Research Scholar, Classics and History and Philosophy of Science
Classics Department, Building 110 Main Quad
Stanford, CA 94305
Tel (650) 324-3219
Fax (650) 725-3801
Background and Current Research
Adrienne Mayor is an independent folklorist/historian of science who investigates natural knowledge contained in pre-scientific myths and oral traditions. Her research looks at ancient "folk science" precursors, alternatives, and parallels to modern scientific methods. Mayor's two books on pre-Darwinian fossil traditions in classical antiquity and in Native America have opened up a new field within geomythology, and her book on the origins of biological weapons uncovered the ancient roots of biochemical warfare. The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome's Deadliest Enemy is Mayor's latest book, and won top honors (Gold Medal) for Biography, Independent Publishers' Book Award 2010. It is a 2009 National Book Award Finalist! It is the first biography in a century of the world's first experimental toxicologist, the brilliant rebel leader of a Black Sea empire who challenged Roman imperialism in the first century BC. Mayor is active in classical folklore, and is also a Visiting Scholar in Classics. Her research has been featured on NPR and BBC, the History Channel, and other popular media, most recently in the New York Times and National Geographic; her books are translated into Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Hungarian, Polish, and Modern Greek. For fun: the History Channel's "Ancient Monster Hunters" is based on Mayor's first book, and popular novelists frequently draw on her findings, for example, Helen of Troy and Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George; The Gryphon's Skull by H. Turteltraub; Dark Fire by C.J. Sansom; and Brad Thor's thriller Blowback.
Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates the Great, Rome's Deadliest Enemy (Princeton University Press, 2010)
- Fossil Legends of the First Americans. Princeton University Press, 2005.
- Greek Fire, Poison Arrows & Scorpion Bombs: Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World. Overlook Press, 2003. rev ed 2008, new introduction.
- The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times. Princeton University Press, 2000. rev ed 2010, new introduction.
- "The Deadly Styx River and the Death of Alexander." 2010. With Antoinette Hayes. Princeton Stanford Working Papers in Classics.
- "Sweating Truth in Ancient Carthage." 2010. Full rev. of R. Miles, Carthage Must Be Destroyed. Abridged version in London Review of Books 32 (June 2010): 30-31.
- "Mithradates: Scourge of Rome." 2009. History Today (December, 2009).
- "Mythic Bio-Techne in Classical Antiquity: Desire, Hope, and Dread",
Biotechnique Exhibit Catalog, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 2007.
- "Fossils in Native American Lands, Whose Bones, Whose Story? Fossil Appropriations Past and Present." 2007. Paper presented at History of Science Society annual meeting, 1-2 Nov, 2007, Washington DC, History of Earth Sciences Government and Earth Sciences Panel.
"Place Names Describing Fossils in Oral Traditions." 2007. Myth and Geology, ed. B. Masse and L. Piccardi. London: Geological Society, 273, 245-261.
- "Fossielenfolklore en wetenschap." 2006. Intro, Dino's en draken: Fossilien in mythen en volksgeloof, ed. B. Sliggers. Haarlem: Teylers Museum. Catalogue, "Myth & Fossils" Exhibit, based on Mayor's work.
- "Tales from the Badlands," Natural History 114 (May 2005): 56-61.
- "Ancient WMDs." Archaeology Odyssey (March/April 2005): 26-31, 48-50.
- "Ancient References to the Fossils in the Land of Pythagoras." With N. Solounias. Earth Sciences History (2005).
- "Toxicology and Ancient Warfare." In Encyclopedia of Toxicology, 2nd ed. Oxford: Elsevier, 2005.
- "Geomythology." In Encyclopedia of Geology. Oxford: Elsevier, 2004. 4,000 words.
- The Folklore of Footprints in Stone: From Classical Antiquity to the Present." With W.A.S. Sarjeant. Ichnos 8, no.1 (2001): 143-63.
- "Killer Khilats: Legends of Poisoned Robes of Honour in India. Parts 1" & "Killer Khilats, Part 2: Imperial Collecting of Poison Dress Legends in India." With M. Maskiell. Folklore 112 (2001): 23-45, 163-82.
- "The 'Monster of Troy' Vase: The Earliest Artistic Record of a Vertebrate Fossil Discovery?" Oxford Journal of Archaeology 19 (2000): 57-63.
- "Bibliography of Classical Folklore Scholarship: Myths, Legends, & Popular Beliefs of Ancient Greece & Rome." Folklore 111 (2000): 123-38.
"People Illustrated: Tattooing in Antiquity." Archaeology (March-April 1999): 54-57.
- "Dirty Tricks in Ancient Warfare." MHQ: Quarterly Journal of Military History 2 (Autumn 1997):32-37.
- "Fiery Finery [Burning Cloaks in Greek Myth]." Archaeology (March-April 1997):54-58.
- "The Nessus Shirt in the New World: Smallpox Blankets in History and Legend." Journal of American Folklore 108 (1995): 54-77.
- "Mad Honey! [Toxic honey]" Archaeology (November-December 1995): 32-40.
- "Libation Titillation: Wine Goblets and Women's Breasts", Studies in Popular Culture, XVI:2 April 1994.
- "Ambiguous Guardians: The Omen of the Wolves (AD 402) and the Choking Doberman (1980s)." Journal of Folklore Research 29 (1992):253-68
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