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Re: St. Augustine a fossil hunter?
Yes! St Augustine (AD 354-430) was a fossil collector. He lived in
Carthage (now Tunisia, North Africa) in the twilight of the pagan Roman
Empire, the dawn of the Christian Byzantine era. In the "City of God"
15.9, Augustine discussed the existence of giants and giant creatures
in the distant past. To confirm the historical reality of giant beings
in the deep passt, he cited classical Greek and Roman authors and the
long history of discoveries of giant bones around the Mediterranean
since the time of Homer (8th century BC). He noted that Roman farmers
in Italy often plowed up giant skeletons and he cited Pliny the Elder
(1st century AD) on the widespread notion that the aging Earth produces
ever-punier, smaller, and weaker life-forms.
Augustine wrote: "Some people refuse to believe that [in previous ages]
men were of much larger size than they are now...but skeptics are
generally persuaded by the evidence in the ground." He described the
"frequent discovery of incredibly large bones revealed by the ravages
of time, the violent action of streams, and other events...tangible
proof" that ancient life-forms were enormous, and that "some of those
[giant creatures of the past] even towered far above the rest."
He had collected such giant remains on the beach at Utica, on the Gulf
of Tunis: He wrote, "I myself--not alone but with several other
people--found a human molar so immense that we estimated that it was
100 times the dimension of our own teeth. I believe that molar belonged
to some giant." Augustine went on to point out that bones and teeth of
past creatures are very long-lasting, which allows rational people of
much later ages the opportunity to visualize the giant beings from eons
The area around ancient Utica (now 7 miles inland due to silting)
contains abundant Pliocene large mammal fossils. Since the large tooth
was taken as that of a giant human, it probably belonged to a mastodon
(some scholars suggest it was a giant Hippopotamus amphibius molar).
Ironically, Augustine's own bones were kept on display in Italy, after
his death during the Vandal invasion of North Africa.
For a full description of Augustine's fossil discovery and
interpretation, see pp 154-56, 261-62 of Adrienne Mayor, "The First
Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times" (Princeton
On Nov 18, 2005, at 9:16 AM, Vladimír Socha wrote:
some time ago, I've read an interview with Robert T. Bakker, where he
states that the "Doctor of the Church" Aurelius Augustinus (St.
Augustine of Hippo, 354 - 430 CE) collected fossils and also raised
presumptions as of its origin. My question is: Does anyone knows how
much is this true and what's the source of this? Did St. Augustine ever
mentioned fossils (how would he call them?) in his works? Thanks for
any info, Vlad