The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times

4.06 avg rating
( 304 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9780691058634: The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times
View all copies of this ISBN edition:
 
 


Griffins, Centaurs, Cyclopes, and Giants--these fabulous creatures of classical mythology continue to live in the modern imagination through the vivid accounts that have come down to us from the ancient Greeks and Romans. But what if these beings were more than merely fictions? What if monstrous creatures once roamed the earth in the very places where their legends first arose? This is the arresting and original thesis that Adrienne Mayor explores in The First Fossil Hunters. Through careful research and meticulous documentation, she convincingly shows that many of the giants and monsters of myth did have a basis in fact--in the enormous bones of long-extinct species that were once abundant in the lands of the Greeks and Romans.


As Mayor shows, the Greeks and Romans were well aware that a different breed of creatures once inhabited their lands. They frequently encountered the fossilized bones of these primeval beings, and they developed sophisticated concepts to explain the fossil evidence, concepts that were expressed in mythological stories. The legend of the gold-guarding griffin, for example, sprang from tales first told by Scythian gold-miners, who, passing through the Gobi Desert at the foot of the Altai Mountains, encountered the skeletons of Protoceratops and other dinosaurs that littered the ground.


Like their modern counterparts, the ancient fossil hunters collected and measured impressive petrified remains and displayed them in temples and museums; they attempted to reconstruct the appearance of these prehistoric creatures and to explain their extinction. Long thought to be fantasy, the remarkably detailed and perceptive Greek and Roman accounts of giant bone finds were actually based on solid paleontological facts. By reading these neglected narratives for the first time in the light of modern scientific discoveries, Adrienne Mayor illuminates a lost world of ancient paleontology. As Peter Dodson writes in his Foreword, "Paleontologists, classicists, and historians as well as natural history buffs will read this book with the greatest of delight--surprises abound."


"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

Product Description:

. *******PAPERBACK COPY******2000 clean bright copy

Review:

Since fossils have presumably existed for millions of years, why don't we see much palaeontological thought from ancient writers? Classics scholar Adrienne Mayor suggests that we can in fact learn much about the Greek and Roman attitudes toward fossils if we turn to a surprising source of data and theory: their myths. In The First Fossil Hunters, she explores likely connections between the rich fossil beds around the Mediterranean and tales of griffins and giants originating in the classical world. Striking similarities exist between the Protoceratops skeletons of the Gobi Desert and the legends of the gold-hoarding griffin told by nomadic people of the region, and the fossilised remains of giant Miocene mammals could be taken for the heroes and monsters of earlier times. Mayor makes her case well, but, as with all interpretive science, the arguments are inconclusive. Still, her novel reading of ancient myth--and her critique of the modern scientific mythology that seeks to explain the lack of classical palaeontological thinking--is compelling and thought-provoking. The final chapter of The First Fossil Hunters is an engrossing and occasionally quite funny look at "Paleontological Fictions" dating back several thousand years; the false tritons and centaurs give PT Barnum and his successors a much longer genealogy than previously thought. Whether or not you accept Mayor's analysis of Greek and Roman thinking, The First Fossil Hunters should open your eyes to new possibilities about our distant past. --Rob Lightner

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780691089775: The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times

Featured Edition

ISBN 10:  0691089779 ISBN 13:  9780691089775
Publisher: Princeton University Press, 2001
Softcover

Top Search Results from the AbeBooks Marketplace

1.

Adrienne Mayor
Published by Princeton University Press (2000)
ISBN 10: 0691058636 ISBN 13: 9780691058634
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
Irish Booksellers
(Portland, ME, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Princeton University Press, 2000. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0691058636

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
44.53
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: 2.50
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

2.

Adrienne Mayor
Published by Princeton University Press (2000)
ISBN 10: 0691058636 ISBN 13: 9780691058634
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 2
Seller:
Murray Media
(NORTH MIAMI BEACH, FL, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Princeton University Press, 2000. Hardcover. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110691058636

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
48.64
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

3.

Adrienne Mayor
Published by Princeton University Press (2000)
ISBN 10: 0691058636 ISBN 13: 9780691058634
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 2
Seller:
Save With Sam
(North Miami, FL, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Princeton University Press, 2000. Hardcover. Condition: New. Brand New!. Seller Inventory # VIB0691058636

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
51.33
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

4.

Adrienne Mayor
ISBN 10: 0691058636 ISBN 13: 9780691058634
New Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
BennettBooksLtd
(San Diego, CA, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Condition: New. New. Seller Inventory # STRM-0691058636

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
70.16
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: 3.79
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

5.

Adrienne Mayor
Published by Princeton University Press (2000)
ISBN 10: 0691058636 ISBN 13: 9780691058634
New Hardcover First Edition Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
Books Express
(Portsmouth, NH, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Princeton University Press, 2000. Hardcover. Condition: New. 1st. Ships with Tracking Number! INTERNATIONAL WORLDWIDE Shipping available. Buy with confidence, excellent customer service!. Seller Inventory # 0691058636n

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
121.02
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds