I want to believe in dragons. I want to see one flying majestically through the sky, unfurling flames of red, orange, and gold from its mouth like a partial rainbow set alight. I want to hear the air whump as its huge wings beat downward through the sky and hear the whoosh of its tail as it curls and swirls behind the great beast.
Where could they be hiding? Where could they have gone? Were they ever here, beyond our imaginations?
Friends of CrytoVille know what I’m like by now. Of course I had to find out.
At first glance, the story of dragons seems very complex and intertwined with legends all around the world. But after studying a lot of these tales and reports, I found they all had a lot in common and the story became very basic.
In a nutshell, it seems like ancient man mistook dinosaur fossils that they found as evidence of great winged beasts that still existed in their own time. At least that’s the start of the story.
Science will tell us that the dinosaurs all died and became extinct before mankind appeared on the scene, and that’s where the story gets a bit fuzzy. There may be some evidence that that isn’t entirely true.
Let me run the accounts by you and you’ll see what I mean.
First let me warn you that there have been a series of hoaxes perpetrated on the internet involving Chinese dragon fossils and ice dragon fossils. They have all been found to be fake. So ignore those.
That said, real Chinese scientists HAVE found the fossil of a 120 million year old animal that they’re calling the Ghost Dragon Pterosaur. The scientific name is Guidraco venator which translates to “ghost hunter dragon”.
They reported that this animal sported a round sail on the top of its head, which they think gave it more stability during flight. Its mouth contained a “basket” of sharp teeth, and the skull was a foot (.3 meters) long.
These scientists believe the ghost dragon hunted and ate fish because they found fish vertebrae in the fossilized scat. With a wing span ranging from 13-15 feet (3.9 – 4.8 meters) , this dragon pterosaur would have been an impressive sight.
One thing to note, pterosaurs are technically not dinosaurs. They are reptiles. Keep that in mind.
Update Jan. 19, 2016. I finally found an artist’s rendition of what these creatures may have looked like when alive. Unfortunately, the artist’s name is unknown.
Dragon Ghost Hunter (Guidraco venator):
Dragon Spec Sheet:
Dragons come in two basic varieties, the Occidental Dragons of the West, and the Oriental Dragons. Both varieties are supposedly enormous with scales covering their bodies. The wings are usually extremely large and pliable, and the legs usually very large and strong with claws similar to a lizard’s.
In both cases the heads are reminiscent of an alligator’s head, long, with flattened jaws, lots of teeth, and the addition of horns somewhere on the head and/or snout. In most cases, the dragons breathe fire.
Let’s run through the general basics of what dragons of lore and legend looked like and how they behaved.
In India: the dragon head is that of an elephant
In the Middle East: the dragon head is that of a lion, raptor, or snake
Lairs: Always in isolated places such as swamps, mountains, deserts, ruined castles, caverns, and forests.
Diet: Usually humans and livestock, although sacrificial maidens were a favorite treat.
Special Case: Ethiopian dragons were believed to have a precious stone lodged deep in their brains called Dracontias. These stones were dearly valued and sought after by alchemists of the era.
Oriental Dragons: Somewhat like the Occidental dragons, but the Oriental ones usually looked more serpentine with larger, rounder heads. Most importantly, these dragons were believed to be benevolent for the most part, which is quite a contrast from their Western counterparts.
Interestingly, dragons in the Orient were revered pretty much throughout their history, even through today. In her article (Did Dragons Actually Exist in the Past?), Val Serrie pointed out that in the Chinese calendar (year of the dog, year of the rabbit, etc.), they include a year for the dragon. All the other creatures listed in the roster of years are real animals that we all know to this day. Why would they include a “mythical” creature in a calendar of real creatures? Possibly because the dragon was real to them?
Here are some highlights from the vast historical record:
Ancient Jewish History: Josephus, an historian of the era, reported seeing small reptiles that were able to fly throughout Egypt and Arabia. He also said that they were eaten by the ibis, and that these birds prevented the flying reptiles from spreading further throughout the region.
Ibis’ aren’t that big, ranging from 22 to 30 inches (55-75 cm) in length. So these reptiles couldn’t have been very large. Nonetheless, the important point is, that these reptiles were flying.
Romans: Gaius Solinus, who is described as a Latin grammarian and compiler (so I think he must be Roman), also mentioned Arabian flying “serpents”. He said “…the poison is so quick that death follows before pain can be felt.” I can’t tell if these are the same flying reptiles that the ancient Jews witnessed.
Greeks: In the 4th century BC, noted historian Herodotus reported seeing a huge quantity of remains he attributed to winged serpents. This was near the city of Buto in Arabia. He described the serpents as looking like water snakes with wings similar to a bat’s, not feathered like a bird’s. (Photo to the right shows the story of Cadmus fighting a Greek dragon.)
According to John Goertzen MS, the Egyptian flying reptiles were pterosaurs because in the Egyptian depictions of them, they have tail vanes much like pterosaurs do. He also noted that a sketch made by Renaissance scientist Pierre Belon of this Egyptian reptile closely matched the appearance of Dimorphodon, a pterosaur.
The Greek historian Strabo mentioned seeing reptiles two cubits long with bat-like wings whose urine would burn any skin it fell upon, causing a nasty, festering wound. He saw them during his travels in India.
Alexander the Great in India:
Alexander the Great lived from 356 BC through 323 BC, thirty three years. During his life he went to battle in India. Along the way he was said to have seen dragons that fought with elephants.
Germany 15th Century: The historian Gesner reported that in 1543 a type of dragon was seen. Its feet were those of a lizard and its wings much like a bat’s. He said the bite was incurable. Gesner referred to other works that described these dragons as thick as a man’s arm with wings of cartilage (soft and malleable, not hard like bone).
Gesner also shared a story or report about a winged dragon being brought to Francis, King of the Gauls. It had been killed with a mattock (a hand tool used for digging and chopping) and the important people of the area witnessed seeing the dead creature. Throughout that era, other historians, observers, and reporters shared stories of European courts and museums hosting carcasses of “dragons” which many people saw and witnessed. One thing is clear, all the specimens were rotting and disintegrating which explains why we don’t’ have any carcasses to see nowadays.
The Celts were influenced in their view of dragons by the character Grendel from the Beowulf saga. Another influence came from Norse mythology in the form of Fafnir, a truly awful dragon. In the Celts mind, dragons could be protective or they could be harmful.
As Christianity’s influence grew and spread, dragons became viewed as emissaries of the devil. Thereafter the people revered a long line of dragon-slaying Saints, the most famous being St. George, the Dragon-Slayer from the 3rd Century AD (see image to the right).
In those days they referred to dragons as Amphisbaena, Draco, and the Wyvern. The creatures were included in books as symbols of evil, and were added to references such as bestiaries.
To Alchemists, dragons were their symbol for Mercury and by the end of the era, dragons represented a sort of “rite of passage” for brave knights seeking to prove their worth.
Marco Polo (left) reported in his journal that he saw “… huge serpents, which at the fore part have two short legs, each with three claws. The jaws are wide enough to swallow a man, the teeth are large and sharp, and their whole appearance is so formidable that neither man, nor any kind of animal can approach them without terror.” He traveled the area approximately 1269 – 1293. At the time of this passage, he was in the province of Karajan.
According to author Doug Zhiming (Dinosaurs From China), dragons appear throughout Chinese culture over the last two thousand years. He adds that they were symbols of power and thought to be sacred.
In fact a lot of ancient Chinese portrayals of dragons look very much like dinosaurs that we know about today.
Show and Tell
In an article on Dragons by S8intcom Blogger, the author compares ancient representations of dragons to photos of known dinosaurs. Here are some examples.
In this set of photos (right) you see a miniature figure from the Julsrud collection that was found at the foot of El Toro Mountain near Acambaro, Mexico. Next to it is a photo of a Tang dynasty dragon (Chinese). How would such different cultures depict an animal nearly the same way? Some people think both of these figures were based on types of prosauropods.
Here’s another featured in an article on Dragons by S8intcom Blogger, it shows what may be a replica of an original sculpture of what looks like a Theropod dinosaur called a Therizinosaur (centered below this paragraph). The original was from the Han Dynasty (206BC – 220 AD). The fact that it’s upright, has spines along its back, and has clawed “hands” makes it a good candidate for having been a Therizinosaur. Compare it to the artist’s drawing of the Therizinosaur (below center).
Finally, S8intcom Blogger shares his thoughts that the dinosaur anteosaurus was the model for the ancient Chinese Foo dogs (center photo below). The top photo is a model of an anteosaurus, and the bottom one is an artist’s rendition of what it really looked like.
I think he makes a good case. There are a lot of similarities between these dragons and their dinosaur counterparts. If you’d like to read more of his article and see even more comparison photos, here’s the link:
Let’s not forget these guys. Komodo dragons used to be creatures of myth and legend. Sailors returned from their voyages with tales of the giant lizard dragons to the amazement of some and the derision of others.
Science finally caught up with the ancient tales in 1910 when it confirmed the new species of reptile. So that’s an excellent example of what we would consider to be a reptile, being called a dragon in the Orient.
I think the bottom line is yes, the ancients seem to have morphed dinosaur remains into creatures that eventually became the fictional flying, fire-breathing creatures that we love today.
Yet historical and governmental records here and there around the world reference dragons very matter of factly. And I cannot ignore the fact that the Chinese calendar has 11 animals known today to science, plus a twelfth, a dragon. What were they seeing, what was living in their world at the dawn of their culture? Could it have been a reptile of some sort?
“Alligators & Crocodiles: These sizeable reptiles survived–even though other large reptiles did not.
Birds: Birds are the only dinosaurs to survive the mass extinction event 65 million years ago.
Frogs & Salamanders: These seemingly delicate amphibians survived the extinction that wiped out larger animals.
Lizards: These reptiles, distant relatives of dinosaurs, survived the extinction.
Mammals: After the extinction, mammals came to dominate the land. An early relative of all primates, including humans, survived the extinction.
Snakes: Although a number of snake species died out around 65 million years ago, snakes as a group survived.
Turtles: Of the known species of turtles alive at the time of the dinosaurs, more than 80 percent survived.
An avian dinosaur–an ancient flying bird–lived about 85 million years ago in what is now Kansas. Birds are living dinosaurs that survived the mass extinction event 65 million years ago.
Reptiles & Amphibians
Frogs survived the mass extinction, even though many are now endangered because of habitat destruction. Lizards and snakes, both distant relatives of dinosaurs, also survived.
The mammals alive at the time of the mass extinction event were typically quite small. One such mammal was roughly the size of a modern opossum, one of its living relatives.”
So it’s possible animals from the dinosaur world infiltrated mankind’s world and became the legendary dragon. Remember I mentioned that the flying dragons from Arabia and Egypt were thought to be pterosaurs? Pterosaurs are reptiles.
This story isn’t over. There is still more to review and study. But I’d like you to consider all these facts and opinions, and then turn your attention to today’s world. Because I think something fishy is going on in our world that science hasn’t discovered yet, but many people throughout the US are seeing and reporting.
While not as pretty as the dragons of myth and legend (and possibly past human history), there is something else going on in today’s world that is giving me intellectual heartburn.
Simply, people around the United States are seeing giant raptors (birds of prey) that are so large, they often feel uneasy. The most compelling aspect of it all is the number of reports from real folks that I’ve read in the comments section of my blog on this same topic.
Something(s) is out there, but they’re as elusive as UFOs. Why?
When we gaze into the sky and spot something, how can you tell how big it is? On land, we can say Bigfoot reached to that branch, its shoulders spanned from here to there. It’s hard in the water, too, but at times people can say, the shark was as long as our boat.
But up in the sky?
Maybe you could compare it to a tree and someone good in math could extrapolate the size based on the tree measurements, but few people these days can do that. So, although the birds may look huge, are they really?
By the same token, there ARE people who are very good at estimating size, weights, and distances. I don’t know how many people there are like that. And when someone tells me their account, how can I determine their ability to estimate these values?
Bottom line, people need to take good, clear pictures and try to get these raptors near something we CAN measure. Colors of the feathers are important, shape of the beak, the tail, the wings – all are important clues for scientists who may be able to make something of this phenomenon given some reliable data.
Link to Flying Raptor blog posts on CryptoVille:
So while we continue to enjoy the dragons of myth, legend, and the art world, let’s keep looking up and keep our cameras handy and charged!
Til the next time!
I enjoyed these articles and learned a lot from them:
My thanks to the artists whose beautiful pictures I’ve used in this article. I wish I knew what your names were so I could give you credit. If you read this, contact me and let me know.