Earthquakes and Elephants:
Prehistoric Remains in
INQUIRING MINDS wanted to know: Whose enormous bones littered the island of Samos? The ancient historian Plutarch took on this mystery in his work Greek Questions, a compilation of curious facts about Greece written in about A.D. 100. Best known for his biographies of ancient celebrities (the Parallel Lives), Plutarch studied philosophy, lectured in Rome and Egypt, and served as a priest at the oracle of Delphi. A prolific writer of tireless curiosity and staggering erudition, Plutarch left a treasure trove of antiquarian information about the topics that fascinated him, from live Centaur sightings to Persian magic. In his Greek Question no. 56, he offers a glimpse of the popular and learned debate that surrounded the discovery of remarkable bones in the ancient world.
Huge bones were displayed to travelers at two places in Samos: Panaima (“Blood-Soaked Field”) and Phloion (“Crust of the Earth”). To explain the name Blood-Soaked Field, Plutarch alluded to the notion, widespread in folklore, that red-colored earth