The Early History of Man - Part 4.

Living Dinosaurs from Anglo-Saxon and other Early Records.

by Bill Cooper


INTRODUCTION

The creation model of origins makes many predictions, one of them being that evidence will be found which tells us, in the recent past dinosaurs and man have co-existed. There is, in fact, good evidence to suggest they still co-exist, and this is directly contrary to the evolutionary model which teaches dinosaurs lived millions of before man came along, and no man therefore can ever have seen a living dinosaur. For present purposes we will ignore evidence from the fossil record on this subject as this has been dealt with elsewhere. We will, instead examine the issue by considering the written evidence that has survived from the records of various ancient peoples that describes, sometimes in the most graphic detail, human encounters with living giant reptiles we would call dinosaurs.

There are, of course, the famous descriptions of such monsters from the Old Testament, Behemoth and Leviathan (Job 40:15-41:34,) Behemoth being a giant vegetarian that lived on the fens, and Leviathan a somewhat more terrrifying armour-plated amphibian whom only children and the most foolhardy would want as a pet. The Egyptians knew Behemoth by the name p'ih.mw, 1 which is the same name, of course. Leviathan was similarly known as Lotan to the men of Ugarit. 23 Babylonian and Sumerian literature has preserved details of similar creatures, as has the written and unwritten folklore of peoples around the world. But perhaps the most remarkable descriptions of living dinosaurs are those the Anglo-Saxon and Celtic peoples of Europe have passed down to us.

A BRIEF SURVEY

The early Britons, from whom the modern Welsh are descended, provide us with our earliest surviving European accounts of reptilian monsters, one of whom killed and devoured king Morvidus (Morydd) in about 336 BC. We are told in the original early Welsh account (which Geoffrey of Monmouth translated into Latin and which still survives in spite of modernist claims to the contrary 4) that the monster "gulped down the body of Morvidus as a big fish swallows a little one." Geoffrey wrote of the monster under its Latin name, Belua. 5

Peredur, not the ancient king of that name (306 - 296 BC), but a much later son of Earl Efrawg, had better luck than Morvidus, actually managing to slay his monster, an addanc (pronounced athanc: variant afanc,) at a place called Llyn Llion in Wales. 6 At other Welsh locations the addanc is further spoken of along with another reptilian species known as the carrog. The addanc survived until comparatively recent times at such places as Bedd-yr-Afanc near Brynberian, at Llyn-yr-Afanc above Bettws-y-Coed on the River Conwy (the killing of this monster was described in the year 1693), and Llyn Barfog (see Appendix). A carrog is commemorated at Carrog near Corwen, and at Dol-y-Carrog in the Vale of Conwy. 7

In England and Scotland, again until comparatively recent times, other reptilian monsters were sighted and spoken of in many places. Table 1 lists 81 locations in the British Isles alone in which dinosaur activity has been reported (there are, in fact, nearly 200 such places in Britain.) But perhaps the most relevant aspect of this, as far as our present study, is concerned, is the fact some of these sightings and subsequent encounters with living dinosaurs can be dated to the very recent past. The giant reptile at Bures in Suffolk, for example, is known to us from a chronicle of 1405:-

"Close to the town of Bures, near Sudbury, there has lately appeared, to the great hurt of the countryside, a dragon, vast in body, with a crested head, teeth like a saw, and (a tail extending to an enormous length. Having slaughtered the shepherd of a flock, it devoured many sheep..."

After an unsuccessful attempt by local archers to kill the beast, due to its impenetrable hide...

"in order to destroy him, all the country people around were summoned. But when the dragon saw that he was again to be assailed with arrows, he fled into a marsh or mere and there hid himself among the long reeds, and was never more seen." 8, 9


 Aller, Somerset                          Llyn-y-Gader, Wales
 Anwick, Lincolnshire                     Llyn-yr-Afanc, Wales
 Bamburgh, Northumberland                 Loch Awe, Scotland
 Beckhole, North Yorkshire                Loch Maree, Scotland
 Bedd-yr-Afanc, Wales                     Loch Morar, Scotland
 Ben Vair, Scotland                       Loch Ness, Scotland
 Bignor Hill, West Sussex                 Loch Rannoch, Scotland
 Bishop Auckland, Durham                  Longwitton, Northumberland
 Bisterne, Hampshire                      Ludham, Norfolk
 Bren Pelham, Hertfordshire               Lyminster, West Sussex
 Brinsop, Hereford and Worcester          Manaton, Devon
 Bures, Suffolk                           Money Hill, Northumberland
 Cadbury Castle, Devon                    Moston, Cheshire
 Carhampton, Somerset                     Newcastle Emlyn, Wales
 Castle Carlton, Lincolnshire             Norton Fitzwarren, Hereford and
 Castle Neroche, Somerset                      Worcester
 Challacombe, Devon                       Nunnington, North Yorkshire
 Churchstanton, Somerset                  Old Field Barrows (nr Bromfield)
 Cnoc-na-Cnoimh, Scotland                      Shropshire
 Crowcombe, Somerset                      Penllin Castle, Wales
 Dalry, Scotland                          Penmark, Wales
 Deerhurst, Gloucestershire               Penmynydd, Wales
 Dol-y-Carrog, Wales                      St Albans, Hertfordshire
 Dragonhoard (nr Garsington),             St Leonard's Forest, West Sussex
      Oxfordshire                         St Osyth, Essex
 Drake Howe, North Yorkshire              Saffron Waldon, Essex
 Drakelow, Derbyshire                     Sexhow, North Yorkshire
 Drakelowe, Worcestershire                Shervage Wood, Hereford and
 Filey Brigg, North Yorkshire                  Worcester
 Handale Priory, North Yorkshire          Slingsby, North Yorkshire
 Henham, Essex                            Sockburn, Durham
 Hornden, Essex                           Stinchcombe, Gloucestershire
 Kellington, North Yorkshire              Strathmartin, Scotland
 Kilve, Somerset                          Walmsgate, Lincolnshire
 Kingston St Mary, Somerset               Wantley, South Yorkshire
 Lambton Castle, Durham                   Well, North Yorkshire
 Linton, Scotland                         Wherwell, Hampshire
 Little Cornard, Suffolk                  Whitehorse Hill, Oxfordshire
 Llandeilo Graban, Wales                  Winkleigh, Devon
 Llanraeadr-ym-Mochnant, Wales            Wiston, Wales
 Llyn Bartog, Wales                       Wormelow Tump, Hereford and
 Llyn Cynwch (nr Dolgellau), Wales             Worcester
 Llyn Llion, Wales                        Wormingford, Essex 

Table 1, Above, in alphabetical order, appear the names of 81 locations in Britain where dinosaur activity has been reported or is remembered. this list could be expanded to nearly 200 place-names.

Later in the fifteenth century, according to a contemporary chronicle that still survives in Canterbury Cathedral's library, the following incident was reported. On the afternoon of Friday, 26th September, 1449, two reptiles were seen fighting on the banks of the River Stour (near the village of Little Cornard) which marked the English county borders of Suffolk and Essex. One was black, and the other, reddish and spotted. After an hour long struggle that took place "to the admiration of many [of the locals] beholding them," the black monster yielded and returned to its lair, the scene of the conflict being known ever since as Sharpfight Meadow. 10, 11

As late as August, 1614, the following sober account was given of a strange reptile that was encountered in St Leonard's Forest in Sussex (the sighting was near a village that was known as Dragon's Green long before this report was published):

"This serpent (or dragon as some call it) is reputed to be nine feete, or rather more, in length, and shaped almost in the form of an axletree of a cart; a quantitie of thickness in the middest, and somewhat smaller at both endes. The former part, which he shootes forth as a necke, is supposed to be an elle [3ft 9 inches or 114 cms] long; with a white ring, as it were, of scales about it. The scales along his back seem to be blackish, and so much as is discovered under his bellie, appeareth to be red... it is likewise discovered to have large feete, but the eye may there be deceived, for some suppose that serpents have no feete... [The dragon] rids aways (as we call it) as fast as a man can run. His food [rabbits] is thought to be for the most part, in a coniewarren, which he much frequents... There are likewise upon either side of him discovered two great buches so big as a large foote-ball, and (as some thinke) will in time grow to wings, but God, I hope, will (to defend the poor people in the neighbourhood) that he shall be destroyed before he grows to fledge." 12, 13

This dragon was seen in various places within a circuit of three or four miles, and the pamphlet named some of the still-living witnesses who had seen him. These included John Steele, Christopher Holder and a certain 'widow woman dwelling neare Faygate.' Another witness was 'the carrier of Horsham, who lieth at the White Horse [inn] in Southwark.' One of the locals set his two mastiffs on to the monster, and apart from losing his dogs he was fortunate to escape alive from the encounter' for the dragon was already credited with the deaths of a man and woman at whom it had spat and who consequently had been killed by its venom. When approached unwillingly, our pamphleteer tells us' the monster was...

"....of countenance very proud and at the sight or hearing of men or cattle will raise his neck upright and seem to listen and looke about, with great arrogancy."...an eyewitness account of typically reptilian behaviour.

Again, as late as 27th and 28th May 1669, which fell on a Thursday and Friday, a large reptilian animal was sighted many times, as was reported in the pamphlet: A True Relation of a Monstrous Serpent seen at Henham (Essex) on the Mount in Saffron Waldon. 14

In 1867 was seen, for the last time, the monster that lived in the woods around Fittleworth in Sussex. It would run up to people hissing and spitting if they happened to stumble across it unawares, although it never harmed anyone. Several such cases could be cited, but suffice it to say that too many incidents like these are reported down through the centuries and from all sorts of locations for us to say that they are all fairytales. For example, Scotland's famous Lock Ness monster is too often thought to be a recent product of the local Tourist Board's efforts to bring in some trade, yet Loch Ness is by no means the only Scottish lock where monsters have been reported. Loch Lomond, Loch Awe, Loch Rannoch and the privately owned Loch Morar (over l000ft or 305m deep) also have records of dinosaur activity in recent years. Indeed, there have been over forty sightings at Loch Morar alone since the end of the World War II, and over a thousand from Loch Ness in the same period.

However, as far as Loch Ness itself is concerned, few realize that monstrous reptiles, no doubt the same species, have been sighted in and around the loch since the so-called Dark Ages, the most notable instance being that which is described in Adamnan's famous 7th century Life of St Columba. There we read that in the year AD 656 Columba, on yet another of his missionary journeys in the north, needed to cross the River Ness. As he was about to do so, he saw a burial party. On enquiry he was informed that they were burying a man who had just been killed by a savage bite from a monster who had snatched him while swimming. On hearing this, the brave Columba, his curiosity aroused and with never a thought for his own safety, immediately ordered one of his followers to jump into the freezing water. Adamnan relates how the thrashing about of the alarmed and unhappy swimmer (Lugne Mocumin by name) attracted the monster's attention. Suddenly, on breaking the surface, the monster was seen to speed towards the luckless chap with its mouth wide open and screaming like a banshee. Columba, however, refused to panic, and from the safety of the dry land rebuked the beast. Whether the swimmer added any rebukes of his own is not recorded, but the monster was seen to turn away, having approached the swimmer so closely that not the length of a puntpole lay between them. Columba, naturally, claimed the credit for the swimmer's survival, although the reluctance of the monster to actually harm the man is the most notable thing in this incident. The first swimmer had been savaged and killed, though not eaten, and the second swimmer was likewise treated to a display of the monster's wrath, though not fatally. Most likely, the two men had unwittingly entered the water close to where the monster kept her young, and she was reacting in a way that is typical of most species. Gorillas, bull elephants, ostriches, indeed all sorts of creature will charge at a man, hissing, screaming and trumpeting alarmingly, yet will rarely kill him so long as the man takes the hint and goes away. Our second swimmer, utterly lacking his saintly master's fortitude, doubtless began the process of taking the hint in plenty of time for the monster to realize that killing him would be unnecessary.

Yet not even Lugne Mocumin's experience is that uncommon. As recently as the l8th century, in a lake called Lyn-y-Gader in Snowdon, Wales, a certain man went swimming. He reached the middle of the lake and was returning to the shore when his friends who were watching him noticed that he was being followed by...

"a long, trailing object winding slowly behind him. They were afraid to raise an alarm, but went forward to meet him as soon as he reached the shore where they stood. Just as he was approaching, the trailing object raised its head, and before anyone could render aid the man was enveloped in the coils of the monster..." 15

It seems that the man's body was never recovered.

At about the turn of this present century, the following incident took place. It was related by a Lady Gregory of Ireland in 1920:

"old people told me that they were swimming there (in an Irish lake called Lough Graney,) and a man, had gone out into the middle, and they saw something like a great big eel making for him..." 16, 17

Happily, on this occasion the man made it back to the shore, but the important thing for us to notice is that these are only a few of a great many reports concerning the sightings in recent times of lake-dwelling monsters or dinosaurs. Indeed, it is almost needless to point out that perfectly rational people still report such sightings today. However, the British Isles are not the only place where one can find such reports. They occur, quite literally, all over the world, 18 and space forbids further discussion of such a general and largely undisputed observation. We will therefore concentrate our attention entirely on the recorded and most informative evidence that has been left us by the early Saxons and Celts.

ARTISTIC DEPICTlONS

Of particular interest to our enquiry is the depiction in Celtic and Saxon art of strange monsters and animals, most of whom over the centuries show an inexplicable consistency in their parts and proportions for works of supposedly fictional art. The 8th century Irish Book of Kells, for example, contains numerous depictions of everyday animals. There are fish, cats, dogs and birds whose portrayal, though somewhat stylized, is nevertheless anatomically correct. They are readily recognizable. But alongside these are other creatures whose features are not so easily recognized due to the simple fact that they no longer live. These are strange reptilian beasts whose appearances were familiar enough to the Celtic artist who painted them in such meticulous detail, though not to us. In Figure 1 we see, from the pages of another ancient manuscript, a strange and presumably dead aquatic beast actually being examined by a man. The artist himself, perhaps?

In Figure 2 (a and b) we have an even more remarkable scene. The stone in which these strange animals were carved is preserved in the church of SS Mary and Hardulph at Breedon-on-the-hill in Leicestershire. This church used to belong to the Saxon kingdom of Mercia. The stone itself is part of a larger frieze in which are depicted various birds and humans all of them readily recognizable. But what are these strange animals presented here? They are like nothing that survives today in England, yet they are depicted as vividly as the other creatures. There are long-necked quadrupeds, one of whom on the right seems to be biting (or 'necking' with) another. And in the middle of the scene appears a bipedal animal who is attacking one of the quadrupeds. He stands on two great hind legs and has two smaller fore-limbs. His victim seems to be turning to defend himself, yet his hind legs are buckled in fear. Is there an animal from the fossil record that we know was a predator who had two massive hindlegs and two smaller forelimbs? We shall shortly be meeting another just like him in a certain written account, but how was this early Saxon artist to know about such creatures if he'd never seen one? Furthermore, do we know other animals from the fossil record who were gregarious, large and long-necked quadrupeds? (Note how the quadrupeds seem to have been feeding off the vegetation depicted in the background.) It cannot be pretended that these are mere caricatures of ordinary animals that are indigenous to the British Isles, for none of our present native species have long necks or are bipedal. So how are we to satisfactorily account for them if not as readily recognizable types of dinosaurs that had survived until Saxon times?

Figure 3 provides us with further visual evidence. It again is early Saxon in origin, being a piece of ornamentation from what was once a circular shield. Here we are presented with the likeness of a flying reptile which was known to the Saxons as a widfloga (see below.) Note the long, teeth-filled jaws and the wings folded along its sides. The shape of the head is equally interesting. Do we know a flying reptile from the fossil record with this shape and features? Again we shall meet his like in a written account shortly.

Figures 4 and 5 likewise portray large reptilian animals that are no longer living. They are surprisingly alike. They are each the figurehead from Danish ships of the Viking era, and they both portray the same type of sea-monster that is also written about, and named, in the account that appears below.

The famous White Horse of Uffington in Oxfordshire is now thought by many to represent, not a horse at all, but an early Celtic dragon (Dragon's Hill stands nearby), and later by several centuries, are the carvings or sculptures in Figures 6 and 7. Such creatures are seen in old churches up and down the country, and most are depictions of animals that are strongly reminiscent of those species of dinosaur that are now (happily) known to us only from the fossil record.

THE WRITTEN ACCOUNTS

But now we come to the most notable records of all. They are written works that are remarkable for the graphic detail with which they portray the giant reptiles the early Saxons, Danes and others encountered in Northern Europe and Scandinavia. In various Nordic sagas the slaying of dragons is depicted in some detail, and this helps us to reconstruct the physical appearance of some of these creatures. In the Volsungassaga, for example, the slaying of the monster Fafnir was accomplished by Sigurd digging a pit and waiting, inside the pit, for the monster to crawl overhead on its way to the water. 19 This allowed Sigurd to attack the dinosaur's soft underbelly. Clearly, Fafnir walked on all fours with his belly close to the ground.

Likewise, the Voluspa tells us of a certain monster which the early Vikings called a Nithhoggr, its name ('corpse-tearer') revealing the fact that it lived off carrion. Saxo Grammaticus, in his Gesta Danorum, tells us of the Danish king Frotho's fight with a giant reptile, and it is in Saxo, that the monster is described in great detail. It was, he says, a serpent...

"wreathed in coils, doubled in many a fold, and with a tail drawn out in winding whorls, shaking his manifold spirals and shedding venom...his slaver [saliva] burns up what it bespatters.." ['yet,' he tells the king in words that were doubtless meant to encourage rather than dismay], "remember to keep the dauntless temper of thy mind; nor let the point of the jagged tooth trouble thee, nor the starkness of the beast, nor the venom... there is a place under his lowest belly whither thou mayst plunge the blade." 20

The description of this reptilian monster closely resembles that of the monster seen at Henham (see above), and the two animals could well have belonged to the same or a similar species. Notable, especially, is their defense mechanism of spitting corrosive venom at their victims, a mechanism that is replicated exactly in today's Bombadier Beetle. Frotho's monster, however, would seem to be the larger of the two.

But it is the epic poem Beowulf that provides us with truly invaluable descriptions of the huge reptilian animals that, only 1400 years ago, infested Denmark. 21

BEOWULF: THE HISTORY

The Beowulf poem itself survives in a single manuscript copy that was made in about AD 1000 (see Figure 8.) Moreover this manuscript (British Museum. Cotton. Vitellius A.XV.) is often stated by modern critics to be a copy, of a mid-8th century Anglo-Saxon (English) original. This original is in turn described as an essentially, Christian poem. Yet, the continually repeated assertion of the supposedly Christian origins of the poem fails noticeably to take into account the following facts.

Firstly, there are no allusions whatever in the poem to any event, person or teaching of the New Testament. There are definite allusions to certain facts and personages contained in the Old Testament, namely to God, the Creation, to Abel and to Cain, but these are no more than those same historical allusions that are to be met with in the other pre-Christian Anglo-Saxon genealogies and records that we have already studied. Like those records, and whilst likewise showing a most interesting historical knowledge of certain events and personages that also appear in the Genesis record, the poem clearly pre-dates any knowledge among the Anglo-Saxons of Christianity per se.

In view of this, it is hardly surprising to find that the sentiments of the poem are strongly pagan, extolling the highly questionable virtues of vengeance, the accumulation of plunder, and the boasting of and reliance upon human strength and prowess. Allusions are also made to blatantly pagan oaths, sacrifices, sentiments and forms of burial. There are no exclusively Christian sentiments expressed anywhere in its 3182 lines.

Nowhere in the poem is any reference made to the British Isles or to any British (or English) king or historical event. This is simply because the Beowulf pre-dates the migration of the Saxons to those isles. And what are we to make of the following passage?:

"...fortham Offa waes geofum ond guthum garcene man wide geweorthod wisdome heold ethel sinne thonon Eomer woc haelethum to helpe..." (lines 1957-1961, emphasis mine).

Alexander translates this:

'...So it was that Offa [king of the continental Angles], brave with the spear, was spoken of abroad for his wars and his gifts; he governed with wisdom the land of his birth. To him was born Eomer, helper of the heroes...' 22

The Offa who is mentioned here was the pre-migration ancestor of his 8th century namesake, King Offa of Mercia (AD 757 - 796), whom we have already met (along with this same ancestor), in the early Saxon genealogies. We have also met Eomer in the same genealogies, 23 where his name is rendered Eomaer and where he is, strictly speaking, the grandson, and not the son, of Offa. These ancient genealogies were clearly fresh in the mind of the writer of Beowulf, which again tell us something of the times in which the poem was composed. 24

There is, moreover, no sycophantic dedication of the poem to any Christian Anglo-Saxon English king, not even to that King Offa whose ancestor is immortalised in the poem and under whose auspices some modem scholars suggest the poem was written.

Many other scholars would plumb for an even later date for the poem, yet the characters in the poem can be historically dated to the late 5th and early 6th centuries, years that long preceded the adoption of Christianity by the Saxons. In other words, the poem belongs firmly to the pagan times of which it treats.

Beowulf, the character in whose honour the poem was written, was born the son of Ecgtheow in AD 495 (see Table 2). At the age of seven, in AD 502, he was brought to the court of Hrethel, his maternal grandfather (AD 445 - 503) who was then king of the Geatingas, a tribe who inhabited what is today southern Sweden (and whose eponymous founder, Geat, also appears in the early genealogies). After an unpromising and feckless youth, during which years were fought the Geatish/Swedish wars, in particular the Battle of Ravenswood [Hrefnawudu] in the year AD 510, Beowulf undertook his celebrated journey to Denmark, to visit Hrothgar, King of the Danes. This was in AD 515, Beowulf's twentieth year. (This was also the year of his slaying the monster Grendel which we shall examine shortly. Six years later, in AD 521, Beowulf's uncle, King Hygelac, was slain.

Hygelac himself is known to have lived from AD 475 - 521, having come to the throne of the Geatingas in AD 503, the year of his father Hrethel's death. He is independently mentioned in Gregory of Tour's Histotiae (sic!) Francorum, where his name is rendered Chlochilaichus. 25, 36 There, and in other Latin Frankish sources, 27 he is described as a Danish king (Chogilaicus Danorum rex), not a Geat, but this is the same mistake that our own English chroniclers made when they included even the Norwegian Vikings under the generic name of Danes. The Liber Monstrorum, however, did correctly allude to him as rex Getarum, king of the Geats. Saxo also mentions him as the Hugletus who destroyed the Swedish chief Homothus. Homothus, in turn, is the same as that Eanmund who is depicted in line 2612 of the Beowulf poem. 28 (See also Table 3.)

On Hygelac's death, Beowulf declined the offer to succeed his uncle to the throne of the Geatingas, choosing instead to act as guardian to Hygelac's son, prince Heardred, during the years of Heardred's minority. (Heardred lived from AD 511 - 533. He was therefore in his tenth year when he became king.) Heardred, however, was killed by the Swedes in AD 533 (he had given shelter to the Swedish king Onela's nephews - see Table 3), and it was in this year that Beowulf took over the reins of kingship. Beowulf went on to rule his people in peace for fifty years, dying at some 88 years of age in the year AD 583. The manner of his death, though, is particularly relevant to our study as we shall see.

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