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Mysterious Hominids in India November 12, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

Another extract – this time eighteenth century – from Beachcombing’s Pygmies, Dwarfs and Fairies series. The following has a certain cryptozoological feel to it: including the fact that the ‘samples’ disappeared into the ether. The creatures in question came from deep in the Indian interior and were brought to Bombay before they inconsiderately died.

They were scarcely two feet high, walked erect, and had perfectly a human form. They were of a sallow white, without any hair, except in those parts in which it is customary for mankind to have it. By their melancholy, they seemed to have a rational sense of their captivity, and had many of the human actions. They made their bed very orderly, in the cage in which they were sent up, and, on being viewed, would endeavour to conceal, with their hands, those parts which modesty forbids manifesting. The joints of their knees were not reentering like those of monkeys, but saliant like those of men; a circumstance they have in common with the ouran-outangs in the eastern parts of India, in Sumatra, Java, and the Spice Islands, of which these seem to be the diminutives, though with nearer approaches of resemblance to the human species. But, though the navigation from the Carnatic coast to Bombay is of a very short run, whether the sea-air did not agree with them, or they could not brook their confinement, or captain Boag had not properly consulted their provision, the female, sickening, first died, and the male, giving all the demonstrations of grief, seemed to take it so to heart, that he refused to eat, and, in two days after, followed her. The captain, on his return to Bombay, reporting this to the governor, was by him asked, what he had done with the bodies; he said, he had flung them over-board. Being further asked, why he did not keep them in spirits, he replied bluntly, he did not think of it. Upon this the governor wrote afresh to Vencajee, and desired him to procure another couple, at any rate, as he should grudge no expense to be master of such a curiosity. Vencajees answer was: he would very willingly oblige him, but that he was afraid it would not be in his power: that these creatures came from a forest, about seventy leagues up the country, where the inhabitants catch them on the skirts of it but they were so exquisitely cunning and shy, that this scarcely happened once in a century. If the above relation, concludes our author, should be true, as there is no reason to doubt it, we have here a proof, that the existence of pygmies is not entirely fabulous, as nothing can nearer approach the description of them.

So what were these peculiar creatures? Or should the account be abandoned out of hand? Drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

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13 Nov 2012: Lehmansterms writes in, ‘I can’t help but think of the diminutive hominid skeletons recently discovered in the vicinity of Sumatra. Dubbed “Homo Floriensis” by science as well as “Hobbits” by nearly everyone else, the debate still rages, evidently, over whether they were mature, normal members of a distinct hominid line or whether they were either juvenile, “stunted” – or both – specimens of an already better-known hominid. Since these fossils are relatively “new” – at (I believe) 20,000 or so years, as these things go, a mere hiccup in geological time – it certainly seems tempting to associate the quite human-like creatures described in your recent blog entry with the somewhat mysterious recent anthropological finds on Flores. Or now perhaps they are no longer considered so mysterious as they were at first – perhaps I recall hearing that similar fossils have now been idenitified elsewhere. I don’t agressively keep abreast of such scientific findings and depend upon stumbling upon the odd entry posted somewhere, as in David Meadow’s weekly “Explorator” list of potentially historically and scientifically significant web articles for updates on this sort of thing.’ Thanks L!

16 Nov 2012: JKMOL writes ‘This reminded me of the Nittaewo of Sri Lanka, who I think (can’t check) are already mentioned by Heuvelmans. Searched your blog, but you haven’t mentioned them before.’ Beach is going to steal the underdeveloped Wiki text here as this was new to him. Sounds an interesting topic. Would be well worth chasing the Pliny reference down.  The Nittaewo, (sometimes spelt without the a or as Nittevo) were said to be a small tribe of small bigfoot or Yeti type homins. Pliny the Elder mentioned the Nittaewo as a small, hairy tribe of people living in the country of Ceylon(now known as Sri Lanka). They lived at the same time as the Veddha. The Veddhas are a tribe which still live, mainly as farmers, on the island of Sri Lanka and, their legends say they are responsible for wiping out the Nittaewo roughly 250 years ago. According to the Veddha tradition recorded by Frederick Lewis in 1914, the Nittaewo were approximately three feet (1 metre) tall, the females being shorter than the males. They walked erect, had no tails and were completely naked. Their arms were short and they had talon like nails ,lived in trees, caves and crevices and caught and ate small animals like the hare, squirrel and tortoise. They lived in groups of 10 or 20 and their speech was like the twittering of birds. They were said to be exterminated in the late eighteenth century by the Veddhas because the both tribes were constantly fighting and the Nittaewo began to take the Veddha’s children. The elders of the Veddha’s decided that something had to be done. The Nittaewo were trapped in a cave, which the Veddhas blocked the entrance to with wood and set it a blaze killing all that remained of the Nittaewo In 1887, British explorer Hugh Nevill documented recent tales of the warfare occurring between the Veddhas and the Nittaewo. The Nittaewo being extinct at this point in time. In the 1940’s British primatologist W.C. Osman Hill published reports about the Nittaewo. He led an expedition into the region in 1945and found widespread belief in the Nittaewo still being alive on the island.. He concluded that Dubois’s Pithecanthropus erectus of Java, also known as the Java Ape Man, which has since been renamed, Homo erectus, matched the traditions and descriptions of the Nittaewo.’ This is one from Judith M. ‘I’m writing regarding your recent article about the tiny hominids possibly found in the depths of the Indian subcontinent.  At the moment, I’m reading a book entitled Humans Who Went Extinct (Clive Finlayson, Oxford University Press 2009, ISBN 978-0-19-923918).  According to this drop-dead fascinating book there have been a number of recent finds of now-extinct diminutive hominids (Homo Floresiensis being the one most highly publicized); the author postulates that these fossils represent the hominid version of the phenomenon of species miniaturizing on island habitats, like miniature elephants, etc.).  In fact, one group of tiny hominids evidently persisted on a very remote atoll somewhere near the Philippines until as recently as +/- 940 bp!  Homo Habilis colonized widely and evolved into various phenotypes wherever they became isolated from each other…including, of course, from ourselves as we evolved into “us”. The Indian subcontinent is such a vast and still-mysterious land; recently, a friend just returned from a long stay there reported to me that a “tribe” of forgotten humans had just been contacted, having been discovered living deep within a quite impenetrable jungle environment somewhere in the south of India.  Their genetic structure is quite different from any living Indian population and it is estimated that their isolation has been of such duration that their DNA closely replicates that of the very first Homo Sapiens groups who ventured into India some 50 -60,000 years ago.  I wish I knew more about this discovery. So – who knows about those reports of the tiny pale man and woman, captured at the end of the feckless nineteenth century?  In light of the Philippine atoll-residents, I bet there’s some truth to this!  Poor little guys!’ ou might look at the legend of the Prasii described by Pliny in Natural Histories 6-70. He says that the further from the Ganges one gets, the paler are the pygmies; or rather that they get darker from the sun as one gets closer but never as dark as the Ethopians. The Prasii live in the mountains, before one reaches the Ganges, so presumably they would be of the lighter variety.
As to white pygmies, Pliny mentions pygmy legends in Thrake, Caria, and Phrygia in Asia Minor, though most were said to be driven off by cranes. There are myths of cranes vs. pygmies in the Greek mythology, and notably illustrated on extant Greek pottery art. A different link to white pygmies in a different place entirely, not part of your particular story, but still relative in that white pygmy tribes are described: Meanwhile Sir John Mandevillemakes mention of pygmies in the near east too, although no one seems to know whether he actually existed: There is said to be an inscription for him carved into the stones in St. Albans Abbey. Tracking old legends and fairy-like creatures is like a wild goose chase, or in this case, perhaps a wild crane chase. It may be an exhilarating pass-time, though if one enjoys the chase rather than the prize.’ Thanks JKMOL, KR and Judith