Protoceratops Legend

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Protoceratops and the Griffin Legend

Griffin depicted on Ancient Greek vase, c. 350 BCE:
Protoceratops andrewsi Exhibit in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History
According to legend that Griffin was a monster with the body of a lion, that walked on four legs, and head and beak of and eagle. It supposedly laid eggs in nests on the ground, and guarded deposits of gold located in wilderness areas.

Some scholars now think that these legends were originally inspired by Protoceratops (and perhaps other beaked dinosaur fossils.

The reason for this supposition is that Ancient Greek writers began first discussing the Griffin around 675 BCE. It is also believed that it was around this time that the Ancient Greeks first came in contact with Scythian nomads, and hence it seems plausible that the Greeks may have had the myth passed to them from this source.

We also know that the nomadic Scythians obtained gold from the Tian Shan and Altai Mountains in Central Asia, which would have been in fairly close proximity to locations where protoceratops fossils (including skeletons, eggs, and nests) have been found by modern researchers.

In summary, it seems highly plausible that Protoceratops could have inspired the Griffin legend - but we can prove this to be the case.

Greek Rhyton (drinking horn) depicting a Griffin:
Greek Rhyton (drinking horn) depicting a Griffin

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