At the end is appended some correspondence between Dr Koffmann and an eminent specialist on human origins.
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
Member of the Academy of Sciences
Member of the Royal Academy of Belgium
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.