I know, I know, you can hardly believe your eyes. But it’s true. When it comes to looking for evidence, well, let’s just say it is often before our eyes, staring at us, but we don’t see it.
Case in point: the dragon is the Chinese imperial symbol since Shang dynasty. The Shang Dynasty ruled a vast empire situated along the banks of the Yellow River, in northern and central China, between 1556 and 1046 BC. This dynasty was the first to use written records to transmit knowledge, across the gulf of time.
Until the Boxer Rebellion in 1901, Chinese scholars used to teach students that foreigners are abominations on the face of the Middle Empire because of their willingness to upset and disturb the slumber of the ancient dragons, the protectors of the realm, by laying railroads up and down their country. In Chinese mythology, dragons are subterranean beasts, whose spines are enmeshed with the earth. You see, back then the railroads were perceived by Chinese as instruments of torture that the Western and Japanese invaders were using to hurt China’s dragons.
This and other such empirical evidence leads me to surmise that more than 4000 years ago, because we know how oral tradition always precedes written records, the Chinese met, witnessed, and recorded for posterity their encounters with the last of the dinosaurs. It is quite easy for anyone to see how the dinosaur became dragon in the collective memory of that age. Every myth contains a seed, an embryo of truth. As the saying goes, there is no fire without smoke. But before the Shang dynasty was even able to write these down, it was the job of ordinary oral scholars to memorize such encounters.
The fact that many cultures have seen it fit to record their encounters with animals of mythical stature that have long been gone now, makes me think the Chinese were not alone in capturing such epic events. Ah, and in case you think I am nuts, think again. For what else is the Komodo monitor lizard (Varanus komodoensis) a.k.a. the dragon lizard if not the direct descendant of dinosaurs. And the fact that Beijing is 4,557 km away from Flores, Indonesia, the home of the monitor lizard, that shows proximity.
Paleontology and geology teache us that 66 million years ago a meteorite smashed into Mexico, north of present day Cancun. The impact redesigned the world map and wiped out Dinosaurs.
Not so fast, buster. The thing is the story could do with perhaps a bit of clarification.
First, the Chicxulub meteorite was an asteroid. A meteorite is a small asteroid that survives passage through atmosphere, and hits the Earth. I think we can all agree that this one was NOT a small asteroid. Not only that, but personally I think the Earth had a tough day 66 million years ago.
Second, the Asteroid did major damage on site, judging by the inexhaustible supply of spheroid pebbles that can be found from Mexico to the Belize in and around its 150 km-wide crater.
Third, the ejecta, that is the soil dislodged and thrown up into the stratosphere, blocked out the Sun for a very long time.
Fourth, the impactor hit the Earth at such a high angle and speed, that it changed the gravity of the area.
Fifth, it wiped the slate clean, eliminating all higher reptilians such as Dinosauria, which had hitherto been on top of the food chain. BTW, the explosive equivalent of the K-T Event was 10,000 gigatons of TNT, that is 1,000 times more than that of the combined nuclear arsenals of the world today, if they were detonated simultaneously.
So far the story unravels at a steady logical pace. But this is where I have a hard time believing the official narrative. It’s not that I don’t understand its logic from a macro point of view. I just don’t believe that ALL dinosaurs died at once in the years following the Impact. Most of them, yes, undoubtedly died fast and they died hard. But some of them adapted, lost weight so to speak, changed, and used less resources, because these were running short in Its Aftermath.
My point is that while this was definitely an evolutionary bottleneck orders of magnitude more severe than let’s say the Toba catastrophic events, which pressured humans almost into extinction. Approximately 75,000 years ago, the Toba supervulcano erupted unleashing the explosive power equivalent of 130 gigatons of TNT. The ejecta blocked the sunlight causing a six-ten year volcanic winter, and cooling the Earth for the next 1,000 years. All mammals were impacted. Human population, which was about to take off, was reduced to 3,000 to 10,000 surviving individuals, which is by the way the minimum viable number for a population to survive a genetic bottleneck.
For comparison, the Tsar Bomba, the largest thermonuclear device ever exploded by mankind, was a mere 50 megatons of TNT.
Cheetahs were also hard hit by the Toba catastrophe, with population reduced to low thousands. To this day they are too closely related for their own good. Nonetheless, the cheetahs made an uncanny comeback, from a population of only a few hundred/thousand to 15,000 in 1975 and 7,100 today.
I believe that a minute number of dinosaurs managed to escape the K-T extinction event, and certainly made it into Man’s late Prehistory, and in some cases even into our Calcholithic or Eneolithic age (7,000- 6,000 years ago).
I recognize that these dinosaurs were nothing like their Cretacious brethren behemoths, measuring into the tens or even hundreds of meters in length. As I said before, a few thousand were contemporaneous with Lucy, 3.2 million years ago. Perhaps a few hundred managed to survive until the Neanderthal and Cromagnon era, 100,000 to 20,000 years ago. And as little as a few tens of reproductive pairs reached out from the Cretacious, touching the lives and imagination of the peoples of the Eneolithic, who were so impressed that they enmeshed and recorded this in their oral traditions, 10,000 to 5,500 years ago.
Personally, I do not think that any individual dinosaurs survived past prehistoric times (3,500 years BC) into the Bronze Age, or today we might be praying to them instead.
For those of us who will too quickly disregard this theory as mumbo jumbo, I have this to say. Too many cultures, spread across too many unconnected isolated locales, have woven the presence of giant animals into their oral cultures. It is worth remembering that primitive man, was not the unreasoning beast we like to imagine because our self-inflated egos demands it. I believe the late prehistoric and the Copper and earliest Bronze age folk, were much more sophisticate than we give them credit for. I also believe they were able to rationalize the mythical dimensions of such living fossils by personificating their size, power, and ferocity and morphing them into legendary, mythological and sometimes god-like creatures, worthy of adulation, praise and remembering.
The most powerful mark that one can leave on the world is to be remembered. Alternately, the worst fate that can befell a member of the Homo Sapiens Sapiens is to be forgotten. The fact that we are able to have a conversation about mythical creatures captured for posterity by our ancestors 5,500 years ago, goes to show that a link existed, was witnessed, and then vanished, not without a trace, at the frontier of Prehistory with History.
Now there are some who believe that these reports cannot and ought not to be trusted by reputable science. Perhaps, I am wrong, but there is a dearth of evidence for this exact era. Gregory Benford in his seminal book entitles “Deep Time” alludes to just this knowledge gap situated between cca. 10,000 and stretching until 6,000 years ago. This is where most suppositions and working assumptions are still used as working tools by anthropologists, historians, and archaeologists. I am not saying there is no tangible evidence going back to this strata. I am saying however that the evidence from before and after is more abundant and diverse.
But that is neither here not there. Even if we account for the presence of hallucinogenic and alcohol stimulants, used by humankind for the past 8,000 years, even then we would be hard pressed to disregard the rich oral prehistorical tradition of so many peoples. All people cannot be wrong or drunk or high all the time.
And to those who care little for oral traditions, let me be clear. Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey were not created in Ancient Classical Greece. They were transmitted orally by bards and poets, who connected the pre-Homeric Bronze Age Minoan, Mycenean and Achaean Greece with the Dorian Iron Age Classical Greece of Pericles, Sparta, Thebes and Alexander the Great. There is a gulf of separation between the end of Late Bronze Age (cca. 1250 BC) and the rediscovery of writing after the First Dark Ages (1250-750 BC).
This was a time when men forgot to write, but they never stopped telling stories. Homer was not just blind, he had a memory that was honed to perfection. It is because of many bards like him who sang songs about heroes of the past, that Classical Antiquity was able to hear the echoes of the past, and record them on papyrus scrolls.
Borrowing heavily from the Greek, Rome appropriated much of the Hellenistic culture, while also improving it. Most Roman statesmen of stature, such as the emperor and senators, would use an official slave or freeman as a memoria, who was responsible for reminding them the names of the people they met. My point is that Memorization has been the other pillar of human civilization right next to Writing. Most of us tend to Forget that. I hope you get the pun.
What we do in Life echoes in Eternity.
That is how we now know of Achilles, Patrocles, Paris, Priam, and Helen of Troy. That is how we are able to tell our children about the myths of the Argonauts, or the Golden Fleece, or the Bull of Crete, or of Scylla and Carybdis. And that is how we have knowledge of the majesty and reverence in which the Ancient Chinese beheld Dragons. Because someone, a long time ago, took the time to remember all this stuff. And then they passed it on to the next generation, and so on and so forth, until painstakingly, at the end of a long and circuitous journey, the knowledge arrived at its destination: us now.
Humanity has an agonizing tendency for repeating ineffective patterns of behaviour. That is how we have already undergone at least two Dark Ages. We need to learn from our mistakes and we need to Learn.
Let us always be as careful as the Ancients and not forget that the price of freedom and progress is eternal vigilance.