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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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:iconplatypus12:
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.
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:iconrandomdinos:
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.
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:iconalexornisantecedens:
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?! ;)
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:iconroflo-felorez:
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 :)
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:icondinobirdman:
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.^^
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:iconpaleohyperspace:
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.
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:iconeurwentala:
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.
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:iconpaleohyperspace:
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?
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:iconeurwentala:
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 Americanspress.princeton.edu/titles/792…

I haven't read it, but it does look interesting.
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:iconzimices:
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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:iconwhiskerfacerumpel:
WhiskerfaceRumpel Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I always wondered how the griffins got wings if they were based off of Protoceratops.  This cleared that up.  Thank you!  Pixel Rose  
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:iconspinozillarex:
SpinozillaRex Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2013
could you possibly link a picture of the greek dapictions :) (hopefully if that sentence makes sense :P )
the fact that they where more accurate than todays depictions sounds really awesome :)
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:iconeurwentala:
Eurwentala Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2013
Not more accurate than today's depictions, but arguably more so than the depictions of earlier paleontologists. They imagined Protoceratops and Psittacosaurus as a sluggish, reptilian creatures with sprawling limbs. These reconstructions can still be seen online, for example here: www.internal.schools.net.au/ed… and kids.britannica.com/comptons/a…

The ancient Scythians and Greek, however, thought the griffin essentially as a four-legged bird: warm-blooded and active with a fierce bite, possibly either feathery, scaly or leathery (the writers often noted that they are unsure what griffin skin was like). That's quite a bit more like our current notion of the animals. These dinosaurs had bird-like beaks, were probably hot-blooded and at least Psittacosaurus had feather-like quills.

Here are a couple of antique Greek depictions: 1.bp.blogspot.com/_j7nAU9sOTnM…
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:iconevenape:
Evenape Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
Also intriguingly, cladistically speaking, all of these creatures ( along with dinosaurs) can be considered stem-birds :xD:
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:iconpatrikia-bear:
Patrikia-Bear Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Interesting...
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:iconclock--heart:
Clock--Heart Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
that is so interesting! i love learning stuff like this, where the roots of mythological creatures come from

if you learn about more roots, please share! La la la la 
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:iconeurwentala:
Eurwentala Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2013
I will. :) 
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:iconkoeskull:
Koeskull Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I've also heard that the broken crest bones could've been mistaken for parts of wings
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:iconeurwentala:
Eurwentala Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2013
Yeah. Apparently the crests are often broken off from Protoceratops skeletons weathering out from the rocks, and could look like wing parts. The bony stub left from a broken crest could be the inspiration for weird horns, ears and other headgear griffins are portrayed with.
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:iconthebattycrow:
TheBattyCrow Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
That's so neat! Just like the rhino and the unicorn legends :)
I can definitely see the resemblances here, not so much about the rhino, though
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:iconnamu-the-orca:
namu-the-orca Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Not sure where the unicorn legend as a whole came from, but I do know that Narwhal's tusks played a big role in it. People used to come to the Arctic to either shoot a male Narwhal, or buy the tusks of one that had already been killed by the native, returning back home to sell it for a Unicorn's horn. They usually went for their weight in gold! That's the reason unicorn horns tend to be depicted exactly as the Narwhal's tusk: www.peterpetrou.com/assets/gal… animalstown.com/animals/n/narw… :D
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:iconthebattycrow:
TheBattyCrow Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist

There were some stories back when settlers explored Africa, and they reported seeing unicorns, which in fact were rhinoceri. Lol there is a whole myriad of stories like that.

And that is a kickass tusk :giggle:

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:iconnamu-the-orca:
namu-the-orca Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Now how on Earth did these stories manage to go from big fat living tanks who happened to have a horn to elegant white horses strutting a narwhal's tusk? :XD:
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:iconthebattycrow:
TheBattyCrow Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Those silly, hallucinogenic explorers :giggle:
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:iconnamu-the-orca:
namu-the-orca Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I can only see those poor explorers returning home, near dead due to illness and lack of food, babbling about what they saw - 'a huge, mystical creature... with a hoorrrnnn!' BAM. Unicorn.
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:iconthebattycrow:
TheBattyCrow Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
:rofl: I laughed so hard when I read that. Before you know it, rumors are spreading like wildfire and getting more and more ridiculous as they go on!
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:iconkazuma27:
Kazuma27 Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
And to think that my fav soccer team (Genoa) has a gryphon as its symbol ;)
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