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Are Griffins Real?

Griffons and fossils | The tapir theory

Griffons and fossils

Amazon. The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times by Adrienne Mayor. (Princeton UP detail page, with TOC and description.) Mayor connects Greek descriptions of griffins with the Protoceratops fossils of the Gobi desert.

Reviewed by Steve Brusatte, Dino Land Book Reviews, with description of the Mayor's hunt for the griffin solution. Dino Land also holds an excellent collection of short excerpts, alas none on griffons.

Adrienne Mayor's Homepage, on The First Fossil Hunters. Her resume lists many of the scholarly and popular articles written on the topic.

Reviewed by Norman Macleod, Palaeontologia Electronica (Nov 2000), calls Mayor's griffon analysis a "stunning triumph of comparative folklore/anatomy/paleontology."

Gryphon Origins from James Scott Spaid's The Gryphon Pages, reviews the fossil (and tapir) theories.

Review "Explaining Giant Bones" by Tim Tokaryk, American Scientist (Nov/Dec 2000)

Negative review from

"... I think she goes too far in some of her conclusions and too far in making the pieces fit rather than letting them fall where they may. It's the old method problem where one forms the answer/conclusion first and then works backwards to find the "proof". We will never know with certainty whether finding Protoceratops sticking out of the ground created the myth of the griffin or not, but Mayor makes it sound as if the case is closed. It is certainly possible that she is correct. A little scientific uncertainty on her part may have left a more objective impression on the reader though."

Reviewed by Jack Kallmeyer, from "Jack's Stacks" on

Reviewed by Todd A. Hanson, Journal of Folklore Research. Short.

Short review by Steven Schimmrich, from "THE NEWS!" ("Newsletter of the Affiliation of Christian Geologists), Summer 2000. Although the ACG is devoted, in part, to investigating "the ways in which Christian faith and geology bear upon one another," Schimmrich's short review doesn't grind any anti-evolution axes.

National Geographic: "They Might Not Be Giants: Reading the bones of a mythic race" by Joshua Korenblat, "Geographica" section of August 2004 issue.

NYT Profile of Adrienne Mayor by Felicia R. Lee (June 12, 2004)

The tapir theory

The Tapir and the Griffon. Is the Greek griffon really derived from the shy forest dweller, the tapir of South American or South Asian? From John Timbs, Popular Errors Explained and Illustrated (1856). I like this idea. It's almost certainly false, but I like the idea of a tapir somehow making it to archaic Greece (or Scythia). The illustration is certainly amusing. The passage comments on Sir Thomas Browne's 1672 debunking Pseudodoxia Epidemica, which touches most of the loci classici about Griffons.

LibraryThing: Catalog your books online.

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