Adrienne Mayor in 2014
Adrienne Mayor (born 1946) is a historian of ancient science and a classical folklorist.
Mayor specializes in ancient history and the study of "folk science": how pre-scientific cultures interpreted data about the natural world, and how these interpretations form the basis of many ancient myths, folklore and popular beliefs. Her work in pre-scientific fossil discoveries and traditional interpretations of paleontological remains has opened up a new field within the emerging discipline of geomythology and classical folklore. Mayor's book on the origins of biological and chemical warfare revealed the ancient roots of poison weaponry and tactics.
She was a copy editor, and printmaker 1980–1996.
Mayor has published books and articles on Amazons, unconventional warfare, toxic honey, tattoos in antiquity, smallpox blankets in history and legend, assassination by poisoned garments in Mughal India, fossil-related placenames, and other topics in scholarly journals and popular magazines, including the Journal of American Folklore, Archaeology, "Natural History," MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History, and Foreign Affairs.
Her books have been translated into 10 languages and have been featured in documentaries on the History and Discovery TV Channels. She has lectured at the American Museum of Natural History, Boston Museum of Fine Art, Smithsonian, Art Institute of Chicago, Getty Museum, among other venues, and has been interviewed on NPR, BBC, and Coast to Coast AM. Her biography of Mithradates VI Eupator, The Poison King, was a nonfiction finalist for the National Book Award 2009.
Mayor is a regular contributor to the history of science website Wonders and Marvels.
From 2009 to 2015, Mayor maintained a Facebook profile under the name Mithradates Eupator, which became an active network for more than 2,500 people, including international scholars, classicists, archaeologists, linguists, ancient historians, authors, novelists, museum curators, and others who engaged in valuable research and educational conversation. This unique crowd-sourcing site was eliminated by Facebook on May 26, 2015. Mayor replaced it with a new Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/Mithradates/
Mayor's first book investigated discoveries and interpretations of dinosaur and other large vertebrate fossils in classical antiquity, and presented her, now widely accepted, theory that ancient observations of the fossilized remains of dinosaurs and other extinct species influenced belief in some mythic creatures, such as the griffin and the Monster of Troy. This book is the basis for the popular History Channel show "Ancient Monster Hunters" and the BBC show Dinosaurs, Myths and Monsters. A National Geographic children's book by Marc Aronson, The Griffin and the Dinosaur (2014) describes Mayor's hypothesis that ancient observations of Protoceratops dinosaur fossils influenced ancient images and tales of Griffins.
Mayor's second book uncovers the earliest examples of biochemical weapons in the ancient world, to demonstrate that the concept and practice of biochemical warfare occurred much earlier than was previously thought. She presents ancient Greek, Roman, Chinese, African, and Indian historical accounts of the practice of biochemical warfare, using animal, bacterial, poison, and chemical weaponry, including the titular Greek fire. This book has become a favorite of ancient war gamers and was featured in the History Channel show "Ancient Greek WMDs."
Mayor's third book gathers Native American accounts of discoveries of dinosaur and other fossils and oral traditions about their meaning, from pre-Columbian times to the present. It has been featured in History Channel MonsterQuest videos.
Mayor's fourth book details the story of the life of Mithradates, leader of the ancient Black Sea kingdom of Pontus, who, in the 1st century B.C., did everything he could to overthrow the Roman Empire.
Mayor's fifth book surveys ancient myths, legends, folklore, art, and archaeology related to warlike women known to the classical Greeks as Amazons. This is the first comprehensive account of warrior women in myth and history from the Mediterranean world to China.
The First Fossil Hunters brings together mythology, art, geology and paleontology in a convincing manner. Because of its vast scope and the author's cross-disciplinary approach, the book may encounter resistance from some readers, but archaeologists and paleontologists with open minds will find their vision of the past broadened.
|Book Discussion on The Amazons, C-SPAN, August 30, 2014|
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