From the bones of giants


One day in 1443, a mason chiselled the letters “A. E. I. O. U.” on a giant bone which hung from the gates of the bustling city of Vienna.

The mason was not making sure they never forgot their vowels (although it is a pretty snazzy way of remembering). These letters were the motto of Emperor of Austria, Fredrick III: “All Earth is our [Austria’s] Underlying”. What greater statement than to inscribe the great Emperor’s motto onto a leg bone of a humungous being. This enormous bone, thought to have once belonged to a giant, was discovered when building St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. It was hung on the city gates, known as ‘Giants Gates’.

This was of course not the leg bone of a giant. It was a mammoth femur. For centuries bones of mammoths (and other beasts) have been used in rather creative ways with their true identity…

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