[Our Fake History] Episode #145- Real Gryphons?

Episode #145- Real Gryphons? 01/12/21 by Sebastian Major

Web player: https://podcastaddict.com/episode/132023028

Episode: https://dts.podtrac.com/redirect.mp3/pdst.fm/e/chrt.fm/track/E2G895/aw.noxsolutions.com/launchpod/2142/Episode145-RealGryphons_m9xe_bc1f9b5e.mp3?awCollectionId=2142&awEpisodeId=09840aca-d40d-40c5-94ab-3c31bc1f9b5e&awNetwork=309

The legendary hybrid creature known as the gryphon was said to have the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle. Despite this fantastical descriptions the ancient Greeks and Romans truly seemed to have believed that gryphons were real animals. It was thought that gryphons lived in arid steppes and deserts of central Asia where they guarded stashes of gold. Stories of gryphons made their way to Mediterranean by way of the nomadic Scythian people, who hunted for gold in the gryphon’s homeland. Stanford Professor Adrienne Mayor thinks she may have solved the mystery of this puzzling creature. Could the gryphon stories be an early form of paleontology? Tune-in and find out how giant hoaxes, paleo-art, and one eyed gold hunters all play a role in the story.


  • Quick summary: compared to all other fantastic beasts like chimeras, sphinxes, and what not, gryphons always are mentioned in Greek myths not as supernatural monsters, but as real creatures found in Scythia along the silk road. The hypothesis, then, is that gryphons are what ancient peoples made of dinosaur fossils, which are found easily and plentifully in the West Chinese deserts – which also happens to be where the Scythians hunted for gold.
  • Enjoyably, I learned about the Dragon of Klagenfurt, a fountain sculpture in which the artist based the image of a skull believed to be the dragon’s but actually was a fossil of the (extinct) European wooly rhino.
  • Plus this nice NHM page about the difficulty of reconstructing dinosaurs and what early 20th century artists got wrong. The point being that it’s not just ancient people who goof up when they see fossils of extinct animals for the first time.
  • That in turn sent me down a rabbit hole which led to the discovery of the Dinner in the Iguanadon.
  • And in general, about the evolution of reptiles (because if birds are dinosaurs and crocodiles were never dinosaurs, are birds also snakes? Answer: no).

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