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15 Cards in this Set

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  • Back
What do you call the study of hidden animals?
What is a Sphinx, Manticore, and Basilisk?
Sphinx - In greece, had head of a women and body of Lion, wings and would pose riddles to people (usually dangerous).
In Egypt, had a head of a pharoah

Manticore - body of a lion and head of a man, stinging tail and poses riddles.

Basilisk - King of Snakes; one look brings death so nobody knows what it looks like
Decribe two plants that could be found in a Crytogarden.
Mandrake root - a real plant with roots that look like human legs and emit a scream when you try to pull out of ground

The Zieba tree - with humans that are natural products of tree
Describe the development of the Unicorn legend.
1. First mention: Ctesias, Greek historian c398 BC
He wrote of the unicorn as living in india and claimed it to be large as a horse, horn 1/2m long. Horn filings were sold as antidote to poison.
Where could this legend have come from? Possible candidates include the Indian Rhino passed down from mouth to mouth from india -> greece.

2. Next Step: the Old testament, 3rd century BC.
A group of Alexandrian scholars wanted to translate some of the books of the old testament from hebrew to greek.
Hebrew re'em -> monokeros = "one horn" = unicorn
actually means WILD OX, possibly mistaken when seen in profile for having one horn

3. Pliny mentioned them in his writings (of course!)

4. The legend then becamse more exagerated in Arab mythology the unicorn was huge.
-so big it can skewer elephants, 3.4X elephant

In Jewish mythology it was too bit to fit on Noah's ark and survived because it could tred water and stayed a float by resting horn on ark.

In Christian mythology it could be pacified only by virgins. Recal how to catch a unicorn.

5. Marco polo discerned the source of the unicorn legend when he passed through india, and was dissapotined because it wasnt like the legent.

6. Alicorn: medicinal unicorn horn; kept the unicorn legend alive until the 18th century ( origin Ctesias)
What was the Upa's tree?
aka the Javan tree of death
- it was first mentioned by Frair Oderich of Portenau (1330) and then John Mandeveille (1355) who claimed that it made the deadliets poison in the world. Arror poison sap could be collected, people would die even just being in the tree's vicinity.

Entered literature: Eramus Darwin, London Play, and Russian school children.

French naturalist set out to find the truth (1804) Leschenault and found the tree. It was surrounded by vegetation, no dead bodies, sap had a toxin called cardiac glycoside.

What about the dead animals in the stories? Perhaps a confounding of two phenomena: poisonous tree, and deadly CO2 emmisions from dormant volcanos.

Reasoning: Everything must have its opposite, Tree of Life in Garden of Eden.
Why was the PIltdown man such an appealing discovery for science to beleive?
- supposed human ancestor whose cranium, jaw and teeth were excavated in Sussex in the period 1908-1915
- the only homids that had been discovered till then were recent forms; paloanthropologists wanted to find a form closer to the ape-human split, a missing linke that may held answer: what came first, non apelike features & bipedalism or a larger cranium.
British thought that evolution was brain led, and were inclined to beleive in Pilt down since it was discovered by a British man ( nationalism)

Gave science an intermediate fossil that didnt resemble the human skull.
Who were the Piltdown players?
***Charles Darwin - amateur fossil collector; collected for the British Museum
Sir Arthur Smith Woodward - chief of the Department of Natural history at the British Museum; paleoichthyologist; Dawson's ally
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin - scientist-preist; Jesuit, theologian, paleontologist; frind and assistant to Dawson
Describe the Piltdown Discoveries.
Most imporant ones made by Dawson in 1912.
Total assemblage of fossils:
- fragments of two human-like craniums ( found in a spill = rubble that had already been escavaded)
- parts of an apelike lower jaw (discovered in situ (where they lay in an undisturbed are of the quary) -- this is suspicious because an experience digger should suspect the are as being disturbed
- two human like lower teeth (spill)

Note: pieces were found in different places of the quary, not in a neat pile. It is very rare to find an entire skeleton, lots of recontruction and room for interpretation.
Reception of Piltdown discoveries.
In Britain:
- were welcome!
- british paleantologists favoured evolution being brain led and this discovery confirmed expectation
- " The firt Britain"
- doubted but fraud not suspected
- since parts found in different parts of quary, maybe from diff. creature?
- as time went on, story became more anomalous ( out of step with other forms found by others)
- after a few decades, people just stopped talking about piltdown (shunning)
The exposure of the hoax.
when? 1953
What they found:
- flouride absorption test made it possible to date fossils by how much flouride has penetrated. In this case, not much flouride penetrated, signaling youth.
- File marks found on teeth
- cranial fragments - fully human ~ 600 YO
- Jaw - arang-utan ~ 500 YO
- teeth - CHimp
Why was dawson suspect #1?
He said he dug the bones from an "undisturbed" site along with others that had access to the museum.
The meaning of the hoax for science?
- waste of time and ink
- low level due to self-correcting nature of science ( science better than scientist) but it did take a long time
- poor initial examination
- results satisfied expectation ) this is when you should be MOST suspicious
How do these stories arise and spread?
1. Observation of real organisms ( unicorns, upas tree, piltdown)
2. a priori reasoning ( everything must have its opposite ex upas tree)
3. Confounding of two or more organisms or two or more phenomena ( upas tree -> dead bodies have nothing to do with tree)
4. Secondhand reporting (ex upas tree, unicorn)
5. mistranslation (re'em = monokeros but really means wild ox)
6. Exaggerations - satisfying craving for the wondrous, the unusual, the freakish ( ex unicorn size, upas tree potency)
7. Authorities given too much credence ( Pliny, Bible)
8. Difficult to verify ( distance, difficulty to prove a negative statement)
9. Apperance in literature ( upas tree)
10. Outright fakery (alicorn, piltdown)
11. Good story ( all of them... the better the story, the more skeptical you should be)
1. After the promising start in the 17th century, biological microscopy languised until the early 19th century. WHY?
1. Technical problems (abberations) not solved until 1820s by german
2. He didn't train any pupils
3. Became increasingly irrelevant to biologists in the 18th century, were regarded rich mans toys ( more of a hobby)
What was the main improvement in the 19th century?
- lenses with fewer aberations and clearer viewing
- viewing became more trustworthy