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:
"...in 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"The Neades seem to be similar to other ancient beasts, which were the works of ancient authors finding the fossils and trying to come up with a 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 (samosin.gr).
Euphorion (~220 BC)
Quoted in On Animals by Aelian (3rd Century AD)
|Some of the Early Miocene fossils that have been found on the island of Samos (samosin.gr).|
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 an illustration depicting them), but Samos continued to be a focal point where paleontology influenced the culture of the time period. For the next stop we will look at when Plutarch made a more impactful statement about where 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.