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October 20, 2013
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The Griffin by Eurwentala The Griffin by Eurwentala
I'm currently reading Adrienne Mayor's fascinating book The First Fossil Hunters. The first chapter makes a convincing case showing that the roots of the mythical griffin lie in the Gobi desert. Frequent, deadly sandstorms expose white bones from the red earth, and many of those bones belong to lion-sized animals with four legs and a nasty beak.

Today, we call those animals Protoceratops and Psittacosaurus. Ancient Gobi nomads called them griffins and told tales of them to their Greek trading partners. Apart from the wings (which were apparently later added by Greek artists), the nomads made a surprisingly accurate reconstruction of an extinct animal. Arguably more accurate than the first attempts of Western scientists.
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platypus12 Featured By Owner Sep 30, 2014
Interesting concept you have there. I often like to believe that animal we deem as mythical must've been inspired off an actual animal.
randomdinos Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2014
Mammal-like front limbs, birdlike back limbs, a powerful head with a huge beak, and a rather long but thin tail. Heck, apart for the wings, both creatures have the exact same description.
AlexornisAntecedens Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2013
This is cool! I love the depiction of the griffin you put here. It's so fasinating to see how dinosaurs sparked legends of giant beasts, like dragons or griffins. How interesting would it be to be one of the first people to find the bones of these ancient animals?! ;)
RoFlo-Felorez Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2013  Student Digital Artist
i just got that book not too long ago, i'm so excited to read up more on it! :D the case about the protoceratops griffin is really interesting huh :)
DinoBirdMan Featured By Owner Oct 29, 2013  Student Artist
I just know this one or two fossils (such as protoceratops and pssitacosaurus) are just create a fantasy creature called the griffin, as the legend told, that flying creature is has a head of a eagle or hawk, and the shape body of the lion. And I'm also read that Adrienne Mayor's book.^^
Paleohyperspace Featured By Owner Oct 23, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Coincidentally, this recently came to my attention as well.  But what about Bagaceratops? To me, it looks much more like the traditional griffin than Protoceratops.
Eurwentala Featured By Owner Oct 23, 2013
Bagaceratops does look griffin-like, but I'd think it's not common enough to be the main inspiration. Only five complete skulls are known today, and not even a single articulated skeleton, while articulated Protoceratops and Psittacosaurus skeletons are unearthed by the hundreds.

Mayor also points out that the crest of Protoceratops is very thin and fragile, and is often broken in specimens exposed by erosion. When broken, it only leaves a horn-like knob on the head - much like the weird knobs many Greek bronze griffins have.

Probably all bones of beaked, four-legged animals found in the Gobi were considered griffins, in any case.
Paleohyperspace Featured By Owner Oct 23, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Ah. That's logical.
I wonder if the thunderbirds of North American Indian mythology were similarly inspired by fossils of pteranodontids?
Eurwentala Featured By Owner Dec 15, 2013
I'm pretty sure that topic is covered in Adrienne Mayor's other geomythology book, Fossil Legends of the First…

I haven't read it, but it does look interesting.
Zimices Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2013  Hobbyist
Nice image, and this book is very interesting too. It have  a good chapter about the skull of Samotherium :)
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