Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Ancient Chinese dragons and a baby dinosaur

Ceratopsian-like jade carving, purportedly made by the
Hongshan culture thousands of years ago.
Credit: Vance Nelson.  Image source.

Another ceratopsian-like carving made from bloodstone,
also attributed to the Hongshan.
Credit: Dave Woetzel.  Image source.

The Institute for Creation Research (ICR), a sister organization of Answers in Genesis, posted an article online comparing the remains of a young ceratopsian to carvings made by an ancient Chinese culture.

The skeleton was found in Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta, Canada, and was reported in November.  It was identified as a juvenile Chasmosaurus, a close relative of Triceratops, and it is the youngest intact specimen ever found of the ceratopsians, a group of horned and frilled dinosaurs.

Brian Thomas, science writer for ICR, likened the baby dinosaur to certain figurines found in the Hongshan District of northeastern China made by a culture dated from 4700 BC to 2900 BC.  The Hongshan figurines are typically made of jade and depict various geometric shapes, birds, turtles, dragons, people, and other abstract designs.  Many of the dragons, called "pig dragons" by modern researchers, are depicted with a flattened snout and a crest on the back of the head.  It is these pig dragons, Thomas says, that resemble hornless ceratopsians, such as Protoceratops or any juvenile like the one found in Canada.  The two figurines shown here were given as examples.

Discounting the odd head on the tip of the tail of the red one, both figurines do resemble slightly stylized ceratopsians more than any other animal.  Curiously, however, most pig dragon figurines do not have any legs, just a short snakelike body curving around to form a C shape.  I spent some time investigating the origins of these specific artifacts, but they only seem appear on creationist websites or on sites criticizing creationists.

The green jade figurine is referenced in a book called Dire Dragons, written by Vance Nelson in 2011, which is why his website's watermark appears on the image.  From what I could gather from the book preview available on the website, Nelson does not give any sources for the image or the figurine itself.  It appears the trail ends there, temporarily, unless I can contact him personally.

The origins of the red figurine are likewise mysterious.  Genesis Park, whose website appears in the image, claims that the figurine is a part of their own collection, but no description is given of its origins or how Genesis Park came to acquire it.  Genesis Park is a creationist organization dedicated to "showcas[ing] the evidence that dinosaurs and man were created together and have co-existed through history," according to their website.

As much as I would like these figurines to be genuine, I can't find any indication that they weren't simply modern creations sold to tourists and online shoppers.  This is the same situation I face with the Ica Stones of Peru, a collection of carved stones found in the burial sites of ancient Peruvian cultures.  Some of these stones very clearly depict dinosaurs and advanced technology, but it is likely that many of them are forgeries, while many of them are genuine.  Unfortunately, it is practically impossible to distinguish the originals from the counterfeit, so they are currently not of much use to the creation debate.

As previously mentioned with the Zuiyo-maru carcass, care must always be taken when searching for supporting evidence of a deeply-held belief.  Fakes and lies are always damaging, even if they appear to support your position.  I hope ICR will do some more research into this claim before using it anymore to reinforce the idea that dinosaurs and man lived together.  If we are to convince anyone of the truth, we must use the truth to do so.

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