Dragon History – Universal Concept in Ancient Cultures
Dragon history is nearly universal throughout the world’s ancient cultures. Where did this global concept originate? How did societies throughout the world describe, record, draw, etch, sew and carve such creatures in such uniformity, if they did not witness these creatures during their lifetimes?
Dragon History – Dinosaurs Revealed
Dragon history can be summed up as follows: “The dragons of legend are strangely like actual creatures that have lived in the past. They are much like the great reptiles [dinosaurs], which inhabited the earth long before man is supposed to have appeared on earth.” (Knox Wilson, “Dragon”, The World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, 1973, pg. 265.)
In light of that statement from The World Book Encyclopedia, many people don’t realize that paleontology (the study of past geological ages based primarily on the study of fossils) is a relatively new science. In fact, the concept of dinosaurs (giant lizards) only surfaced in its present form less than 180 years ago. Prior to that, anyone who found a large fossilized bone assumed it came from an elephant, dragon or giant. There wasn’t any notion of “science” attached to these finds.
It wasn’t until 1841 that English scientist Richard Owens suggested that the group of “newly discovered” animals be called “dinosaurs,” which literally means “terrible lizards.” Throughout the next few decades, the first artist depictions of dinosaurs were actually comical when compared to what we can scientifically discern today. How then, do pottery, linens, cave paintings, and written descriptions of “dragons” from 2,000 to 4,000 years ago depict dinosaurs better than what science could muster in the mid-1800’s?
Dragon History – A Summation of the Evidence
Where are all these accounts of dragon history? Actually, let’s start with the Bible, the most widely published book in history. A search for the word “dragon” in the King James Version of the Bible produces 34 separate matches across 10 different books written between approximately 2000 BC and 90 AD. The word “dragon” (Hebrew: tannin) is used throughout the Old Testament, and most directly translates as “sea or land monsters.” In the Book of Job, the author describes the great creatures, Behemoth (Job 40) and Leviathan (Job 41). Although the latest Bible translations use the words elephant, hippo or crocodile instead of Behemoth and Leviathan, the original Hebrew and the context of the descriptions do not allow for these interpretations.
Of course, dragon history is by no means limited to the Bible. Dragon accounts from China, Europe, the Middle East, and ancient Latin America share similar accounts of “dragons” and other beasts. Some cultures revered these creatures. For instance, records of Marco Polo in China show that the royal house kept dragons for ceremonies, and records of the Greek historian Herodotus and the Jewish historian Josephus describe flying reptiles in ancient Egypt and Arabia. In other cultures, it was a great honor to kill these creatures. There are numerous records of warriors killing great beasts in order to establish credibility in a village. Gilgamesh, Fafnir, Beowulf and other famous legends, including the mythology of Egypt, Greece and Rome, include specific descriptions of dragons and other dinosaur-like creatures.
Dragon history is revealed on numerous objects of ancient art throughout the world. Dinosaur-like creatures are featured on Babylonian landmarks, Roman mosaics, Asian pottery and royal robes, Egyptian burial shrouds and government seals, Peruvian burial stones and tapestries, Mayan sculptures, Aboriginal and Native American petroglyphs (carved rock drawings), and many other pieces of ceremonial art throughout ancient cultures. What does all this evidence really mean?