The earlier teaser post focused on the myth and legend of the unicorns. This post focuses on something altogether different–evidence that unicorns really existed. And just so we’re clear, the writer does not mean the spiral-tusked narwhal whales.
Radka’s Remarkable Book on Unicorns
As was mentioned in the teaser post, many years ago the writer was asked to review a slim book on unicorns, a book which mightily warped his perceptions of what was possible. What follows is based on that long ago, never published book review. The book? Historical Evidence For Unicorns, by Larry Brian Radka, 152 p., Einhorn (Unicorn) Press, Newport, Delaware, 1995.
And what sort of evidence does Mr. Radka marshal to support his astounding claims regarding unicorns?
Types of Evidence for the Reality of Unicorns
From Leibniz’s Protogaea (1690-1691) come these (Fair Use):
§35 On the horn of the unicorn, and the remarkable animal excavated from Quedlinburg.
[Pr 128] But we must not ignore that a quadruped unicorn with the size of a horse is to be found in Abyssinia,10 if we believe Jerome Lobo and Balthasar Tellez.11Likewise the skeleton found in the rock in the vicinity of Quedlinburg near Mount Zeunikenberg, in the 63rd year of this century, excavated together with chalk, more nearly resembled the appearance of a terrestrial animal. Consequently Gericke takes the opportunity to relate in his published book on the vacuum that the unicorn skeleton was found reclined on the back part of the body, as beasts are accustomed, though the head was raised up, the forehead bearing a long extended horn almost five forearms in length, and as thick as a human leg, but decreasing proportionally. It was crushed and extracted in small parts due to the ignorance of the excavators, though finally the horn with the head and some ribs, and the backbone together with other bones were brought to the Abbess of the region. The same things have been reported to me, and a figure is added, which will not be unworthy to append.
In 1530, Ludovica de Bartema, a Roman patrician, traveled to Egypt, Arabia and India… he was able to visit Mecca with the Hadj, or great caravan of pilgrims… of the curiosities of this city, he says: “On the other side of the Caaba is a walled court, in which we saw two unicorns, which were pointed out to us as a rarity; and they are indeed truly remarkable. The larger of the two is built like a three-year-old colt, and has a horn upon the forehead about three ells long.—This animal has the color of a yellowish-brown horse, a head like a stag, a neck very long, with a thin mane; the legs are small and slender, like those of a hind or roe; the hoofs of goat. These two animals were sent to the sultan of Mecca, as a rarity of great value, and very seldom found, by a king of Ethiopia, who wished to secure, by this present, the good will of the sultan of Mecca.”
Don Juan Gabriel, a Portuguese colonel, who lived several years in Abyssinia, assures us, that in the region of Agamos in the Abyssinian province of Damota, he had seen an animal of the form and size of a middle-sized horse, of a dark chestnut color, and with a whitish horn about five spans long upon the forehead; the mane and tail were black, and the legs short and slender. Several other Portuguese, who were placed in confinement upon a high mountain in the district Namna, by the Abyssinian king Adamas Saghedo, related that they had seen, at the foot of the mountain, several unicorns feeding.
Nor are we stuck with travelers’ reports of unicorns, for the early Roman scientist/Roman encyclopedist Pliny the Elder described the Unicorn of his day as “an exceedingly fierce animal, resembling a horse.” This accords well with the Medieval perception of unicorns as fearsome beasts, unless tamed.
From these, it would appear there were several types of unicorns, and this is confirmed by the epigraphic evidence found at the Persian Royal Palace at Persepolis, where unicorns abound! Unicorns are variously depicted as being attacked by a lion , being stabbed by the king; there is even a procession of unicorns and lions. There, unicorns each possess a short, curved horn, as opposed to the long straight ones on the unicorns previously described.
Unicorns and Cryptozoology
Once thought to be mythical, the evidence now exists that places unicorns firmly under the ambit of cryptozoology. Enough data now exist to begin to analyze the apparent existence, at least through the 1500s, of unicorns, based on live reports. Moreover, the epigraphic evidence and various dig findings support the former existence of several unicorn varieties, possibly including dinosaur unicorns!