Friday, 9 March 2012

The Creatures of the Caucasus. 4. Analysis

Finally, we come to Dr Koffmann's analysis of the data. You will note, that Dr Koffmann toys with the idea that the almasty may be a relic Neanderthal. This is a popular belief among Russian and French cryptozoologists, but I have explained in another document why this cannot be the case. (This is a PDF document; you will need to scan to page 9.)  However, if you want a short summary of almasty ecology, there is also a translation of one of her Russian articles available.
At the end is appended some correspondence between Dr Koffmann and an eminent specialist on human origins.

The number of citations is limited; they could be multiplied by dozens. The citations are accompanied by a figure (the reference number of the file) and a letter designating the republic (“a” for Azerbaijan, “g” for Georgia, “k” for Karbarda, Balkaria, Karachai, etc).
The sexual appurtenance of the beings observed is designated by the usual symbols. When it was not determined, which was frequently the case, the individual is indicated by “x”. The children and adolescents figure under the symbol Δ.
The anatomic characteristics are presented according to the descriptive scheme generally admitted by anthropometry: height, skin and its derivatives, limbs and their proportions, skull.

The height varies according to the age of the individual. Its seems, however, in the aggregate, to reach or surpass the human average. Individuals of 2m – 2.20 m [6ft 7 in to 7ft 3 in] are not rare.
One thing is certain: there is no sexual dimorphism with respect to height, the large adult females are as tall and as powerful as the males.

There, where there is no hair, the skin is black” (Δ 52 k).
The skin of the face is black” ( 54 k).
The skin of the palm of the hands is dark brown ... On the buttocks, hair is absent, the skin is dark brown” (x 141 k).
Hairy Coat
It seemed to me that the chest is hairier than the back. On the buttocks, the hairs are much rarefied and shorter, you can see dark skin through it. At the level of the kidneys, the hair is very thick and very long, partially covering the top of the buttocks. On the shoulders, it is so thick that is is impossible to distinguish where it ends and the hair of the head commences. [In this, and every other passage, it is important to note that French has separate words for body hair and head hair.] The legs and the back of the feet are covered with what appears to be very coarse hair” ( 47 a).
The back of the hand has very little hair, but on the forearm, it is so long that it covers the back of the hand” (x 126 k).
This hairy coat is absent from the hand at birth, as two observations testify. Nevertheless, it is rapidly installed:
In a corner of the cabin, on the hay, a [female] almasty was seated; she held in her arms a quite small ... the infant had black skin, entirely covered with black hair, but short and not thick” ( Δ 1 ak).
Head Hair:
Very abundant, long, very coarse (“like a horse's mane” 7 a). That of the males reach “just to the shoulder blades, even a little lower” (♂ 1 a). It is much longer in the females:
... very long hair, to the waist or lower” (71 k).
... then, she got up slowly, collected her long hair which came down to below the waist and threw it over her left forearm” (49 k).
It has been mentioned in several of the testimonies cited. The observers are not short of expressions: stinks like a ruptured dog” (♂ 76 k). stinks like a latrine ditch. There, where it was sitting its odour remained for a week” (♂ 100 k).
It appears to me that this powerful odour is principally emitted by the male: every time it is raised, it involves “men” ie individuals whose sexual appurtenance could not be established precisely, but which certainly seemed to be males. No description of a female is accompanied by this detail:
I did not notice any odour” (♀ 60 k: the witness being only a metre away).
The fingernails were very long” (x 38 a).
The nails of the hands are broad, just as broad as a human's. But long. They are not narrowed on both sides and hooked, like the claws of a bear. They are broad, straight, and long” (♂ 47 a).
On the toes, the nails are flat, longer than a man's, but a little deformed and hooked, like the hooves of poorly tended sheep” (x k).

They are described in the testimonies cited. Some precise references:
...She measured 1.50m – 1.60 m [5 ft – 5 ft 3 in]...Probably still young: her breasts were like those of a little girl” (35 k).
She had very long breasts ... At that moment, she turned to the side and threw a breast over her shoulder” (26 k).
Her breasts were very long. They were both thrown over her shoulders” (72 k).
Long, half-empty breasts hung down on her belly. It was as if someone had deposited something, a bit of grain, for example, or a small melon, at the bottom of a long, empty bag, and hung it up. This was the way her breast hung” (48 k).

The shoulders are carried forward” (♂ 49 k).
Hunched, the shoulders abandoned towards the front, arms longer than a man's” (♀ 48 k).
Its arms, longer than a man's, reached its knees. They were held away form the body and slightly flexed at the shoulders” (Δ 31 k).
Its arm is big, like a man's thigh” (♀ ΔΔ 86 k).
The hand resembles a man's, only there was no flesh there (the witness pointed to the thenar pad which is situated on the palm at the base of the thumb), the palm is flat. The thumb is short, shorter than the other fingers in comparison to a man's. The other fingers, on the contrary, are longer. The thumb is not positioned as in a man's, opposite the other fingers, but on the same level as them. The nails are long, but not pointed. The palm is covered in black callosities” (Δ 52 k).

Her shoulders are broad, but her pelvis narrow” (♀ 54 k).
The legs are short and arched” (♀ Mashk. 1 k).
The thighs are stronger than in a man” (x 40 a).
The thighs are big, the leg is very thin” (♀ 141 k).
The legs are the same thickness as a man's forearm above the wrist” (x 38 a).
... The feet are directed inwards, the knees a little bent, the legs bowed like those of a good horseman” (x 31 k).
... legs bowed, feet directed inwards” (x 64 a).
... the legs, she held them like this” (the witness spread the legs, knees lightly bent, feet directed inwards” (♀ 119 k).
The legs are thin, but the feet are big” (Δ 103 k).
The feet are thick” (♀ Δ 60 a).
The feet are slightly bent inwards. The toes are spread out like a fan” (x 31 k).
The feet are very broad; less at the heel, but towards the base of the toes, the foot widens and at this spot (the witness indicates the first metatarso-phalangeal joint) it is as big as an ox's (x 107 k).

General configuration and relationship between the cerebral and facial skull
... While she herself was tall and robust, her skull was small, narrow, and shaped like an egg” (♀ 54 k).
The skull is not very high, but flatter than in a human ... There is also something curious: in a man, the face is narrow and smaller in relation to the skull. However, with it, the perimeter of the skull is convenient. This made it a very large face, a true maw” (x 31 k).
The face is not good. Like in a man, but the mouth is carried forward.
Question: As in a monkey? [The French word can mean both “ape” and “monkey”. The latter is probably intended here.]
Reply: Why a monkey? I have seen monkeys. The maw of a monkey, it is stretched out in front, like that of a dog. With him, the maw is less stretched out than in a monkey, but more than in a man. His face, it is sort of half-way between a monkey's and a man's” (♂ 13 a).
The forehead is narrow, sloping backwards.”
The forehead is low” (♀ Δ 34 k).
The forehead is narrow” (♂ 79 k).
Brow Ridge. Described as very projecting by several of the witnesses cited. Some other descriptions:
The brow overhangs the eyes, like a helmet visor” (♀ 141 k)
The eyebrows are extremely projecting” (Δ of 4-5 years, 52 k)
Cheek bones. Their strong prominence is also often mentioned in the communications presented here. It is a trait which figures in almost all the descriptions of the face.

Its chin was not like a man's. A man has a fine, pointed chin; its chin was round, heavy, not pointed, but massive” (x 31 k).
The chin is not like a person's: it is not there: (the witness indicated the prominence of the chin: ♂ 100 k).

The nose is like that of a syphilitic. That spot (the witness indicated the root of the nose) is not there.”
The nose is like that of someone who is sticking his face forcefully against a pane of glass.”
The nose is small, flattened, as if someone had forcefully crushed it against the face” (♂ 76 k).
The nose is very broad and flattened, the nostrils gaping at the front like 10 kopek coins” (♀ 119 k).

The ears are flat and are situated higher than in a man” (Δ 52 k).
His face is like a man's. Only the ears are stretched out higher” (♀ 43 a).
If there is anything which distinguishes it from a man, it is certainly the ears: the ears are big, bigger than a man's” (♂ 126 k).

The mouth is widely split” (Δ 31 k).
The mouth is widely split” (♀ 60 k).
The mouth is twice as big as ours” (♂ 20 a).
The lips are thin like those of an ape” (♀ 71 k).

The teeth are strong” (♂ 21 a).
The teeth are stronger than in a man” (♀ 65 a).
The teeth are remarkable. It happens among people that one tooth may be longer, another shorter. With it, they are certainly regular and white, white. Like those of a man. I saw them well the second time, while I was perched in the tree” (♂ 47 a).
... It stood upright, in the light of the headlights, lips curled back, and I saw the teeth well, notably, two large canines, but I can no longer recall whether they were upper or lower” (♂ 22 a).
I opened its mouth with the handle of my whip ... Still quite young, but already large canines, like a dog, large and pointed, but yellow. The upper and lower canines intersected, as in a dog” (Δ of 4-5 years, 52 k).
The teeth are as in a man, but stronger. The four front teeth are very big” (♀ 119 k).

The eyes are elongated and oblique, as in the Chinese, but still stronger” (♂ 4 ak).
The eyes are strongly bridled, red, not good” (x 67 k).
... the eyes red, bridled ...” (♀ 68 k).
What I especially retained were the eyes, oblique and red. With dogs, the eyes sometimes shine very strongly at night. Well, with it, there was the same thing, only red” (x 62 k).
Its eyes shone in the darkness like two cigarettes” (x, Karachai).
I was quite close to it. Its eyes were lightly reflecting with a reddish glow. I started to slowly back up. When I was at the side, the eyes almost did not shine; when I had backed up, they were shining with a powerful red glow” (x 28 k).
When I saw her for the first time (night), the eyes flashed at moments with a vivid red colour. I at first believed that they were cigarettes and it said to myself: “Hold on! They are smoking like us.” The second time also, their eyes sometimes glowed with a red light. But not all the time. That probably depends on the illumination” (♂♀ 49 k).

The neck, it is like it isn't there. The head is placed directly on the shoulders” (♂♀ 17 a).
The head is pushed down directly into the shoulders” (♂ 142 k).

The almasty of the Caucasus thus appears as a bipedal being, with a vertical stature, and quasi human demeanour,whose height, variable according to age, reaches 1.80 m to 2.20 m in the adults of both sexes; it has a robust constitution and a very powerful musculature.
Its very dark skin is covered with a pelt of long (15 cm/6 in), coarse hair whose thickness and colour (generally reddish, more rarely black or grey) varies according to age, the anatomic region, and the individual. The skin of the newborns is pink and glabrous.
The hair of the head is abundant in both sexes. The long, pendulous breasts of the females can be thrown over the back.
The back is hunched, the neck is not apparent.
The upper limbs are long; the hand is furnished with long, powerful fingers with long, flat nails. The muscles of the shoulders and arms are extremely well developed.
The lower limbs, on the contrary, are rather short, especially the leg which is, moreover, slightly bowed; the foot is flat, relatively short, very broad, with long, strong toes, which are very mobile in the sagittal and horizontal planes.
The skull is small and ovoid; the forehead is low, narrow, and retreating; the cranium is flat with a prominent supra-orbital ridge; the zygomatic arches jut forward a lot; the prognathism is important (? oncognathism); the massive, round mandible possesses a powerful set of teeth with developed canines; the root of the nose is sunken, the nose is broad and flattened with flaring nostrils; the ocular slits are very oblique, the dark, reddish eyes project a red glow at night; the mouth is broadly split with the lips thin and extended.
The strong and repugnant odour which issues from the almasty may simply be due to a filthy pelt.
Such are, transferred into professional language, the essential morphological characteristics of the individual which the inhabitants of the Caucasus describe.

The anatomic authenticity of these characteristics is imposing. To cite only the skull, for example, all the descriptions collected constitute so many precise and very evocative anatomic symptoms.
The harmony of the ensemble of these symptoms is equally striking. Not only is each of the traits described by the witnesses exact in itself but, in addition, its presence is supported by other elements, themselves also present and authentic. Bourrelet supra-orbital, root of the nose retreating, epicanthus, prognathism, playrhiny (wide nostrils) etc, mutually introduce into the framework of known and precise correlations. Even the absence of certain traits like the chin eminence, for example, is logical: an attribute exclusive to man, Homo sapiens sapiens, it was a non issue on this skull. Reconstructed uniquely from oral testimonies, the skull of the almasty thus appears a coherent entity.
With regard to the other parts of the body, the some conclusions prevail.
The necessity of balancing the weight of the massive, heavy face of a small skull (with the foramen magnum perhaps pointing backwards) crowning a spinal column held in a stooped posture, also with a rounding of the shoulder girdle to which attaches the heavy upper limbs (“its arm had the same diameter as a man's thigh”) requires such an important cervical and scapular musculature that the column retreats into the neck and is practically nonexistent.
The thickness of the thigh associated with the thinness of the calf is also explained. The thigh muscles are frequently called to hold the lower limbs in slight flexure, a posture perhaps serving to moderate the considerable body weight and permitting silent travel in the woody, rocky habitat. Let us remember what the Georgian woodcutter attempted to explain: “its gait is human, but it walks a little like an animal”.
The weak volume of the posterior muscles of the leg, without doubt unexpected in a subject so perfectly bipedal, could be explained by a structure of the plantar skeleton, precisely adapted to the necessity of raising an enormous weight. This is suggested by the length, unusual in a human, of the calcaneum. The talo-crural is then seen to have been moved back distally, with the increase in the length of the arms of the tarsal lever, and respectively, the shortening of the metatarsal lever. Under these conditions, the requirement of bending the foot is singularly lessened. This relationship of forces has been described in the perfectly intact skeleton of the Neanderthal foot of Kiik-Koba (the celebrated site of the Crimea where there was recovered a Neanderthal skeleton in which the two feet were preserved practically in their totality: 52 elements out of 54). The same relationship of forces is suspected by the American scholar Grover S. Krantz in the foot of the Sasquatch of the Rockies, first cousin to the almasty. We also find it in certain negroid ethnic groups, presenting an astonishing thinness of the calf muscle (triceps surae): it precisely involves particularly fast and agile hunters.
The colour of the almasty's eyes is nothing extraplanetary. It is easily understood if one remembers that twilight vision, assured by the vivid red visual purple of the rods, is reinforced in certain nocturnal species by a special structure, the tapetum. The crystals of this structure, like thousands of bits of ice, direct into the owner's retina the weak rays of light which have penetrated into the eye. The colour of this piercing metallic glow which fascinate us in our domestic animals, depends on that at the base of the eye, which is not the same in all species, and varies according to the structure of the ocular envelopes: yellow in the elephant and other species, and green in the canids, it is red in the primates, including man. This last, unlike those monkeys whose visual acuity, notably at night, is much superior to our own, possess few rods and his tapetum is almost nonexistent. But just the same, a powerful glow, even in the human eye, produces this reddish reflection which one often notices on photographs taken with a flash. The vivid red glow of the almasty's eye, a detail at first sight unusual and disconcerting, is found to have a banal physiological explanation.
Another conclusion of course appears: the adequacy of the anatomic form to its function. This adequacy is so perfect that, knowing one, it becomes possible to not only explain, but to present the other.
The absence of the thenar pad (the part of the palm of the hand situated at the base of the thumb), mentioned by several witnesses, indicates a weak opposability of the the thumb. Effectively, the witnesses have observed that the almasty grasps objects by unilateral prehension of the five fingers.
In the same way, given the setting of the head, riveted to the shoulders by powerful muscles, one can expect ease of movements: in order to look to the side, the almasty pivots its shoulders and the upper part of the trunk, “like a wolf” the witnesses say, and it in fact turns around in the same manner. The almasty also uses its head as a means of combat, butting head down, like a ram: “the almasty hits with its head”. The wide, flairing nostrils let us predict a highly developed sense of smell. It is observed that the almasty uses its sense of smell often; it follows a track, frequently leaning over, without breaking its pace to smell the ground.


All this information is found confirmed by certain documents.
The skeleton of the hand corresponds to the skeleton of the mummified hand of Pangboche, attributed by the lamas of Tibet to the yeti, described by numerous specialists as belonging to a primate, and uniting human and ape characteristics..
The foot which the witnesses describe: massive, splayed, with a broad heel and powerful, mobile toes, with the characteristic inflexion of its distal portion (“inner foot”), corresponds precisely to the the footprints which I have been able to photograph and collect in the form of moulds in the uninhabited regions of the mountain.
The almasty lays out for itself, under rocky shelters or in caves, bedding manufactured from grasses especially chosen by itself (and not, importantly, with just that material it finds at hand, as does the bear, for example). The provisions or the remains of food left on this bedding confirms the alimentary list given by the people of the country.
Hairy hominoid creatures whose eyes throw a red light, described by scholars of North America, called “Sasquatches” by the Indians and Bigfoot by the whites, are not without kinship with the almasty. The hundreds of descriptions furnished by the inhabitants of the Caucasus correspond in every case with those of three Russian scholars who have opened the Caucasian chapter: Prof. C. Satunin in1899, Dr. V. Karapetian in 1941, and Inspector K. Leontiev in 1958.
Extrapolating hundreds of testimonies, submitted to a statistical analysis and an anatomic scrutiny, the information concerning the morphology, ecology, and ethnology of the almasty, constitute authentic landmarks and summary whose convergence raises the appearance of an personage which is anatomically concrete, well defined, balanced, viable, and destitute of all whimsical elements. The morphological reality, the biological truth, the anthropological authenticity of this individual is indisputable.
Furthermore, the criteria which the characteristics raise of a science, human paleontology, of which the old Caucasian shepherds, for the most part illiterate, are ignorant is of course, obvious. The almasty described by them with the precision and realism of men in constant contact with nature cannot be the fruit of the imagination.
What then is the almasty? Great ape for some, late Neanderthal for others, notably Prof Porshnev, the almasty certainly presents more hominid than simian traits: the absence of sexual dimorphism in height and robust constitution, long breasts in the females, abundant head hair, and the foot, are characteristics of the species, Homo. The canines (often described by the observers as protruding and analogous to those of a dog) bring to this picture an importunate but important note.
The antero-posterior lengthening of the skull, the lowering of he cranial vault, the prominence of the superciliary and zygomatic arches, the breadth of the face, the heavy, rounded mandible lacking a chin, the hunched back, the breadth of the shoulders, that of the hand, the length of the fingers, the weakness of the thumb, the shortness of the leg in respect to the thigh, the massiveness of the foot, all those anatomic traits associated with undoubtedly human criteria, evoke the Neanderthal or rather the paleanthropes [“Paléanthropien” has no equivalent in English. In Koffmann's lexicon (omitted for simplicity) it was defined as the stage between Homo erectus and the Neanderthals.] The elevated height of the almasty is found in fossil Palestinian men close to the Neanderthals (Skhul IV and V) and in the Neanderthals of Shanidar in Kurdistan, in Iraq, thus in regions relatively close to the Caucasus.
It would seem then that the fossil species of the Caucasus may belong to the human tribe, perhaps of a parallel, neighbouring lineage. However, in the current stage of research, respect for scientific rigour does not permit one to establish a diagnosis. Is it necessary to insist on the repercussions which the discovery and study of the almasty would have on the human sciences?
    Here is how Professor Piveteau, member of the Academy of Sciences, honorary professor at the College of France, qualifies the almasty, in some Reflexions on this Hominid of the Caucasus, addressed to Dr M.-J. Koffmann in 1987, and which we publish here.

    The concordance of the testimonies collected by Dr Marie-Jeanne Koffmann, and the fact that they stem from different and unequal sorts of cultures, plead in favour of their truthfulness. Indeed, one does not see in them the expression of ideologies or of scientific preconceptions, but the translation of naive observations, simply expressing what has been seen. The existence of the singular being thus described therefore does not appear contestable.
    If one cannot claim to give a precise description of them, it is possible to establish some essential features and one is there is a big quandary as to placing it in the framework of classic systematics. It is assuredly a Primate, and its bipedalism serves to rank it is the lineage of the Hominidae, that is to say, in the lineage whose final end is man.
    This bipedalism does not involve, according to the different testimonies, a gait similar to man's, but rather evokes that of the Australopithecines, hominids which are not human. On the other hand, the great length of the arms may be considered an archaic attribute, that is to say, prehuman. Thus, by their carriage, the hominids of the Caucasus would have scarcely reached the human stage.
    But how will the paleontologist, from whose point of view we place ourselves here, see the hominid become human?
    In such research, the anatomic criterion has its importance. However the psychic criterion appears to us to be preponderant.
    Reflection, language, society, such are the essential characteristics of man.
    Seen from outside, reflective thought is attested by tool-making, the result of intentional work.
    Is the hominid of the Caucasus capable of making tools? Nothing in the observations reported up to now seem to permit us to affirm it. An in-depth study of the habitation sites would thus be necessary.
    Does it possess an articulated language? Indications are only of simple vocalisations, never of true language.
    On the other hand, it does seem nevertheless to have a social organisation, at least certain modes of grouping.
    If the authenticity of the hominid of the Caucasus is definitely established, we find ourselves in the presence of a creature in which there seems to link the animal and the human. On its exact nature, that is to say, its place in human evolution, we can make some hypotheses.
   It evokes the myth of the wild man, which has not ceased to haunted the mind. It again presents itself, in the age of enlightenment, by a hairy body and a mixture of animal and human traits, showing somewhat indistinctly the boundaries of human nature. In our current scientific paradigm,we will be able to consider it as being a check on humanisation, like an degraded being which has lost the most characteristic attributes of the normal man. But one should not forget that nature is more fecund and richer than our imagination.
    These vain hypotheses must give place to a genuine scientific study, and no-one would appear to be better than qualified to undertake it and lead it than Dr M.-J. Koffmann. I strongly wish, and I am assured, that it is the vow of the French scientific community, that Mrs Koffmann could obtain all the means that will permit her to bring light on the strange and exciting problem rising from the enigmatic being of the Caucasus.

Paris, 10 June 1987

Jean Piveteau
Member of the Academy of Sciences
Member of the Royal Academy of Belgium

   I was struck, for example, by your remarks that the almasty's bipedalism “does not involve . . . a gait similar to man's, but rather evokes that of the Australopithecines”.
   Now, in the few testimonies which you have (thirteen out of hundreds!), it is only a question of a calm gait, which already differs slightly from that of a man. I have never been able to put in writing the carriage of the almasty running, except the unanimous affirmation that it is extremely rapid; my informants, even the most cultivated, have always been totally incapable of describing the run to me. Their confused explanations are no more intelligible than their clumsy attempts to imitate this manner of projecting itself forward by powerful leaps. I think of this Russian engineer, surprising in his car, in full daylight, an almasty on a narrow mountain detour trail, where it was trapped between two walls, and keeping it, at 40 kph [25 mph], at the level of the right headlight for more than 400 metres when the creature was at last able to jump through a break into the forest. An experienced observer of nature and animals, with diplomas from two superior schools, he still did not know how to explain the manner of running of this being, which he watched carefully at 2 metres' distance; he saw the muscles of the thigh rippling under the fur – the creature emanated an impression of prodigious strength. Like the other witnesses, this educated man noted that the run was effectively by bounds, but he was not able to give me a picture, neither by imitation (“they were not by movements accessible to a human being”) nor, especially, in writing, as I begged him.
    Tools. Apart from the use of stones, which they throw with great precision, I have no information on tool-making, except the description of a sort of club found, along with alimentary rubbish, next to some bedding, in a cave, and definitely belonging to an almasty: the two hunters, having quickly left the site, and hiding on the opposite slope, soon saw the the owner return home. “The handle of the club was chewed with the teeth so as to make it comfortable to hold in the hand.” It is hardly necessary, however, to seek out a hominid for this exploit – the smallest chimpanzee knows how to do better.
   On the contrary, the almasty knows how to reanimate and preserve a dying wood fire left by shepherds. My data on these facts are absolutely certain, for it is easy to understand my stupefaction and emotion when, quite indifferently, it was recounted for the first time and the scrupulous prudence that I committed to assure myself of their reality.
    The “social” groups were, not long ago, very important numerically, forming sorts of bands. Let us not forget that today we are present, alas, at the end of the species, whose last few representatives are wandering, solitary, among the debris of their former area of habitation. Perhaps the situation is not, in other regions of the globe, as tragic as in the Caucasus, but everywhere the reduction in numbers is evident.
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Eminent anthropologist, author of numerous works on human evolution, Professor Piveteau recently died. His pupils and disciples, who were always impressed by the extent of his knowledge and his remarkable mind for synthesis, all those who knew him, retain of him the picture of a modest, generous scholar, always in quest of a truth very difficult to grasp when it came to the origins of man.

1 comment:

  1. I'm struck by the report of twin babies - a birthing characteristic especially strong in bonobo populations if I'm not mistaken.

    I also couldn't shake off the sense of some sort of connection between the almost supernatural bounding and leaping ability of the almasty with Springheel Jack (for some reason!).

    Malcolm you've done a superb service translating this stuff.

    On behalf of everyone else - thank you!