Evaluation of the hypothesis of the Monster of Troy vase as the earliest artistic record of a vertebrate fossil

Keywords: Samotherium, Oxydactylus, Greek art, zoological representations, ancient fauna


The Monster of Troy, depicted in a 6th Century BC Corinthian vase, has been proposed to be the earliest artistic record of a vertebrate fossil, possibly a Miocene giraffe (Samotherium sp.). The purpose of the paper was to analyze the giraffe hypothesis using four approaches: a double-blind random design in which 78 biologists compared the vase skull with Samotherium and several reptiles; an informed survey of 30 art and science students who critically assessed the hypothesis based on images of candidate species; an objective computerized mathematical comparison of the images; and a detailed morphological comparison of the skulls. All of the participants rejected the giraffe hypothesis. The types of eyes and teeth unambiguously discard a mammal, whether fossil or living, as the model.  The model was most likely an extant carnivorous reptile of the Varanidae family.


Atkins, J. (2014). The sclerotic ring: evolutionary trends in squamates (Master's Thesis). Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Nova Scotia. Retrieved from http://t.library2.smu.ca/bitstream/handle/01/25869/atkins_jade_masters_2014.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
Bosscher, M. (2014). Mythical monsters and ancient fossils [Message on a blog]. Retrieved from http://hospitem.blogspot.com/2014/07
Delfino, M.; Alba, D.; Carmona, R.; Lujan, A. & Robles, J. (2011). European monitor lizards (Anguimorpha, Varanidae, Varanus): new materials and new perspectives. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 31(2), 97-98. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/234169755_European_monitor_lizards_Anguimorpha_Varanidae_Varanus_New_materials_and_new_perspectives
Hall-Martin, A. J. (1976). Dentition and age determination of the giraffe Giraffa camelopardalis. Journal of Zoology, 180(2), 263-289. doi https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7998.1976.tb04678.x
Mayor, A. (2000). The “Monster of Troy” Vase: The Earliest Artistic Record of a Vertebrate Fossil Discovery? Oxford Journal of Archaeology, 19(1), 57-63. doi https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-0092.00099
Mayor, A. (2011). The First Fossil Hunters: Dinosaurs, Mammoths, and Myth in Greek and Roman Times. New Jersey, USA: Princeton University Press. Retrieved from https://www.degruyter.com/viewbooktoc/product/451912
Papadopoulos, J. K. & Ruscillo, D. (2002). A Ketos in early Athens: an archaeology of whales and sea monsters in the Greek World. American Journal of Archaeology, 106(2), 187-227. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/274417447_A_Ketos_in_Early_Athens_An_Archaeology_of_Whales_and_Sea_Monsters_in_the_Greek_World
Witton, M. (2016). Why Protoceratops almost certainly wasn't the inspiration for the griffin legend [Message on a blog]. Retrieved from https://markwitton-com.blogspot.com/2016/04/why-protoceratops-almost-certainly.html
How to Cite
Monge-Nájera, J. (2020). Evaluation of the hypothesis of the Monster of Troy vase as the earliest artistic record of a vertebrate fossil. Uniciencia, 34(1), 147-151. https://doi.org/10.15359/ru.34-1.9
Original scientific papers (evaluated by academic peers)

Comentarios (ver términos de uso)