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Re: place names and fossils

On Mar 30, 2007, at 7:24 PM, bcdanz@sbcglobal.net wrote:

Here is a link to a page about a fascinating Native American Legend about the giant beaver, Castoroides ohioensis in the Connecticut River Valley:

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.