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Remains of Warm Weather Hippos Have Been Found in the Tundra's Frozen Muck?

Remains of Warm Weather Hippos Have Been Found in the Tundra's Frozen Muck?


While researching the "frozen fruit trees" question, I ran across a second case where statements made in The Waters Above did not accurately reflect original data (and that's putting it mildly):


Along with the fruit tree, the remains of a woolly rhinoceros, a mammoth, and a horse were found by Toll. The warm-weather hippopotamus has also been found in the tundra's frozen muck. (Dillow, The Waters Above, P. 346)

The "tundra," as defined by the Webster's New World Dictionary (2nd College Edition), is "any of the vast, nearly level, treeless plains of the arctic regions." So, naturally, the passage about the "hippopotamus also" being found "in the tundra's frozen muck," seemed intriguing, so I checked the reference that Mr. Dillow gave, which was Karl W. Butzer, Environment and Archeology (Chicago: Aldine, 1964), p. 325. And here is what Mr. Butzer actually wrote:


One of the few animals of possible interest [in ascertaining just how warm certain Interglacial periods may have been] is the hippopotamus, a warm to warm-temperate species requiring perennial waters, and unlikely to be found in seasonally frozen rivers. Interglacial hippos have been recorded from southern Europe, France, England, Germany, and Hungary. Lack of evidence from Scandinavia or eastern Europe may indicate that no radical weather changes in winter temperatures need be assumed. The extinct water buffalo (Buffelus murrensis) found in Germany and the monkey Macaca sylvana ssp. found in different parts of temperate Europe during the Holstein [Interglacial period] may however be more suggestive of warmer conditions.


Mr. Butzer was merely explaining that hippopotamus bones had been found as far north as England (but not as far north as Scandinavia), and that, between times when the glaciers descended, [i.e., "Interglacial periods"], the earth may have been warmer than it is now, but not "tropical or sub-tropical" from pole to pole. Obviously, there is nothing in this passage about hippopotamus bones being found "in the tundra's frozen muck." The Waters Above by Joseph Dillow inaccurately represented what Mr. Butzer originally wrote.


Perhaps (and this is just a guess) Dillow's myth about the hippo was based on an extremely superficial and ignorant reading of the text. For instance, he may have thought that "interglacial" meant that the hippo bones were found "inside a glacier." After having seen the way he misread Digby and Tollmachoff's passages to arrive at a "frozen plum tree, with ripe fruit and green leaves," lying "above the Arctic Circle," one can only wonder at how Dillow's mind works.


E.T. BABINSKI


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