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Darwin-L Message Log 2:153 (October 1993)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.


<2:153>From SMD@utkvx.utk.edu  Fri Oct 29 13:35:23 1993

Date: Fri, 29 Oct 1993 14:03:32 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Steven M. Donnelly" <SMD@utkvx.utk.edu>
Subject: Neandertals, wild-men, troglodytes and satyrs
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

Yesterday John Langdon wrote:

> I would be very interested in any evidence that does link the popular wildman
> myth with the modern science of human evolution. I am aware of the intense
> scientific interest in human freaks and wolf children in the 17th through
> 19th centuries, but I don't know of any carry over from these discussions
> into the interpretation of early fossils and archaeological remains.

This reminded me of an article I once came across in Current Anthropology
(call number GN1.C83 for the non-anthropologists).  The reference is: Bayanov
and Bourtsev (1976), "On Neanderthal vs. Paranthropus" Curr. Anthropol.
17(2):314-318.

This article is a response to a letter written in response to an article
written by another Soviet scientist (B.F. Porshnev) who died while his article
was in press, making it difficult for him to respond in person--so Bayanov and
Bourtsev took it upon themselves to respond for the original author.

Porshnev's short article is an attempt to revise the classification of the
hominids.  He argues that modern Homo sapiens is the only true hominid and that
all earlier "bipedal higher primate fossils" should be reassigned to the family
"Troglodytidae" which consists of four genera.  One of these is the genus
"Troglodytes"--these are the Neandertals.

But then he goes on to imply that the troglodytes have not gone extinct or
were assimilated into more modern populations, but rather they  have managed
to survive and persist in peripheral, marginal areas.  These relic Neandertals
are the so-called "wild-men".

In reply to this a letter was written to CA in which it was proposed that
wild-men are really relic "Paranthropines" (i.e. robust australopithecines,
A. robustus and A. boisei).

The article, or letter, by Bayanov and Bourtsev is an attempt to show that the
wild-men must be Neandertals rather than Paranthropines.  In it they cite a
number of sources which describe these wild-men.  One of these is an
excerpt from Lucretius (last century B.C.), who says among other things that
the wild-men live in woods or caves in the mountains.  B. and B. give other
descriptions of these wild-men, for example, from Plutarch (who called his wild
man a satyr), Pliny the elder (who also called them satyrs), Albertus Magnus,
and so on, and up to the 20th C with a description of a wild-man shot by
Russian soldiers "in the western Pamirs" (wherever that may be).

Some of the decscriptions do make the wild-men sound Neandertal-like.  For
example, the wild-men are described as being very muscular and having a low,
sloping forehead, large browridges, a large jaw and a flattened nose with a
deeply recessed nasal bridge.

The American wild-men are, according to B. and B., more primitive than the
Eurasian wild-men, and could be relic populations of a more primitive early
hominid.  Grover Krantz believes that Sasquatch could be the descendant of
Gigantopithecus (which is not a hominid, it's a pongid).  Krantz has a recent
book on this subject, which to be honest, I haven't read. I know about it
only from book reviews.

   Steven Donnelly
   Department of Anthropology
   University of Tennessee-Knoxville
   BITNET:  smd@utkvx
   INTERNET:  smd@utkvx.utk.edu

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