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Author Topic: could parasaurolophus have been the fabled unicorns  (Read 564 times)

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Offline darknessunisousboy

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could parasaurolophus have been the fabled unicorns
« on: June 07, 2018, 02:31:47 PM »
Just was thinking of this. could parasaurolophus have been the fabled unicorns? If you look at the skeleton of the parasaurolophus many features are similar to old text and drawings of unicorns.
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Offline Leave a Whisper

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Re: could parasaurolophus have been the fabled unicorns
« Reply #1 on: June 07, 2018, 03:17:58 PM »
No. People did know the difference between reptiles  and horses.
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Offline Zapper

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Re: could parasaurolophus have been the fabled unicorns
« Reply #2 on: June 07, 2018, 03:30:04 PM »
Eh, it's possible. Someone found a skull and was like "oh this animal has one horn! I dub it onehorn".

I think one popular theory is the European unicorn with the long pointy horn was most likely inspired by the narwhal because people heard stories about rhinos but had never seen one so they imagined it with a narwhal's "horn"/tooth.

No. People did know the difference between reptiles  and horses.

People in the Bronze age didn't exactly classify animals like that. The legend of the unicorn is ooold.
Depictions of unicorns have been found in many cultures and it's not always a horse. Even medieval European unicorns would sometimes look more like goats with cloven hooves and beards.

Edit: Took out some smugness. But just some :P
« Last Edit: June 08, 2018, 08:17:32 PM by Zapper »
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Offline darknessunisousboy

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Re: could parasaurolophus have been the fabled unicorns
« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2018, 03:31:28 PM »
Keep in mind not all dinosaur where reptiles.some had feathers and where bird like. So early tails of unicorns describe them singular horn four or three hives on front feet and three on the rear. An long neck and tail ears laid flat. Over time the disscription changed just like many stories.

Offline Harmonie

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Re: could parasaurolophus have been the fabled unicorns
« Reply #4 on: June 07, 2018, 03:33:37 PM »
Pretty sure that dinosaur went extinct long before humans even existed.

It would be interesting to see where people got the idea of these mythological creatures, though. Like I remember learning that medieval people thought that creatures outside of their area were distorted (I think it was something about being "away from God" but I forget), hence all of the strange creatures we see in medieval illuminated manuscripts. I wonder how that even started. Very weird. We see similar things in ancient Greek mythology. I guess people just didn't have the mass access to knowledge we have today and thus fell for these legends more easily? I don't know.
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Offline LadyMoondancer

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Re: could parasaurolophus have been the fabled unicorns
« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2018, 03:40:40 PM »
I'm pretty sure they're based on rhinos.  The original accounts of unicorns were written by the Greeks.  Greece was close enough to Africa and India that they received secondhand accounts of their animals, without ever having seen them.  They tended to mix some facts with a lot of creativity, lol.  At any rate, the earliest accounts of "unicorns" describe them as having a boar's tail and an elephant's feet, which would fit with rhinos.

Dinosaurs all died out before humans (or even hominids) were around.  Although it's possible they could have found a fossilized one . . . but to find an entire fossilized skull is really rare.

Edit:  Yes, medieval Europeans had a very strange view of the world, almost like it was a living allegory.  Basically they thought every animal was put on Earth by God to give humans some kind of lesson.

They also did not really understand animal reproduction (believing that some animals could spontaneously come into being out of nowhere and that bears were born as lumps of clay that the mother licked into bear-shape) or that animals couldn't interbreed between species.  Like, they believed a leopard was "the result of adultery between a lionness and a pard."  (A "pard" was described as a multicolored animal, which was probably ALSO based on a description of a leopard.)

I often browse pictures /descriptions from a medieval bestiary here:

http://bestiary.ca/beasts/beastalphashort.htm

My favorites are the pictures of snakes where they gave them legs.  You had one job, illustrator!
« Last Edit: June 07, 2018, 03:52:42 PM by LadyMoondancer »
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Offline Zapper

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Re: could parasaurolophus have been the fabled unicorns
« Reply #6 on: June 07, 2018, 03:42:49 PM »
Pretty sure that dinosaur went extinct long before humans even existed.

I wasn't raised on Flintstones :lol:

When humans started telling stories they could also find dinosaur bones. Even today dino skeletons are sometimes found by accident. You don't always have to know where to dig.
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Offline LadyMoondancer

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Re: could parasaurolophus have been the fabled unicorns
« Reply #7 on: June 07, 2018, 03:51:07 PM »
It just occurred to me to look up where Parasaurolophus lived.  The answer is . . . North America only.  So not the basis for the unicorn, which originated in Greek.  But it was a creative idea.  ;)
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Re: could parasaurolophus have been the fabled unicorns
« Reply #8 on: June 07, 2018, 04:07:01 PM »
Pretty sure that dinosaur went extinct long before humans even existed.

I wasn't raised on Flintstones :lol:

When humans started telling stories they could also find dinosaur bones. Even today dino skeletons are sometimes found by accident. You don't always have to know where to dig.

But the bones of these dinosaurs feature a horn going a completely different direction from how unicorn mythology is typically described. Granted, I'm not an expert on the representation of unicorns throughout history, but even the medieval tapestries feature them with horns like we portray them today.
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Offline darknessunisousboy

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Re: could parasaurolophus have been the fabled unicorns
« Reply #9 on: June 07, 2018, 04:14:43 PM »
I just thought it to be funny. I know that scandinavian grave sites have been found with horse bones and narwhal teeth. But hey other theories are great.

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Re: could parasaurolophus have been the fabled unicorns
« Reply #10 on: June 07, 2018, 04:42:08 PM »
I mean that dinosaur remains when people started finding fossils were likely associated more with dragons then horses. I mean elephant skulls were believed to be the skulls of cyclops.
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Offline LadyMoondancer

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Re: could parasaurolophus have been the fabled unicorns
« Reply #11 on: June 07, 2018, 05:26:26 PM »
Pretty sure that dinosaur went extinct long before humans even existed.

I wasn't raised on Flintstones :lol:

When humans started telling stories they could also find dinosaur bones. Even today dino skeletons are sometimes found by accident. You don't always have to know where to dig.

But the bones of these dinosaurs feature a horn going a completely different direction from how unicorn mythology is typically described. Granted, I'm not an expert on the representation of unicorns throughout history, but even the medieval tapestries feature them with horns like we portray them today.

What we think of as the classical unicorn is a pretty recent 'invention'.  The tapestries, art, etc were created long after the original idea of the unicorn. The earliest description says they have red heads and black legs, and that the horns are multicolored.  And here's Pliny the Elder's account (around 100 CE):

"The unicorn (monocerotem) is the fiercest animal, and it is said that it is impossible to capture one alive. It has the body of a horse, the head of a stag, the feet of an elephant, the tail of a boar, and a single black horn three feet long in the middle of its forehead. Its cry is a deep bellow."

Isidore of Seville (7th century CE) also described them:

"The Greek word rhinoceros, meaning 'with horn in nose,' refers to the same beast as the names monoceros or unicorn. This is a four-footed beast that has a single horn on its forehead; it is very strong and pierces anything it attacks. It fights with elephants and kills them by wounding them in the belly. The unicorn is too strong to be caught by hunters, except by a trick: if a virgin girl is placed in front of a unicorn and she bares her breast to it, all of its fierceness will cease and it will lay its head on her bosom, and thus quieted is easily caught."

The thing about unicorns is the Greeks didn't consider them mythical (unlike Pegasus), but thought they were real animals running around India.  This is why I think it was a case of people describing (poorly) rhinos or other animals they saw at a distance.   Most people aren't that great at remembering exactly what they saw (especially in an era without cameras, and especially considering that they probably would be viewing a wild rhino from quite a distance away), so instead of "it had a horn on its nose" we get "it had a horn on it's forehead."
« Last Edit: June 07, 2018, 05:32:21 PM by LadyMoondancer »
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Re: could parasaurolophus have been the fabled unicorns
« Reply #12 on: June 07, 2018, 07:37:33 PM »
There are also potential issues of translation when transferring one set of writing into other versions or texts or even in the copyist's studio. That accounts for a lot of misconceptions carried forward between old texts and the present, either with the choice of words in the translated version or a mistake in copying (deliberate or accidental). Also, oral traditions and stories are probably going to not survive or mutate over time into different accounts. There's no way of knowing how many actual witness testimonies of 'unicorns' survived.

The idea of making a unicorn equine is not that odd considering the importance of horses in many cultures. As LM has said about the possibility of misrepresenting a rhino - how often would most people in most societies see actual rhinos? Aside the occasional King who had a private zoo, and who probably failed to get a rhino for it anyway, it makes more sense to try and depict it in context with something familiar. Describing the 'unicorn' in context with bits of other animals they recognised also makes sense...how else could you describe something you didn't know what to name :/

The Japanese word for giraffe is kirin. A giraffe is not a kirin in the sense of what a kirin actually is. The word kirin is also used for unicorn in Japan, and a kirin also isn't a unicorn. But these are terms used because they are familiar enough in the language to be approximations. Mediaeval tapestries are almost certainly the same. Artists couldn't draw rhinos and didn't really see the point in doing so if nobody would resonate with them. But they could draw and represent horses, and so did.

 The leopard thing makes a lot of sense if you consider that a lion is "leo". Put that with a 'pard' and you probably get our modern term for it. Whether their science was right or not is less relevant than the fact they attempted to explain it.

As a mediaevalist, I have issues with the suggestion that superstition is interchangeable with ignorance or that we should be laughing at these societies for what they believed. Who is to say someone won't laugh at our belief in scientific theory three or four hundred years down the line? Different societies construct their understanding of the world based on the materials available to them, including religion and mythology. Mediaeval societies also created complex and detailed legal systems which had extensive reach and influence over many parts of the world. They were not stupid people, they just told the story of their world through what they understood and filled in the gaps they couldn't explain with reference to the superstitious.

Judging societies which existed prior to developments we take for granted is anachronistic and doesn't get to the crux of the problem which is whether or not the unicorn was based on a real entity or whether it wasn't.

I think in a lot of ways we do the same. I mean, nobody's proven whether ghosts exist, or aliens, but you can still find plenty of modern humans who believe in them...
« Last Edit: June 07, 2018, 07:40:53 PM by Taffeta »
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Offline darknessunisousboy

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Re: could parasaurolophus have been the fabled unicorns
« Reply #13 on: June 07, 2018, 08:51:56 PM »
Omg this has been blown way out of context.seriously. just a thought do to the feet and head structure. So not laughing at how people where or there beleifs.

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Re: could parasaurolophus have been the fabled unicorns
« Reply #14 on: June 08, 2018, 12:10:11 AM »
Yeah, I wasn't meaning to laugh at them either, I'm legitimately curious as to how people originally believed in mythical creatures (like where it originated from) and how mystical attributes got attributed to existing animals.

The link that LadyMoondancer linked to is very interesting. For example, it shows that people believed that hyenas changed sexes randomly and that there was a species of goose that grew from a tree. I'm not meaning to make fun of these beliefs, I just wonder how they came to be!

It doesn't seem to say anything about what I once learned from somewhere about medieval people believing that people (I now believe it was people, not just animals) that lived further away from their civilization were distorted because they were believed to be further from God.

I'm now wondering if I read that on Tumblr and not somewhere with credibility. Sorry, this is so off-topic. If anyone has any idea what I'm talking about and can verify could you let me know, here or in PM? I am interested.
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