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Abstract

In Sicily, the great abundance of fascinating and impressive natural phenomena, have fed the imagination of men, who have interpreted them as the manifestation of the existence of supernatural and fantastic beings giving rise to myth and legend. Amongst these many myths, that of the cyclops Polyphemus, is closely linked to the geopalaeontological history of Sicily. The discovery, often inside caves, of the fossil skulls of elephants, in which there is a great nasal hollow (in the frontal part) where there was a trunk in life, gave rise to the belief that one-eyed giants had existed, in the past. The nasal hollow was wrongly interpreted as the orbit of a single frontal eye that characterized these monstrous beings, and the gigantic size was inferred by the notable dimensions of the skulls and the bones that are frequently found. In 1830 Giorgio Cuvier, attested to the fossil nature of the bones and put an end to the different inferences formulated about their origin.

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