The new eye-popping Field Museum exhibition Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns & Mermaids uses paintings, life-size models, and cultural objects from around the world to shed light on the ways people have been inspired by nature to depict strange and wonderful creatures. From Pliny the Elder who, in 77 C.E., asserted that mermaids were "no fabulous tale," to today's sightings of Scotland's famous yet unsubstantiated Loch Ness Monster, mythiccreatures delight and mystify us all.Mythic Creatures features fossils of prehistoric animals and preserved specimens to investigate and illustrate how they could have—through imagination, speculation and even fear—inspired the development of some legendary creatures.
For instance, Scythian nomads of southeastern Europe may have mistaken dinosaur fossils for the remains of griffins and narwhal tusks from the North Sea likely offered credibility to the belief in the unicorn.Throughout the exhibition, models of mythical creatures astound and delight. Come face-to-face with a 17-foot-long dragon with a wingspan of over 19 feet; a 10-foot-longunicorn; an 11-foot-long Roc with a wingspan of nearly 20 feet and huge talons sweeping overhead; and a kraken, whose 12-foot-long tentacles appear to rise out of the floor of the exhibition as if surfacing from the sea. The exhibition also includes two life-sized models of real creatures: an over-six-foot tall extinct primate called Gigantopithecus; and the largest bird ever to have lived, the over-nine-foot tall, extinct Aepyornis. The exhibition will be on view from March 19 through September 1, 2008.