In 1678, German naturalist Athanasius Kircher described the habits of dragons in his sweeping work on geology, Mundus Subterraneus, or “Underground World.” One illustration shows the legendary dragons of Mount Pilatus, Switzerland, which were said to cause terrible storms. Another portrays a local hero: Around AD 1250, the Swiss knight Heinrich von Winkelried allegedly killed a belligerent dragon, but died after touching its poisonous blood.
The dragons lurking in European stories are powerful, wicked and presented as dangerous. In Christian tradition, they symbolize Satan or sin. Some nest in caves and guard marvelous treasure. When hungry, they may snatch and devour sheep or cattle that wander too near. Epic poems from the Middle Ages tell of warriors and knights who battle cruel and voracious dragons. In some stories, the hero slays his foe and wins fortune and honor. In others, he fails and is killed.
Who Is To Say?
October 13, 1887, Marin Journal, Marin County, California, U.S.A.
In Europe fossil bones found together in caves were long known as dragons’ bones and accounted useful in medicine. Indeed, so great was the demand for these and similar relics that our museums and scientific men have good cause to rejoice that their ancestors failed to discover what stores of old bones lay hidden in our own seaboard caves, as, for instance, in that wonderful Kirkdale cavern where the mortal remains of several hundred hyenas were found guarding the teeth of a baby mammoth, a patriarchal tiger, a rhinoceros, and a hippopotamus; or the caves along the Norfolk coast where Hugh Miller tells us that within thirteen years the oyster-dredgers dragged up “the tusks and grinders of five hundred mammoths; or those wonderful zoological cemeteries where the fossil bones of cave lions, cave hyenas, elephants, mammoths, hippopotami, woolly rhinoceri, red deer and fallow deer, oxen, sheep, and horses, have lain so securely, stored for untold ages beneath Charing Cross and Trafalgar square.
The entire story of the Drach Caves has been lost to history. The first recorded mention of the Dragon Caves Mallorca took place in 1138— though the name Drach wasn’t seen in until 1632, which could indicate that dragon sitings were made in the meantime. The first map was created two centuries later, shortly before Jules Verne featured the caves in his book Clovis Dartetor. A grand entrance was built in 1929 and an engineer illuminated the cave for the first time in 1935. Ever since then, countless people have descended underground to discover the wonders of the Dragon Caves.
After all, this reduction of prehistoric bones and ivory to vulgar powders for medicinal use is not more strange than the fossil food which forms so large a part of the daily bread of multitudes of our fellow-creatures in Lapland, Finland, and Sweden, in Carolina and Florida, on the banks of the Orinoco, and of the Amazon, where vast tracts of earth are found composed wholly of myriads of microscopic shells, and this strange mountain meal, being duly mixed with meal of the nineteenth century, is freely eaten by the people. In Lapland alone hundreds of wagon loads are annually dug from one great field, and there are men who eat as much as a pound and a half per diem of this curious condiment. We hear of fields, as yet untouched, having been discovered in Bohemia, Hungary, and other parts of Europe; so perhaps we may ere long add these primeval atoms to the delicacies of our own tables.—The Nineteenth Century.