Friday, March 17, 2023
HomeArchaeologyWhy Are There No Unicorn Fossils In A Museum?

Why Are There No Unicorn Fossils In A Museum?

Jan Bartek – – The unicorn is a legendary animal usually depicted on historical seals and in Medieval manuscripts.

The lovely and mysterious animal has fascinated individuals for ages, particularly throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Yet, many surprise why there aren’t any unicorn fossils in a museum. Does this imply the legendary unicorn by no means existed? Why are unicorns a part of some indigenous rock work if that’s the case?

According to a latest examine revealed within the Cambridge Archaeological Journal, Europeans traveled far, even to South Africa to catch unicorns, however they by no means succeeded.

Why Are There No Unicorn Fossils In A Museum?

A unicorn. Painting by Maerten de Vos (1532–1603). Credit: Public Domain

“During cross-cultural engagements, overseas beliefs within the legendary unicorn and a want for proof of its pure historical past intermixed to a unprecedented diploma with native beliefs in a one-horned animal. For over two centuries, colonists and researchers alike failed to appreciate that the native creature, by likelihood, resembled the European unicorn.

A new synthesis of southern African ethnography, historical past and the writings of early travellers, missionaries and colonial politicians offers unambiguous proof that one-horned creatures obtained in native beliefs earlier than the arrival of colonists.

Moreover, it reveals that these creatures are depicted in South African rock artwork, and that they’re a manifestation of San (Bushman) rain-animals. By ignoring related beliefs and pictures, earlier students have did not acknowledge that the South African unicorn was, aside from its 4 legs and single horn, a creature wholly totally different from the European one,” the researchers write of their examine.

When the British got here to South Africa, they wore uniforms with symbols of animals, such because the lion and the unicorn. Locals had been stunned to study the British had been accustomed to the unicorn. Locals and British exchanged info, however sightings of unicorns had been hardly reported.

A description of a unicorn “was given by Hendrik Cloete of Groot Constantia fame, who wrote a letter in 1791 to Hendrik Swellengrebel Jr, son of the Cape Colony governor of the identical title. Cloete mentions {that a} searching occasion comprising Cape Khoekhoen and European farmers noticed an uncommon animal:

It had the looks of a horse; was greyish in color, and had small white stripes behind the jaw. Sticking out in entrance of its head was a horn so long as an arm and as thick as an arm on the base. In the center the horn was flattish however the level was very sharp. It was not mounted to the bones of the brow however was solely connected to the conceal of the animal.  Several burghers [European farmers] and Hottentots say they’ve seen this animal in Bushmen-drawings on lots of of rocks and stones”, the examine explains.

According to a different recorded sighting  individuals witnessed an animal “whose horn was in the midst of its brow, and pointed forwards. The spoor of the animal was, they mentioned, like that of a zebra. The horn was in form like a gemsbok’s, however shorter.”

“These accounts collectively describe a horse-like animal having one horn pointing forwards, with or with out stripes on a part of the physique, and recognized to colonists and indigenous communities alike. A key distinction between European and San photos of unicorns is that, within the latter case, the horns usually level backwards/upwards just like the horns of African antelope. From an indigenous perspective, nevertheless, such a distinction was in all probability trivial.

Indeed, some colonial rock work of one-horned animals have a single horn curving forwards or pointing upwards suggesting that European unicorn photos (maybe on British badges or in coats of arms) influenced how rocck painters on the time thought concerning the place of the horn. If that occurred, we now have a outstanding case of Western and San imagery interacting,” the scientists clarify.

When amassing and retranslating recorded oral traditions of unicorns, a central theme started to emerge. It appears the unicorn might have been a special animal. Were locals referring to the one-horned antelope or the rhinoceros calling them unicorns, maybe?

Why Are There No Unicorn Fossils In A Museum?

One-horned antelope proven from numerous views at a website southeast of Molteno. The necks of the 2 animals within the prime left nook are turned, confirming that every head has one horn solely. Note the yellow and white serpent. Credit: Cambridge Archaeological Journal (2023). DOI: 10.1017/S0959774323000045

“The story of the South African unicorn is a outstanding instance of the extent to which a minimum of some elements of distinct colliding cultural worlds might intersect throughout cross-cultural interactions. While colonial collisions had been usually and in most respects catastrophic, the sturdy, superficial resemblance of one-horned rain-animals to European unicorns resulted in a sophisticated conflation of concepts. In this regard, is notable that the seek for the unicorn in South Africa is an early precursor of the colonial science that later emerged within the Cape Colony within the mid nineteenth century whereas unicorns and the indigenous inhabitants of southern Africa could possibly be accommodated in European pure historical past, native customs and beliefs had no such place.

Although the conflation of unicorns with San rain-animals might initially appear to be a novel instance, it raises the chance that colonial cross-cultural engagements world wide resulted in nonetheless different cases of seamless melds between culturally distinct ideas. Crucially, nevertheless, such melds would, nearly by definition, be nearly invisible from our place within the current. Acknowledgement of their existence requires, nearly essentially, a brand new historic evaluation, and interrogation, of our typical views,” the examine concludes.

It can also be potential, as beforehand mentioned on that unicorn was an Oryx and and historical translation mistake.

Written by Jan Bartek – Staff Writer

Expand for references

More info: David M. Witelson, Revisiting the South African Unicorn: Rock Art, Natural History and Colonial Misunderstandings of Indigenous Realities, Cambridge Archaeological Journal (2023). DOI: 10.1017/S0959774323000045


Most Popular

Recent Comments