Monday, 7 May 2012

The Yeti of Pakistan. 1

     In India a bandicoot is a large rat, in Australia it is a marsupial. Americans call an elk a moose, a red deer an elk, and a bison a buffalo. In Spain and Portugal a tigre is a tiger; in Latin America it is a jaguar.
    What has this got to do with the issue of this post? Simple. Across the length of the Himalayas there are a host of mutually incomprehensible languages, and consequently a host of different names for a legendary giant primate unknown to science. Westerners have adopted one of these words, “yeti” and translated another as “abominable snowman”, and use these as catch-all terms for the animal. But how do we know that all these words refer to the same thing, or even that they are used consistently in the same language? We know that Reinhold Messner, for example, has made a good case (My Quest for the Yeti, 1998) that a couple of these words refer to the brown bear.
    Therefore, we must be grateful for the work of the late Jordi Magraner, the Catalan-born French zoologist who so meticulously researched the issue in Chitral, the narrow triangle of Pakistan squeezed between Kashmir and Afghanistan. During two expeditions into the region, he managed to locate, and question in their own languages, more than two dozen people who had actually seen the mysterious creature, and obtained information on 63 separate characteristics. He continued to make expeditions into the region, where he was eventually murdered in 2002.
    The following is a translation of his 1991 report. The original was sent to me by Michel Raynal, to whom I am grateful.
    This is a two part post which, like the post on the creatures of the Caucasus, is published in a format such that they can be read in the correct order. 

RESEARCH ON THE RELIC HOMINIDS OF CENTRAL ASIA
Scientific Expedition
by
Jordi Magraner
National Museum of Natural History
25 rue Cuvier, 75005 Paris, France

Copyright: ed. Association Troglodytes,
69 rue Fouques Duparc
26000 Valence, France

OBJECTIVES
    The study has as its objective to characterize on the ground elements to permit verification of the existence of hominids stricto sensu through the study of the ecological and human context and the use of a protocol to analyse the testimonies.
    In order to arrive at a working basis on which to arrange the study, a questionnaire on the presumed anatomy of these beings was elaborated. The meticulous examination of Homo pongoides* by Dr. Heuvelmans, constituting the most complete description of the physical characteristics associated with these beings, was therefore retained as a reference tool. Confronting witnesses on the ground with it served to refute or confirm it.
    The choice of the study area came down to North Pakistan. The country of origin of Homo pongoides, namely Vietnam, was not at this period propitious for an investigation on the ground; likewise the other regions to which hominids are attributed: the former USSR, China, Iran, or Afghanistan. Among the areas supposedly inhabited by hominids, the District of Chitral appeared the most propitious. This region, which constitutes the wildest part of North Pakistan, never having been the object of similar researches, its population would therefore be considered as virgin of all influences from earlier investigations. Furthermore, also known as Little Kashgar, its geographic proximity to Greater Kashgar, which was defined by Dr. B. F. Porshnev as one of the zones most favourable to being a permanent hominid habitat, constituted a supplementary argument.
    * The frozen man in L'homme de Néanderthal est toujours vivants (Neanderthal man is still alive) by B. Heuvelmans and B. F. Porshnev, Plon, 1974.
   * Dr Boris F. Porshnev, doctor in history and philosophy, previously responsible for research on the hominids in the former USSR.
METHODOLOGY
Two expeditions lasting a total of 19 months were conducted in the District of Chitral, one in 1987-1988, the other in 1990, by a team of two persons.
The methodology utilised was as follows:
  • The first step, characterized by the eco-ethnological data which constitute the context of the appearance of the testimonies:
    in order to confront the data furnished by the witnesses and those offered by the natural environment with a view to verifying or refuting the prima facie credibility of the existence of hominids.
  • The second step, the definition of a protocol for collecting testimonies involving the matrix of several variables:
  • the validity of the witnesses:
    Two types of informants were retained: the direct observer, who claimed to have observed one of these beings himself, and the direct informer, who gained his information from a direct observer.
    No testimony obtained by money, or coming from a source more distant than the direct observer was retained.
  • the direct transmission of testimonies to the enquirers:
    The collection was effected directly in the language of the witness (Khowar or Chitrali) in order to avoid all the deformations inherent in the use of a translator.
  • The systematisation of the testimonies:
The testimonies were directly transcribed in the form of a protocol comprising:
  • Basic information concerning the observation:
    • observer: name, age, ethnicity, occupation
    • observation: local name, environment, altitude, date, hour
    • distance and duration of the observation
    • what was observed: indices of the animal's presence, or individual(s), sex, age, height
  • The witness's spontaneous account repeated several times, without intervention by the enquirer.
  • The responses to a questionnaire comprising 63 points relative to the external appearance of the observed beings, and constructed from the characteristics evoked by Dr. Heuvelmans.
  • An initial identikit picture produced from the responses and indications given by the witness without intervention by the enquirer.
  • The iconographic indicators comprising different species of present day primates (Homo sapiens, great apes, local Macaca mullata), bears, reconstructions of fossil hominids and primates, as well as three representations of wild hairy men (in the broad sense), from the description described by Dr. Heuvelmans.
  • A definitive portrait executed from the iconographic indications chosen by the witness.
This systematisation permits testing the veracity of the information collected via comparisons within and between testimonies.
      • coherence and credibility of the spontaneous descriptions and iconographic representations at the heart of the same testimony
      • coherence and credibility of the testimonies as a whole.
THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT
    It involves the Hindu Kush range. This comprises, in the district of Chitral, 17 summits over 6,000 metres in height over an area of 14,903 km2.
    In the south, at altitude, winter is marked by extremely cold spells (-20°C) and abundant snowfall. In the north, winters are of the continental type: long and dry.
The faunistic and floristic context of the zone under study is listed as being in the Palaearctic Region with some influences of the Oriental Region. Two large assemblages can be distinguished: the south dominated by dry forests of evergreen oak or conifers; the north consisting of steppes typical of Central Asia. The fauna varies according to the ecosystem, this region comprising six ecosystems defined by a set of specific species.
[The author here includes a diagram, extensively labelled in French, which is impractical to include here. It reveals an alteration in vegetation cover from bottom (1050 metres) to top (7,000 metres) from (in order) evergreen oak, cedar, fir, birch, alpine meadow, rocks, glaciers, and eternal snow, with the limits of cultivation at 2,700 metres, in the lower fir zone.]
THE HUMAN CONTEXT
    North Pakistan has not known any great civilizations, and is still marked by a social organisation of the feudal kind.
    The district of Chitral is characterized by its isolation and absence of infrastructure. Its population is composed of several ethnic groups, such as:
  • the Chitralis (the majority): sedentary and living in villages in the valley floors.
  • the Gujars: nomadic shepherds situated at the bottom of the social ladder, but occupying the high country.
    On the whole, the population is Muslim, with the exception of the polytheistic Kalashs. The very low population density (11 per km2), which is also concentrated in the valley floors, leaves the upper zones effectively uninhabited.
    The geomorphological and ecological context permits the existence of an immense wild zone able to sustain unknown species and favouring the maintenance of isolates. Only the shepherds, and in particular the nomads who live in the high country appear in a position to encounter unknown species or possible wild man populations.

    [The horizontal scale of this diagram represents human activity on the left and sightings of the barmanu on the right. The vertical scale represents altitude, with vegetation ranging from villages at the bottom, upwards to cultivated fields (“cultures”), cedar forests (“forêts de cèdres”), fir forests (“forêts de sapins”), birch woodland (“bois de bouleaux”), and finally alpine meadows. It reveals that the forests are the areas where human and barmanu activities overlap and that, contrary to its name, the “abominable snowman” does not live in the snow.]
THE WITNESSES
    We have at our disposal 27 testimonies, of which 21 are from direct observers. A total of 29 people were witnesses to 31 contacts with hairy wild men (24 encounters and 7 observations of tracks) corresponding to 27 individuals.
    The probability of encounters increases with human activity in the high country. Indeed, 69% of the witnesses are shepherds. Although 52% of the witnesses are Gujars, it does not prove that ethnic identity constitutes a determining factor.
    In the course of the last twenty years, the number of testimonies has increased, undoubtedly due to the massive arrival of nomad Gujar shepherds. Thus, more than 90% of the witnesses relate information collected in the last twenty years, of which 61% is in the last 5 years and 3 testimonies in 1990. The role played by the Gujars together is connected to the way of life as nomad shepherds, and their activities in the high country.
    The age of the adult witnesses varies from 24 to 70 years.The name of the wild man varies according to the area:
  • Jangali Mosh among the Chitralis, which means “forest man” or “wild man”. [Jangal = our word, “jungle”, and is the ordinary term in this area for wilderness, whether forest or desert.]
  • Almasti more rarely. [In his other article, he defines this as “one who eats a lot”, but you will remember from a previous post that this is also used in the Caucasus.]
  • Barmanu constitutes the most widespread name in the south. It means “robust”, “muscled”. Etymologically close to the spoken Hindi ban manus (ban manush) meaning “forest man”, it was perhaps introduced by the Gujars.
GEOGRAPHIC AND ECOLOGICAL DISTRIBUTION OF THE TESTIMONIES
    The vast majority of the encounters are situated in the south of the district in the forest belt (26 contacts). They are especially more common in the fir and cedar woods. The altitudinal distribution is located between 1,500 and 4,500 metres with a predominance between 2,000 and 3,000. The encounters are tied to an environment and to a nomadic lifestyle rather than an ethnic identity.

THE DISTRIBUTION ACCORDING TO THE CIRCADIAN CYCLE
    Comparison of the data permits a coherent synthesis reflecting the rhythm of life of the wild populations. The frequency of testimonies is inversely proportional to human activity. This leads one to the hypothesis of an ethno-ecological separation between the known ethnic groups and the wild populations, with ecological niche sharing in the forest levels according to a circadian shift [i.e. between day and night] .

THE DISTRIBUTION ACCORDING TO THE ANNUAL CYCLE

    The encounters become rare in winter, although the human presence is maintained in the high country, but in a much reduced rhythm. The low probability of encounters may thus be due to the actions of the local populations or to the migratory behaviour of the wild populations.

ANATOMIC DESCRIPTIONS
Overall view:
    All the physical characteristics collected and the iconographic indications chosen by the witnesses correspond to the specimen described by Heuvelmans.
    Systematically the testimonies retain the human appearance, the permanent bipedalism and the abundant hair on the bulk of the body, except for the knees and on the face. The latter is of a dark colour (black, red, brown-grey). The body appears thick-set, massive, and endowed with a strong musculature, with broad shoulders. The height does not differ from that of the locally known ethnic groups, and varied from 1m 70 to 1m 85 [5 ft 7 in to 6ft 1 in].  The skin is quite visible through the pelage, which is developed rather in length than density. The hair of the head is of variable length: short, down to the shoulders, or down to the lower part of the back. The hands and feet present a pelage developed on the upper surface of the body, and comprises the digits. The latter are endowed with narrow, arched nails, especially curved on the feet. The toes are splayed. The length of the foot is within the human variability, but is distinguished by a greater breadth. The feet tend to be oriented towards the median plane (inwards).
    The trunk is lengthened, broad, and endowed with a keeled thorax. In the known cases, the breasts of the females descent to the lower belly, and are hairless. The back is, in general, hunched and muscular.

The limbs:
    The proportions of the limbs are more difficult to estimate, the data varying as a function of the observer as to the height of the hands. These are described as long and broad. The long, fine thumb, like the other fingers, is situated above the height of the metacarpals. The upper limbs seem long and endowed with forearms which are short in respect to the arms. The lower limbs, crooked or bent, present with shins shorter than the thighs.

The head:
    The head is voluminous, elongated, sunken into the shoulders, and endowed with prominent cheekbones. The face is hairless. The nape of the neck is powerful. The nose is turned up, with the nostrils broad and opening forward. There is no labio-nasal fissure. The lower edge of the mandible, especially in males, is delimited by a hairiness with encroaches on the neck and shoulders. The supra-orbital arches are especially projecting, and the eyes are very wide set. The eye-brows are poorly developed and the forehead absent. The mouth, devoid of lips, is wide. The witnesses indicate a well developed chewing mechanism, with teeth of of large size, but nevertheless human (without fangs). The chin is not apparent.

Secondary characteristics:
    Sexual dimorphism is not marked. The genital organs are poorly known.
    Finally, the witnesses relate the presence of a disagreeable stench like that of carrion. The voice is powerful, expressed in cries and guttural sounds. No indication of articulated language is reported.
[Magraner provided further information on the voice in his English article.]

                                                                                                 CONCLUSIONS

Left: relic hominid of Chitral
Right: Heuvelmans' specimen

    The geomorphological, ecological, and human context does not contradict the possibility of the existence of unknown human populations.
    The testimonies differ from accounts of a mythical type, which function to provide a cosmological explanation of the universe. The myths are characterized by ample descriptions of the head, detailing the distinctive traits of the mythic personage, and this, in an identical manner in all the discourses emanating from the same ethnic and cultural community.
    However, the testimonies collected here draw just a general silhouette typified by its hairiness, its human appearance, its permanent bipedalism, its dark skin, its hunched posture, as well as the disproportion of the different parts of the body compared to the proportions of modern day man.
    On the whole, this portrait does not allow an incoherence which contradicts the known data of anthropology of current and fossil species.
Click here for Part 2, to read about specific eye-witness accounts.

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The Possum Book

I am pleased to provide a link to a website of a friend of mine, Robyn Tracey, who has written a fascinating story about her dealings with brush-tailed possums in the outer suburbs of Sydney. You can download the book for free, or read it on the site. Go to: The Possum Book.

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