Golden

Sheep of West Asia; see semimythical BeASTS

Physical description: Like a normal ram but with wings and golden wool.

Behavior: Flies easily through the air. Has the ability to reason and speak.

Distribution: The Black Sea coast of Georgia. Significant sighting: Chrysomallus was a winged ram with golden wool that was sent to earth by Hermes. The animal was the object of Jason's voyage in the ship Argo to the shore of Colchis on the Black Sea in 1400 b.c or earlier. Possible explanations:

(1) Jason's expedition might really have been in search of gold said to be found in the rivers of Colchis (modern Georgia). In the first century b.c, Strabo described an ancient method of extracting gold from alluvial sands by sifting water over ramskins that retained the grains of gold in their fleece. The Egyptians used this method, as documented on a wall painting in the Temple of Ramses III at Medinet-Habu. The myth of a Golden ram derived from this process.

(2) The fleece of the Golden ram could have possessed extremely fine fibers like those from the wool of the Spanish or American merino breeds, making it considerably valuable for weaving. Scythian fine-wooled sheep apparently existed around the Black Sea as early as the fifth century b.c

(3) In 1932, Claude Rimington, of the Wool Industries Research Association in Leeds, investigated a golden-brown pigment found in varying intensities within the suint secreted by the sweat glands of certain sheep. Later research showed it was caused by bilirubin from the sheep's liver that had passed into the sweat, producing an abnormal golden coloration. The condition was stimulated when the sheep ate the leaves of certain plants, including Shrub verbena (Lantana spp.) and the Olive tree (Olea europaea), that prevent the liver from excreting bilirubin effectively. Sources: Strabo, The Geography, xi. 2.19; Claude Rimington and A. M. Stewart, "A Pigment Present in the Sweat and Urine of Certain Sheep," Proceedings of the Royal Society, ser. B, 110 (1932): 75-91; J. M. M. Brown, Barbara Sawyer, et al., "Studies on Biliary Excretion in the Rabbit II," Proceedings of the Royal Society, ser. B, 157 (1963): 473-491; M. L. Ryder and J. W. Hedges, "Ancient Scythian Wool from the Crimea," Nature 242 (1973): 480; G. J. Smith, "Jason's Golden Fleece Explained?" Nature 327 (1987): 561; Patrick Moyna and Horacio Heinzen, "Why Was the Fleece Golden?" Nature 330 (1987): 28; Karl Shuker, "The Search for the Real Golden Fleece," Fate 42 (September 1989): 46-52; Maria Rosario Belgiorno, "Il vero significato del mito del vello d'oro e del viaggio degli Argonauti," Studi Micenei, 2000, on line at http://www.area.fi.cnr.it/r&f/n17/belgiorno1. htm.

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