Monday, May 25, 2009

Do You Believe In Centaurs?

The “Centaur Excavation at Volos” is an exhibit which has been on permanent display at The University of Tennessee’s John C. Hodges Library since May of 1994. Located in the Jack E. Reese Galleria, the centaur was brought to the university by two men; art Professor Beauvais Lyons and Neil Greenberg, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. Lyons and Greenberg first began raising funds to have the centaur brought to the university in 1992 and by 1993 the two professors had gain enough financial backing to purchase the centaur. The installation of the exhibit took one year.

Centaurs are mythological creatures featured in the legends of Greece and Rome. They were said to be the offspring of either the goddess Hera (Juno) and Ixion or the children of Centaurus; the deformed son of Apollo who lived amongst the Mares of Magnesium. As a people the centaurs dwelt amongst the mountains of Erymanthus in Thessaly as well as the Clyon countryside. Considered to be kind, hospitable, sporting, generous, and wise the centaurs were well received, the most famous centaur perhaps being Cheiron who tutored many of Greece’s greatest heroes including Aesculapius, Achilles, Jason, Meleagor, Nestor, Peleus, and Theseus. He also instructed the famed necromancer Faust, postmortem.

The centaurs were not without their faults however, having a practically nonexistent tolerance for alcohol centaurs where prone to drunken brawls. In one particularly notable episode a group of intoxicated centaurs manage to get into a fight with the legendary hero Hercules, who was also inebriated at the time. Being little match for the famous strongman the bulk of the centaurs where slain but one named Nessus managed to escape. Nessus would later take revenge on Hercules by attempting to rape his second wife Deianira. Hercules kills Nessus with an arrow dipped in Hydra’s blood before he can do the deed but not before convincing Deianira to smear some of his poisoned blood on Hercules’s cloak which he tells her will insure her husband’s everlasting fidelity. Once Hercules places the cloak on his back he is immediately seized with unbearable pain and kills himself via immolation.

So is the centaur from Volos real?

Well despite the display itself and an impressive accompanying University website the truth is that the centaur is an elaborate fake created from a human anatomical skeleton and the bones of a Shetland pony. The mock excavation itself was created by William Willers, professor of biology at the University of Wisconsin in Oshkosh, in the mid-1980s and it was Willers who sold the skeleton to Professors Lyons and Greenberg. According to Lyons the purpose of obtaining and displaying the skeleton on a college campus was to test the critical thinking skills of the students. On the centaur’s official website Professor Greenberg notes that “Our CENTAUR is implausible at one level, but inevitable at another” in that hoaxes such as the centaur from Volos are touted out all the time as being ‘evidence’ of otherwise incredulous claims – just consider last year’s Georgia Bigfoot hoax for a recent example.

In the end perhaps Professor Lyons sums it up best when he asks; “Just because something is in the non-fiction section, does that make it true?”


Giants, Monsters & Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend, and Myth (2000) by Carol Rose.
Don't Know Much About Mythology (2005) by Kenneth C. Davis


kamagra said...

I think that Centaurus are some of the mythology , I would like to have more information about it!

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