It turns out that birds are avian dinosaurs. They belong to the group of dinosaurs called theropods. They’re not ‘evolved from dinosaurs’, they are dinosaurs, because biologically, they aren’t different enough to be something else.
Many other dinosaurs also had feathers. The first feathers were not for flight, they were for warmth, intimidation, and communication.
It also turns out that ancient and classical Greek statues weren’t white. Their clothes were painted with bright patterns and their hair, skin, and even eyes were painted in bold, natural colours. Greek buildings weren’t white either. The reliefs were painted, the columns were painted in contrasting colours, even the ceilings were painted – with patterns.
The reason you don’t see this in the museums is because until relatively recently, the paint remains used to be scrubbed off the statues. If you visit the New Acropolis Museum in Athens, you can see a variety of newer finds that haven’t been scrubbed.
What these two facts have in common is that they both challenge an idea we held as a culture, about the world. And it can be challenging to accept the new idea, simply because the old idea has become important to us. We’re used to looking for the missing link between dinosaurs and birds, wearing white togas, and thinking a lot of U.S. government buildings look a lot like ancient Greek architecture.
I love these kinds of facts for exactly this reason: they stretch the mind. Thinking about things in a new way keeps the mind flexible and ready to learn and discover more.
Every time I see a bird now I look at it and think, ‘that’s an avian dinosaur, a theropod’ and try to wrap my head around it. I find this quite fun and generally try to engage the person I’m with in the exercise. I hope my friends don’t find this annoying.
My office has in the lobby a replica of a ruined Greek statue, head and arms missing, paint faded. There is a place for such things. But why don’t we ever see replicas of what those statues would have looked like new, paint and all? I’d like to see some of those. My guess is they were coloured with the same expert artisanship with which they were carved.
I’d like to invite you to share with me more ideas that stretch the mind, in the comments section here.