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Fossil skull of a dwarf elephant


Myths about monsters can occasionally be traced back to the discovery of fossil bones, as explained in great detail by Mayor (2000) in her fascinating book The First Fossil Hunters. The Cyclops of Homeric legend may have had its origin in the discovery of fossil bones of dwarf elephants in caves around the Mediterranean. The skulls of these Pleistocene mammals possess a large hole that looks like a socket for the single eye of the Cyclops.

Skulls of the Cretaceous dinosaur Protoceratops resemble the head of the mythical Griffin. They may be the basis for the legend of this ferocious monster with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle. Significantly, bones of Protoceratops are found in the region where the Griffin was reputed to have lived, the Gobi Desert of Mongolia.