The Magdeburg Unicorn: The Worst Fossil Reconstruction Ever

This ridiculous picture can’t help but make you laugh. In 1663, the partial fossilised skeleton of a woolly rhinoceros was discovered in Germany… which ultimately led to the creature you see below. This is the “Magdeburg Unicorn”, the worst fossil reconstruction in human history.

In 1663, the partial fossilised skeleton of a woolly rhinoceros was discovered in Germany. This is the "Magdeburg Unicorn", the worst fossil reconstruction in human history.

Prussian scientist Otto von Geuricke is the man behind this ridiculous display of bones. In 1663, he found some bone remains of a woolly rhinoceros, a now-extinct species that once roamed over much of northern Eurasia, until the end of the last Ice Age. He actually believed that the collection of fossilized bones belonged to a unicorn. Around five years after their discovery, Otto von Geuricke reconstructed the bones into the form in which they are represented today. Currently the unicorn is housed at the Museum für Naturkunde in Magdeburg, Germany.

The Magdeburg Unicorn.

The horn is most probably the tusk from a narwhale, a medium-sized whale that lives in the Arctic waters around Greenland, Canada, and Russia. The left upper canine of the narwhale males form a spirally twisted, long tusk with a length up to more than 3 m (10 feet in freedom units of measurement). The skull of the unicorn looks like a fossil skull of a woolly rhinoceros and the shoulder blades and the bones of the two front legs are from the extinct woolly mammoth.

The Magdeburg Unicorn.

The unicorn, a mythical creature popularized in European folklore, has captivated the human imagination for over 2,000 years. For most of that time, well into the Middle Ages, people also believed them to be real. The roots of the unicorn myth date back at least as far as 400 BCE, when the Greek historian Ctesias first documented a unicorn-like animal in his writings on India. These early accounts describe the unicorn as ferocious, swift, and impossible to capture, with a magical horn capable of healing numerous ailments. During the Middle Ages, unicorn imagery and descriptions were commonly included in medieval bestiaries, and the unicorn became a popular motif in medieval art. Who knows, maybe even nowadays there are people who believe in unicorns. After all we have flat Earth believers, so why not unicorns?

6 thoughts on “The Magdeburg Unicorn: The Worst Fossil Reconstruction Ever”

  1. That’s a real fun fact! Especially since Magdeburg is about two hours drive from my house and my son is a unicorn fan. I just hope he remains a unicorn fan after seeing this devilish creature. And that he keeps believing in science after seeing how stupid scientists can be.

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  2. It seems Science is sadly becoming a Bell curve — beginning with blood-letting and the four humors; ascending through experimentation and observation, with a boost from technological advancement; and now, once again, descending into personal preference and bias.

    And if you don’t believe me, you’d better ask The Science before he retires later this year.

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  3. quick question – do any of the above commenters here actually know a scientist? i mean, a real one. anybody?

    science has improved quite a bit since this idiot stuck random bones together on a whim. actual science. what has come and gone and come back again is pseudoscience. the popularity of pseudoscience i think follows the educational level of non-scientists. because the educational system now doesn’t emphasize teaching people to think critically, too many people just listen to whomever they believe is an authority and go with whatever crap that authority spews.

    yes, doubt everything. but follow that up with critical thinking and verifiable evidence.

  4. Yes. By all means let’s make fun of our primitive ancestors for trying to come up with answers. This guy should have been spending his time building the space shuttle or an electron microscope instead of this.

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