Long before the study of fossil remains became a formal discipline, our forefathers would come across huge bones and dinosaur skeletons in terrifying shapes. The human imagination has interpreted this in various forms, and captured this in amazing tales that remain alive in our collective consciousness today. Today we give credit to the role that dinosaurs played to inspire some of these legends.
1. Giants. The Bible tells of giants called Nephilim that were wiped out in the Great Flood, which may have been interpretations of giant bones buried in rock. Islam describes the world’s first man, Adam, as being about 60 cubits (30 metres) tall. Hindu, Norse, and Olympic gods alike are frequently depicted as giants. A more famous fairy tale example outside of religion, can of course be found in Jack and the Beanstalk. Even one of the 7 ancient wonders of the world honours this: The Colossus of Rhodes.
2. Gods. The Asian culture instead saw dragons as gods to be worshipped, with the Chinese revering the Dragon Year on their Lunar Calendar and even embodying the supreme dragon diety in the Emperor (as also practiced in Korea). For instance, only the Emperor is allowed to wear this golden Dragon Robe:
3. Hero makers. Ancient myths and Arthurian legends surrounding dragons slayed by chivalrous warriors (usually to do with maiden-rescue), ranging from the Egyptian God Set and the Greek Hydra, to the European Basilisk and Christianity’s St George slaying the dragon (below).
4. Mapped sea monsters. Cartographers and seafarers, perhaps to caution explorers about venturing into uncharted waters, depict various giant sea serpents and monsters such as on this antique sea map by Olaus Magnus in 1539:
5. Modern sightings. Of course, there’s the modern day controversy over Scotland’s legendary Loch Ness monster (below, left). While conspiracy theorists might easily lump these together with Bigfoot, werewolves, or UFOs, ‘ol Nessie’s resemblance with the ancient plesiosaur (below, right) is uncanny and plausible theories abound with how moving land masses trapped the ancient English plesiosaurs in the great lake. As the discovery of live coelacanth shows, the deep seas do have a habit of throwing up creatures long thought extinct.