"Death is no more than passing from one room into another." – HELEN KELLER

The Reality of Mythical Creatures

A new exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History is set to open this weekend. It's called the Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns & Mermaids and the exhibition traces the possible origins of some of the world’s most famous “imaginary” beasts and also their lesser-known counterparts. It deftly combines nature and myth, paleontology and anthropology, and models of mythical creatures with real fossils.

Once upon a time, Christopher Columbus reported seeing three mermaids while sailing near Haiti in 1493. However, when he approached them, he wrote this in his journal "not as pretty as they are depicted for somehow in the face they look like men". Many scientists believe Columbus saw a manatee. In the new exhibit, visitors can digitally superimpose the picture of a mermaid atop that of a manatee and see how Columbus and countless other sailors might have been fooled.

When first entering, you are greeted by a 17-foot-long green dragon, a creature that legend says Saint George slew. In the mythical water-creatures section, large tentacles and the head of a giant squid-inspired kraken rise from the floor, its body mostly hidden. Visitors can touch a real narwhal tusk, which for centuries many Europeans accepted as proof of the unicorn’s existence. Or glimpse the beaked skull of a protoceratop dinosaur, one of the fossil animals that practically litter the Gobi Desert even today, and which traders long ago might have mistaken for the remains of a griffin.

The exhibition is also a rich source of mythical creatures’ trivia. Visitors can learn, for example, that, according to Marco Polo, Genghis Khan possessed the feather of a Roc—a mythical giant bird said to dine on elephants—but that Polo’s translator, Sir Henry Yule, suspected the feather was only a palm-tree frond.

All the confusion between what is fact and what is fiction with the creatures of myth are cleared up in this exhibition, but if you plan to go, you better do so before the year ends. This exhibit is only open from May 26th to Jan. 6th.

Source: Live Science


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