"Dinosaurs, Myths and Monsters" is an excellent documentary that answers a question you've probably never asked: before the Victorian palaeontologists, how did our ancestors explain the bones of dinosaurs and the other great extinct species?
In short: Like most people the Ancients (Romans, Greeks) thought that the best days were in the past and the present was going to hell in a handbasket. To prove it they pointed to the bones. Why, if men in the past had bones that big then they must have been a good nine foot tall (just like Homer said). So modern man, at five foot something, was a degeneration from the good old days. And the really odd bones? Well clearly those were the bones of old monsters, from the myths! Perhaps the story about the Gorgon turning the sea monster threatening Andromeda to stone was just a way of explaining dinosaur bones found in rock.
Medieval people meanwhile saw them as evidence of Giants drowned by Noah's flood. We like to consider them pretty stupid but if Medieval people believed in Giants they also felt they had the remains to prove it. They merely misinterpreted Mammoth bones as belonging to giants (and we shouldn't pretend that we don't make similar mistakes today). As for the footprints of dinosaurs, why, those were the foot prints of the very Devil himself. So to negate their evil they'd cut the prints out and build them into the walls of the church.
The programme also covers the Chinese, who may well have misinterpreted the bones as evidence of Dragons, and the Amerindian tribes of the Wild West, whose "Thunder Gods" might well have been based on the plentiful dinosaur bones to be found there. To bring it up to date the programme covers the early days of Victorian palaeontology before continuing the story to the modern day.
The result is a highly informative programme on a genuinely unique story, presented with insight, balance and verve by Tom Holland, and well shot and edited. Even the credits are very nicely put together. Highly recommended.
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