Guide to Patagonia's Monsters & Mysterious beings

I have written a book on this intriguing subject which has just been published.
In this blog I will post excerpts and other interesting texts on this fascinating subject.

Austin Whittall

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Moreno and the American Neanderthaloids

In 1880, Argentine scientist and explorer Francisco Pascasio Moreno disclosed in a series of conferences [3] he gave in Europe, his discovery of two new skulls, one was quite recent but the other was very peculiar and belonged to:

"a race represented by a neanderthaloid type, similar to the Botocudos [...] with a very pronounced flattening of the skull [3]

These Botocudos (from the Portuguese word Botoque - plug, due to the wooden disks they place in their ear lobes and lips), were deemed at that time to be primitive, and they also had dolichocephalic skulls (also a supposedly "ancient" feature).

Moreno's skull had been found close to the Negro River, in Northern Patagonia, at a depth of four meters [13 ft.] in association with the remains of large extinct mammals. After Moreno's lecture at the Société d'Anthropologie, Topinard, who had attended the session, openly suggested that "...that skull was the South American equivalent of the Neanderthal".[1]

An American origin for Neanderthals?

Paul Topinard (1830-1911), Broca's chief disciple, pointed out that ths skulls of both Neanderthals and primitive Paleo-Indians were dolichocephalic, with receeding foreheads and prominent brow ridges. Broca and Topinard supported the notion that the dolichocephalic skulls were ancient while brachicephalic skulls were a trait common to "modern" humans. Moreno's findings tended to support this idea.

Topinard suggested that "It makes us ask wether Neanderthal is not accidental in Europe during the Quaternary Period, and his real homeland is Southern South America" [2] Therefore upholding an American origin for Neanderthals. I believe that he was the first to suggest this idea.

He also believed that the Tehuelche were the remnants of this autocthonous human group, originated in America. German doctor, Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902), had the same ideas, however Italo-Argentine scientist Florentino Ameghino (1854-1911) believed that Moreno's skulls belonged to an extinct dolichocephalic group of humans, unrelated to modern Tehuelche natives which had been displaced and replaced by brachicephalic modern men.

The similarities between Moreno's skull and the remains found in Brazil, at Lagoa Santa, Brazil, by Lund between 1835 and 1844 led some scientists in the 1880s to believe that these belonged to a native American race, and an "OOA" (Out Of America) theory for the peopling of the world, very emphatically supported by Ameghino, but (even until today) opposed by the North American school led by Czech scientist Ales Hrdlicka (1869-1943) who attacked anyone who dared to suggest an autocthonous origin of humans.


[1] Leonardo Salgado, Pedro Navarro and Pablo Azar. Antiguos Craneos humanos de Patagonia: Observaciones sobre el significado evolutivo del "indice cefálico" en la literatura científica Argentina (1870-1915). ILUIL, vol 27, 2004 - 769-790.
[2] July, 1 1880, Session. Bulletin de la Société d’Anthropologie, Paris, pp. 490.
[3] Moreno, Francisco, (1880). Sur deux crânes préhistoriques rapportés du Rio Negro Bulletin de la Société d’Anthropologie, Paris, June 15, 1880, p.p 490-497.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
2011 International Year of Forests
2011 International Year of Forests Copyright 2009-2011 by Austin Whittall © 


  1. Congratulations on this great post. I think you have unearthed a veritable treasure with your find of Topinard's suggestion.

    Thank you very much for all the time and work you put into your excellent blog.

  2. Pablo,
    Thanks for writing. I have been pursuing that "North Atlantic" crossing by Neanderthals idea you wrote to me about and are still working out the details. I will try to document my post on it!


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