Dragon history is nearly universal throughout the world’s ancient cultures. Where did this global concept originate? How did societies throughout the world describe, record, draw, etch, sew and carve such creatures in such uniformity, if they did not witness these creatures during their lifetimes?
Dragon drawn by Conrad Gesner and Edward Topsell in 1658. Published in: Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes and Serpents (from http://www.strangescience.net/stdino2.htm)
How did the myth start? No one knows the exact answer, but some myths may have been inspired by living reptiles, and some “dragon” bones probably belonged to animals long extinct — in some cases dinosaurs, in others, fossil mammals.
However, paleontology (the study of past geological ages based primarily on the study of fossils) is a relatively new science. In fact, the concept of dinosaurs (giant lizards) only surfaced in its present form in the early 19th century. Prior to that, anyone who found a large fossilized bone assumed it came from an elephant, dragon or giant. There wasn’t any notion of “science” attached to these finds.
It wasn’t until 1841 that English scientist Richard Owens suggested that the group of “newly discovered” animals be called “dinosaurs,” which literally means “terrible lizards.” Throughout the next few decades, the first artist depictions of dinosaurs were actually comical when compared to what we can scientifically discern today. How then, do pottery, linens, cave paintings, and written descriptions of “dragons” from 2,000 to 4,000 years ago depict dinosaurs better than what science could muster in the mid-1800’s?
Some creationists claim that medieval dragons were really dinosaurs that survived into modern times, but this notion is not supported by modern science.
Perhaps dragons once roamed the earth in physical form but have now evolved into non-physical beings that inhabit an “otherworld” or “the astral”. Another idea, which was allegedly channelled from actual dragons, is that they originated in a nebula far on the edge of the universe. How can we know if this is true and not just imagination? Those ideas are certainly not supported by modern science either.
So, what is the answer? Only the Dragons know! 😉
Some further reading about the possible origins of Dragons…
The Footprints Of Dragons – from “Revolution Against Evolution”, rae.org
Dragons and Dragon Lore, by Ernest Ingersoll, 1928 ~ This is a comprehensive study of the mythology of the dragon on a world-wide scale. Ingersoll deals with this archetypal beast in the lore of India, Korea, Japan, China, Wales, as well as the English legend of St. George. Anyone wishing to study dragons will find this a treasure-trove of information on the subject. Originally published as a book but now also available online.
Strange Science ~ Dinosaurs & Dragons