Thursday, January 19, 2017

DINOSAURS: From Cultural to Pop Culture - 1100's and 1200's AD: Dragons in the early Medieval Ages

For our next entry in DINOSAURS: From Cultural to Pop Culture - the Medieval Times:

Medieval Times: 1100's and 1200's AD
Dragons in the early Medieval Ages

Even though much writing and other information has been lost from the Medieval Ages, there is still some sources available about what people thought about dragons during that time. During this period it is unclear though if the myth of dragons had stemmed from the discovery of more dinosaurs, or had slowly been evolving on its own, building upon itself as time went by. 

A good website to find information on Medieval beasts is The Medieval Bestiary though.  Another good source is the British Library, which has some crossover between the sources and is a good check on the sources. Images below can be found at this link:

Dragons in the 1100's
I cannot find many examples of dragons in the 1100's or earlier. But the dragons during this time period are depicted in the one work I found to be rather small. They kind of have a dog appearance, however they only have hindlimbs (no front limbs) and large wings (compared to their body size). 

The images above were found in the Bodleian Library, MS. Ashmole 1462(De medicina ex animalibus).

Dragons in the 1200's

As time continued into the 1200's, a feature of dragons that was common during this time was their morphological characteristics. More often than not, they were portrayed with large wings, large rear legs, no front limbs at all, and large ears. Their general body shape was elongate/worm like with enlarged torsos. The one thing that has evolved in them since the 1100's is that they are now depicted much larger, often depicted in association with elephants to emphasize this. Their ears and hind legs have also grown in proportion to the body, as compared to the previous century.

This image can be found in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, lat. 14429.

In some myths, the dragon took on the embodiment of Satan, where in this instance the doves are Christians trying to be protected from being devoured. The tree is referred to as a Peridexion tree and can be seen a few times in the literature. The image on the left can be found in the Bibliothèque Municipale de Douai, MS 711 (De Natura animalium) and the one on the right from the British Library, Harley MS 3244.

 Some more dragons near some Peridexion trees. The image on the left can be found in the Bibliothèque Municipale de Lyon, MS P.A. 78 (Bestiaire of Guillaume le Clerc) and the image on the right can be found in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, fr. 1444b (Bestiaire of Guillaume le Clerc).

Another version of the dragon showing the "standard" morphological features. This image can be found in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, lat. 6838B,

 Another version of a dragon with two sets of wings and legs. I assume, based on the preponderance of only legged dragons during this time, that the front set it not meant to represent front limbs, rather another set of hind limbs. This image can be found in the British Library, Harley MS 3244.

 Another dragon, presented much the same as those above except this one is shown in comparison to an elephant to illustrate its size. This image can be found in the British Library, Sloane MS 278 (Aviarium / Dicta Chrysostomi)

This image I found to be rather peculiar compared to the previous ones. The hind limbs have almost taken on a front limb characteristic, and the illustration seems to have much more detail and colors than the others. This image can be found in the Bodleian Library, MS. Douce 167.

Next time we will continue through the Medieval Ages with the 1300's and 1400's.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Random Dino Pic - Bird Footprints

Another random pic I had come across. Some modern dinosaur (bird) prints along Jones Beach on Long Island. These are likely seagull prints if I recall correctly. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Random Geology Photos - Flight over the Great Salt Lake

Going through some old photos, I came across these that I took as we were flying over the Great Salt Lake on my flight from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas. 

 A view of the salt marshes to the east of the Great Salt Lake.

 Antelope Island, which was formerly an island in the lake, however dropping water levels have exposed the land to the east of the island, no longer making this an island. 

 Another former island, Stansbury Island, which is further to the west. 

 Not exactly of the Great Salt Lake, but in the middle of this photograph is what is called the "Stockton Bar". You can partially see it at the foot of the smaller mountain in the center of the picture. The Stockton Bar is a sandbar located in the Tooele Valley (the valley one over from the Salt Lake Valley) from the old Lake Bonneville. 

A view looking back at the Great Salt Lake from the south, where you can see some of the rock formations in the Oquirrh (pronounced o-ker) Mountains. This is the mountain range on the western edge of the Salt Lake Valley.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Drunk on Geology - Allosaurus Amber Ale

The next up in our Drunk on Geology series is Allosaurus Amber Ale by Vernal Brewing Company.

The Vernal Brewing Company is located near Dinosaur National Monument (of which I had done a Geology Through the National Parks post on before), which is famous for it's Jurassic age fossil wall. This wall contains several different species of dinosaurs in situ (where they had been found), including Allosaurus, Stegosaurus, Apatosaurus, Camarasaurus, and Diplodocus.

The beer is named after the state fossil of Utah, Allosaurus fragilis. Quarries in the area of the brewery have produced abundant quantities of this apex predator. These quarries can be found at the Dinosaur National Monument as well as in central Utah near Price at the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry.

Allosaurus fragilis from the Natural History Museum of Utah.
Allosaurus lived 140 million years ago in the Late Jurassic. The size of these beasts ranged from 25 to 35 feet long and had 4 inch long teeth. The Allosaurus is known as a theropod, meaning that it ate meat. It is also an ancestor to modern day birds. Due to the large number of Allosaurus fossils that are found together in both Vernal and Price, it is thought that Allosaurus may have hunted in packs.

From the can:
"If walls could talk, they'd tell you about prehistoric beasts and modern day savages! Dinosaur National Monument holds over 1,500 fossil bones under one roof."
The fossil wall at Dinosaur National Monument. Home to many an Allosaurus

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

DINOSAURS: From Cultural to Pop Culture - ~800 AD: Of Beowulf and Dragons

For our next entry, we move on from the Prehistoric Times into the Medieval Times:

Medieval Times: ~800 AD
Of Beowulf and Dragons

"He heeded not the fire, though grievously it scorched his hand, but smote the worm [dragon] underneath, where the skin failed somewhat in hardness."
 One of the hallmarks of the Medieval time period was, of course, dragons, and the knights that rode in to slay them. Beowulf was one of the first pieces of literature to present the dragon, along with the now synonymous fire breathing aspect of it.  

Even though there are no illustrations from the period of Beowulf to show what contemporary people thought the dragon would have looked like, here is a 1908 illustration by J. R. Skelton, which is as far removed from modern interpretations as I could find in reference to Beowulf specifically.
Similar to the gryphon, cyclops, Amazonians before, bones of dinosaurs are thought to be the basis for the dragon mythology. Ancient people would find the bones and build legends around them, much like they did in Ancient Rome and Greece. However, in this instance the beasts that were created became dragons, with an ever expanding array of features like fire breathing, armored skin, and wings. Unlike dragons of modern day though, the dragons on the middle ages appeared more "worm-like" as mentioned in the Beowulf text. As we continue on through the middle ages, this will become more pronounced.

One fossil find that is even named after dragons because of it's uncanny resemblance to what we know of today as dragons is the pachycephalosaur Dracorex

Dracorex at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, photo by David Orr
Although not discovered until 2003, it is unlikely that this specific species of dinosaur was the source of the dragon mythology. But it is not out of the realm of possibility that other similar fossils sparked the medieval imagination.

The next few posts will follow the "evolution" of dragons through the Middle Ages to see how they have "evolved" in medieval culture.

For a full listing of all of the entries you can click here: DINOSAURS!: From Cultural to Pop Culture


Friday, December 09, 2016

DINOSAURS: From Cultural to Pop Culture - ~100 AD: Battle of the Amazonians

For a full listing of all of the entries you can click here: DINOSAURS!: From Cultural to Pop Culture

For our next entry, we continue on the island of Samos with the last entry in the "Prehistoric Times" (at least for now).

Prehistoric Times: ~100 AD

A long time after Euphorion talked about the Neades (about 300 years), Plutarch came and also came up with a reason for the bones on the island. Plutarch talked about a tale where the god Dionysus tried to recruit the giant Amazon warriors, however they refused, and Dionysus pursued them to Samos. A great battle took place and the Amazonians were slaughtered in "fields of blood". 

The majority of Samos is covered with white and beige sediments and rocks, however there is a significant deposit of red sediments with many white fossil bones eroding out of them. The localities of these deposits coincide with the locations of battles depicted on ancient maps.

Samos red rock fossil beds (Soulinias, 2007)
The deposits of these fossils were found within a volcanic tuffa that was interbedded with sandy marls and gravels from the Early Miocene. The variety of mammals within the fossil beds is astounding, ranging from Mastodons, rhinos, and hyenas, to flightless birds (Forsyth Major, 1893).  

One of the most common fossils that are found on the island is that of the Prehistoric horse, Hippotherium. Coincidently (or perhaps not), the Amazonian's were known to have rode horses into battle.

Skeleton of Hippotherium from Wikipedia

Mayor, Adrienne. 2000. The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ

Soulinias, N. (2007). Samos Island, Part II: ancient history of the Samos fossils and the record of earthquakes. Inside the Aegean Metamorphic Core Complexes: Journal of the virtual explorer, electronic edition.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

DINOSAURS: From Cultural to Pop Culture - ~220 BC: The Neades

A while ago I started a series I termed "DINOSAURS!: From Cultural to Pop Culture", describing how the science and just mere existence of dinosaurs (and sometimes other prehistoric beasts) have influenced culture and pop culture. 

For a full listing of all of the entries you can click here: DINOSAURS!: From Cultural to Pop Culture

For our next entry, we have:

Prehistoric Times: ~220 BC

Samos is a Greek island located in the Aegean Sea, near present day Turkey:

Location of Samo from Sarris et al, 2007

This island has been written about numerous times in the ancient past. One of the notable examples was the following:
" primeval times Samos was uninhabited [except for] animals of gigantic size, which were savage and dangerous, called Neades. Now these animals with their mere roaring split the ground. So there is a proverbial saying in Samos: 'So and so roars louder than the Neades.' And Euphorion asserts that their huge remains are displayed even to this day"
Euphorion (~220 BC)
Quoted in On Animals by Aelian (3rd Century AD) 
The Neades seem to be similar to other ancient beasts, the works of authors finding the fossils and trying to come up with story to explain them.  Below are some of the fossils that have been found on the island of Samos and have been dated to the Tourolio during the Early Miocene (


The original writings of Euphorion had been lost, but the above section had been quoted by the natural historian Aelian in the 3rd century AD. Fossils today have been found in the Mytilini basin, which is located north of the village of Mytilini on Samos, along a major fault zone on Samos. Faults = earthquakes. Perhaps the ancient Greeks equated the earthquakes with the roar of the Neades (Soulinias, 2007)

Euphorion's quote also seems to focus on the fossils being put on display. It was discovered that around the 7th century BC a large fossil thighbone was placed on an altar of the Temple of Hera, a popular place at the time (Kyrieleis, 1988). It is likely that Euphorion saw the thighbone and created a tale of his own to explain it. 

Besides Euphorion's tale, Not much is written about the neades (I couldn't even find a picture), but Samos continued to be a focal point where paleontology influenced the culture of the time period. Next time we will look at when Plutarch makes a more impactful statement about what he thinks the fossils came from.

Kyrieleis, H. (1988). Offerings of the common man in the Heraion at Samos. Early Greek cult practice, 215-21.

Mayor, Adrienne. 2000. The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ

Sarris, D., Christodoulakis, D., & Koerner, C. (2007). Recent decline in precipitation and tree growth in the eastern Mediterranean. Global Change Biology, 13(6), 1187-1200.

Soulinias, N. (2007). Samos Island, Part II: ancient history of the Samos fossils and the record of earthquakes. Inside the Aegean Metamorphic Core Complexes: Journal of the virtual explorer, electronic edition.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

GIS "Pro" Tips - Getting GPS Coordinates from an Address

While working as a GIS Specialist, there were times when I needed to know the GPS locations of a lot of places based on their physical address. The fastest and easiest way I found to do this was to use Google Maps.

Here is how:

Go to

Type in the address that you are interested in. Here I put the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Utah (my alma mater).

Then if you look at the actual web address you will notice there are two GPS localities listed. The blue circle (on the left) is the GPS address of the center of the page. If you shift the map, this will change accordingly. It is not necessarily the GPS address of the point you input, if the page loads with your location off center (as often happens). The red circled address (at the end of the web address) is the actual address of the point you input. To show you where you can use that, you can take the numbers and put them in ArcMap as seen below.

In the default toolbar, there is a button called "Go to XY". Click on it.

A box will pop up with Longitude and Latitude boxes.

Type in the second number first, this is your longitude. Include the negative sign if applicable. Then type the first number in the second box. This is your latitude. When you hit "Enter", a flash will appear on the map where your point is. It also converts the Decimal Degrees of Google Maps to Degrees Minutes Seconds. You can click on the "Add Point" above the coordinates to put a green dot in that spot. Then you have to zoom in manually.

And if you put in the second GPS coordinates, you will get a dot precisely where Google Maps puts the address, which is more often than not, correct. Although there are instances where this isn't always the case.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Drunk On Geology - Furnace Creek

The next up in our Drunk on Geology series is Furnace Creek Resort Merlot by J. Pedroncelli Winery

Following up our trip to Death Valley National Park, is wine from the park itself, Furnace Creek Resort Merlot. Furnace Creek Resort is the "fancy" resort within Death Valley itself near the Furnace Creek visitor's center, which is the location for the Hottest Place on Earth.

The picture on the front of the bottle is the artist Lynne Bolwell's interpretation of the Artist's Palette (pictured below) with a little bit of the Artist's Drive included. You can find more of Lynne's work on her facebook page, Here

The rocks in the area are composed of multi-colored ashes and claystones. The ashes are a variety of hues due to the different concentrations of heavy metals in them (like nickel, cobalt, etc.)

 The wine was created by J. Pedroncelli Winery for the Furnace Creek Resort to sell. Text from the back of the bottle:
"Sourced from selected blocks located in northern Sonoma County, these vines are sustainably farmed on the natural terraces that flank the valley and rise gradually into the steep hills above the valley floor."

 Glory shot of the wine.

Taking a sample.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Geology of the National Parks in Pictures - Death Valley

The next up on my Tour of the Geology of the National Parks in pictures is:

Finishing our tour of the southwest's desert national parks was Death Valley. The hottest, driest, and lowest National Park. Also the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere. We entered the park at the southern entrance, which enabled us to hit up Badwater Basin on our way into the park, since that was the main thing I wanted to see. Unfortunately, we were getting there right at sunset so the sun is in a lot of the photos, since we were on the eastern side of the valley.

 Drive by Entrance Sign shot.

 Our first view of valley known as Death Valley on our way towards Badwater Basin.

 Distant view of Badwater Basin towards the north.

 Currently at Badwater Basin, the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere (282 feet below sea level). This shot is looking towards the east, up at the valley wall. If you look closely there is a little white box towards the center of the photo. The box says "Sea Level".

 The salt that has accumulated at the bottom of Badwater Basin.

 Looking out towards the basin along the salt walkway that the tourists are allowed on. You will notice all the holes. I'm positive these are people digging them, then going "Now I'm at the lowest point!". Please don't do do this. Those people are just jackasses and breaking the law.

 Another view of Badwater Basin. 

 Close up shot of the salt flats. Love the designs in the salt.

 Looking back towards the "Sea Level" sign and the valley wall.

 The marker stating "Badwater Basin 282 Feet/85.5 Meters Below Sea Level".

 The car's altimeter was a little off, but it was still cool to see it say -260 ft.

 View from our room at the Stovepipe Wells Village looking at the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.

 Got out and hiked around the dunes a little. 

 Interdunal deposits.

 Traces of dune life. Looks like lizards and mice to me.

 More tracks. Maybe a hare mixed in and I'm sure there were scorpion tracks in there somewhere.

 Furnace Creek visitor's center, which is the location for the hottest place on Earth. It was only 85 while we were there, so not too bad.

 Went over to Artist's Drive. View of the valley wall.

 Another view of the valley wall along Artist's Drive.

 Looking out towards Death Valley from Artist's Drive.

Artist's Palette. This was an extremely colorful  ash and claystone deposit, made colorful by the various metals in the ash. The colors got a little washed out in the photo but they were rath striking in person.