The Footprints of Dragons
By Lourella Rouster; reprinted through permission from Revolution Against Evolution (www.rae.org). Originally published in 1978, Creation Social Sciences & Humanities Quarterly (no longer being published); Revised 1997.
Almost all our early ancestors believed the earth was inhabited, especially in unknown regions, by dragons. Where did they get such an idea? Did it stem from a universal human imagination? An inherited need or instinct? An inherited subconscious memory of dinosaurs? All these suggestions have been made, and taken seriously by groups of people. I believe dragons are the reflection, sometimes embellished through retelling but mostly historical, of actual physical encounters of human beings with dinosaurs.
I am not at all convinced it has been proven that the dinosaurs became extinct prior to the advent of man. I believe there is much evidence, ancient and modern, to indicate that dinosaurs and humankind existed on earth contemporaneously, and that human beings, while they probably lived in different regions than dinosaurs for the most part, did on many occasions encounter the sometimes huge and fearsome creatures. The memories of these encounters were so vivid and deep that they were passed down in a multitude of cultures as legends, painted on cave walls, represented in pottery, and written of in literature.
Etymology of "dragon"
The word "dragon," according to the Oxford English Dictionary (1966), is derived from the Old French, which in turn was derived from the Latin dracon (serpent), which in turn was derived from the Greek Spakov (serpent), from the Greek aorist verb, Spakelv (to see clearly). It is related to many other ancient words related to sight, such as Sanskrit darc (see), Avestic darstis (sight), Old Irish derc (eye), Old English torht, Old Saxon torht and Old High German zoraht, all meaning clear, or bright. The roots of the word can be traced, then, back to most early Indo-european tongues. This may indicate that it is possible the immediate ancestor of the word was a part of the original hypothetical Indo-european tongue, which may have been a part of the vocabulary of Japheth's descendants, soon after the Flood and the dispersion from Babel.
The Oxford English Dictionary points out that Spakelv is derived from the Greek stem Spak meaning strong. The connection with dragons is obvious. According to the OED, the word was first used in English about 1220 A.D. It was used in English versions of the Bible from 1340 on.
A modern book, The Greatest Monsters in the World, (1975), contains a chapter called "Dragons Everywhere." This title is accurate, because ancient belief in dragons appears to have been nearly universal, as far as we can determine from prehistoric art, legend, and the world's most ancient writings.
Dragons in Ancient Art
In art, dragons are a motif used in ancient pottery. The motif appears as bowl decorations in China as late as 202 A.D.
In Anne Ross's book, Pagan Celtic Britain, is a picture of a pot motif from the ancient Urnfield culture, which blossomed in Europe prior to 500 B.C. The Bali portray a dragon in their animal mask of Barong, a good spirit that is central in their ritual dramatic presentations.
Perhaps the earliest evidence, however, is found in a prehistoric cave at La Baume, Latrone, France. Discovered in 1940 by Siegfried Giedion, some scientists have dated the cave at 20,000 years ago (I do not accept such ancient dates). Peter Costello writes, "dominating the whole scene is a serpent over three metres in length." As Costello notes, this picture of a dragon-like creature "appeared at the very dawn of art," whatever its exact date.
At Lydney Park on the banks of Severn in Gloucestershire, England, a mosaic floor of Romano-celtic origin has been excavated. It appears to be a temple associated with the river cult of Nodens, "the cloud maker." Prominent in the mosaic are sea monsters that may well be considered dragons.