wherefore the women [neither] washed nor laundered their clothes at the said port, for the folk presumed and supposed that the monster killed the young children which were drowned.'

Caxton also provided the following account of a 'serpent' which left a cow badly bruised and frightened, although we should bear in mind that a serpent in Caxton's day was not the snake that we would imagine today, for the word serpent has changed its meaning slightly since the Middle Ages. There are one or two intriguing woodcut illustrations of these serpents in Caxton's book, and they are all bipedal, scaled reptiles with large mouths:

'...about the marches of Italy, within a meadow, was sometime a serpent of wonderful and right marvellous greatness, right hideous and fearful. For first he had the head greater than the head of a calf. Secondly, he had a neck of the length of an ass, and his body made after the likeness of a dog. And his tail was wonderfully great, thick and long, without comparison to any other. A cow ... [seeing] ...so right horrible a beast, she was all fearful and lift herself up and supposed to have fled away. But the serpent, with his wonderfully long tail, enlaced her two hind legs. And the serpent then began to suck the cow. And indeed so much and so long he sucked that he found some milk. And when the cow might escape from him, she fled unto the other cows. And her paps and her hind legs, and all that the serpent touched, was all black a great space of time.'"


A preponderance of dinosaurs

"The following, for example, was penned only two hundred years ago in 1793 and describes creatures that sound suspiciously like pterodactyls or similar. Remember, it is an official and very sober government report that we are reading:

'In the end of November and beginning of December last, many of the country people observed dragons appearing in the north and flying rapidly towards the east; from which they concluded, and their conjectures were right, that...boisterous weather would follow.'

This report is intriguing for the fact that exactly one thousand years before an almost identical report made its appearance in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle under the year 793. The two accounts are nothing more than country people being able to predict the weather by observing the behaviour of the animals, which is a skill that they have always possessed and used, and these accounts, combined with later records of the years 1170, 1177, 1221 and 1222, of 1233 and of 1532, suggest that these creatures could tell the approach of bad weather coming in off the Atlantic and simply migrated to calmer regions while the bad weather lasted. Considering the flimsiness and fragility of the wings of pterodactyls and similar creatures, the reports make eminent sense.

But now we come to the most notable records of all. They are written works that are remarkable for the graphic detail with which they portray the giant reptiles that the early Saxons, Danes and others encountered in Northern Europe and Scandinavia. In various Nordic sagas the slaying of dragons is depicted in some detail, and this helps us to reconstruct the physical appearance of some of these creatures. In the Volsungassaga, for example, the slaying of the monster Fafnir was accomplished by Sigurd digging a pit and waiting, inside the pit, for the monster to crawl overhead on its way to the water. This allowed Sigurd to attack the animal's soft under-belly. Clearly, Fafnir walked on all fours with his belly close to the ground.

Likewise, the Voluspa tells us of a certain monster which the early Vikings called a Nithhoggr, its name (corpse-tearer) revealing the fact that it lived off carrion. Saxo Grammaticus, in his Gesta Danorum, tells us of the Danish king Frotho's fight with a giant reptile, and it is in the advice given by a local to the king, and recorded by Saxo, that the monster is described in great detail. It was, he says, a serpent:

'...wreathed in coils, doubled in many a fold, and with a tail drawn out in winding whorls, shaking his manifold spirals and shedding venom ... his slaver [saliva] burns up what it bespattersyet [he tells the king in words that were doubtless meant to encourage rather than dismay] ...remember to keep the dauntless temper of thy mind; nor let the point of the jagged tooth trouble thee, nor the starkness of the beast, nor the venom there is a place under his lowest belly whither thou mayst plunge the blade'

The description of this reptilian monster closely resembles that of the monster seen at Henham, and the two animals could well have belonged to the same or similar species. Notable, especially, is their defence mechanism of spitting corrosive venom at their victims."


The most notable record of all, of course, may be that of the previously mentioned Beowulf and Grendel. Carroll concludes his treatise on dinosaur sightings in historical records with a list of places in Britain where such records were found. It follows here:

"Aller, Somerset; Anwick, Lincolnshire; Bamburgh, Northumberland; Beckhole, North Yorkshire; Bedd-yr-Afanc, Wales; Ben Vair, Scotland; Bignor Hill, West Sussex; Bishop Auckland, Durham; Bisterne, Hampshire; Brent Pelham, Hertfordshire; Brinsop, Hereford and Worcester; Bures, Suffolk; Cadhury Castle, Devon; Carhampton, Somerset; Castle Carlton, Lincoinshire; Castle Neroche, Somerset; Challacombe, Devon; Churchstanton, Somerset; Cnoc-naCnoimh, Scotland; Crowcombe, Somerset; Dalry, Scotland; Deerhurst, Gloucestershire; Dol-y-Carrog, Wales; Dragon-hoard (nr Garsington), Oxfordshire; Drake Howe, North Yorkshire; Drakelow, Derbyshire; Drakelowe, Worcestershire; Filey Brigg, North Yorkshire; Handale Priory, North York shire; Henham, Essex; Hornden, Essex; Kellington, North Yorkshire; Kilve, Somerset; Kingston St Mary, Somerset; Lambton Castle,, Durham; Linton, Scotland; Little Cornard, Suffolk; Llandeilo Graban, Wales; Llanraeadr-ym-Mochnant, Wales; Llyn Barfog, Wales; Llyn Cynwch (nr Dolgellau), Wales; Llyn Llion, Wales; Llyn-y-Gader, Wales; Llyn-yr. Afanc, Wales; Loch Awe, Scotland; Loch Maree, Scotland; Loch Morar, Scotland; Loch Ness, Scotland; Loch Rannoch, Scotland; Longwitton, Northumberland; Ludham, Norfolk Lyminster, West Sussex; Manaton, Devon; Money Hill, Northumberland; Moston, Cheshire; Newcastle Emlyn, Wales; Norton Fitzwarren, Hereford and Worcester; Nunnington, North Yorkshire; Old Field Barrows (nr Bromfield),. Shropshire; Penllin Castle, Wales; Penmark, Wales; Penmynydd, Wales; St Albans, Hertfordshire; St Leonard's Forest, West Sussex; St Osyth, Essex; Saffron Waldon, Essex; Sexhow, North Yorkshire; Shervage Wood, Hereford and Worcester; Slingsby, North Yorkshire; Sockburn, Durham; Stinchcombe, Gloucestershire; Strathmartin, Scotland; Walmsgate, Lincolnshire; Wantley, South Yorkshire; Well, North Yorkshire; Wherwell, Hampshire; Whitehorse Hill, Oxford- shire; Winkleigh, Devon; Wiston, Wales; Wormelow Tump, Hereford and Worcester; Wormingford, Essex."

Dinosaurs in the historical records of the Danes, the Saxons, the Celts, The Welsh and other peoples of the area surrounding the British Isles. Not one, not a dozen, but hundreds of reports that can still be found. It is likely that many such reports were discarded over the years and many of the stories have taken on mythical tones. Fiction writers have taken the stories of serpents and dragons and given people inumerable hours of reading enjoyment. The evidence indicates, however, that the dragon "stories" come from actual encounters between dinosaurs and people in the distant and not-so-distant past.

More to come!

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh, I wish Tolkien was still alive . . .

"Having established that the Bible mentions and describes dinosaurs . . ."

I stopped reading at this point. ( I eventually started again, but that's just me.)

"The Anglo-Saxons (like the modern Germans and Dutch) had a very simple method of word construction, and their names for everyday objects can sometimes sound amusing to our modern English ears when translated literally"

Ahhhrggg!

- "Old English poetry employs a number of words that are rarely or never found in prose, and its syntax differs from that of prose in several respects. The result of these differences is that there is a distinctively poetic Old English idiom, which probably was as easily recognizable to Englishmen of that time as Gray's poetic idiom is to us. . . But more striking than this compound is beadolēoma 'battle-light', in which the first element provides a clue to the riddle of the second, a metonymic reference to a gleaming sword. This kind of compound is called a kenning, and it is one of the most striking features of Old English poetic style. A good poet may coin his own kennings (Beowulf has many unique ones), but a number of them appear to belong to a common stock of poetic terms. Here are some kennings that appear in Beowulf and at least one other poem:
bāncofa,
masc. bone-chamber, i.e. body.
bānfæt,
neut. bone-container, i.e. body.
bānhūs,
neut. bone-house, i.e. body.
bānloca,
masc. locked bone-enclosure, i.e. body.
brēosthord,
neut. breast-hoard, i.e. feeling, thought, character.
frumgār,
masc. first spear, i.e. chieftain.
hronrād,
fem. whale-road, i.e. sea.
merestrǣt,
fem. sea-street, i.e. the way over the sea.
nihthelm,
masc. night-helmet, i.e. cover of night.
sāwoldrēor,
masc. or neut. soul-blood, i.e. life-blood.
sundwudu,
masc. sea-wood, i.e. ship.
swanrād,
fem. swan-road, i.e. sea.
wordhord,
neut. word-hoard, i.e. capacity for speech."

[source: E-Intro to Old English - 14 Poetic Style]

" It is sometimes asserted to be a Christian fable but Bill Cooper disagrees:"

"Carroll makes a strong case against the mythicalization, if you will, of Beowulf that took place in the 1800's as scholars began to portray the monsters in the story as "Trolls" and the people as mythical or idealized."

"The evidence indicates, however, that the dragon "stories" come from actual encounters between dinosaurs and people in the distant and not-so-distant past."

Now it's not just all the earth and life scientists (and physicists, and etc.) that are wrong, not just the archaeologists, the historians, but even the linguists, the scholars of myth and oral tradition and literature - all wrong, wrong, wrong!

My word, what a world you live in!

And hang on - Carroll thinks that Beowulf killed a T. rex by pulling its arm off?

Again - everything's literal. No imagination, no changes over time, no creativity, no possibility that (roughly) historical places and people could serve as a backdrop for myth and legend . . .
Radar, you're a poet - how could you hold to such a thing!?


. . . it's very interesting to note that this monstrous denial of human creativity (all of human literature is a bloody news brief) parallels the denial of biological 'creativity' - that is, evolution, the role of mutations, etc.

Now that you've made a mockery of art, maybe you'll explain why we don't find any recent dinosaur bones?

-Dan S., do you ken?

Anonymous said...

Ok, now that we've had our fun pretending make-belive monsters were real (and real animals were make-belive monsters), here's some actual - and rather neat - science:

How to make a bat

-Dan S., a bit batty.

Anonymous said...

belive = believe.
I need spellcheck.

-Dan S.

radar said...

I ken, Dan.

All dinosaur fossils are recent, almost all of them dating from the Flood. You know I believe that and post evidence concerning that.

If that is the best you can do concerning the historical records it would be wise to concede the point. Unless you think the peoples of the past were all a bunch of Tolkiens trying diligently to create fiction, especially the town records-keepers?

What evidence do you have to disprove all these records?

By the way, Tolkien was a Christian such as myself and a boon companion to one C S Lewis. You will find that Lewis wrote fantasy as fantasy but he also wrote non-fiction. There is no good reason to write off Beowulf as fictional (especially since the characters are actual people) other than the fact you don't like the dinosaurs being included. So we come back to the problem....modern macroevolutionists of every stripe discount all evidences of dinosaurs after the Flood (and discount the Flood, too) with derision as a primary weapon. They discount ancient genealogies and histories as fictional because it doesn't fit into their world view.

But people who kept histories of various towns had no need to make up stories. Artists of the time had no need to include made-up monsters in with pictures of otherwise living beings (and would not have known what dinosaurs looked like if they had not seen them). You are looking for an agenda that was not there and unless Robert Heinlein went back in time and passed out pictures of dinosaurs to the various cultures around the world.

creeper said...

"Having established that the Bible mentions and describes dinosaurs . . ."

Radar, your brazen double standard is simply breath-taking. Nonetheless, I'm quite enjoying this rambling sight-seeing tour through various aspects of pseudo-science with such a fervent guide.

It's an interesting progression, actually - once devout religious faith dictates an anti-science stance and a belief in poetry as literal truth, it's very understandable how you take on board all these things without the demand for absolute proof that you selectively apply.

Dan, I love those Old English words - one of my favorites was always bone locker = body. Another favorite is still very much in current use: window = wind-eye, an eye to the wind.

Anonymous said...

"All dinosaur fossils are recent, almost all of them dating from the Flood."

Well, I know you believe that, and that you believe you have evidence for it, and I'm sure you're honestly and sincerely posting it - but it's not evidence. Or more accurately, it's rather unconvincing evidence. It would help if any of the expert witnesses supported your interpretation . . .

"If that is the best you can do concerning the historical records it would be wise to concede the point."

Hang on, I have to get over being flabbergasted and gobsmacked . . .

"Unless you think the peoples of the past were all a bunch of Tolkiens trying diligently to create fiction, especially the town records-keepers?"

No. That's not how it works (although it can be difficult in some cases to be sure what was intended as literary creation, and not assumed to be true, and what was believed to be true - or even if this sort of framework always held in quite the same way . . .). People tell stories to explain the world (literally, pragmatically, morally, emotionally, helpfully . . .) and provide entertainment (in some ways a subset of explanation). Under some circumstances, and with enough information and certain standards, these stories will entirely match what we think of as truth, in the most literal or scientific sence. Other times, they'll go different ways.

And Tolkien had a very . . . interesting attitude toward his writings. I mean, he certainly didn't think there really was a hobbit named Frodo (although the character is, perhaps, built on a person(s) from Old English and Old Norse literature, Froda/Frothi - rather like how the names of Gandalf and many of the dwarves are found in a section of Old Norse poetry, and etcetcetc., so the entire work takes on the character of an tale ancient beyond reckoning, surviving down to today in scraps and glimpses, garbled and changed and all but forgotten . . .) Rather, the Inklings generally tended to have a very expansive idea of myth and truth and suchlike . . . Lewis too.

"What evidence do you have to disprove all these records?"

Interesting question, rather like insisting one disprove ghosts or vampires. Proving a negative . .
What evidence? Without delving into the immense body of work on myth and legend and folklore and oral literature and history and . . . (sadly, I have work to do) - two things:

No dino fossils or similar traces or anything, really, showing that dinos lived besides people; We're talking no evidence here. Radiometric dating indicates a gap of ~65 million years between last know dinosaur fossils and modern people.

Basic understanding of human nature and history. There may be mountain lions in the forests of Pennsylvania (although they've been rather good at concealing their tracks, unless you believe that the authorities are covering it up to prevent mass panic / opposition to a clandestine reintroduction program / something). There almost certainly isn't a Jersey Devil haunting the Pine Barrens (despite sightings by numerous witnesses early in the century (perhaps, Radar, it was one of the last survivors of a remnant population of pterodactyls?)). I doubt that countless houses / restaurants / trains / planes / automobiles / etc. are haunted by spirits. Paul Bunyon (and his big blue ox Babe), John Henry, Pecos Bill, and etc. are people of folklore - although they have a historical background and in some cases are probably built around actual historical figures. There almost certainly wasn't a horrible string of bizarre and elaborately plotted episodes of child sexual abuse at the McMartin preschool in CA or the Wee Care Day Nursery center in NJ during the 1980s, nor widespread, multi-generational well-organized satanic ritual abuse rings operating around the country, despite all this being recorded by the towns' record-keepers (none of which should be taken to downplay or deny the all too real tragedy of child abuse!!). It's pretty unlikely that large numbers of people are being abducted by aliens and probed in embarassing ways, without ever being able to provide verifiable evidence for their travails (etc., etc., etc. . . endless list of strange and fantastic tales throughout the world's historical and current cultures - I especially like the known anachronisms, like how some creation myths of the Plains Indians include horses, or how bicycles were invented by West African culture heroes - all of whch make perfect sense in terms of cultural importance.)

In some cases, we can make a connection (of varying certainty) between myth / folklore / oral tradition /etc. and the world outside people's heads. Some stories have aspects of a genuine, if garbled and imperfectly remembered past - ie, the oral tradition written down and modified by whoever(s) Homer represents. Some myths and legends may have been inspired or reinforced or fleshed out by early fossil finds. It's fascinating to wonder if the Australian bunyip is a distant echo of the real Diprotodon, a giant marsupial which actually co-existed with early Australians (we have real evidence), but which went extinct perhaps 15,000 years ago. But to refuse to acknowledge that it's not all strictly literally, historically accurate . . . well, actually, that sounds rather familar . .

"By the way, Tolkien was a Christian . . . "
Most certainly!

"There is no good reason to write off Beowulf as fictional (especially since the characters are actual people)"

Would you say there is no good reason to write off Parson Weems' cherry tree tale as fictional (especially since the characters are actual people, ie, George Washington)?

"Dan, I love those Old English words"

Me too! (There's a reason I pasted that whole list - they're just too cool to not!) . . . window . . wow. That and fire-farting beetles - it's an amazing world . .

-Dan S.

creeper said...

Ever since I saw M. Night Shyamalan's 'The Village', I am aware that not all monsters supposedly sighted outside of small villages actually exist. They can easily be people dressed up as monsters to stop the villagers from exploring the outside world.

Juggling Mother said...

I'll come back with a proper answer to your mangled Enlish lit theories when I've got a bit more time, but just a quick comment on the dragons/winged serpents...

Do you have any idea how much tourist money Inverness has made out of Nessie? There is no other trade there. the town completely relies on idiot Americans coming & looking in a lake for a mythical beast. of course no-one is going to say it categorically doesn't exist. and of course any other places with similar myths are going to try and cash in. The welsh dragons are cute, cuddly, ruby red & sleep in steam train engines. well known fact! Ask any English school child. they sing in the valley choir too. and live with jones the steam when they need some TLC.

Oh dear oh dear oh dear. *shakes head sadly* How can you relly pretend to yourself you are having a reasoned scientific discussion when you come up with idiocies like this?

A Hermit said...

Radar, I'm amazed at your ability to accept myth as fact, to reject any notion of our ancestors possessing any kind of creative imagination, or being capable of invention, embellishment, exageration, hyperbole and observational errors.

As for monsters, we have them here in Lake Winnipeg. People see giant "sea serpents" all the time. It's pretty well understood by us locals that what they're really seeing are some of the really big sturgeon that grow in that immense lake...

Just beacause ancient maps show pictures of sea serpents in the oceans and carry the warning "Here Be Monsters" doesn't mean that the cartographer actually saw monsters.
They may have seen things like this:

basking shark

and, like you, leapt to the wrong conclusions. Our ancestors had plenty of imagination, but they had no cameras, paleontologists, marine biologists or DNA testing so the story of a "sea monster" would persist. Wouldn't make the thing real, though...

radar said...

So far you are using scorn as a weapon, but meanwhile not making a dent in the evidence. (BTW no mention was made by me of Nessie). You are simply saying that all of your ancestors were idiots who continually made up fanciful stories or were stupid enough to record the fanciful stories as fact.

Oh, and these idiots somehow knew an awful lot about dinosaurs and their body shapes and habits. More on that later. There are many examples of pictures and carvings of dinosaurs that are remarkably anatomically correct based on what we know today. You expect us to believe that people around the globe magically knew what they had never seen.

Your scorn and derision may comfort you but to those who realize what the evidence is (and I will bring more to the table) your remarks are tantamount to an admission that you really don't know what to do with such evidence, so try to bury it.

Anonymous said...

"Radar, your brazen double standard is simply breath-taking."

I do like how he beats up on the poor artist's representation for making some relatively reasonable assumptions, but is willing to sit down, have a beer, and stagger home singy bawdy songs with 'huge twisted man-thing = T. rex.

"Ever since I saw M. Night Shyamalan's 'The Village',"

I was very conflicted about that ending . . .
(As opposed to Signs, where I almost threw something at the screen in disgust . . .)


"Do you have any idea how much tourist money Inverness has made out of Nessie? "

Don't know, but having spent some of my childhood up in Vermont, I'm sure it's more than the communities around Lake Champlain make out of Champ . . .
. . . huh. And the creationists behind Genesis Park appear to think Champ is real, and a plesiosaur . . . .

However, there is the teeny-teeny-tiniest of chances that the mastodon skeleton two guys came across in a cave near Lake St. Catherine that they then couldn't find again in the late 19th century actually exists. I actually spent a little time trying to figure out where it could have been, from contemporary accounts, but since they almost certainly made it up for attention . . .oh well. I've only *(briefly) helped dig up one mastodon skeleton so far* - that's way too few . . .! Amazingly big bones . . . talk about giants in the earth . . .

(and via a link on the PRI website, you can listen to the song We Come From Monkeys. That doesn't necessarily mean one should, but . . . )

"The welsh dragons are cute, cuddly, ruby red & sleep in steam train engines. "
Really?! Ok, that's just no fair. Wales can't get to have Dylan Thomas and cute cuddly dragons!

"(BTW no mention was made by me of Nessie)."
But why not?

"You are simply saying that all of your ancestors were idiots who continually made up fanciful stories or were stupid enough to record the fanciful stories as fact."

No, we're saying that our ancestors were human.


Well, the more recent ones, anyway . . .

Radar, you need to get more of an echo chamber here. Too many good comments from our side, not enough people backing you up - it must get somewhat dispiriting. I may have to send some evolution blog creationists this way . . .

I have to admit, though, you're right about dinos coexisting with people. I just saw a whole bunch of them in the backyard. In fact, I even have a feeder up to attract more of them. I can even go get bits of them in a bucket of KFC . . . .**

For fun: Anthropological and Cultural Approaches to Beowulf

* radiocarbon dated at 11,480 years b.p
** well, to the extent that anything in a KFCs bucket is of avian (or possibly just animal) origin . . .

-Dan S., who wants two ravens (that is, little flying dinos) to sit on his shoulders, named Scorn and Derision . . .

Anonymous said...

that should be ". . .stagger home singing bawdy songs with the idea that .. . ."

-Dan S.

Juggling Mother said...

I'm not saying my ancestors were idiots, I'm saying Americans (and others) are gullible when abroad.

When I lived in wales, i regularly saw dragons flying in the mountains, when I lived in Ireland, you wouldn't believe how often leprechauns came frolicking in the field next door & when i lived in scotland, i was happy to point out the elusive haggis as it ran through the trees. especially to US citizens who paid me good money to show them the tracks/footprints/fairy circle etc.

OK, so i'm a shmuck, fuelling their fantastical myths rather than educating them properly, but in Wales I was earnong £30 per week, in Scotland £50 per week & in ireland absolutely bugger all. Their money fed me, and kept them happy on their holiday. I always assumed they knew I was just stringing them along, but judging from your blog, maybe not....

Juggling Mother said...

Oh, the reference to ruby dragons living in steam engines was a particularly british laugh at radar for believing in Ivor the engine" cartoons.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking about Carroll's absurd mischaracterization of Old English . . . now, it may be that I am over-reacting to an innocent simplification in a popular account (a la the Falcarius flap), or that Carroll simply doesn't know what he's talking about (I can't find out what his academic qualifications might be, after all). Thing is, portraying Old English as an almost childishly literal (if powerfully poetic) language helps Carroll's point. By denying the coexistence of everyday and poetic registers, this obscures the idea of literary creation (regardless of whether the teller of the tale thought it was essentially a historical account or not or whatever), and subtly implies that the Anglo-Saxons (important cultural - if not also biological - ancestors) were almost childishly literal.

More than anything else, it reminds me, in a 'so far in the opposite direction that they meet at the other end' way, of Julian Jaynes' classic (using the term somewhat loosely) work The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Basically, Jaynes - drawing on ancient literature, myth, etc., argued that ancient people (until fairly recently, perhaps 1000 BCE) had brains that worked rather differently than you or I. Glossing over the rather iffy neurological details, he claimed that nstead of being truly (self)-conscious, with an ongoing interior monologue, ancient people experienced commands, etc., coming from an outside source, which were understood to be gods, or muses, or etc. Due to various factors, they eventually came to have full consciousness, and the gods went silent (resulting in various institutional developments such as oracles, prayer, divination, etc. [ripping all this off wikipedia, since if I have a copy, I have no idea where it is, barely remember it, and hey, the gods are telling me to!]

It's an unquestionably fascinating idea, but Jaynes is doing a version of the same thing Carroll is - he's reading ancient myths, lit, etc. strictly literally, and as if he had no familiarity with human culture and society. Besides the issue of different ways of expression, even today many people say that God or a God or a Goddess (as in (apparently) the case of one brilliant Indian mathematician) talks to them. The examples range from genuine symptoms of mental illness to a kind of culturally internal conviction or representation about one's decisions, rather than a literal hearing-voices thingy (as far as I understand it). In the end, the impression I get is that both have serious misunderstandings of human experience. Jaynes simply can't understand the variety of religious experience, Carroll has real problems with ~creativity (not the right word here). This leads both to childlishly literal readings of myth, lit, etc - filtered through science with Jaynes, religion with Carroll (a not unimportant determination).

(To be fair, Jaynes uses as evidence not just literary (including mythical/Biblical) depictions of Gods talking to people, but a supposed lack of introspection, etc. This is a very interesting point, but I think it just ties into the fact that many genres - especially non-quite modern ones - don't follow novelistic conventions, which may indicate a genuine change but a cultural rather than biological one. Look at modern retellings of traditional myths/folklore for kids - all this character development and internal stuff . . .

-Dan S.

highboy said...

"Radar, you need to get more of an echo chamber here. Too many good comments from our side, not enough people backing you up - it must get somewhat dispiriting. I may have to send some evolution blog creationists this way . . ."

Actually, all I've seen anyone prove so far is that they are better at sarcasm. Since I've started commenting on this site I've seen Radar post rather lengthy evidence that hasn't been refuted with anything more substantial then "You're wrong, Radar, you're wrong."

As far as this post goes, why don't want of the evolutionist advocates actually post evidence refuting some of Radar's arguments? These people who write these stories seem to know quite a bit about the anatomy of the beasts without all the "science" we have today. The Bible does mention dinosaurs by the way, even giant human beings, which has been proven possible given the climate before the flood. Whether you believe in God or not, that the ancient Hebrew texts were in fact writtin thousands of years ago is real. I'd love to hear an explanation of this from our evolutionist buddies.

highboy said...

Dinos in the Bible

"Although we alter the spelling of behemoth and Leviathan slightly, we still use those same words in bibles today. However, tanniyn is always translated into another word when we write it in English. Tanniyn occurs 28 times in the Bible and is normally translated “dragon.” It is also translated “serpent,” “sea monster,” “dinosaur,” “great creature,” and “reptile.” Behemoth and Leviathan are relatively specific creatures, perhaps each was a single kind of animal. Tanniyn is a more general term, and it can be thought of as the original version of the word “dinosaur.” The word “dinosaur” was originally coined in 1841, more than three thousand years after the Bible first referred to “Tanniyn.”

creeper said...

Highboy,

"Since I've started commenting on this site I've seen Radar post rather lengthy evidence that hasn't been refuted with anything more substantial then "You're wrong, Radar, you're wrong.""

I've been here for about a month and a half now, and I can't think of any examples in which Radar's claims were not addressed with substantial rebuttals and someone just said that Radar was wrong with no basis.

Could you point us to an example where this took place?

highboy said...

"Could you point us to an example where this took place?"

Sure.

Creeper: "Having established that the Bible mentions and describes dinosaurs . . ."

"Radar, your brazen double standard is simply breath-taking. Nonetheless, I'm quite enjoying this rambling sight-seeing tour through various aspects of pseudo-science with such a fervent guide.

It's an interesting progression, actually - once devout religious faith dictates an anti-science stance and a belief in poetry as literal truth, it's very understandable how you take on board all these things without the demand for absolute proof that you selectively apply.

Dan, I love those Old English words - one of my favorites was always bone locker = body. Another favorite is still very much in current use: window = wind-eye, an eye to the wind."

Anonymous said...

"Tanniyn occurs 28 times in the Bible and is normally translated “dragon.” It is also translated “serpent,” “sea monster,” “dinosaur,” “great creature,” and “reptile.”"

As far as I can tell, it is translated "dinosaur" by people who have a prior conviction that the passages in question are definitely/very likely describing dinosaurs. It's as if I was convinced that Ezekiel was beamed up aboard a UFO, so I argued that various words should be translated 'spaceship,' 'landing gear,' etc.

" Tanniyn is a more general term, and it can be thought of as the original version of the word “dinosaur.”"

Having read the link, I can only reply that saying something doesn't make it so. Not only is there almost no evidence of critical thinking, consideration of other explanations, etc. (here or anywhere else I've seen on this subject) there is very little evidence given in support of this claim, or why it should be considered the best explanation of the evidence! There is also no discusion as to why the description of Behemoth almost completely fails to fit current understandings of sauropod behavior, habitat, etc.

The Dinosaurs and the Bible page claims that Behemoth was "not a normal animal, it is a dinosaur—the brachiosaurus." It lists many of the attributes of Behemoth from Job Job 40:15-24, including
"It “eats grass like an ox.” . . .
. . .“He lies under the lotus trees,
In a covert of reeds and marsh.”

Wikipedia (I know, but I'm in a hurry!) describes current scientific understandings of Brachiosaurus's environment and behavior like this:

" . . . .it lived on prairies filled with ferns, bennetittes, horsetails, and also moved through vast conifer forests, groves of cycads, Seed ferns, and Ginkgoes . . . . In past decades, scientists theorized that the animal used its nostrils like a snorkel, spending most of its time submerged in water in order to support its great mass. The current consensus view, however, is that Brachiosaurus was a fully terrestrial animal. Studies have demonstrated that water pressure would have prevented the animal from breathing effectively while submerged, and also that its feet were too narrow for efficient aquatic use. . . " Meanwhile, this page points out that "its diet likely consisted of branches and needles of conifers, cycads, and ferns."

(I can't find any online resources that explains in detail why we think this, and don't feel confident doing it off the top of my head - can anyone help out? If not, think teeth. A diet of grass - rich in silica - involves both special adaptations and distinctive traces, something that brings us back to horse evolution! - click here for the modern situation, straight from the horse's mouth).

The page does not address this apparent mismatch, either to explain or refute it. It would appear that the author either is not aware of current work in the field or chooses to ignore it in favor of obsolete descriptions from children's books.

The site goes on to note that" neither an elephant or a hippopotamus [suggested explanations for Behemoth] has a “tail like a cedar” (that is, a tail like a large, tapered tree trunk)." All discussions I have seen pushing the Behemoth-dino link interpret the cedar reference as meaning Behemoth has a giant, long, thick tail. If one accepts that the tail is the actually intended body part, the fact remains that this isn't what's said (at least in terms of translations). As the page has it, "It “moves his tail like a cedar.” (In Hebrew, this literally reads, “he lets hang his tail like a cedar.”) [is this correct?]" What does this mean? Big and long seems a reasonable meaning, but to my mind at least it suggests the possibility that some other trait is being referenced. Are cedars (presumably Cedrus libani) especially stiff or flexible, for example? This may be an unlikely interpretation, but I've yet to see it addressed anywhere.

The more pressing issue, again, is why there is no material evidence of human-dinosaur co-existence, from radiometric dating to fossil assemblages. The explanations given fail to seem even slightly plausible to me, but more importantly are entirely rejected by experts in the relevant fields.*, **

One of the reasons we've been defending the rather thin National Geographic article on Falcarius is because we know, more or less, that there's a whole massive bunch of research and evidence and critical procedures (peer review, etc.) behind it all, publically available, at least to people with varying degrees of access and training - starting with an internet connection or local library, and decent reading comprehension -resulting in a solid reputation of reliability, of getting the job done, one that we're checking on to various degrees. Creationism doesn't have this. Look behind the Dino/Bible thing, for example, and all you see is some scraps of plywood and a couple of spare nails.


* Imagine if everyone - the health inspectors, the food scientists, everyone - said that meat had to be cooked at such and such a temperature for so long to kill harmful bacteria, based on various studies and experiments, but some folks kept saying no, you can just serve it raw and it will be fine, because, well, isn't steak tartar a delicacy?


**And the whole Flood fossil-sorting thing - so animals are supposed to be arranged according to habitat, ability to escape, and hydrodynamics, but that this would always every single time match up perfectly with what is predicted by actual science not only boggles the imagination (after all, failure of imagination only marks the limits of one's imagination, not explanatory ability) - it also seems to contradict everything we know and could reasonably predict.)

-Dan S., wondering why folks never seem to realize that going on about dragons being real and dinosaurs living alongside people in the Bible might help explain why some folks have, ah . . . certain attitudes towards Christianity in general and this weird side road specifically . . .

Anonymous said...

[Highboy gives as an example of insubstanial rebuttals Creeper's comment: "Radar, your brazen double standard is simply breath-taking."]

This is a contextual reference. Radar appears to enthusiastically accept a number of weak and dubious arguments - a particularly glaring example being that the description of Grendel as a great big but twisted looking man clearly establishes that he was a T. rex - which are so far from the mainstream of scientific thought that they're bascially just little stagnant pools filled with wriggling mosquito larvae, slowly drying up (so to speak), and in fact contradict central tenants of numerous fields, with little or no evidence to back up their extraordinary claims (etc, etc., etc). At the same time, he's getting all antediluvian on that poor little National Geographic puff piece's arse, all because it doesn't exhaustively document every claim, and has a clearly labled artist's conception that makes some scientifically reasonable inferences.

Ergo, brazen double standard. Not as much fun as a brazen hussy, but what can ya do . . .?

By the way, say 'hi' to Najash rionegrina:

"Fossil Suggests Snakes Evolved on Land
NEW YORK - A fossil find in Argentina has revealed a two-legged creature that's the most primitive snake known, a discovery that promises to fire up the scientific debate about whether snakes evolved on land or in the sea."

What with all these nice transitional fossils showing up lately, theoretically creationists should be getting a headache, though I doubt that's the case. Did you hear the one about Moses' headache, though? He gets to the top of Mt. Sinai and says, God, I have this terrible headache . . . and God says, Ok, take these two tablets . . .

[cymbal crash]

=Dan S., cheese whiz . . .

highboy said...

"It's as if I was convinced that Ezekiel was beamed up aboard a UFO, so I argued that various words should be translated 'spaceship,' 'landing gear,' etc."

That was a pretty retarded comparison. So in other words, creationists are ridiculed for believing in YEC because mainstream scientists say its wrong, while at the same time you say we should reject mainstream scholars translations of ancient texts. Talk about double standard. Do you have evidence that "tannyin" is translated as something else? There are multiple meanings of Hebrew words, but the definitions are

a. dragon or monster
b. sea or river monster
c. serpent, venemous snake

If you admit that we should believe what actual scholars find as a true translation, then you have a problem, whether you believe the Bible to be the Word of God or not: If the Bible talks of dinos, when it was written supposedly when dinos didn't exist, and there was no scientific way of discovering they did exist, then we need to start questioning this whole 65 million year gap.

highboy said...

*According to Strong's Lexicon, letter "a" there should say "dragon or dinosaur", not "dragon or monster." Sorry for the typo.

Anonymous said...

Pictures of cedars

"at the same time you say we should reject mainstream scholars translations of ancient texts."

Is tanniyn = dinosaur a mainstream-scholarly translation?

This is what I found:

"Strong's Hebrew Lexicon Search Results
Result of search for "tanniyn":

8577 tanniyn tan-neen' or tanniym (Ezek. 29:3) {tan-neem'}; intensive from the same as 8565; a marine or land monster, i.e. sea-serpent or jackal:--dragon, sea-monster, serpent, whale. . ."

"f you admit that we should believe what actual scholars find as a true translation"
How do they determine this?

"If the Bible talks of dinos, when it was written supposedly when dinos didn't exist, and there was no scientific way of discovering they did exist, then we need to start questioning this whole 65 million year gap."

If the Bible talks of tanniyn, then we should see what reason some folks provide for their decision to give one possible translation as "dinosaur."

Now, if the Bible described, in specific, clear, and unmistakable detail, a creature (ideally in a specific region), and then fossils unquestionably matching this description were found . . . well, that would be extremely interesting, to say the least. Instead, we have 'a big strong grass-eating animal compared to an ox with a tail (literal or euphemistic?) that moves/hangs like a cedar, and a fire-breathing sea serpent . . .

Watch out for the drop bears!

-Dan S.

highboy said...

Dan: Did you even look at the link I gave? One of Strong's Lexicon translations is "dinosaur." Yes, that is a mainstream translation, if it is found in Strong's. Once again, you ask us to ignore what experts say about Hebrew translation, yet ask us to swallow what scientific experts say about science. Why the double standard?

creeper said...

Highboy,

as Dan already pointed out, I was commenting on Radar's blatant double standard in evaluating the underlying support of various claims: on the one hand, demand for ironclad proof before a clearly labeled artist's conception may be presented, and on the other hand accepting speculation about the identity of Behemoth and Leviathan as having "established" something, instead of labeling it as speculative.

I didn't say that Radar's conclusions were necessarily wrong, and so this is not an example of me saying Radar was wrong with no basis. I wouldn't post such a claim (of Radar being wrong) without first or at the same time challenging the support or reasoning that Radar had presented.

Maybe you can think of an actual example of this, but I honestly can't, at least not from any of the regular commenters around here.

creeper said...

"Dan: Did you even look at the link I gave? One of Strong's Lexicon translations is "dinosaur." Yes, that is a mainstream translation, if it is found in Strong's. Once again, you ask us to ignore what experts say about Hebrew translation, yet ask us to swallow what scientific experts say about science. Why the double standard?"

This business of "what experts say about Hebrew translation" is interesting.

Highboy, I don't know if you in turn looked at what Dan posted, which was also a definition from Strong's Lexicon, and which did not contain the word 'dinosaur'.

This gets me wondering about a couple of things:

1. Is there more than one version of Strong's Lexicon?

2. At what point was the word 'dinosaur' added to Strong's Lexicon? Who added it and why?

At some point someone must have come to the conclusion that the monsters referred to as 'tannyin' were what modern science studies as 'dinosaurs'. On what was this determination based, if anything?

There is no double standard in the acceptance of the judgement of scientists on the one hand and Hebrew translators on the other, but there's nothing wrong with finding out the reasoning behind their conclusions.

Kerwin said...

Contrary to those who have embraced the governments account of history and refuse to accept other possibilities I can see where you are coming from. You do have an interesting historical theory. I believe that most evolutionist are agnostics or atheist so I see how they could be biased. Why do you think we have found no bones or other evidence if dinosaurs were around that recently?

creeper said...

Kerwin, who are you talking to?

highboy said...

"1. Is there more than one version of Strong's Lexicon?"

No.

"2. At what point was the word 'dinosaur' added to Strong's Lexicon? Who added it and why?"

I have no idea. The link Dan provided is the first time I did not read "dinosaur" as one of the definitions. Those Lexicons, Greek and Hebrew we have in the library read dinosaur, as well as the link I provided.

creeper said...

Hm. Anyone have any ideas why we have different definitions - both purportedly from Strong's Lexicon - available online? Do they maybe have updated editions, like the Oxford English Dictionary?

How old are these lexicons ("lexica"?)? It's just that the word "dinosaur" has a very specific meaning, and it wasn't coined until the mid-19th century.

For it to become an accepted translation would imply that at some point Hebrew scholars looked at what they knew about tannyin and decided that it might refer to what scientists today study under the name of dinosaur. It feels intuitively right, since dinosaur seems to fit in with the general idea of a large monster. I'm not aware of Hebrew translators basing this on actual scientific evidence, but perhaps Radar or someone will surprise me.

No translation of the Bible has yet taken the scholars up on using the term 'dinosaur'.

highboy said...

"No translation of the Bible has yet taken the scholars up on using the term 'dinosaur'."

Don't worry, it will come. Did you ever hear of the Bible translation "Word On The Street?" It actually has Jesus being shot to death, its that contemporary. Ridiculous.

As to your questions regarding the Lexicon Creeper, I have no idea.

Anonymous said...

"Do they maybe have updated editions, like the Oxford English Dictionary?"

Or denominational ones? - I know almost nothing about the whole issue . . .

My UFO analogy might have been a bit off - perhaps it was like folks deciding that some vague-ish Biblical term about division (of the earth) can be translated as 'plate tectonics.' Or that something could be translated as 'electricity', or that a word from an ancient Hindu epic means 'nuclear weapon . . .'

After all, a frequent claim is that ancient civilizations had advanced technology. But one would need more than the claim itself to justify such a translation. I'm not seeing that here so far.

-Dan S.

Jebas! blogger says.

Ivan the Carpathian said...

What I find interesting is that the opposition to Radar's comments offer's nothing but straw men, logical fallacy, and "hype". Interesting and, I think, revealing....

creeper said...

"What I find interesting is that the opposition to Radar's comments offer's nothing but straw men, logical fallacy, and "hype". Interesting and, I think, revealing...."

Hinty hint hint hint. If you have an actual point to make, then by all means argue what you think the straw men, fallacies and "hype" are.

Anonymous said...

http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/technologyandresearch/a/trextissue.htm

Someone could explain this then...here is a T-Rex bone with tissue still inside...its supposed to be 70 million years old? How does that happen?

Ojalanpoika said...

http://www.helsinki.fi/~pjojala/Dinoglyphs.htm
Of course the ancient (wo)man saw them:
http://www.helsinki.fi/~pjojala/Dinoglyphs.htm

They are documented not only in the classic books from the antiquities, but also as drawings, mosaics, bronze seals, cave paintings and even in garments from South America.

Pauli Ojala
biochemist
Helsinki, Fine land

radar said...

Now that dinosaur remains are being found with tissue and blood remnants intact, the argument Dan was so fond of is worthless. We now find tissue rather than simply fossil remains, indicating that these remains are recent and co-terminus with the time of mankind. How about that?

jessie said...

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study abroad

radar said...

Revisiting this post, in the interim there have been finds of actual tissue in fossil remains beyond that one T Rex. Furthermore, I have documented a dinosaur and human track together that has been carefully vetted to insure that no faking was involved. The overwhelming evidence for the Acambaro figurines as being made by people who were making representative models of the animals they encountered has been ignored by the media and the Darwinist community but they are glaring and horrific problems for them and their theories.

Around the world in art (such as the Cambodian temple depicting a Stegosaurus) and documentation the interaction between man and dinosaur is quite obvious. Darwinists hate to admit that there are literally THOUSANDS of examples of official records, church memoirs, carvings, drawings and figurines that describe and depict animals we would call dinosaurs.

It is also interesting that the Acambaro figurines are more anatomically correct than the paleontologist's descriptions of Iguanodon, for instance, at the time. The Acambaro people somehow knew that there were dorsal fins and ridges on some dinosaurs and that Iguanodons were not so thick and squatty as scientists believed at the time of their discovery.

I might add that the historical authenticity of the story of Beowulf is upheld by the evidence that Carroll presents quite nicely and no commenter presented anything other than derision or astonishment. Scoffing does not an argument make.

Anonymous said...

Explain how a dinosaur can die standing up and become fossilized in that position.

Also this fish has been extinct for 66 million years.http://www.zululand.co.za/blog/oceans-2/the-old-man-and-the-sea/attachment/coelacanth-2/


oh wait my bad here it is, alive.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYOf2wIoxgo

what is it that science says? if a theory is disproved even once, the theory is debunked right? What else isn't extinct yet? What does that say about the age of the earth? REMEMBER science is based on human observation. We've proven ourselves wrong before.

Thank you Radar for the wonderful hypothesis i would love to go to that river in England to see if i can find evidence of the battle between the black and red spotted monsters!

Anonymous said...

I like your article, but your quote from Jesus Christ on top is wrong. It should read, I am the way, the truth, and the LIFE.