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Winter Tales

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A Memory Of Dinosaurs


By James Donahue

March 2005


If planted in our DNA is the cellular memory of all human experiences, passed down to us from our genetic links to the past, it should not be surprising that stories have survived about brave knights who fought against mighty dragons.


The Discovery Channel’s recent documentary suggesting that ancient humans once lived to slay a real prehistoric creature may be closer to reality than many watchers might have thought.


Narrator Patrick Stewart may have fallen short of the truth, however, when he suggested that the combined mythologies of Asian, European and Latin civilizations all referenced contact with a single prehistoric creature.


Because of archaeological evidence that clearly shows covered human footprints in the same fossilized riverbed muck with the prints of dinosaurs, both dating back an estimated 62 million years or more, there is the suggestion here that humans not only lived on this planet during the time of the dinosaurs, they also hunted them.


Thus the mythology of doing battle with “dragons” could easily hinge on human memory of such great encounters. Because of the great size of these prehistoric monsters, any human that successfully confronted and killed a carnivorous beast the size of a Tyrannosaurus rex, for example, would become a legend in his own time. From the bones recovered we know that this particular monster grew to a size of about 40 feet in length, and stood some 15 to 20 feet in height.


We can think of the stories told around campfires over the years, of the heroic escapades of “dragon killers” of old, who did battle with these ancient monsters, even after they were gone from the face of the planet. They would be stories that would be carried on, simply because of the glory of the deed, and the need for good stories told during the long winters.


Similar story telling goes on even today among the indigenous people of the world. Some years back when my wife and I spent a winter with a Navajo family in northeastern Arizona, we heard similar tales of heroic deeds involving witches, monsters and animals that talked. The stories also attempted to explain local geological peculiarities, as well as teach the children about the culture in which they lived.


As is human nature, the stories tended to be embellished as they were passed down from generation to generation. Thus we have an explanation for the stories of knights of old doing battle with fire breathing dragons to rescue fair maidens being held captive.


Even if it did not breathe smoke and flame, a human standing up against a giant like Tyrannosaurus rex or perhaps his even larger cousin, the Giganotosaurus, with nothing more than a spear in hand, would be a frightening experience. Should this hunter, or group of hunters, survive such a battle you can expect their stories to be spectacular.


Such a hunting expedition would tend to embellish its story, especially if the battle was lost. Thus the story of smoke and fire from the nostrils of the beast would help explain why the hunt was unsuccessful. Fire was a necessary, mysterious and unexplained power to early man, much like electricity or atomic energy is in the minds of modern man.


We have our own mythology today in somewhat odd places where similar stories are told. Comic book characters like Superman, Hellboy and the X-Men all do amazing things with their minds, including sending off killing rays of power, seeing through walls, starting fires and blowing up buildings on demand. From the comics, these characters have recently emerged on our movie screens as real life-like characters.


Who can say that the same creative mind of man was not already at work among the early primates following the dragon hunts of old?

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