The carefully crafted deep safe space created by anxious academics is designed to distance these terrified titans of thought from calamitous catastrophes and creepy creatures.
The beastly Basilosaurus has been banished to “30 to 40 million years ago”.
Basilosaurus (“king lizard”) is a genus of prehistoric cetacean that existed during the Late Eocene, 30 to 40 million years ago (mya).
Measuring 15–18 m (49–59 ft), Basilosaurus cetoides is one of the largest known animals to exist from K/T extinction event 66 million years ago (mya) to around 15 million years ago when modern cetaceans began to reach enormous sizes.
A 16 m (52 ft) individual of B. isis had 35 cm (14 in) long hind limbs with fused tarsals and only three digits.
Basilosaurus probably swam predominantly in two dimensions at the sea surface, in contrast to the smaller Dorudon, which was likely a diving, three-dimensional swimmer.
Scientists were able to estimate the bite force of Basilosaurus by analyzing the scarred skull bones of another species of prehistoric whale, Dorudon, and concluded they could bite with a force of 3,600 pounds per square inch (25,000 kPa).
It was probably an active predator rather than a scavenger.
And the dreadful Dorudon has been dispatched to “40.4 to 33.9 million years ago”.
Dorudon (“Spear-Tooth”) is a genus of extinct basilosaurid ancient whales that lived alongside Basilosaurus 40.4 to 33.9 million years ago, in the Eocene.
They were about 5 m (16 ft) long and fed on small fish and mollusks.
Dorudon lived in warm seas around the world.
Fossils have been found along the former shorelines of the Tethys Sea in present-day Egypt and Pakistan, as well as in the United States, New Zealand, and Western Sahara.
Like other basilosaurids, their nostrils were midway from the snout to the top of the head.
The remains of this dangerous duo that “lived in warm seas around the world” have been found in the dessicated desert of Wadi Al-Hitan – West of Faiyum in Egypt.
The Faiyum Oasis is a depression or basin in the desert immediately to the west of the Nile south of Cairo.
The fossils found at the site may not be the oldest but their great concentration in the area and the degree of their preservation is to the extent that even some stomach contents are intact.
The presence of fossils of other early animals such as sharks, crocodiles, sawfish, turtles and rays found at Wadi El-Hitan makes it possible to reconstruct the surrounding environmental and ecological conditions of the time, adding to its justification to be cited as a Heritage site.
The largest skeleton found reached up to 21 m in length, with well-developed five-fingered flippers on the forelimbs and the unexpected presence of hind legs, feet, and toes, not known previously in any archaeoceti.
Their form was serpentine and they were carnivorous.
A few of these skeletal remains are exposed but most are shallowly buried in sediments, slowly uncovered by erosion.
Fossils are present in high numbers and often show excellent quality of preservation.
The most conspicuous fossils are the skeletons and bones of whales and sea cows, and over several hundred fossils of these have been documented.
The two common whales are the large Basilosaurus, and the smaller (3 to 5 metre) Dorudon.
Curiously, dead Dorudon are found “in circles” as if they were trying to “bite their tails”.
One final observation in Wadi Al-Hitan is interesting.
Adult skeletons of Dorudonatrox are fossilized in circles, as if they were attempting to stretch backwards and bite their tails.
This is undoubtedly due to desiccation of the powerful back and tail muscles in salt water, which caused the skeleton to curl backwards into a circle before it was buried and fossilized.
Wadi Al-Hitan (Whale Valley) – Nomination
More curiously, the iconic Egyptian Ouroboros looks just like a dead Dorudon.
The ouroboros is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon eating its own tail.
Originating in ancient Egyptian iconography, the ouroboros entered western tradition via Greek magical tradition and was adopted as a symbol in Gnosticism and Hermeticism, and most notably in alchemy.
Via medieval alchemical tradition, the symbol entered Renaissance magic and modern symbolism, often taken to symbolize introspection, the eternal return or cyclicality, especially in the sense of something constantly re-creating itself.
It also represents the infinite cycle of nature’s endless creation and destruction, life and death.
The first known appearance of the ouroboros motif is in the Enigmatic Book of the Netherworld, an ancient Egyptian funerary text in KV62, the tomb of Tutankhamun, in the 14th century BC.
More curious still, imagery that’s remarkably similar to the Basilosaurus and/or the Dorudon that “lived in warm seas around the world” is found all around the world.
In Norse mythology, the ouroboros appears as the serpent Jörmungandr, one of the three children of Loki and Angrboda, which grew so large that it could encircle the world and grasp its tail in its teeth.
In his 1555 work History of the Northern Peoples, Magnus gives the following description of a Norwegian sea serpent:
Those who sail up along the coast of Norway to trade or to fish, all tell the remarkable story of how a serpent of fearsome size, 200 feet long and 20 feet wide, resides in rifts and caves outside Bergen.
On bright summer nights this serpent leaves the caves to eat calves, lambs and pigs, or it fares out to the sea and feeds on sea nettles, crabs and similar marine animals.
It has ell-long hair hanging from its neck, sharp black scales and flaming red eyes.
It attacks vessels, grabs and swallows people, as it lifts itself up like a column from the water.
It is a common belief among indigenous people of the tropical lowlands of South America that waters at the edge of the world-disc are encircled by a snake, often an anaconda, biting its own tail.
Ouroboros symbolism has been used to describe the Kundalini.
According to the medieval Yoga-kundalini Upanishad, “The divine power, Kundalini, shines like the stem of a young lotus; like a snake, coiled round upon herself she holds her tail in her mouth and lies resting half asleep as the base of the body” (1.82).
Chinese dragons are legendary creatures in Chinese mythology and Chinese folklore. The dragons have many animal-like forms such as turtles and fish, but are most commonly depicted as snake-like with four legs.
Leviathan is a sea monster referenced in the Hebrew Bible in the Book of Job, Psalms, and Isaiah.
Uranographia – Joannes Hevelius – 1690
Which might make the independent observer wonder:
1) Was the Ancient Egyptian Ouroboros just iconography?
2) Was it only sandbanks that ancient sailors tried to avoid in the Gulf of Sirte?
Gulf of Sirte, or Gulf of Sidra after the port of Sidra, is a body of water in the Mediterranean Sea on the northern coast of Libya.
In ancient literature, the Syrtes (the Greater, or maiores, in the eastern and the Lesser, or minores, in the western part of the Gulf) were notorious sandbanks which sailors always took pains to avoid.
The shoreline between Cyrene in the east and Carthage in the west featured few ports.
Ancient writers mention sandstorms and serpents in this area.
Strabo describes a march by the Roman general, Cato the Younger in 47 BC which took thirty days ‘ through deep and scorching sand’.
Plutarch gives a much less melodramatic account of Cato’s march than Strabo’s, saying (admittedly implausibly) that it took only seven days, and that locals were engaged to protect his troops from serpents (Cato Minor 56; see also the uneventful late 5th-century journey along the coast from Euesperides to Neapolis reported at Thucydides 7.50.2).
The other remarkable towns in this district were Tunes or Tuneta (Tunis), where Regulus was defeated and taken prisoner ; Clupea, near the Promontorium Mercurii (Cape Bona); Adrumetum; Thapeus, where Caesar defeated Scipio and Juba; and Utica, where Cato the younger slew himself; near Utica was the river Bagradas, where Regulus slew an enormous serpent, that had destroyed many of his soldiers.
Manual of Classical Literature – 1843
Johann Joachim Eschenburg – Nathan Welby Fiske
The Battle of Bagradas, also known as the Battle of Tunis, was a Carthaginian victory over Rome in the spring of 255 BC during the First Punic War.
The Maghrib was characterized by a peculiar insularity that created an unusual dialectic between it and the rest of the Mediterranean, an insularity whose effects can be witnessed in typically recurrent patterns found in its history during the pre-modern age.
A Peculiar Island: Maghrib and Mediterranean – D. Shaw Brent
Mediterranean Historical Review – Volume 18 – 2003 – Issue 2
Please be gentle whenever you attempt to awaken an anxious academic from their slumbers.