In lots of cultures around the globe, fossils and rocks have been a part of myths and legends. Maya individuals collected fossil shark tooth for use as slicing instruments, however included the petrified stays into their myths, explaining them by a primordial flood that inundated the world and transported lifeless fish excessive into the mountains. Within the Alps, the casts of huge cockleshells discovered within the sedimentary rocks making up many alpine peaks, shaped in an historic sea and later pushed up by earth’s tectonic actions, have been defined because the satan’s hoof tracks.

For hundreds of years, “dragon bones” have been collected from the Chinese language countryside, crushed right down to a high-quality powder and used as drugs. Solely later did geologists acknowledge these bones because the fossils of extinct ice-age mammals. Alongside the Pacific Northwest, giant boulders, deposited by tsunami and landslides, have been considered cursed by “A’yahos,” form-shifter spirits capable of shake all the earth.

Africa, the world’s second-largest continent in space, hosts a few of the most historic and numerous cultures on the planet. Individuals’s methods of life, religions, traditions, and mythologies range significantly from area to area and even from one tribe to a neighboring tribe. The fossil document of Africa, studied for over two centuries, is exceptional in its abundance of  fossils in addition to the number of geological durations represented. Dinosaurs are present in Jurassic and Cretaceous rocks of the Sahara and East Africa and Synapsida that gave rise to the mammals in Permian rocks of the Karoo basin of south-central Africa. The well-known website of Tendaguru in Tanzania yielded the extraordinary skeleton of Giraffatitan, previously Brachiosaurus, one of many largest dinosaurs ever discovered. Africa can also be thought-about to be the cradle of humankind because the origin and radiation of hominids passed off in Africa, as proven by the various fossils discovered alongside the Nice Rift Valley.

Skeleton of Giraffatitan, previously Brachiosaurus, Pure Historical past Museum, Berlin. Credit score: Wikipedia/Shadowgate CC-BY 2.zeroWikipedia/Shadowgate

Nevertheless, there’s surprisingly little recognized concerning the significance of fossils in African folklore, courting to lengthy earlier than the Europeans arrived. A new research revealed within the journal Proceedings of the Geologists’ Affiliation, tried to shut this hole by accumulating fossil folklore throughout southern Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Cameroon and Algeria. In lots of instances individuals have been simply curious, choosing fossils or quartz crystals up and carrying them to locations the place they could not probably have occurred naturally.

The Makapansgat cobble is a pseudofossil, a pebble resembling a human face, carried round by an early hominid some 2.9 million years in the past. Quartz might had additionally a religious significance – as the invention of a crystal discovered wedged into the attention socket of an toddler in a burial website in a cave shelter suggests. The San individuals within the Kalahari Desert carry fulgurites (rocks created by the fusion of sand throughout lightning strikes) with them to make use of in ceremonies to beat back lightning or to summon rain. Some rocks had additionally a sensible use. In a single case, a fossil of a Karoo reptile was reportedly discovered getting used as a pot lid in a Griqua hut round 1830.

Within the Mokhali Cave, Lesotho, there’s rock artwork to be discovered resembling footprints of a giant chook, greater than twice the dimensions of an ostrich, in addition to fowl-like photographs. Within the area, many dinosaur trackways are preserved in Decrease Jurassic sedimentary rocks, and the Bushman tradition is famend for extraordinary talent within the monitoring of recent animals. It’s attainable that the artist, discovering the three-toed tracks impressed on the rocks and noting the similarities to trendy tracks made by birds, reconstructed the trackmaker as a chook-like monster in his artwork. Rock artwork resembling a dinosaur monitor, as present in close by paleontological websites, was additionally discovered within the Northern Cape area and within the Cederberg area in southern Africa.

The research of how African individuals perceived fossils not solely helps to know and protect folklore, listening to native tales also can assist paleontologists to find new fossil websites. The involvement of native individuals in palaeontological research may additionally assist to popularize and make extra accessible earth sciences. There’s but no phrase for fossils in Zulu, an historic language spoken in South Africa by some 10 million individuals. The hope is that, sometime, South African scientific literature may even embrace the newly coined time period “Amathambo amadala atholakala emhlabathini” – Zulu for “previous bones discovered within the floor.”