Fossils in Ancient Greek Art.



In a detailed review of The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times by Adrienne Mayor, Afarensis discusses Mayor's analysis of  this  Corinthian krater (560-540 B.C.) with its menacing, if somewhat undernourished, monster:

The figures, like on most Greek vases and such, are fully fleshed out
and well done, but note the monster emerging from the cave. Note the
skeletal appearance - including sclerotic eye rings, the jaw
articulation and the broken premaxilla. The skull itself is probably chimerical - that is composed of traits of several species. For example, the sclerotic eye rings appear only in dinosaurs and birds, not mammals, yet other features of the skull are mammalian. From there Mayor surveys archaeological discoveries of fossil bones. For example, Schliemann found a fossil in his Troy excavations. The fossil was in a layer dating to around the 13th century B.C. and has since been located (due to Mayor's work) at the British Museum. Other examples are the large distal femur fragment found at the temple of Hera on Samos and the Nichoria distal femur fragment found in the acropolis of an ancient town in Messenia.

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That is really amazing! I've seen a lot of Greek vase painting, but I've never seen that one. Corinthian makes it even more interesting -- they always seemed to have fantastic beasties, even more than Attic, so I'm not surprised it shows up here.

Shameless plug: check out my own website for other neat-o images of Greek art and interesting tidbits. It's my own diary of a trip to Greece. :)
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