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The skeletal anatomy of the centaur of Volos

“The Centaur Excavations of Volos“ in the Jack E. Reese Galleria at the Hodges Library at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Image Credit: University of Tennessee

The centaur is a creature from ancient Greek mythology that had the head, torso, and arms of a human, and the body and legs of a horse. Though the centaur is a creature of folklore, the skeletal remains of “The Centaur of Volos” have been on permanent display at the John C. Hodges Library at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK) since 1994.

The skeletal remains of this cryptid are part of an exhibit entitled “The Centaur Excavations of Volos, “ which displays the bones of a centaur and details the history of the archaeological dig in which the remains were supposedly unearthed. Instead of a standing centaur, The Centaur of Volos is half excavated in a burial site with the skeleton half exposed in dirt with associated ceramic artifacts. The case is made out of simulated marble and fake wood, and has a plaque that reads “one of three centaur burials discovered in 1980 by the Archaeological Society of Argos Orestiko eight kilometers northeast of Volos, Greece.” There is also a photo of a relief sculpture from the Parthenon and an illustration of the anatomy of an adult male centaur.

The Centaur of Tymfi commissioned by Bill Willers from Skulls Unlimited. Image Credit: Wikipedia

In 1980, Bill Willers, artist and professor of Biology at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, constructed the skeletal remains of The Centaur of Volos from real human bones and the bones of a Shetland pony. The human bones that Willers used were from an anatomical specimen, a human skeleton from India, in the biology department at his university. The human and pony bones were tea-stained to give them a uniform color and make them look authentic.

The Centaur of Volos was first displayed at the Madison Art Center, then went on to other colleges in the mid-1980’s, and finally ended up in storage until 1994. In 1992, Beauvais Lyons and Neil Greenberg, both from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, campaigned to raise money to purchase the bone sculpture for the university. They were ultimately successful and The Centaur of Volos was installed in its current display case in the Jack E. Reese Galleria at the Hodges Library in May of 1994.

Like the centaur is a mixture of human and animal elements, this exhibit is a mixture of science and art for its use of real human and animal bones articulated as a sculpture to present a mythological creature as real. According to Lyons, the exhibit was designed to encourage students to rely on their critical thinking skills, and not accept everything as fact no matter how believable it looks or sounds, even from a reliable source like a university exhibit.

In 2008 Bill Willers commissioned a standing centaur from Skulls Unlimited that was made with real human bones and articulated with the bones of a zebra.   This sculpture was titled the “Centaur of Tymfi” and was part of the “Mythological Wildlife” exhibit at the International Wildlife Museum in 2012. The Centaur of Tymfi Is currently on display at The Barnum Museum, in Bridgeport, CT until August 30, 2014.


The Centaur of Volos. (2004). Retrieved on July 26, 2014 from: 

The Centaur Excavations at Volos. (2008). Retrieved on July 26, 2014 from:

Frauenfelder, M. (2011). Custom centaur skeleton. Retrieved on July 26, 2014 from:

Lyons, B. (1994). “Do You Believe in Centaurs?” Retrieved on July 26, 2014 from:

Vergano, D. (2012). Centaur ‘skeleton’ takes science center stage. Retrieved on July 26, 2014 from:




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