Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


1 Comment

Kigan Castle

The Italian poster played the Arabian Nights factor to the hilt.

The Italian poster played the Arabian Nights factor to the hilt.

Something weird today.
The short movie clip you’ll find below is the only thing I was able to find to show you something of Kiganjou no Bouken, also known as Kigan Castle Adventure, also known The adventure of Taklamakan.

The Adventure of Taklamakan is a thoroughly enjoyable, low-budget-but-great-fun 1966 movie featuring the great Toshiro Mifune.
The plot is a weird mash-up of ancient Chinese folklore, Arabian Nights style fantasy and a few dollops of Wu Cheng’en‘s Journey to the West.
But it’s actually based on a story by Dazai Osamu. Continue reading


2 Comments

Dragons of the ancient world

It was in 2005, if I remember correctly, and I was on my third congress of the Italian Palaeontological Society.
In the 2005 congress two works were presented – a colleague’s paper on the connection between fossils and mythology, and a poster of mine on the cultural relevance of dinosaurs.
My colleague’s work featured griffins and cyclops, my poster featured Godzilla and Bruce Willis.
We were both severely thrashed, the standard question being “You call this paleontology?”
To which the reply was of course, yes – we were after all discussing ancient remains, deep time, and the perception and interpretation of those remains – but our position was not shared by a large portion of the audience*.

And yet, the idea of Geomythology was emerging in the early 21st century – and the book I’m reading these nights, part for research duties and part for the sheer pleasure of it, was one of the first works on the subject.
It was published in 2000, by Princeton University Press.

k9435Adrienne Mayor‘s The First Fossil Hunters – Dinosaur, Mammoths, and Myth in Greek and Roman Times (new edition, 2011) is a delightful and higly stimulating read.
The idea that a culture of fossil observation existed in ancient times – not limited to a few philosophers chancing on an old bone – is intriguing, as is the idea of a strong, direct connection between fossils and certain beasts of myth.
The book is filled with illustrations, and offers ample material in support of its central thesis.
And there’s much food for thought (and for fiction!) between its covers.

So I’m reading it both because of my job as a paleontologist (as long as I have one) and as documentation for my writing.
And anything providing a different angle on the perception we have of ancient times, is sure to slip straight on top of my reading list.
This one is highly recommended.

——————————————————
* one year later the situation had changed enough for two members of our hostile audience to publish in the Society’s magazine an article that followed closely my poster (curiously enough forgetting to credit my work in its very short bibliography)