Monday, 29 July 2019
TETRALOPHODON OF ANANCIDAE
In 81 BC, he traveled to Morocco, the land of opium, massive trilobites and the birthplace of Antaeus, the legendary North African ogre who was killed by the Greek hero Heracles.
The locals tell a tale that Quintus requested proof of Antaeus, hard evidence he could bring back to Rome to support their tales. They took him to a mound at Tingis, Morocco, where they unearthed the bones of a Neogene elephant, Tetralophodon, an extinct elephantoid belonging to the family Anancidae. During the Miocene and Pliocene, 12-1.6 million years ago, this diverse group of extinct proboscidean elephant-like lived in Europe, Asia and Africa.
Most of these large beasts had four tusks and likely a trunk similar to modern elephants. They were creatures of legend, inspiring myths and stories of fanciful creatures to the first humans to encounter them. Tetralophodon bones are large and skeletons singularly impressive. Impressive enough to be taken for something else entirely. By all accounts these proboscidean remains were that of the mythical ogre Antaeus and were thus reported back to Rome as such. It was hundreds of years before their true heritage was known.
I was lucky enough to travel to Morocco a many years ago and see the Tetralophodon remains. At the time, the tales of Antaeus ran through my mind. Could this be the proof that Quintus wanted. I believe it was. Pictured above are the fossil skull and tusks of T. longirostris, from Ballestar, Spain at the Museu Geològic del Seminari de Barcelona, Barcelona. Photo credit: Jordiferrer - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20028047