Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Dinos in Pop Culture - Animal Kingdom: Part 4

Back to the series of Dinos in Pop Culture in Animal Kingdom.

- In Part 1 we looked at the dinos outside of the area called DinoLand U.S.A.
- In Part 2 we went to the carnival at "Chester and Hester's DinoRama!"
- In Part 3 we excavated in The Boneyard

Today we are going an area within DinoLand U.S.A around:


I did not actually ride the DINOSAUR ride, either this year or the previous year for various reasons so these pictures are primarily from the area surrounding the ride. There is one very notable inclusion from this area which I will go into below.

 Here is the main entrance to the DINOSAUR ride with Aladar the Iguanodon from the movie Dinosaur (2000). 


Here is the text from the ride website:
A Joyride to the Dinosaur AgeTravel back in time on a perilous race to rescue an Iguanodon before the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs strikes.Step inside the pristine halls of The Dino Institute, a one-time secret research facility and museum that is home to real fossils dating back to when dinosaurs walked the earth. Stroll past prehistoric exhibits and behold the colossal skeleton of the carnivorous Carnotaurus, one of history’s most feared dinosaurs. 
A Secret Mission Make your way into the research control center and watch an informative video about your expedition into the primeval past. The briefing takes a turn when you’re recruited to rescue an Iguanodon from extinction and return to the present with the 3.5-ton dinosaur in tow. There’s just one problem: the date you’ll be visiting is when a giant meteor hit earth and caused the extinction of nearly all living things. 
Blast to the Past! Board a sturdy, 12-seat Time Rover and race through a darkened forest in search of the tagged dinosaur. Speed past a spiky Styracosaurus grappling with a nearby tree. Brace yourself as you careen through unpredictable hairpin turns, a ragged Alioramus foraging for food nearby. Dart around a fearsome Velociraptor hunting for prey and avoid the clutches of a Cearadactylus soaring overhead.As the countdown clock ticks, meteors crash all around you: The end is near. Suddenly, the terrifying roar of an unimaginably huge beast can be heard in the distance. Is it the friendly Iguanodon you’re searching for—or the dreaded Carnotaurus looking for a meal?Time is nearly up. Will you complete your mission and make your escape? Or will you join the dinosaurs and become extinct?
Location of the DINOSAUR ride.


Here is Aladar at night.

 Some posters around the ride building promoting the dinosaurs that you'll find on the ride. 
Here is Alioramus

 Here is Carnotaurus

 And here is Styracosaurus

 But here is the big thing that I wanted to see... SUE!!!!!
If you don't recall, back in 1997 Sue, the T. rex, was sold at auction for one of the highest prices ever paid for a fossil. The purchasing entities were a combination of the McDonald's Corporation, The Chicago Field Museum, and Disney. In return for purchasing the skeleton, Disney acquired a cast of the skeleton, which you see here. The actual skeleton is mounted at the Chicago Field Museum for everyone to see.

 Actual skeleton of Sue with a reconstructed skull at the Chicago Field Museum.

The real, crushed, skull of Sue on display away from the skeleton at the Chicago Field Museum



 Sue in a grainy nighttime photo.


 Slightly better nighttime photo of Sue.


 Sue's informational plaque.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

DINOSAURS: From Cultural to Pop Culture - 1607/1608: The History of Four-footed Beasts and Serpents

Our next entry in DINOSAURS: From Cultural to Pop Culture - the Medieval Times series is:

Medieval Times:
1607/1608: The History of Four-footed Beasts and The History of Serpents by Edward Topsell
"Among all the kindes of Serpents, there is none comparable to the Dragon..." (Edward Topsell).
Illustration of some dragons from Edward Topsell's The History of Four-footed Beasts and Serpents (1658) 
In 1607, Edward Topsell wrote The History of Four-Footed Beasts, shortly followed in 1608 by The History of Serpents. Both volumes were eventually combined in 1658 into The History of Four-footed Beasts and Serpents after Topsell's death. You can actually find a PDF of the book here at Archive.org to check it out yourself, but as far as I am aware the 1658 text is identical to the original text of 1607 and 1608.

The purpose of the volumes was to provide an accurate representation of animals that exist in the world, however Topsell relied on other people's accounts on what was real and what was fictional. However, it is my understanding that everything Topsell wrote, he believed was real:
"The second thing in this discourse which I have promised to affirm, is the truth of the History of Creatures,for the mark of a good Writer is to follow truth and not deceivable Fables."
Topsell wrote several items of note about dragons in his books on the beasts as if they were real-life animals.
"The remedies or medicines coming from this beast are these: first, the flesh of them eaten,is good against all pains in the small guts, for it dryeth and flayeth the belly. Pliny affirmeth, that the teeth of a Dragon tyed to the sinews of a Hart in a Roes skin , and wore about ones neck,maketh a man to be gracious to his Superiors...  I know that the tail of a Dragon tyed to the Nerves of a Hart in a Roes skin, the suet of a Roe with Goose-grease, the marrow of a Hart, and an Onyon, with Rozen, and running Lime, do wonderfully help the falling Evill, (if it be made into a plaifter.)" (Page 92)
There are many other recipes as well which call for "the head and tail of a dragon" or "the fat of a dragon's heart".

But this has to be my favorite account:
"There are Dragons among the Ethiopians, which are thirty yards or paces long, these have no name among the inhabitants but Elephant-killers. And among the Indians also there is as an inbred and native hateful hostility between Dragons and Elephants: for which cause the Dragons being not ignorant that the Elephants feed upon the fruits and leaves of green trees,do secretly convey themselves into them or to the tops of rocks: covering their hinder part with leaves, and letting his head and fore part hang down like a rope,on a suddain when the Elephant comcth to crop the top of the tree, (he leapeth into his face, and diggeth out his eyes, and because that revenge of malice is too little to satisfie a Serpent, (he twineth her gable like body about the throat of the amazed Elephant,and so strangleth him to death."
There are pages and pages on the dragon once you get to the "On the Dragon" portion of the text (pages 701-716 if you want to check it out yourselves.). But the most important part of the text is the illustrations (for my purposes). The sketches of the dragons in his book (above and below) aren't any better than dragon depictions from any of the previous Medieval works from the 1400's back through the 1100's

Illustration of another dragon from Edward Topsell's The History of Four-footed Beasts and Serpents (1658)
Reading the text, you get why his illustrations resemble previous illustrations of dragons so much. It is because Topsell isn't coming up with any new information himself. He is just taking the information that had been created previously, thinking it is an accurate representation of what there was at the time, and passing it along in the guise of a factual encounter of real-life dragons. 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Dinos in Pop Culture - Animal Kingdom: Part 3

Back to the series of Dinos in Pop Culture in Animal Kingdom. In Part 1, we looked at the dinosaurs in  that were outside of the area called DinoLand U.S.A.. In Part 2 we looked at the area within DinoLand U.S.A. called "Chester and Hester's DinoRama!". Today we are going an area within DinoLand U.S.A called:


The Boneyard has several features within it. First thing you notice as you enter DinoLand U.S.A. is a giant Brachiosaurus skeleton that you walk under.






The Boneyard is "run" by an organization called The Dino Institute. The Institute is a made up organization (at least I'm pretty sure it is) designed to make the experience appear that much more real. Within the Boneyard there are several slides, mazes, stairs, and bridges around fake rock walls will "fossils" built into them.
 A welcoming sign. 

The Dino Institute's logo

A view of a potential dinosaur excavation site.

A large bone within that excavation site.


 A Parasaurolophus skeleton built into one of the walls. 

 Random Mammoth skull. We will come back to the Mammoth. It does have a purpose here.

T. rex skeleton towards the back of the complex,


 Many of the dinosaurus also come with informational signs so that the kids can learn some more about them if they are interested.

 Pachycephalosaurus

Towards one side of the area there is a walkway that brings you across a bridge to another area that is an active "dig". To get there you must now walk essentially within the Brachiosaurus


 Looking up into the Brachiosaurus skeleton as I walk by.

 As you leave the walkway, you can look down into the entire dig. And what are they digging here?

 Why it's a Mammoth! Told you we would come back to that.

 Complete with a descriptive board to give the kids the information that they need.

 Back across the bridge we head to go to the play area. As you walk around the back it appears they have a whiteboard set up with with a list of the fossils they are working on.

 However, looking at the names of the species and other info, I'm questioning the veracity of this information.

 Random T. rex statue next to the whiteboard.

 And a little more information about the science of paleontology in general. 



Overall, this was probably the best "paleontological" area of all of DinoLand U.S.A. Unfortunately, it wasn't open when I was there last year but luckily I got to explore this time. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

DINOSAURS: From Cultural to Pop Culture - Eastern Dragons through the Medieval Ages

We continue on to our next entry in DINOSAURS: From Cultural to Pop Culture - the Medieval Times:

Medieval Times:
Eastern Dragons through the Medieval Ages


In this entry we move from the dragons of European history to the Eastern dragons of China and elsewhere. Like the dragons of Europe, the origin of the Eastern (or Chinese) Dragon is also unknown. Based on the number of fossils that have come out of China and the surrounding regions there is a possibility that they helped to shape the future of what dragons eventually became (New World Encyclopedia).   

There are as many stories about how the dragon came to be (as you can imagine from a culture where the dragon is as deeply imbedded as the Chinese culture is). Here are just a couple of them: 

There is a theory that the Eastern Dragon is a conglomeration of many animals into one "super beast". The theory is that six to seven thousand years ago early Chinese people believed that certain animals and plants possessed the power to overcome nature's fury. Different tribes would adopt a different animal, or totem. One tribe, ruled by the legendary Emperor Huang Di (the Yellow Emperor), used the snake as their totem and as they conquered other tribes they would acquire their totem and merge them with the snake. Eventually the dragon was born with the head of a camel, horns of a deer, eyes of a hare, ears of a bull, neck of a snake, belly of a clam, scales of a carp, claws of an eagle, and paws of a tiger (PrimarySource.org).

Another dragon origination theory suggested by the archaeologist Zhou Chongfa was that the initial inspiration for the dragon was lightning. The Chinese pronunciation of the word dragon "long" resembles the natural sound of thunder. This theory combined the early settlers need for water and the relief that the lightning provided as it was intricately linked with the much needed rain (People's Daily). 

Is there any proof that dinosaur skeletons influenced the historical creation of dragons, No. But the possibility is there. This is something that will never be disproven or proven, the evidence just doesn't exist either way. So I say let's just have fun with it and explore the "evolution" of the Chinese dragon through time.   

The Zigong Dinosaur Museum, Zigong, China (CNN)

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Disclaimer: Unfortunately trying to find legitimate images of ancient Chinese dragons is near impossible on the internet with the plethora of  Pinterest posts that don't actually link to anything, rampant auction sites with their often dubious claims of authentic dates (and personally I can't condone the selling of ancient pieces of history, "It belongs in a museum!"), or Creationist websites with their own variety of distorting the facts. I tried my best to filter out those images, and only focus on the ones I could determine were seemingly legitimate dragons representations dating to the time periods represented. That being said:
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Here are some of the Eastern Dragons as we progress through history.

Hongshan Culture (~3000 BCE)



Hongshan culture "C" shaped plate of a dragon (showchina.org). This looks like many of the early dragon forms which are termed the "pig" dragon. Pig dragons are dragons with pig-like heads and snake bodies, often coiled up in some manner.


Xia Dynasty (1994 BCE - 1766 BCE)


One of the earliest dragon sculptures ever found. This dragon sculpture is made of over 2,000 pieces of turquoise from Erlitou, which was possibly the capital of the Xia Dynasty (china.org.cn)


Shang Dynasty (1766 BCE - 1027 BCE)


Shang Dynasty "pig" dragons (chaz.org).  


Zhou Dynasty (1122 BCE - 256 BCE)



Early Eastern Zhou dragons (chaz.org). In these I feel the dragon shaped head is starting to progress to the stereotypical dragon we know of today.

Qin Dynasty (221 BCE - 206 BCE)

Qin Dynasty bronze dragon design - Shaanxi History Museum, Xi'an, China (travelblog.com). Here I feel we have more snake-like representations than many of the previous forms.

Han Dynasty (206 BCE - 220 AD)

Han Dynasty stone relief engraving showing a form of Dragon Dance (Wikipedia). This is the first real showing of the dragon having limbs. Previous snakes all had a rather snake-like representation and here we are starting to get more of a mixture of animals. The Dragon Dance is the dance often seen in parades where many people dress up inside a giant dragon and dance/march down a street.

Gold hook buckle with jade dragon, Western Han dynasty, from the mausoleum of Nanyue King Zhaomo, Xianggang, Guangzhou - Hong Kong Museum of History (Wikimedia.org).


It appears that at about this point in history, we move away from the generic "pig" dragon, with a head and snake body, into one that is much more detailed with many of the now iconic features of the Chinese dragon, such as the fish scaled body, the clawed arms, and the now famous dragon head.

Sui Dynasty (589 AD - 618 AD)

Model of a Sui Dynasty dragon boat (cultural-china.com).

Tang Dynasty (618 AD - 907 AD)

Gilded bronze dragon from the Tang Dynasty (cultural-china.com)

Close up of the head (Art Gallery NSW).

From this point on, I feel we have reached a modern dragon.

Sung Dynasty (969 AD - 1279 AD)

Piece of the Nine Dragons handscroll created by Chinese artist Chen Rong from 1244.



Yuan Dynasty (1279 AD - 1368 AD)

Yuan Dynasty dragon hanging scroll ink painting (The Met).

Dragon images on a Yuan Dynasty porcelain pot (cultural-china.com).
Ming Dynasty (1368 AD - 1644 AD)
The Nine Dragon Wall in Beihai Park, Beijing was built in 1402.

Close up of some of the dragons (Wikipedia).


Flask decorated with a dragon and wave scrolls in underglaze blue, Ming dynasty, 14th century.

Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (Encyclopedia Britannica)


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Although created first, there is little evidence that the Chinese dragon influenced the European dragon in design and creation. It is possible that Marco Polo brought back information on dragons after his travels, which were during the late 1200's and early 1300's. But it is never mentioned in his Travels of Marco Polo diary account of his trip. But regardless, it can't be denied that the Chinese developed their dragons to a high degree of detail, far earlier than the Europeans, who were only producing rudimentary dragon artwork at this time.

And we will end this episode there, matching the time period our travels through the European Middle Ages had brought us to, the end of the 1400's. Also, you can see that dragons in modern day China greatly resemble, if not are identical, to many of the dragons being created over 500 to 1500 years ago. The dragons produced in China's history showed remarkable detail and exquisite design, in a style that was imitated and matched for over 1,000 years.

Until the next time...