Dinos or Dragons

Tyler Collins, Opinions Editor

I have been fascinated by discovery my whole life, and as I visited the Henry Doorly Zoo this past week I was quickly drawn to the dinosaur dig site. I read the information plaques and considered the claim of the dinosaur’s immense age of over 65 million years, supposedly existing long before man. Although I have been taught this view my whole life, I believe a compelling case can be made that dinosaurs lived alongside humans much more recently than popularly thought—disrupting the evolutionary story taught in school.

It must first be noted that the word dinosaur was not coined until 1841 by Sir Richard Owens. To determine whether dinosaurs did, in fact, live with man, the best place to check are historical records. However, we know the ancients would not have used the word dinosaur, as it did not exist yet. Instead it seems they used the word dragon to describe the large, reptilian beasts they encountered.

Alexander the Great, in his conquest of Asia, came across giant reptiles in the caves of India; the Roman historian Cassius Dio recounted how a Roman army in North Africa killed and skinned a dragon; the explorer Marco Polo recorded that dragons pulled the emperor’s chariots in China; a tenth-century Irishman wrote of his encounter with a dragon matching the description of a stegosaurus; the ancient Greek writer Herodotus recorded the presence of “winged serpents” in modern day Egypt; 16th century naturalist Ulysses Aldrovandus recorded an encounter with a dragon which fits the description of a tanystropheus; even the Native Americans told of creatures, in South Dakota, which match the description of a pterodactyl.

Archaeology abounds with evidence of dinosaurs as well. In the American Southwest, there are cave-paintings which resemble pterodactyl and sauropod dinosaurs; in Central America and Peru, dinosaur-like creatures decorate ancient pottery and temples; in England, the brass engravings in Carlisle Cathedral, which edge the grave of Bishop Bell, appear to depict a horned ceratopsian dinosaur and long-necked sauropod dinosaurs; the famous Ishtar Gate of Babylon, built by Nebuchadnezzar, displays a four-legged reptilian creature standing upright on its hips like a dinosaur; the ancient temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia has a column carved with a what appears to be a stegosaurus; and the Aborigines of northern Australia described and painted a lake monster that looks nearly identical to a plesiosaur.

As astonishing as that evidence seems, it is only a fraction of the total discoveries. However, a tough question remains: Does empirical science verify this historical evidence? The answer is yes. In a 2005 discovery by paleontologist Mary Schweitzer, still-soft tissue was found in the leg bone of a Tyrannosaurus Rex dug up in Montana. The problem with the discovery was that soft tissue does not stay preserved for a long time, let alone 65 million years. In fact, the details Schweitzer described in the bone are very similar to those found in Egyptian mummies dating merely thousands of years old. Further discoveries of soft tissue in dinosaurs have been made since her initial finding.

From historical accounts, to archaeological finds, to soft-tissue discoveries, the evidence is abundant. The historical and scientific data make a firm case that dinosaurs are not as ancient as traditionally claimed and were, indeed, contemporaries of humans, thus posing a serious threat to the story of evolution.