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Dragons: Fiction...Or Fact?

     Dragons—creatures of fantasy, fiction, and fairy tales... or were they? Were dragons nothing more than mythical monsters, or were medieval cartographers actually serious when they marked their maps: “here be dragons!” If you are convinced that dragons are simply figments of the ancient people’s imaginations; the dragon legends, artifacts, and historical accounts I am about to share with you may potentially convince you otherwise.

Sea Dragon On Old World Globe
Here Be Dragons!
Image Credit: Jonathan Schulz

     There are dozens of dragon legends and thousands of dragon artifacts from all over the world (1). Saint George fought a dragon in Libya. Yu was said to ride dragons in China.  Beowulf killed a dragon in Sweden, and Siegfried battled a dragon in the Netherlands. And what about ancient artifacts? Native Americans carved dragons on rock formations in the United States (2). Archeologists have found hundreds of ancient dragon figurines near Acambaro, Mexico (3). In South America, the Moche people painted dragons on their vases. In Europe, dragon paintings and carvings are found in cathedrals, on coats of arms, and on castle walls. In China, dragons are carved into bells, doorways, and figurines. In Cambodia, a dragon is even carved on the pillar of an ancient temple (4). How (not to mention why) could so many cultures from every corner of the world come up with the same sort of imaginary creatures?

Natural Bridges Dinosaur Petroglyph

Credit: Jonathan Schulz

Dragons Are Dinosaurs

Credit: Genesis Park

Shang Dinosaur Figurine
Acambaro Figurines Prove The Coexistence Of Dinosaurs And Humans
Moche Dinosaur Vase

Credit: Genesis Park

Stegosaurus Temple Carving

Credit: Genesis Park

Credit: Genesis Park

     In addition to the legends and the artifacts, we have actual historical accounts that talk about dragons as real, live creatures

     Cassius Dio, a respected Roman historian of the second century AD, recorded that during Rome’s wars with the North-African city-state of Carthage, Rome’s main general, Regulus, had been attacked by an enormous dragon. Because it was wreaking havoc on his army, Regulus tried to kill the dragon, and eventually succeeded in doing so with the use of siege weapons (and "crowds of soldiers"). He then skinned it, and sent the hide—which measured about 120 feet—back to the Roman senate, who had it put on display (5).                              

     Alexander the Great encountered a dragon during his conquest of India. The local Indians worshiped the creature as a god, so they begged Alexander not to harm it. Alexander agreed. When the Greek army marched past the dragon’s cave, the creature heard them, and stuck out it’s head. “Hissing and snorting violently,” it terrified Alexander’s army. The dragon was estimated to be 70 cubits long, and it’s eyes were said to be as large as a Macedonian shield (6).

    Marco Polo, the famous Italian explorer that traveled to China in the 13th century, recorded encounters with dragons of great diversity. He described the larger ones as having two “forelegs,” or arms, near the head, and for feet, claws like those of a hawk.  He also said the dragons were hideously ugly with eyes as big as a loaf of bread, and sharp-toothed mouths large enough to swallow a grown man whole. He said that the dragons came out at night and ate any living animal they came across, even large, predatory animals. “Every man and beast must stand in fear and trembling of them,” Polo warned.

    Marco Polo also reported that the people of Carajan, China, were said to kill the dragons by burying upright spears in hills of sand. When the dragons climbed over the hills of sand, they would be stabbed and killed by the buried spears. The people would then put the dragon’s body parts to useful purposes, and eat its meat (7).

    The abundance of legends, artifacts, and historical accounts would seem to indicate that dragons are more than myth, But what real animal could the ancient people, in their various languages, have called “dragons?” Dinosaurs. What could Rome’s general, Regulus, have seen? It could have been an enormous Sauropod dinosaur! No crocodile or elephant can achieve any length remotely close to 120 ft, while the dinosaur Seismosaurus, one of the largest animals that ever lived, could grow to incredible lengths of over 160 ft!                                          

     What creature hissed and snorted at Alexander the Great’s army?  Perhaps another giant sauropod, possibly Brachiosaurus, which could grow to be around 75 feet long, and had a very large head.           

      Marco Polo’s dragon description resembles large, meat-eating dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus rex. Although some try to say that it is actually describing a crocodile, Polo's account mentions: two “forelegs” near the head, hawk-like feet, eyes as big as a loaf of bread, and a sharp-toothed mouth large enough to swallow a grown man whole. Although Polo's work is very ambiguous, his description of the creature's foot (hawk-like) actually favors the dinosaur interpretation (just compare the feet of a crocodile and Tyrannosaurus Rex).

    Now, let’s consider the artifacts (please refer to the pictures above). The Chinese figurine from the ancient Shang dynasty resembles the dinosaur Parasaurolophus. Both the Cambodian pillar carving and the figurine from Acambaro, Mexico seem to  depict Stegosaurus. The dragon carving from a castle in France looks very much like Baryonyx.  The ancient Native American petroglyph from Natural Bridges national monument in Utah obviously shows a Sauropod dinosaur such as Apatosaurus. And the Moche vase seems to be a somewhat stylized depiction of a carnivorous dinosaur, perhaps Dilophosaurus or Carnotaurus.  

    Again I ask you: how could so many cultures from every corner of the world come up with the same sort of imaginary creatures? The artists, craftsmen, warriors, and historians who created the breathtaking array of dragon legends, tales, and art we see today were often separated from each other by hundreds of years and thousands of miles. Those artists and historians must have all heard of, or even seen, real, live creatures that they called "dragons." Centuries later, in the mid 1800's, when we began to unearth dragon fossils, we gave these real, live creatures a new name: dinosaurs.

    From the Americas, from Europe, from the Far East, and from all over the world, we have legends, artifacts, and historical accounts of dragons, those real, live creatures that once walked the Earth— creatures that we now call dinosaurs.

Chinese Dragon
Credit: Jonathan Schulz
Jonathan Schulz, 2015

1.Dragons-Edited and Compiled by Bodie Hodge and Laura Welch


3. Dinosaurs Unleashed (2nd Edition)-by Kyle Butt and Eric Lyons



This article is the property of Jonathan Schulz and Creation v. Evolution Debate

Special thanks to Dr. Don Patton and Dave Woetzel for reviewing this article!

Special thanks to Dr. Don Patton and Dave Woetzel for reviewing this article!

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