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Adrienne Mayor


Research Scholar

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Adrienne Mayor is a historian of ancient science and warfare, and a classical folklorist who investigates natural knowledge contained in pre-scientific myths and oral traditions. Mayor's latest book, The Poison King, was a finalist for the National Book Award 2009 and won top honors for Biography, Independent Publishers' Awards 2010. 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 opened a new field within the emerging discipline of Geomythology, and her book on the origins of biological weapons uncovered the ancient roots of biochemical warfare. She's also a Visiting Scholar in Stanford's History and Philosophy of Science and Technology Program. Mayor's work has been featured on NPR and BBC, the History Channel, and other popular media, including New York Times, USA Today, and National Geographic; her books are translated into Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Hungarian, Polish, German, Italian, Turkish, and Greek. For fun: the History Channel's "Ancient Monster Hunters" is based on Mayor's first book, and popular novelists 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

  • The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome's Deadliest Enemy. Princeton University Press, 2009.
  • Fossil Legends of the First Americans. Princeton University Press, 2005.
  • Greek Fire, Poison Arrows & Scorpion Bombs: Biological & Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World. Overlook Press, 2003, 2009.
  • The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times. Princeton University Press, 2000, 2011.
  • "Pacesetter." Rev of Miles, Carthage Must Be Destroyed. London Review of Books 32 (June 2010). Unabridged essay pdf available here: www.princeton.edu/~pswpc/papers/authorMZ/mayor/mayor.html 
  • "Mithradates, Scourge of Rome." History Today, November 2009.
  • "Place Names Describing Fossils in Oral Traditions." In Myth and Geology, ed. B. Masse and L. Piccardi. London: Geological Society, 2007.
  • "Fossielenfolklore en wetenschap." 2006. Introduction, Dino’s en draken: Fossilien in mythen en volksgeloof, ed. B. Sliggers. Haarlem: Teylers Museum. Catalogue for "Myth & Fossils" Exhibit, based on Mayor's work.
  • "Tales from the Badlands," Natural History 114 (May 2005): 56-61.
  • "Ancient References to Fossils in the Land of Pythagoras." With N. Solounias. Earth Sciences History (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 Mughal India. Parts 1 & 2." 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.
  • "Amazons." Reader’s Companion to Military History. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996.
  • "Mad Honey! [Toxic honey]" Archaeology (November-December 1995): 32-40.
  • "The Nessus Shirt in the New World: Smallpox Blankets in History & Legend." Journal of American Folklore 108 (1995): 54-77.
  • "Libation Titillation: Wineglasses and Women's Breasts." Studies in Popular Culture 16 (April 1994):61-71.
  • "Griffins & Arimaspeans." With M. Heaney. Folklore [London] 104 (1993):40-66.
  • "Ambiguous Guardians: The Omen of the Wolves (AD 402) and the Choking Doberman (1980s)." Journal of Folklore Research 29 (1992):253-68.
  • "Paleocryptozoology: A Call for Collaboration between Classicists & Cryptozoologists." Cryptozoology 8 (1989):12-26.


Selected Publications