STL Science Center

STL Science Center

06 April 2017

The Mythology of Lions

Lions, cave or otherwise, have been revered as royal, strong, proud cats for a very long time in the human world and extending some of the myths, legends, and beliefs that are lion-centric to cave lions is not a far stretch of the imagination. One of the early standouts of human literature is the Nemean Lion which was said to prowl Nemea in Greece and is within the historical range of both cave lion and modern lion but only the temporal range of the modern lion. Cave lion remains may have influenced the story of a lion so large and fierce that only the great Heracles could stop it from terrorizing the Greek peninsula. Origin stories in the myths of ancient Greece credit the abnormally sized lion as having been the offspring of titans or having originated and then fallen from the moon. Accounting for abnormal size in such ways certainly suggests that the story's antagonist may have been based on sub-fossil evidence of a large lion. The additional story detail that the animal lived in a cave could suggest either creative story-telling or literally finding the remains of a cave dwelling lion (a common occurrence from which the common name of Pathera leo spelaea originates).

Prior to the Greek, Persian, and classical Chinese (to mention a few cultures) mythos of lions, Eurasian Cave Lions were depicted in early cave art. The American Cave Lion has been depicted on various media in native North American cultures in various forms. Many of these appear more cougar-like (the North American cougar or puma has been referred to as the American Lion by many different source) and may actually be confused with the other cat. Considering that these more recent works were likely created in the likeness of cougars, the depictions of the American Cave Lion may actually be lower in number than the internet would have anyone believe.
Panel of the Lions, Chauvet Cave

No comments:

Post a Comment