By Paul Semonin
In 1801, the 1st entire mastodon skeleton used to be excavated within the Hudson River Valley, marking the climax of a century-long debate in the US and Europe over the identification of a mysterious creature often called the yankee Incognitum. lengthy prior to the dinosaurs have been came upon and the proposal of geological time received forex, many voters of the recent republic believed this legendary beast to be a ferocious carnivore, in a position to crushing deer and elk in its ''monstrous grinders.'' throughout the American Revolution, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson avidly accrued its bones; for the founding fathers, its tremendous jaws symbolized the violence of the wildlife and the rising nation's personal goals of conquest.
Paul Semonin's vigorous background of this icon of yankee nationalism makes a speciality of the hyperlink among patriotism and prehistoric nature. From the 1st fist-sized the teeth present in 1705, which Puritan clergyman claimed was once facts of human giants, to the medical racialism linked to the invention of extinct species, Semonin strains the evangelical ideals, Enlightenment notion, and Indian myths which led the founding fathers to view this prehistoric monster as an emblem of nationhood.
Semonin additionally sees the secret of the mastodon in early the United States as a cautionary story in regards to the first flowering of our narcissistic fascination with a prehistoric nature governed via ferocious carnivores. As such, American Monster bargains clean insights into the genesis of the continued fascination with dinosaurs.
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Extra resources for American Monster: How the Nation's First Prehistoric Creature Became a Symbol of National Identity
In his account of King Philip’s war, published in 1702, Cotton Mather equated the conquest of Bashan with the colonists’ recent defeat of the Indian insurgent Metacomet, whom Mather compared with a pagan deity. Like many New England preachers, Mather believed the Indian myths were the devil’s work, a pernicious form of expression whose grotesque images he sought to suppress with the rationalism of Puritan discourse. ”15 Shortly before Edward Taylor wrote his elegant eulogy for the giant of Claverack, Mather made Og’s downfall a metaphor for the destruction of various monstrous creatures, who, he felt, symbolized the false prophets of the pagans, from the Greeks of antiquity to the Wampanoag Indians.
For the ﬁrst of these letters to the Royal Society, Mather chose the gloss on the giant of Claverack, from his unpublished “Biblia Americana,” no doubt to promote his own literary ambitions, although he was also aware of the debate in England over fossil remains and the earth’s natural history. He prefaced the eleven pages of commentary on giants from his “Biblia Americana” with an introduction of himself and his manuscript that served to enlist sponsors for its publication and also to glorify the uniqueness of these American curiosities.
Throughout Mather’s letter is a triumphant tone in his description of the spectacular size of the giant of Claverack. His celebration of the monster’s dimensions foreshadowed Thomas Jefferson’s response decades later to European naturalists who maintained that the species of the New World were inferior in size. Mather’s opening remarks to Dr. Woodward criticized European ignorance of the New World’s “Subterraneous Curiosities,” which he hoped to rectify with his commentary THE GIANT OF CLAVERACK IN PURITAN AMERICA 37 on the bones of Claverack.
American Monster: How the Nation's First Prehistoric Creature Became a Symbol of National Identity by Paul Semonin