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The discovery of the ice ages began with the invention of the Great Ice Age by Louis Agassiz, in the first half of the nineteenth century. His ideas were shaped by the interpretation of skeletons and frozen remains of large mammals found in Siberia, at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The concept of the Great Ice Age stands in contrast to earlier notions emphasizing widespread flooding, notions that owed much to the Great Flood described in the Bible, and which gave rise to geological terms such as ‘diluvial deposits’ and ‘glacial drift’. Nordic myth as recorded in Iceland during the Middle Ages likewise contains observations and interpretations concerning the remains of giant animals emerging from frozen ground and makes reference to large-scale flooding. The ancient cosmogony related by Icelandic poets postulates the former existence of a kingdom of ice, represented by a primeval Ice Giant, whose rule is ended by the newly emerged gods. According to the myth, the melting of ice (the blood of the dying Giant) caused widespread flooding that killed the large creatures abundant during ice time.

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