In 1663, the partial fossilised skeleton of a woolly rhinoceros was discovered in Germany. This is the “Magdeburg Unicorn”, one of the worst fossil reconstructions in human history. pic.twitter.com/rmV1vcB3LY
— Brian Roemmele (@BrianRoemmele) August 14, 2022
This ridiculous picture can’t help but make you laugh. It’s as if someone played tinkertoys with a drawer of fossils. But that’s exactly what happened. I had to look up the Magdeburg Unicorn, and lucky for me, Snopes has already done the research.
The fossils were unearthed at Seweckenberge, Germany, in 1663. Those who dug them up weren’t particularly rigorous about documenting their depth or relative positions, or even with keeping the fossils from breaking. It was a long time ago. A few years later, Prussian scientist Otto von Geuricke constructed the beast that is now known as the Magdeburg Unicorn. The unicorn was later deconstructed, but we don’t know when, and that’s where things get complicated. Michael Bernhard Valentini drew a picture of the fossil construction dated 1704, but he did it from Geuricke’s notes and descriptions instead of viewing the unicorn. Philosopher and scientist Gottfried Leibniz published a description of the unicorn in 1749, along with Valentini’s drawing. But Leibniz’s book that contained the description was published after his death, so no one could question him about it. There is speculation that Valentini’s drawing, or some other drawing, may have come before Geuricke’s fossil construction. In fact, some scientists question whether Geuricke was the one who put the bones together in the first place.
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Today you can see the unicorn at the Museum für Naturkunde in Magdeburg, Germany. Scientists have identified three different animals that the bones once belonged to. -via Everlasting Blort