Here be monsters - and they may not be so far fetched

The Unicorn's eye fell upon Alice ... "What is this? he said at last.

"This is a child," Haigha said eagerly ... "We only found it today. It's as large as life and twice as natural."

"I always thought they were fabulous monsters," said the Unicorn.

Alice began: "Do you know, I always thought Unicorns were fabulous monsters too ..."

"Well, now that we have seen each other," said the Unicorn. "If you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you. Is that a bargain?"

"If you like," said Alice.

From 'Through the Looking Glass' by Lewis Carroll.

SOMEWHERE deep in the unexplored jungles of South-east Asia, the Yeti could still be lurking.

Skulls belonging to a giant ape that was at least 7ft tall have been found there, and many scientists believe they may have been the precursor of the Yeti.

An exhibition at London's Natural History Museum has brought together the mythological tales of fantastic creatures such as the Cyclops, the Yeti and the dragon, and the scientific evidence in an effort to unravel fact from fiction.

Stories of giant, hairy human-like creatures living in remote mountain ranges and forests have persisted throughout history and, using fossilised skulls, scientists at the museum have created a10ft tall Yeti which chews on bamboo and roars menacingly at the humans below.

Professor Chris Stringer, director of palaeontology at the museum, believes the Yeti may well exist, but not in the Himalayas. "Explorers have returned with tales of giant footprints but we know that they can be distorted when they thaw and re-freeze so that is not compelling evidence," he said.

"However, we know that gigantopithecus, a 7ft tall gorilla-like animal, lived on bamboo shoots in the forests of South-east Asia and it could be closely related to the Yeti.

"There is no hard evidence to prove or disprove the theory and there are enormous areas of South-east Asia that have not been explored so we cannot rule it out completely."

The exhibition also explores the myth of the Cyclops which, according to Greek legend, were a race of fearsome giants living in caves.

Gnawing on a bloody goat's leg, the re-creation of this monster casts a terrifying glare around the gallery with its single giant eye.

But scientists now believe that fossil bones of dwarf elephants, which used to live on the Mediterranean islands, may have given rise to the myth. The huge nasal socket in the skull, which was in fact the base of the elephant's trunk, resembles an eye hole and the remains of the tusks look like giant teeth.

Dr Angela Milner, a leading expert on dinosaurs, said: "The ancient Greeks would never have seen elephants so it was a natural association to assume that the skull belonged to a giant one-eyed man.

"We have found scientific explanations for most of the monsters that exist in legend and in many cases there is a logical explanation."

The unicorn has long been popular in legend with tales of the healing power of its horn but scientists believe the myth could have arisen from the discovery of a rhinoceros skull.

Popular in both Oriental and Christian mythology, the dragon could have been born out of exaggerated tales of giant lizards seen by travellers. Later discoveries of dinosaur skulls fuelled the myth.

But sadly for believers in the Loch Ness monster, the news is not good. Recent explorations of the loch did indeed discover new species - but nothing bigger than a microscopic worm.

t "Myths and Monsters" opens on Sunday 5 April and runs until 13 September at the Natural History Museum. Admission: pounds 6 adults, pounds 3 children.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister
TVSPOILER ALERT: It's all coming together as series returns to form
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine