Member of The Crypto Crew:

Please Also Visit our Sister Blog, Frontiers of Anthropology:

And the new group for trying out fictional projects (Includes Cryptofiction Projects):

And Kyle Germann's Blog

And Jay's Blog, Bizarre Zoology

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

More Classical-Age Plesiosaurs


During the Classical period, the common words for "Shark" and "Whale" were used in a generic sense to denote any kind of sea monster. I have good representational proof that one kind of Sea Monster or Sae Dragon referred to was a large crocodile, but the most common depictions showed a more Plesiosaurian-shaped creature. The fairly substantial forequarters with large pectoral flippers often stand in contrast to the elongated and coiling tail section, but that was the usual way of showing humps. This sort of sea monster was commonly illustrated in the stories of Jonah and the Whale or Perseus and Andromeda. Such depictions continue on into the Byzantine period. The earlier blog example showing Jason is often grouped in together with these. I don't know why many cultures depict plesiosaur-shaped creatures swallowing human prey because it seems pretty well certain that their throats are too narrow to allow such a thing.

Here are several examples spanning many centuries. The tail is ofen shown as three-pronged. which may be a conventionalized way of showing two hind flippers and a tail together.

Manes are often shown but are usually of the short and spiky sort.

The general effect is like a marine Sirrush. Two horns are often shown on the head, and sometimes the creature sticks out a long tongue also. The profile of the head and neck are conventionalised but can be recognised when shown separately at small size on coins for example.

Another, older example from Greece and illustrating the story of Pereus and Andromeda. Versions of these Sea Monster depictions done in this style can be found from 1000 BC up to about AD 1500, at which time they begin appearing in bestaries and they start to merge into the more recognisable, more modern Sea-Serpent reports.

Best Wishes, Dale D.

Multiple Coils Mean Multiple Humps in Sighting.


  1. PS, Such creatures are definitely still being shown on maps during the European Age of Discovery. I know of one map that shows a very large and prominent example off the coast of South America with an inscription in Latin beside it.

  2. Thanks Dale, this is interesting!

  3. Henry Lee wrote a book called Sea Monsters Unmasked wherein he tried to say all Sea-serpent sightings were due to misunderstood sightings of giant squids. When he came to a representation of "Jonah and the Whale(Ketos)" depictions showing Jonah being vomited up by one of these creatures, he then said "There may have been veritable Sea monsters" at which Bernard Heuvelmans quipped, "If there were ever any veritable Sea monsters, Lee has failed to unmask them" and very rightly so.

    Best Wishes, Dale D.

  4. I am wondering about the regular insistance of putting a spiral in the body in the hip region. Could that be some sort of remnant of X-ray style and meaning to represent the bowels of the creature? Alternatively, it has been interpreted as a whirlpool and it might be a representation of the motive power to pull the creature and its prey down. Ordinarily there are large and emphatic foreflippers and then this "Whirlpool" situated where the rear flippers would be. Then again it seems to be mostly a convention followed by rote and the artists keep doing it without associating it with any good reason for its being there, other than the tradition that it was "Supposed to be done that way"


This blog does NOT allow anonymous comments. All comments are moderated to filter out abusive and vulgar language and any posts indulging in abusive and insulting language shall be deleted without any further discussion.