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 USA and Europe over the identification of a mysterious creature referred to as the yankee Incognitum. lengthy ahead of the dinosaurs have been came upon and the proposal of geological time bought 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.'' through the American Revolution, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson avidly accumulated its bones; for the founding fathers, its gigantic jaws symbolized the violence of the wildlife and the rising nation's personal desires of conquest.
Paul Semonin's vigorous heritage 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 proof of human giants, to the medical racialism linked to the invention of extinct species, Semonin lines the evangelical ideals, Enlightenment proposal, 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 USA as a cautionary story concerning 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 continuing fascination with dinosaurs.
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Additional info for American Monster: How the Nation's First Prehistoric Creature Became a Symbol of National Identity
These are the greatest and most lasting Monuments of Antiquity, which in all probability will far antidate [sic] the most ancient Monuments of the World, even the very Pyramids, Obelisks, Mummys, Hieroglyphicks, and Coins,” Hooke declared of the fossilized cockleshells and oysters found in England far from the oceans. ”9 In 1684, Hooke’s contemporary, the Anglican clergyman Thomas Burnet, offered a new theory of the natural causes of the Great Deluge in his Sacred Theory of the Earth, which ampliﬁed Hooke’s metaphor by viewing the entire earth’s crust as a natural ruins shaped by the receding waters of the Flood.
In the aftermath of this event, the pursuit of Baconian science quickly became the primary weapon of theologians and clergymen in England against the spread of atheistic beliefs and radical religious sects hostile to Anglicanism. 28 Natural philosophers who believed in a literal interpretation of the biblical revelations predicting the millennium revived an apocalyptic tradition first begun by the English Reformation and later popularized by radical sects during Oliver Cromwell’s rule. In the age of Newton, scientiﬁcally minded clergymen and physicians devoted themselves to proving the biblical prophecies promising a millennium of peace and prosperity upon the imminent return of Jesus Christ.
In 1694, Rev. Benjamin Wadsworth of Boston traveled this route from Boston to Albany with a party of colonial officials sent to negotiate with the five nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. ”8 When the Boston News-Letter reached the village of Westﬁeld in 1705, the Congregationalist minister Edward Taylor copied the newspaper account into his diary. “Taylor, like many of his contemporaries, was greatly interested in abnormalities of all kinds in the physical and animal world,” notes historian Donald E.
American Monster: How the Nation's First Prehistoric Creature Became a Symbol of National Identity by Paul Semonin