Review by Greg Neyman
Old Earth Ministries
Review Published 27 April 2015
Creation Ministries International's daily article for 26 April 2015 was titled "Concealed under Carlisle Cathedral’s carpet: dinosaurs!"1 This article by Mark Harwood tells about his visit to Carlisle Cathedral to view the brass etchings on Bishop Richard Bell's tomb, located within the cathedral. There are numerous etchings of animals, along with two etchings that look a lot like dinosaurs.
However, Bell was buried in 1496. It was not until the 1800's that dinosaurs were discovered...at least that's what the official records show. Then how do we explain the carvings? Young earth creationists have a simple explanation...dinosaurs and man lived together, after the flood, and many men witnessed them. The author states, "Here at Carlisle Cathedral is clear evidence of dinosaurs surviving into the 15th century AD." The problem with this, though, is two-fold. First, there is absolutely no physical evidence of dinosaurs existing in the 1500's in England, and second, if they did, there would be a great number of references to dinosaurs in the literature of the time, and there isn't. From the standpoint of hard, scientific evidence, there simply is none to support dinosaurs living in medieval times.
Why then do we have these dinosaur etchings on a tomb from 1496? Some people have proposed that they are mythical. As the author of the young earth article points out, the tomb also has etchings of other animals, all of which are real animals. I tend to agree with the author that they do not represent mythical animals. That leaves us with only two other possibilities.
One possibility is that the dinosaur etchings are a forgery added at a later date. However, there is no evidence to support this theory. The carvings wear pattern looks simliar to the other carvings. In fact, they even look more worn than most of the others. This may be due to foot traffic, as they used to be exposed and walked on.
The most likely answer is that Bishop Bell, or the engraver, was an amatuer paleontologist. True, dinosaurs were not known yet at this time...at least that we know of. They were not scientifically described until the 1800's. However, their bones were around during this time, and could be viewed. No doubt there were curious people prior to the 1800's who looked at the fossils in the rocks, and tried to figure out what they were. This is probably where all the medieval dragon legends come from. In another one of my articles, I tell about the drawings of dinosaurs in the western United States by native peoples, dated to about 1200 A.D. However, the western U.S. is full of dinosaur fossil locations, so the native Americans were sure to have seen them, and some tried to depict what they would have looked like.
Although dinosaurs were not officially described until the 1800's, their bones have been around during the entire time of mankind, so they had to have been seen by men prior to the 1800's. We are left with two possibilities:
The etchings represent live dinosuars, that were seen by the artist in the middle ages, as the creationist organization CMI suggests. There is no scientific evidence to support this theory, as dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago.
The etchings depict the work of an amateur paleontologist, who found the bones, and tried to imagine what they looked like. Since many early scientists were also clergy members, Bishop Bell may have studied dinosaur bones. There are no writings to support this, but we do know that dinosaur bones existed in the rocks at the time, and they would have been visible to observers.
Which is the most likely scenario?
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