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Re: place names and fossils
On Mar 30, 2007, at 7:24 PM, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
Here is a link to a page about a fascinating Native American Legend
about the giant beaver, Castoroides ohioensis in the Connecticut
The legend could pertain to either prehistoric peoples' direct
contact with the giant beaver or fossils of it ( "...and his carcass
turned to stone.")
Bruce is right--The interesting tales on this website suggest
"ancestral memories" in oral traditions dating back to the Ice Age
when humans coexisted with giant beavers the size of black bears.
These legends are important because they show a pre-scientific
attempt to explain the extinction of the giant beaver.
Technically these legends from New England are "geomyths," relating
the disappearance of the giant beavers to their being transformed
into distinctive geological landforms. The Dene People of the
Northwest Territories have tales about their culture hero Yamoria
destroying the Giant Beaver.
By definition, a a"fossil legend" specifically relates the fossilized
remains or traces to traditions about remarkable creatures no longer
seen alive, like Giant Beavers. Such tales are significant because
they show a pre-scientific grasp of the concepts of extinction as
well as a relationship between living species and species only known
from fossil evidence. Examples: the Micmacs of Nova Scotia told of
finding beavers' teeth as long as their hands, and other Canadian
tribes collected giant beaver teeth to use as tools to hollow out log
canoes. C. Richard Harington told me that his field assistant, a
Vuntut Gwitchin trapper from the Yukon, immediately recognized the
fossil limb bone of Castoroides as a gigantic beaver.