Monday, January 31, 2005

The First Fossil Hunters

Blogcritics.org: Those ancients weren't dumb: "The Greeks and Romans encountered fossils for themselves and their texts 'contain some of the world's oldest written descriptions of fossil finds, many of them first hand. Writers like Herodotus, Pausanias and Aelian tell us what they and their contemporaries thought, said, and did when they came upon bones of startling magnitude.' (p. 52)

This knowledge led the Romans to something approaching a theory of evolution. Lucretius, writing in the 1st century BC, wrote the nature produced "many monsters of manifold forms" and "bigger animals" in ages past, but these gradually died out when they could not find food or reproduce. "everything is transformed by nature and forced into new paths. One thing dwindles ... another waxes strong." (p. 216)"
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