The connection between Pleistocene pygmy elephants and the one-eyed Cyclops of ancient Greek mythology

March 27, 2024

The fossil skulls of Pleistocene dwarf elephants scattered throughout the coastal caves in Italy and the Greek islands, most likely inspired the one-eyed Cyclopes in ancient Greek mythology.

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During the Pleistocene ice age (2,580,000 to 11,700 years ago), land bridges emerged that allowed ancient elephants to move to emerging islands to escape predators and/or find new food sources. As sea levels began to rise around the Mediterranean, these ancient elephants became trapped and had to compete for limited amounts of food. According to the island rule, mammals tend to shrink or grow depending on the availability of resources in their environment.

Archaeology&Ancient History on Tumblr: Cyclops or elephants?

The isolated ancient elephants evolved into different species depending on the island they found themselves on. The ones that were found on Cyprus were approximately 6 feet tall, nearly double the size than the ones found on Sicily and Malta. The ancient elephants lived in relative peace until humans found their way to the islands approximately 11,000 years ago. Within a century, they were over-hunted and became extinct.

CYCLOPS: Did elephant skulls inspire the Ancient Greek mythological figure?  – Greek City Times

By the time the Romans and Greeks came to occupy the Mediterranean islands, all that remained were skulls that were twice the size of those belonging to humans. These massive skulls also had a single hole right in the center that the Greeks and Romans mistakenly believed was an eye socket. It was in fact, a socket that was connected to the trunk of an ancient elephant.

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