Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Richard Roberts and the Little People

` In many traditions, there are various kinds of human-like characters besides just (the original) 'Sasquatch', big and small: In Asia, there is the 'manlike creature that is not a man' which is for some reason called the 'Yeti' in English. Very giant-like if you ask me, though like Bigfoot, there is not much to suggest it exists.
` Way down in Australia, the Bunyip comes to mind - it's like a devil with flippers - or the Bunyee-Bunyee, which had hooves and big tusks. Not mentioned much in folklore in the first place, lots of white people have said they've seen various different versoins of the creature throughout the years. The current version seems to be the Yowie, yet another type of 'Yeti' or 'Bigfoot'.
` In South America, the Mapinguari, said to be the shepherd of white-lipped peccaries, is depicted as an extremely smelly, monkey-faced beast that has huge claws to twist open palm trees - and human skulls, because they eat our brains! It has backwards feet and cannot be speared very easily - so perhaps this legend is based on the native ground sloths which disappeared around 10,000 years ago.
` Ground-sloths had strange, twisted-around feet, probably smelled very horrible, and many had osteoderms (bone-armor) beneath their fur. This legend may be a relic of real stories told long ago about a real animal!

` But is there a legend that depicts a real type of extinct human?

` On the island of Flores, you just may find such a candidate! First, let us consider the raw stories of the natives - they depict hobbit-sized 'cave people' called Ebu-Gogo. Now, ebu means 'grandmother', and gogo means 'he-who-eats-anything.' These diminutive, human-like things were said to eat anything you gave them, from raw meat to the gourd-dishes the food was placed on!
` They were said to be no taller than three feet with long hair, pot bellies, ears that stick out a bit, longish arms and fingers, and a slightly awkward gait - they were clearly built for walking, but could also climb slender trees very well.
` The women were noted for their long breasts which they supposedly slung over their shoulders. Unfortunately, the women of the village Labuan Baju, in the far west, have somewhat long brests and therefore the 'LBJ' villagers are often made fun of for allegedly interbreeding with the Ebu Gogo.

(In other words, they're regarded like the Irish, or the Tasmanians.)

` Now, supposedly, they were capable of speech, but if you tried to talk to them, they would only repeat what you'd just said. Apparently, they did not understand very well when the villagers kept telling them not to raid their crops. This stealing of food was tolerated anyway until one day, when the Ebu Gogo seized an infant and ran up to thier cave some tens of meters up a cliff face at the foot of the local volcano. They ate it, unfortunately, raw of course.
` Well, the humans gave the Ebu Gogo some bales of dry grass to eat, which the little people were happy to accept. A few days later, the humans came back with another bale of grass, which was burning, and tossed it into the cave. The Ebu Gogo, singed and fearing for their lives, were last seen headed west toward Liang Bua.
` The very last time any villager saw one nosing around was just before they moved their village further from the volcano, shortly before the Dutch settled there in the sixteenth century.

` The question is; is a human species this small living on Flores even possible? Not only is it possible, but it is likely. In a place such as a rainforest or an island (or a rainforest-island!), you don't have much in the way of calories.
` Also, in order for a species to increase its numbers and its gene pool, a smaller size allows more individuals to cram into one area. In such a situation, if one does not grow very big, one's chances of survival are better. Therefore, the smallest individuals would be selected.

` This, of course, would explain such examples of human sub-populations as the African Pygmies, who don't grow much after about twelve years of age.

` Now, here's a good example: Elephants, Mastodons, Mammoths, etc. are BIG. But they are also known to swim many miles out to sea and even visit offshore islands. If they chose to stay on any one island, they would wind up shrinking - and they have!
` Dwarf Imperial Mammoths, I believe, lived on an island off the coast of California. On Wrangel Island, four-foot tall Wooly Mammoths existed merely 2,000 to 2,500 years B.C. (Wolf-sized reindeer still live there, however.)
` Similarly, elephants known as Stegodons managed to swim to Flores and over time became smaller. Sometimes, they apparently went extinct, but more large Stegodons, finding all this food with no one to eat it, came in and dwarfed again to replace them (it doesn't take many generations). Evidently, this is an easy thing for elephants to do.

` Now, here's a curious thing: Many young dwarf Stegodon remains are found in caves along with tools such as points, blades, and microblades, which are practically identical from 92,000 years B.C. to maybe 12,000 B.C. Homo erectus, which is known to have lived nearby, did not make tools nearly as advanced, though it is well-known that our species does. Thing is, there is no evidence of Homo sapiens on the island at the time.

` Instead, something even stranger was discovered not too long ago. [This was originally reported in November 2004.]
` Some more of these tools were found in a cave, and alongside of them were several moisture-softened skeletons of what could be described as several miniature adult Homo erectus. They were three feet tall and probably weighed fifty-five pounds or so, with longish arms, faces much like ours, but tiny, grapefruit-sized craniums.
` As a bonus, there are also some clumps of hair. They date back to only 14,000 years ago. Who knows how much closer to the present they could have lived? Mere centuries ago? Were these people what the natives of Flores talk about when they say Ebu-Gogo?

` It's odd, though, as not even any Homo erectus had such an advanced technology. The new species is about the size of the Australopithecines with a brain scarcely any bigger - though theirs may have been more efficient: The largest genetic differences between us and chimps seem to be in the way the brain functions, independent of the size - and with other new fossil discoveries, it seems that Australopithecines may not even be our direct ancestors, so they may not have shared most of these genetic differences with us. (Australopithecines knew how to throw rocks, but I don't think they even made stone tools.)
` I am not sure if these small people still would be able to outdo a Homo erectus in tool-making, though. However, our species no doubt came through that area as well and some of them probably became familiar with these little ones.
` Perhaps they gave them their own tools? Perhaps they taught them exactly how to make these tools, though the dwarfish-people never thought to modify them over the years? Or did we live side-by-side?

` It's been known for some time that the skeletons do not resemble those of modern people with dwarfism, microcephalism, or any other mutation right from the start. There was a lot of controversy as well - so much so that advertised the article with a picture of the little skull and a modern human skull with the words: This is Not a Hoax!
` Right here in front of me are some transcripts from Australia Broadcasting Corporation's Lateline. Apparently there was some really crazy Unwholesomeness going on. It's enough to make a whole other post! It's crazy!

` In late March I heard that these unusual little bones had been compared to examples of human microcephalism, dwarfism, pygmyism, as well as other human-like species. They are definitely another species - Homo floresiensis.

` The 'Hobbit,' Homo floresiensis = Ebu Gogo? It certainly does match the description closely enough! Even if the legend is thousands of years older than the natives say, even if they have simply made up stories based on the same kind of spectacular evidence we have today - which I suppose is highly unlikely. (Although, it could be that Cyclops = Elephant skull, and even Protoceratops = Griffin!) In some way, anyway, Ebu Gogo and H. floresiensis here seem to be too similar to be a coincidence!

No comments: