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

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Poor Patagonian Cryptids and Glaciers: 2010 hottest year ever

Global Warming trend, 2010 hottest year on record. Source: World Meterological Organization

2010, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) was 0.53°C (0.95°F) above the mean temperatures for the period 1961-90. [1]

Furhtermore the Arctic ice is vanishing, despite December being the coldest on record in many European countries for over one century, Arctic sea-ice cover in December 2010 was also the lowest on record. Its surface was only 12 million km2 which is 1,35 million km2 below the average coverage during the period 1979-2000.

2010 was aobut 0.01°C (0.02° F) warmer than 2005 and 0.02°C (0.05°F) above 1998. Though for the layman, we could say that 2010 was hotter than the other two years (the second and third warmest on recod), considering the error margin for the data (± 0.09°C or ± 0.16°F), all three are tied from a statistical point of view. Nevertheless, since 1998 we have experienced the three hottest years since temperatures have been recorded scientifically.

Interestingly the global temperature increase is not uniform. The WMO stated that:

2010 was an exceptionally warm year over much of Africa and southern and western Asia, and in Greenland and Arctic Canada, with many parts of these regions having their hottest years on record.
Over land few parts of the world were significantly cooler than average in 2010, the most notable being parts of northern Europe and central and eastern Australia.

This hotter world with indeed have a negative impact on animals and plants, and, of course Patagonian cryptids. If the area becomes drier or warmer and tree coverage recedes the impact could be severe for Patagonian creatures. Glaciers are melting at a quick pace. The environment is shifting as you read this (see this article at the NY Times website on how animals are threatened by climate change).

What are you doing to help curb climate change?

[1] World Meteorological Organisation, (2011). Press Release No. 906. 2010 Equals record for world’s warmest year , 20.01.2011.
[2] Rosenthal Elisabeth, (2011). For Many Species, No Escape as Temperature Rises. New York Times. 21.01.2011

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Ostrander skull supposedly an erectus skull

Ostrander Skull
Ostrander skull to the left, allegedly from the Hueyatlaco Site. On the left a modern skull. Adapted from [1](Fig. 5) by Austin Whittall

Seeking more information on the possible migration of Homo erectus into America long before modern humans evolved in Africa, I have been checking different leads. Some seem reasonable, but others, like the subject of today's post, don't. Let's look into the "Ostrander skull"

"Ostrander skull" the background

The paper from which I took the image shown above, [1], states the following (I have highlighted some words that are interesting:

The second skull [from the Valsequillo area, the other was the Dorenberg skull, the Ostrander skull apparently was collected by someone at Hueyatlaco in the late 60’s or early 70’s (personal communication, anonymous). I have only one photo of it, sent to me by the late Professor Ostrander in the mid-70’s (Fig.5). Note the thick brow ridges, the low brain case. Merced College in California, where it has been stored all these years does not answer my letters of inquiry concerning it. Rumor has it (personal communication, anonymous) that they have given the skull to a Native American tribe for reburial without attempting to date it.[1]

So here is a skull whose history and fate are based on rumors and anonymous communications. It is an alleged finding of uncertain date, and it probably was reburied at an unknown location to effectively remove the formal proof.

My analysis

Regarding the photograph, the article states that: "I have only one photo of it, sent to me by the late Professor Ostrander in the mid-70’s" [1].

The photographs shows two skulls, one facing the camera, the other rotated to the right, and on an angle tilting it away from the table on which it is set.

I just took the image and drew some lines to measure it (we only have this photograph as proof of the skull's existence). One line across the uppermost part of the skull (roughly the coronal suture where frontal and parietal bones meet), the other aligned with the top of the eye sockets.

For the "Ostrander" skull, shown on an angle, I "straightened" the skull by applying a simple Pythagorean maths, by measuring the sides that make up the right angle of the triangle (yellow lines) and applying Pythagoras' theorem, I came up with the height of the skull (blue line right skull) and compared it with the same dimension on the modern skull (blue line left skull). I admit that due to the skull's rotation (up and to the right), the triangle is an approximate measurement, but, as the results show, pretty accurate.

As the yellow sides measured 96 pixels and 190 pixels the blue one is "X" so:

962 + 1902 = X2

Which works out as: X = 212 pixels.

The modern skull measures: 221 pixels. Just 4.2% more, which seems to be a very small difference and does not prove that the "archaic" skull is erectus.

Furthermore, Charles Ostrander of Mercedes College, appears in a Chemical Directory as [2] its librarian. He also wrote a paper in a chemical jounal. Is it the same Charles Ostrander? I ask this because he does appear as a member of the American Association Of Physical Anthropologists [3]: Ostrander, Mr. Charles R., Merced College,. Merced, California 95340..


[1] Virginia Steen-McIntyre, (2002). Approximate dating of tephra using the microscope: "seat-of-the-pants" methods to roughly date quaternary archaeological and paleontological sites by associated pumice and volcanic ash layers". Proceedings Volume International Symposium: Early Man in America and the Implications For the Peopling of the Basin of Mexico August 7-9, 2002 Mexico City.
The image shown above and adapted by me to be able to measure it, is Fig. 5 of the above mentioned paper.
[2]Donald M. Bain (Editor), (1969). International chemistry directory, 1969-70. W.A. Benjamin, pp. 350.
[3] Members. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. Volume 40, Issue 2, pages 299–319, March 1974
[4] Online

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Recent proof of Homo erectus navigation in Crete

An interesting article titled Cretan tools point to 130,000-year-old sea travel, dated January 3, 2011 states that a group of archaeologists found evidence of the first sea voyage by humans, and note this: not modern Homo sapiens like us, but ancient, archaic hominids.

This finding adds proof to the notion that Homo erectus was a sailor and could have used boats to reach America and Australia.

They actually found stone tools (coarse axes and similar stuff) and they dated them to a period ranging from 130 to 700,000 years ago.

The key element is that they were found in the island of Crete, which has been isolated in the Mediterranean for at least five million years. Therefore the stone tools and their makers had to get across at least 65 km (40 miles) of open sea to reach the island.

The tools were found in caves close to the village of Plakias.

The report says that "Such rough stone implements are associated with Heidelberg Man and Homo Erectus".

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New World Dogs and Homo erectus

homo erectus and dog
Homo erectus and the first dog. Copyright © 2011 by Austin Whittall [*]

There is evidence at Zhoukoudian, China, that our ancestor Homo erectus shared its “time and space, food and shelter with wolves”[1] half a million years ago.

A similar association was found in Boxgrove, Kent, UK, (400,000 years ago) and in Lazeret, France (150,000 years ago).

All of these three sites predate modern men, and indicate that "archaic" forms of humans were capable of domesticating wolves. Note that wolves are not dogs, they are (Canis lupus variabilis), but this gives us an idea that “old” erectus and wolves lived side by side.

On the other hand, perhaps the bones found together are just a casual accumulation of remains and not proof that they lived together.

However, an article by Stanley Olsen [2] reports that “the genus Canis […] is reported from the Villafranchian (it spans a period from 3.6 to 1.2 Million years ago) or lower Pleistocene levels in North China at the archeological site of Chouchia-yu-fang.”, these may be a “small wolf or an early domestic dog (that is, a tame wolf)”.[2] This is long before modern men appeared on Earth.

Erectus and dogs

Regarding domestication of dogs, something which has been attributed to modern humans (H. sapiens), it is possible that wolves domesticated themselves, attracted by the food and shelter that small roving groups of hominids could have offered them.

Humans would also have benefited from this association as the tame wolves would have provided defense, an alarm system against predators or intruders and, food (in the form of pups).

Susan Crockford, a University of Victoria noted that dogs may have “undergone "self-domestication" from wolves more than once over history, which could explain why the animals appear and then seemingly disappear from the archaeological record”. [3]

So, it is probable that erectus domesticated wolves into dogs in Asia. But, what if they brought them with them into America, or, domesticated local American breeds into their own variety of dogs?

In previous posts I have mentioned the mysterious Falkland Islands warrah, a mammal that lived on those isolated islands, hundreds of kilometers from the continent, and nobody know how they got there.

At one time it was believed that they reached the islands on some native canoe, but, as we will see below that option is not possible. Alternatively they could have walked across the continental shelf when the sea levels were lower during the Ice Ages.

A recent study of their mtDNA [4], has given us a timeline for this strange wolf: the time of the most recent common ancestor (tMRCA) for the Falkland Islands wolf is 330,000 years, while its 95% HPD (Highest Posterior Density) is between 70,000 and 640,000 years respectively. [4]

The study notes that though “the maned wolf is the closest extant relative of the Falklands wolf, a morphologically similar species, Dusicyon avus, survived in South America until the mid-Holocene [7]. This species may have an even closer relationship with the Falklands wolf” [4]

However, as the researchers assume that modern humans appeared in America not earlier than 15 to 20,000 years ago, they conclude that “ a human-mediated origin of the Falklands wolf is unlikely” [4] and give it a natural origin.

So, considering their peculiar features, I wonder if it could have been "mediated" by H. erectus before the arrival of modern man in America?

The timeline fits a plausible time range for erectus to have selectively bred the warrah from maned wolf stock. The divergence age corroborates this. Perhaps they worked with the now extinct Dusicyon Avus or even the mysterious cryptid, the Andean Wolf.


[1] Mark Derr, (2004). Dog's best friend: annals of the dog-human relationship. Univ. of Chicago Press. pp. 19.
[2] Olsen, Stanley. J. & Olsen, John.W., (1977). The Chinese wolf ancestor of new world dogs. Science, 197: 533-535. Aug. 5, 1977.
[3] Jennifer Viegas, (2008).World's first dog lived 31,700 years ago, ate big . Online.
[4] Slater G.J., Thalmann O., Leonard J.A., Schweizer R.M., Koepfli K.-P., Pollinger J.P., Rawlence N.J., (...), Wayne R.K., (2009). Evolutionary history of the Falklands wolf Current Biology, 19 (20).
[*] Cartoon by Austin Whittall, derived from two Online Cartoons (See them here and here).

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Man meets Homo erectus in America: lice give a clue

human louse
Human Louse, the possible proof of Homo erectus in America.
Copyright © 2011 by Austin Whittall

Despite the lack of conclusive evidence in the shape of tools or bones, there is a surprising proof that modern man and H. erectus did come into close contact relatively recently and, as I interpret the data, it corroborates that they met in America. The proof comes from lice.

There are three types of head louse (Pediculus humanus) living on humans today. One of them, which also includes body lice, has a global distribution (Type A), while the other is only found in North America and Europe (Type B).

Genetic analysis shows that these two varieties diverged from each other about 1.2 Million years ago. Type B has been thought to have evolved separately in America and brought back to Europe by the Spanish conquistadors in the sixteenth century after they discovered America[1][2]. The third Type, C, is very rare being found only in Nepal and Ethiopia – I wonder why there?

American Type B louse is believed to be the original erectus’ lice strain, and when a group of erectus left Africa for Asia 1.2 Million years ago, this louse hitchhiked on them and evolved isolated into a new variety quite different from the other lice that remained in Africa.

About 1.1 million years later, our human ancestors (Homo sapiens) who had evolved from the erectus stock that had remained in Africa, also migrated out of Africa, moving out with their own Type A variety of louse that had co-evolved with them from the primitive African H. erectus lice strain.

Thus two different ‘human’ varieties of lice had evolved, one (Type B) living on H. erectus the other (Type A) on us.

According to a paper published in 2004 by a group of scientist led by David Reed,[3] when modern humans and ancient H. erectus met in Asia the primeval louse lineage (Type B) jumped from erectus to sapiens, infesting modern man.

After this encounter, modern men took the ancient Type B louse with them into America, where it remained isolated again from the rest of mankind until the arrival of European explorers who took it back with them to Europe.

In the meantime Homo erectus had died out in Asia and its Type B lice with them, removing them and their lice from further contact with humans in Eurasia and Africa.[4] Modern humans therefore retained in the Old World their African Type A strain of lice.

Right theory but wrong place: sapiens met erectus in America not Asia

In my opinion, the theory has some fatal flaws:

Why did the lice only infest the humans that were moving on towards America and not the other sapiens that remained in Asia? Did these men die out after becoming infested? If so, how? What about all the other erectus dispersed across Eurasia, didn’t they also, have this ancient variety of B lice clinging to them? Why didn’t they infest the other humans they met?

There is a more plausible explanation that solves these issues: Homo erectus had moved out of Asia into America and by the time humans reached Asia erectus had died out in the Old World together with their Type B lice.

Erectus took its Type B lice with it into America, effectively isolating it from all modern men. When humans migrated to America with their Type A lice, they too became infested with erectus’ Type B lice.


[1] Raoult, D., et al., (2008). Molecular Identification of Lice from Pre-Columbian Mummies. The Journal of Infectious Diseases 2008;197:000–000. 0022-1899/2008/19704-00XX$15.00
[2] Fox, M., (2008). Head lice came with us out of Africa. Yahoo news. 02.06.08. Online.
[3] Reed, D., et al., (2004). Genetic Analysis of Lice Supports Direct Contact between Modern and Archaic Humans. PLoS Biol 2(11): e340 doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0020340.
[4] Science Daily, (2004). Of Lice And Men: Parasite Genes Reveal Modern & Archaic Humans Made Contact. 05.10.2004. Online

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Patagonian Yeti. Fact and Fiction

FFabio Picasso, who seriously delves in the fantastic and cryptozoology,[1] has published on the web an interesting article on a “snow man” at Rengo, Chile in 1956 and 1957. I believe it is interesting, considering all my previous posts regarding Homo erectus and its possible entry into America before the arrival of modern humans.

The creature was described as a potbellied being about 2 m tall (6.6 ft.), clad in furs. It was referred to as an “ape man”, with long arms and long hair (it reached its waist).

The exact location is the following: VI Region, Cachapoal province, on the slopes of the extinct Palomo Volcano, close to the border between Argentina and Chile, and just north of Tinguirrica Volcano (home to some dwarves, the Tinguirricas – see map showing location).

Palomo (34° 36’S, 70° 17’W), is 4,850 m (15,901 ft.) tall, and is very close to the village of Popeta.

Carlos Soto, an eyewitness said he saw “an enormous man covered with hairs” [1].

Though not in Patagonia, it is quite close to it, just to the north of its northernmost reaches. Its habitat is similar to that of the other Patagonian mountains, which are all part of the Andean mountain range.

Could the hairy being (dressed with furs like a cave man) be an extant Homo erectus?

A hairy apeman has been reported in Patagonia, close to Taitao Peninsula: it is a variety of Yeti or snowman seen on Guaitecas Islands.

Maybe a hoax

Then again the whole thing may have been a hoax, a joke. At that time the “yeti” abominable snow-man was in the media. Yeti tracks were photographed and published in Life magazine and other newspapers in 1951. [3]

This “caused a sensation and the world was launched into a yeti craze” [4], which surely would have reached even the remote village of Popeta in Chile.

In 1953, Edmund Hillary and the Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first men to climb Mount Everest on the border between Nepal and China. And, they said that they had seen large prints in the snow (yeti footsteps). [2] Hillary returned to lead another expedition searching for yeti evidence. [3]

Some websites that deal with cryptozoology also mention some "snowman" sightings further north along the Andes, in the Argentine provinces of Salta and Jujuy, and, the witness who saw the creature in the mid 1950s was a fellow named: Audio Level Pitch.

This is evidently a joke (someone got the name from a radio manual on how to handle the gadget's volume!), furthermore Audio is not a name (nobody is called Audio in Argentina), it is as fake as being called: Ipod Gigabyte Broadband.

However the "Ucumar" myth is true and can be found in the northern reaches of Argentina but it may be related to a local variety of bear, which is very rare (the only South American Bear), the Spectacled bear.


[1] Fabio Picasso, (2008). El abominable Hombre de las Nieves de Rengo (Chile). EL FUEGO DEL DRAGON. Boletin Mensual de Ovnilogia. No. 113 Jan. 2008.
[2] Sue Hamilton, (2007). Monsters. World of Horror. ABDO- pp. 13
[3]Epitaph to the elusive abominable snowman. Life Magazine. Jan. 13, 1961. Vol. 50 No. 2, pp. +72.
[4] David H. Childress, (2001). The Yeti, from Far Out Adventures: The Best of World Explorer Magazine. Adventures Unlimited. pp. +465.

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Homo erectus the sailor seaman

Sunda, Sahul and homo erectus sailing abilities from Java to Flores
Map showing Sahul, Sunda, Wallacea and Flores. Copyright © 2011 by Austin Whittall

Homo erectus the sailor: in previous posts I mentioned that H. erectus could have used watercraft to reach America, but I did not reference the statement. Today we will see what evidence supports the idea of a navigating erectus.

Flores island or crossing Wallace’s line

H. erectus after leaving Africa trekked along South Asia’s coast and reached what is now Indonesia. There he came to a dead end at Bali. The sea blocked any further advances towards the south.

However, a Dutch missionary named Theodor Verhoeven [1], an amateur archeologist who lived on Flores Island, discovered on that island, some man-made stone tools together with the remains of an extinct elephant (the Stegodon) which dated back to over 750,000 years ago. He concluded that the tools were as old as the bones and that the only humans of that period (H. erectus) had made the tools and, much more important, reached Flores Island.

Flores was not linked to the rest of South East Asia at that time, it was isolated by a strait of treacherous deep sea from the other land masses.

This was a formidable barrier, and actually divides the fauna of Asia (monkeys, rhinos, elephants) from that of Australia and New Guinea, confining marsupials to the latter. It is known as Wallace’s line (after biologist Russel Wallace who, independently from Charles Darwin, and at the same time, formulated a theory of evolution based on natural selection).

Animals could only island hop up to Wallace’s line. One one side was "Sundaland", which comprised the mainland and the large Indonesian Islands, which when the sea level was lower, formed a large land mass (Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Java, Bali and Borneo).

On the other side, was "Sahul" which comprised Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea. In between was “Wallacea”, formed by the islands of Flores, Timor, Celebes (Sulawesi), Lombok and other lesser ones.

Homo erectus the sailor

So, to get to Flores Island, our distant ancestor had to master the art and craft of watercraft building, as well as that of navigating. Quite a feat, which until recently science did not consider possible (the oldest human navigators were believed to be the Homo sapiens who entered Australia some 50 to 60,000 years ago.

For this reason Verhoeven’s claim was ignored (and also because he was an amateur who published in German in an Anglo speaking scientific world).

In 1994 another Dutch group, headed by Paul Sondaar, [2] dated the soil using a paleomagnetic method at a site called Mata Menge to an age of 750,000 years.
Later dating by fission-track method confirm the date, and place it 800,000 years ago. This means that these primitive humans were not so primitive and had quite developed cognitive abilities, such as a language to ensure cooperation between sailors and ship-builders.[3]

However there are skeptics: as only tools, not erectus bones have been found some some believe that these may be natural and not man-made artifacts.

There is more evidence to support the idea of erectus in Flores: the islands’ odd mix of giant komodo dragons and tortoises plus pygmy stegodon elephants all became extinct quite suddenly some 900,000 years ago. Did humans cause these extinctions?

The distance from Sumbawa Island to Flores is some 19 km (12 mi), and before that the straits between Sumbawa and Bali (25 km or 16 mi ) had to be crossed also. This could not be done by swimming. Furthermore, a stable population would have been required to produce the tools found at Flores and span such a long period of time.

The American link

Of course, the tall volcanoes of Indonesia’s islands would have let men see where they were going even if they did not see the coast of the islands. They knew where they were going.

If erectus had gone on towards Australia as some believe, he would have ventured into the unknown, and had to cross a longer stretch of open sea. To reach America along the northern coastal waters of Asia along Beringia and then down the Western coast of America would have been quite a feat, and would have needed sturdy, well built craft.

Perhaps H. erectus reached Melanesia, and when modern humans reached this region, mixed with them, sharing part of their genome with us: The DNA from H. erectus remains from Denisova, Siberia, shows current Melanesians share about 5 percent of their DNA with these Denisovans, a sign of ancient interbreeding.

At Flores, nearly one million years ago, they perhaps floated across on bundles of bamboo. They may have even undertaken the first voyage accidentally, pushed by the wind while fishing close to the shore. Perhaps they later learned to assemble their rafts to deliberately cross the sea in a safer way.

Until modern humans appeared in Africa some 170,000 years ago, and then moved out of Africa and displaced / replaced erectus there was a long span of time during which the more archaic humans could have moved on, from Asia and into America. Where they settled until modern humans moved in too less than 50,000 years ago.

Update. Jan. 21, 2011: Crude stone tools found in Crete, Greece dated to some 130 - 700,000 years ago indicate that H. erectus crossed at least 65 km (40 mi) of open sea to reach Crete from the mainland. (see my post on this find Homo erectus navigator reaches Crete).


[1] Verhoeven, Theodor, (1968). Vorgeschichtliche Forschungen auf Flores, Timor und Sumba. Athropica: Gedenkschrift zum 100. Geburtstag von P. W. Schmidt, Studia Instituti Anthropos No. 21, St. Augustin, pp. 393-403.
[2] Sondaar, P. Y., van den Bergh, G. D., Mub-roto, B., Aziz, F., de Vos, J., and Batu, U. L., (1994). Middle Pleistocene faunal turnover and colonization of Flo-res (Indonesia) by Homo erectus. Comptes Rendus de l'Academie des Sciences Paris 319: 1255-1262.
[3] Morwood, M,J., O'Sullivan, P.B., Aziz, F., & Raza, A. (1998). Fission-track ages of stone tools and fossils on the east Indonesian island of Flores. Nature, 392(6672):173-176.

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2011 International Year of Forests Copyright 2009-2011 by Austin Whittall © 

Pre-hispanic horses at Lake Nahuel Huapi

Pre-hispanic horses at Nahuel Huapi

pre-hispanic horse in rock art
Both images show a man riding a horse before the introduction of horses to America by Spaniards in the 1500s. Rock Art at Lake Nahuel Huapi, Patagonia

I have written several posts on the possibility that the supposedly extinct horses that were native to America, managed somehow to survive into modern time, and maybe even mate and cross with European horses introduced by the Spaniards after they discovered America in 1492.

Pre hispanic horses at Lake Nahuel Huapi

Well, there are several pre-Hispanic horses in rock art depictions; at Nahuel Huapi Lake there are several (see the images above), and they represent a horse riding warriors; they were discovered by Asbjorn Pedersen in 1960. He wrote that he was amazed by these horsemen but was even more surprised when he “later noticed that these paintings could be the first tangible manifestation of an extinct fauna, since they do not represent the common horse (Equus caballus), but the American horse (Equus rectidens)”.[1]

My posts on extant pre-hispanic horses

In one post on these horses, I mentioned that pre-Hispanic horses resembled donkeys.

In another I mentioned the possible survival of supposedly extinct megafaunal horses.

And in another I explored the possibility that Native American horses survived extinction.


[1] Pedersen, A., (1979). Las pinturas rupestres del parque nacional Nahuel Huapi. Anales de Parques Nacionales XIV (1978): 7-43.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Alakaluf Rock Art and Mylodon depiction

Madre de Dios islands
Location of Madre de Dios Island, and the Mylodon Cave close to Puerto Natales, Chile. Adapted by Austin Whittall from [2]

Looking for rock art depicting Homo erectus or similar archaic hominids, I found an interesting anthropomorphic drawing done by some Alakaluf natives which may depict a mylodon.

Mylodons in Patagonia

I have already posted on the Mylodon Cave where in the 1890s some apparently fresh remains of mylodon fur and dung were found. This led scientists to believe that the animal which should have become extinct at the end of the last Ice Age, was still alive somewhere out there in the Patagonian wilderness. It was only much later that the bones were dated and their old age proven (they dated to the Ice Age megafaunal extinction period).

However, at Madre de Dios Island, in the South Pacific Ocean, some ancient rock art, drawn by the Alakaluf canoe people, a strange figure was discovered: [1][2]

Mylodon and Alakaluf Rock Art
(A) Rock Art by Alakaluf natives at Madre de Dios Island, Chile. (B) Reproduction of a Mylodon, at Mylodon Cave, Puerto Natales, Chile. © 2010 by Austin Whittall

At first I thought it represented a person (actually the article describes it as "an anthropomorphic figure"[2], but it has a third "leg" right between its other two legs; which may either represent a well endowed male or, more likely, a tail (furthermore, the tail is longer than the two legs).

I am quite certain of this because most other drawings of naked men represent them with "normal" sized penis, as can be seen in the composite below which has several human figures (men) drawn at different locations in Patagonia:

Patagonian rock art human figures
Male Human Figures from different rock art sites in Patagonia.
Adapted from [3] by Austin Whittall

The Alakaluf rock art on the other hand is not human-like, actually the opposite: it has an "animal appearance", long and slender, long tailed, long dangling arms. It even looks hairy due to the dashed or dotted technique used in the drawing.

Anyway, I thought that it would be interesting since the Alakaluf natives lived in this region moving along the Patagonian fjords and sounds in their canoes. They could have easily come across an extant Mylodon in relatively recent times (the rock art is not yet dated) and drawn it.


[1] Ultima Patagonia 2006 Rapport scientifique Expedition franco-chilienne et internationale a Madre de Dios (Magallanes, Chili). Expédition nationale 2006
de la Féderation Française de Speleologie. Association Centre Terre - pp. 89+. Image is Fig. 20.
[2]Mairie Richard, Bernard Tourte, Stephane Jaillet, Joel Despain, Benjamin Lans, Franck Brehier, Luc-Henri Fage, Laurent Morel, et al., (2009). Geomorphic and archaeological feautes of coastal caves in Madre de Dios Archipielago (Patagonia, Chile)Proceedings of 15th International Congress of Speleology, Kerrville, Texas, USA, 19-26 july 2009. Symposium on Karst Islands.
[3] P. Bosch-Gimpera (1964). El Arte Rupestre de America. Anales de Antropología. Vol 1, No 1. pp. 30+. Fig. 9.

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Patagonian Cave Man, a Homo erectus?

Patagonia Cave Man
Patagonian Cave Man. Adapted From [1] by Austin Whittall

Continuing with my posts on Homo erectus I have been looking at Patagonian rock art to see if it has any odd looking hominid depictions. Well, it does, there are many human-like (or antropomorphic) representations in Patagonian caves and rock outcrops. One of them is shown above, which is painted at the Gingin cave, Mount Chapelco, close to San Martín de los Andes, in Neuquén province, Argentina.

It was traced by Milcíades Vignati in the 1930s. I enlarged the part showing a thick contoured hominid which seems to represent a stocky apish and not too tall hominid chasing other more gracile and taller ones. Could it be the representation of a H. erectus chasing some modern humans?.

I have not found the dating of these drawings, which could be as old as the Cueva de las Manos paintings (9,000 BC) or as recent as the late 1800s.

Of course, it could represent someone dressed up as a "spirit" and have no connection with H. erectus.


[1] Vignati, Milcíades Alejo, (1935). Una pictografía de los alrededores de San Martín de Los Andes. Revista Geográfica Americana, IV, pp. 407- 410. Buenos Aires, 1935.

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2011 International Year of Forests
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Kawtcho horned monster

Kawtcho Alakaluf myth
Antropomorphic with horns. Maybe a representation of Kawtcho, Alakaluf divinity?
From [1].

Kawtcho, a mythical devil of the Alakaluf (also known as Kawesqar) canoe people of the southwestern coast of Chile, by the Pacific Ocean's mouth of the Strait of Magellan, was drawn by these people in their rock art.

Several paintings were discovered in a cave at the Madre de Dios Island, among which was one described as "an anthropomorphic horned figure which could correspond to the Alakaluf god Kawtcho". [1] or "a horned anthropomorphic figure could correspond to Kawtcho, the Kawesqar [Alakaluf]divinity". [2]

The image shown above, is painted with reddish colors and shows a horned being.

Could be a depiction of the stranged horned beings mentioned by Fitz Roy during his surveying expedition in that region in the early 1800s?

Perhaps it is Kawtcho, the mythical man-eating monster of the Alakaluf.

The "horns" are new for me, yet it was described as having its head covered with stiff hairs that resembled spikes (horn-like bristles?).


[1] Ultima Patagonia 2006 Rapport scientifique Expedition franco-chilienne et internationale a Madre de Dios (Magallanes, Chili). Expédition nationale 2006
de la Féderation Française de Speleologie. Association Centre Terre - pp. 89+. Image is Fig. 20.
[2]Mairie Richard, Bernard Tourte, Stephane Jaillet, Joel Despain, Benjamin Lans, Franck Brehier, Luc-Henri Fage, Laurent Morel, et al., (2009). Geomorphic and archaeological feautes of coastal caves in Madre de Dios Archipielago (Patagonia, Chile)Proceedings of 15th International Congress of Speleology, Kerrville, Texas, USA, 19-26 july 2009. Symposium on Karst Islands.

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2011 International Year of Forests
2011 International Year of Forests Copyright 2009-2011 by Austin Whittall © 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Neanderthal-like skulls in Minnesota

The book that mentions the Minnesota Neanderthals. Cover of [1], from

Tne mysterious Neanderthal-like skulls in Minnesota
In the internet there are several sites that are “copy-pasted clones” of each other, dealing with an alleged cover-up by the Smithsonian Institution: the deliberate “loss” of some unusual skulls sent to them from an archaeological dig in Minnesota in 1968). To see them, just Google the keywords “great Smithsonian cover up”. Lets look at what facts can be found beyond the cloned posts and sites:

Original text source

The online posts quote a book written by Vincent Gaddis and published in 1977, [1] which states the following (yes, I am copying and pasting):

In 1968 two Neanderthal-like skulls with low foreheads and large brows were found in Minnesota. As for dating, University of Minnesota scientists said they were reluctant to destroy any of the material, although carbon-14 testing only requires the burning of one gram of bone. They were sent to the Smithsonian. Later Dr. Lawrence Angel, curator of physical anthropology at the institution, said he had no record of the skulls there, although he was sure they were not lost. [1]

An analysis

The text mentions a “Dr. Lawrence Angel” and “University of Minnesota scientists” gives a date (1968) and not mouch more. Lets see what can be found.
An entry in a publication of the “Instituto Interamericano” of Denton, Texas, US, which is shown in the image below [2], and whose text is copied further down (I have highlighted the interesting parts in bold):

RARE BONES: Human skulls, bones and artifacts were found near Ely, Minnesota, in 1968 but have just now been publicly reported. The exact site of the find is being kept secret for fear of looters. Dr. Eldon Johnson, Minnesota state archaeologist, said that the extremely low foreheads and heavy brow ridges suggest that the skulls are examples of what must have been either an early type of man or an inbred population. “the skulls may well represent a pre-Indian type of man that is more closely related to Neanderthal man than any previously found in America” said Dr. Richard Adams and leader of the University of Minnesota team which first examined the find. Dr. T. Dale Stewart of the Smithsonian has the bones and will determine if they are sufficiently unique to warrant a C-14 test... [2]

minnesota neanderthal skull text
Original Text on Neanderthal skulls found in Minnesota in 1968. From [1].

This snippet has given us the names of three people involved in the finding, Eldon Johnson, Richard Adams and Dale Stewart, besides Lawrence Angel mentioned in the original article. Details on these men below:

1. Elden Johnson (1923-1992). Actually the name is wrong, the state archaeologist is really Elden and not Eldon. And he was also part of the University of Minnesota (210 Ford Hall, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455). However, the “Minnesota Archaeological Newsletter” (click to read it online) mentions Mr. E. Johnson several times, but, during the 1967-1972 period has not one entry regarding skulls of Neanderthal men found in Minnesota.

Furthermore, the online biography (Minnesota Univ.) does not mention the skulls or anything related to them. [7]

2. Lawrence Angel. He was a very busy man during the period of the “Minnesota findings” as we can see in his papers: [3]
1962-1986. Curator, Division of Physical Anthropology, Department of
Anthropology, United States National Museum (later the National Museum of Natural History), Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
1967. Field work in the Near East: Turkey, studied skeletal remains from
Catal Huyuk at the University of Ankara, and skeletons from Antalya, Elmali, and Karatas; Greece, studied skeletal remains from Franchthi cave, Athens, Kea, Nauplion, Corinth, and Asine; supported by the Hrdlicka Fund. Organized a symposium on paleodemography, diseases and human evolution at the 66th meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Washington, D.C. 1969. Field work in the Near East: studied material from Kephala, Karatas, and Franchthi cave; supported by the Hrdlička Fund and the Wenner-Gren Foundation.
1970. Visiting Professor, Harvard University (Spring). Organized the 39th
meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists held
in Washington, D.C.
1971 The People of Lerna: Analysis of a Prehistoric Aegean Population.
1972. Field work in the Near East: studied skeletons from Asine and Agora
in Greece; supported by the Hrdlička Fund.
1962-1986. Professorial Lecturer in Anthropology at George Washington
University, Washington, D.C.
1963-1986. Lecturer in forensic pathology, The Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health.
1965-1970. Visiting Professor of Anatomy, Howard University Medical School, Washington, D.C.

This means that he may have not been aware of a package with “Neander” bones sent to the Smithsonian in 1968.

3. Richard Adams (1931-?). His online biography states that his field is Latin American archaeology and especially the Mayas. “Adams has been to the Rio Bec region in the central Yucatan peninsula several times from 1969 to 1973. In an excavation from 1969 to 1971 . [6] So he probably did see the bones in 1968 and then moved on to other things.
His bio does not mention them. He has not written about them.

4. Dr. T. Dale Stewart (1901-1997). He began working at the Smithsonian Institution in 1924, becoming curator in 1931, and working under Ales Hrdlicka. In 1961, he became the head curator of the Department of Anthropology, and in 1962, director of the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History. During the period mentioned (1968-1972), he was the senior scientist in the department of anthropology. He retired in 1971. [5]

Though he upheld Hrdlicka’s view on an Asian origin for Americans, he thought that the arrival of humans to America happened at an older date than the one proposed by Hrdlicka (who was strongly in favor of a recent arrival). He studied Neanderthal remains in Asia. [5]

He does not seem to be the kind of scientist who would deliberately destroy or conceal “old” bones, which in fact upheld is beliefs. also mentions the skulls, and gives two references which are copied below for those interested in reading the original sources: [4]

  • Gordon Slovut, “Old Skulls Have State Expert Scratching Head”. Minneapolis Star, 12 July 1972.
  • Associated Press dispatch from Ely, Minn., 12 July 1972.

It also places the site where the bones were found at: the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, Minnesota.

So, not one of those mentioned in sources [1] or [2] seem to have written any papers on this amazing finding. One of those involved supported the notion of an "ancient" peopling of America. Why would any of them have contrived to make the bones disappear? Maybe the remains just got lost or misplaced.

A mystery.

Anyway, if true, it points towards "thick browed" native Americans date unknown that, may actually have been "American Homo erectus" who evolved from Asian stock in America and thus resembled Neanderthals.


[1] Vincent H. Gaddis, (1977). American Indian myths & mysteries, Chilton Book Co.
[2] Carl B. Compton, The Interamerican. “Rare Bones”. Vols 14 to 23.
[3] Robert Lynn Montgomery, (1994). Register to the Papers of John Lawrence Angel. Revised by Jennifer Chen, Jill Fri and Gayle Yiotis, 2006. National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution.
[4] Sources
[5] Smithsonian Institution. Thomas Dale Stewart Papers 1954.
[6] Minnesota State University, Mankato. R. Adams’ bio.
[7] Same site, E. Johnson’s bio.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
2011 International Year of Forests
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Monday, January 10, 2011

Dorenberg Skull: erectus in Mexico 80 to 220 ky ago

apparent reconstruction of Puebla Dorenberg skull person
Reconstruction of how the owner of the Dorenberg skull could have looked, based on dimensions of known Homo erectus skulls,by Laura Lyons. From [1], by Laura Lyons

Joseph Dorenberg, the German Consul who lived at Puebla, Mexico in the 1890s, purchased an ancient skull which he took back home with him to Leipzig, Germany. After his death it was donated to the Museum für Volkerskunde in 1919 and put on display.

However during World War II, the museum and surrounding areas were leveled by a RAF bombing (Dec. 1943), and the skull was destroyed with most of the museum’s contents.


Diatomaceous earth is a sedimentary rock that is made up of the fossilized remains of diatoms, a group of unicellular algae. The most remarkable feature of diatoms is that they are encased within a small “shell” or capsule made of silica, which when the cell dies, drops to the sea bead and accumulates. The different varieties of fossil diatoms found in Diatomaceous earth allow scientists to date them and remains that are found buried by it.

This came in handy as the “Dorenberg skull” was found buried in diatomaceous earth. Hugo Reichelt, of Leipzig took some samples of the diatomes and established the skull’s age. His study was published in an article [2] and the skull was pronounced as “antediluvian” (i.e. before the last Ice Age). [1]

He kept some samples of the diatomaceous earth which was reanalyzed recently using modern techniques [3] and found that these diatoms: “ indicate an age corresponding to the Sangamonian Interglacial sensu lato (80,000 to ca. 220,000yr BP).” [3]

This is long before the accepted date of modern human entry into America. Furthermore, the heavy and prominent brow ridges and the sloping forehead are very unlike Homo sapiens yet very similar to H. erectus. This is a clear proof of erectus in America some 80 - 220 kya.

It is a shame that the "solid" proof (the Dorenberg skull) has been lost.

Some orthodox scientists in an attempt to discredit the finding have insinuated that the whole Dorenberg skull story is a hoax: "In relation to the Dorenberg skull, the reviewer claimed that, "... (there is evidence that this was a hoax generated by Europeans...". [4]


[1] Patrick Lyons. Pleistocene America. Online. Also see The mystery of the Dorenberg Skull. Pleistocene Coalition News. vol 1:2. Nov-Dec. 2009. pp.4.
[2] Reichelt Hugo, (1899). Diatomeen aus dem Kalktuffe aus der Gegend von Puebla in Mexiko. In: Felix, J. and Lenk, H., Eds., Beitraege zur Geologie und Palaeontologie der Republik.
[3] Sam VanLandingham, (2004). Corroboration of Sangamonian age of artifacts from the Valsequillo region, Puebla, Mexico by means of diatom biostratigraphy.
Micropaleontology; December 2004; v. 50; no. 4; p. 313-342; DOI: 10.2113/50.4.313
[4] Ibid; (2009). Extraordinary Examples of Deception in Peer Reviewing: Concoction of the Dorenberg Skull Hoax and Related Misconduct. Paper in 13th World Multi-Conference? on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics: International Symposium on Peer Reviewing. Orlando, Florida.

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

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Modern presence of Homo erectus in Patagonia

In several recent posts, I have written about the probable presence of Homo erectus in America and in doing so mentioned several probable sites and findings ranging from Mexico to Brazil and Central Argentina. Alas, I have not yet mentioned Patagonia and the implications that Homo erectus may have had if they managed to survive in that region until more recent dates (i.e. long enough to contact modern humans).


My most recent posts have given some archaeological evidence:
  • Stone tools from sites in Mexico and the US dating back about 200,000 years to pre-Homo sapiens times.
  • Bones: "robust" skulls with thick supra orbital ridges (brow ridges) unlike those of modern humans but similar to erectus', from Brazil and Argentina.
  • Other remains: arrowheads in pre-sapiens fossil megafauna and scorched soil from hearths during the same period.
  • Possible route of entry: either out of Asia through Beringia or out of Africa across the Atlantic in rafts.

Contact with modern humans

An encounter between H. sapiens and H. erectus could have ocurred under different circumstances:

a. Violent scenario: A group of scouts sights a camp of the other group and a raid is organized to kill the men and or children and carry off the women. This leads to retaliation. The more numerous (humans) group ends up killing the less numerous one (erectus). This could have taken many years, and the losing side would have moved to more secluded territories, hidden, become reclusive, etc. The winners would demonize the losers in their lore, painting them as monsters or ogres. Children would shudder while hearing the stories told about these blood-thirsty creatures.

b. Slow and silent extinction: The modern humans, brainier, would have had an advantage over the brawnier and (slightly dimmer) erectus when both competed for the same limited natural resources. This would have meant that we humans would have occupied and controlled the best hunting sites and places to set up camps. We would have hunted more or better prey leaving the marginal resources and less fruitful sites to the erectus.

Maybe direct face to face contact was limited and startled both parties.
Perhaps disease brought into America by modern men also wreaked havoc with the erectus just like it did with the American Indians when the Europeans arrived in the 1500s. Millennia of separation and isolation led them to be defensless when confronted with simple ailments such as measles or the common flu. The inevitable outcome: extintion of the local erecuts.

In either case the memory of their face to face encounter would have permeated their myths and it would have been told and retold by elders at the campsite fires while children listened in awe about these monsters with odd shaped heads...

Captured in their art

If the Paleo-Indians met erectus they would have depicted them in their art. Their Indian descendants would keep on reproducing these motifs even though they had never seen a live erectus. Their prominent supra orbital torus (brow ridges) would be the most conspicuous element in these representations, being the feature that characterizes our distant relatives.

And, yes, native art offers ample proof of these creatures with sunken eyes or prominent brows:

Below are two stone masks depicting people with heavy brows. These masks belong to the Early Formative Period (Período formativo temprano) from 500 BC to 600 AD in the Argentine provinces of Catamarca and Tucumán (Northwestern Argentina) over 800 km (500 mi.) from Patagonia's northernmost tip.

heavy browed humans in Ancient Argentine native masks
Stone masks Argentine Natives (500 BC - 600 AD) with strong browed humans.From [1]

Patagonian evidence

The Mapuche natives of northwestern Patagonia also represented erectus-like monsters in their art and religious artifacts. And these were definitively Patagonian Indians. Did erectus live in the Andean forests? How long ago did they die off?

Mapuche wood carvings

The Mapuche, like many native Americans carved "totem" poles. These had different names and uses.

The Rehue and its Kemo

The "Rehue" was a sacred site whose main element was the "Kemo" a shamanic pole or sacred tree trunk, carved with steps, actually a “step-notched pole” [3] was also known as "Praprahue" (Mapuche word for stairway or ladder).

The trunk was decorated with colored ribbons and branches of sacred trees (canelo and quila). Other minor ritual elements make the place sacred.

A feature of the "Kemo" is that: "between the last step and the upper platform a human face is chiseled into the Kemú, on top of which a top hat is usually sculpted, which becomes the upper platform" [2].

Similar wood carvings are found at Mapuche burial places and they were known as "Chemamüll", meaning (che = person, mamüll = wood) "wooden man". They are not "Kemu".

It is interesting to point out the use of the Rewe , it was for the “machi” or witches of the Mapuche, their: [3]

personal altar and connects three different cosmic zones vertically: the world of men, the world of spirits, and deities, and the world of negative sprits. The machi ascends the rewe when she is in trance in order to communicate with spirits. Sometimes she carves the face of her familiar spirit on the top of the rewe. The rewe is equivalent to the concept of the tree of life found among Siberian shamans..." [3]

The text above is interesting in two ways, one that it links Mapuche beliefs with those of the Siberians (Mapuche Indians are, descendants of the in my opinion more “modern” wave of Asian immigrants into America some 15,000 years ago, who displaced an older Homo sapiens migration – of which perhaps southern Patagonian natives were the last remains until they too disappeared in the early 1900s).

The second interesting aspect is what I highlighted in bold font above, the “face of her familiar spirit”. If you take a look at the "rewe" images below, you will see that these faces are all very similar and depict a human-like being with heavy brows which make the eyes appear as deeply set.

Rewe photographs:

rewe mapuche wood sculpture
"Rewe" wood carvings with deep set eyes and prominent brow ridges. From [4]

The prominent brows motif is also present in some Mapuche masks and vases, as can be seen in the images below [5][6]:

Mapuche mask and vase depicting heavy browed men..From [5] and [6]

From [5] and [6].

And then we have a two headed creature with prominent brow ridges and a flat receeding forehead (see my post on Two-headed Patagon Giant): [7]

Bicephalic Mapuche statue
Detail of "Museo Naturalista Dillman Bullock, Angol". Copyright ©katyta.liraz.[7]

Closing comments

There seems to be plenty of evidence in Southern South Americas native American art, depicting "humans" with prominent supra orbital torus and sloping - tiny receding foreheads. These are definitively H. erectus traits.

If they were depicted that means that they had been seen, though when, we can not know, and, (this is a point against my theory) they may have even seen them in Asia before entering America - which, would mean that erectus never reached America and that these stone or wood effigies are just ancient memories of an encounter between modern man and erectus that happened somewhere in Eastern Asia.

However, there is the chance that the Paleo-Indians or their Indian descent met erectus here, in America, and that these roughly sketched portraits in stone, wood and clay are the memory of that "meeting".


[1] Image credits: Máscaras. Colección Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, Comercio Exterior y Culto.
[2] Raúl Díaz Acevedo, (2006). Rehue: Un espacio sagrado. Online. Idiófonos. Revista del Gabinete de estudios etnográficos. April 2006.
[3] Arvind Sharma and Katherine K. Young, (2001). Annual Review of Women in World Religions, the, Volume 6. Suny Press. Rise of the Machi-Moon Priestess. pp. 213.
[4] Adapted from photographs taken at the Museo de Arte Popular José Hernández during the “ Muestra de Arte Mapuche, 2007”. 15.07.2007. by Porteña.
[5] Mask: Semillas de Chile Exhibition, Beijing, Citinga: Tercera de Chile.
[6] Vase: Same exhibition, but another online source.
[7] [ Katyta.liraz. Flickr posting. 01.10.2008 Museo Naturalista Dillman Bullock, Angol.

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

Thursday, January 6, 2011

50,000 hits


Patagonian Monsters 50,000 hits

A very special occasion because my blog has received fifty thousand visitors since I set up a counter for my blog back in September 2009.

I want to thank all of you for visiting my blog, reading it and coming back.

I sincerely hope that the material that I post is interesting and provokes some interesting thoughts.

I designed the "fifty thousand" motif above based on several snakes and dragons that are chasing their tails, an oarfish (which may have inspired more than one sea serpent sighting) and a little troll like creature to separate the thousands. A small homage to cryptozoology.


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

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Calico remains, proof of Homo erectus in America

This post will deal with the stone tools found at Calico site, in the U.S. and the possibility that they were made by Homo erectus.

Calico is located in the Mojave Desert of California, near the town of Barstow. The Calico site dates back to 1942, when some amateur archaeologists found some very primitive stone tools in the sediments of what once was Lake Manix.

This lake is now a dry basin in the desert, but it held considerable water during the Pleistocene Period, and there are records of “highstands” in its water levels during the following periods: [5]

  • 28 to 38 ka (thousand years ago)
  • approx. 89 ka
  • approx. 244 to 199 ka
  • approx. 279 ka
  • approx. 412 ka
  • approx. 505 ka
  • 1.0 to 1.2 Million years ago, wet period in the Mojave

It is very likely that hominids (either modern humans or, as the Calico findings suggest, Homo erectus) would have lived, hunted, gathered food close to this lake during the “wet” periods shown above.

The formal excavations began in 1964 with Ruth DeEtte Simpson and later, Louis B Leaky, a famous archaeologist who made some amazing discoveries at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, Africa.

The controversial stone tools

The stone tools (or, “Calico Lithic Industry”) found at the site have been dated to about 200,000 years ago. Which is long before the first modern humans H. sapiens appeared, and obviously long before they even ventured out of Africa and walked all the way to America.

This dating matter has made “orthodox” archaeology dismiss the findings and class them as “geofacts” that is, naturally shaped stones instead of “artifacts” or man made tools.

Calico’s controversial lithic industry has sparked many debates and the crude stone tools do indeed look antique and lack the beauty of the artfully crafted stone arrowheads, scrapers and tools made by Indians or Paleo Indians in more recent times (since 15,000 years ago).

However, they are very similar to the stone tools made by H. erectus whose stone tools are classified as the “Acheulian lithic tradition” which first appeared in Eastern Africa about 1.6 to 1.4 Million years ago and expanded to Asia where it persisted until about 125 ka.

The H. erecuts chose specific raw materials from which they would make their tools, they then prepared these cores and knocking them against an “anvil” stone to obtain bifacial pieces with sharp cutting edges. The flakes produced in the process were also used as cutters or scrapers.

The image below shows a hand axe from Calico (left) [1], and one from Africa that was made by H. erectus 1.2 Million years ago [6]. They are very similar, hard to tell apart.

erectus hand axes Calico and African
Left: Bifacial pick or handaxe-like core tool of chalcedonic chert from Master Pit II. Face-flaked from tip to butt on dorsal side. Flat from midsection to tip on ventral side. Powdered aluminum coating reveals careful work at tip, which could not result from natural processes. D. Griffin. Photo From [1]
Bottom: Tool Type: Hand Axe, Acheulian tradition from East Africa, Pleistocene Epoch, Accepted Age: 1.2 mya. From [6]

But not all believe that the stones are man-made ([2] and [3] uphold that they are artifacts made by humans). Others that they are natural [4]. The natural origin theory says that stones originally broke off from the Calico Mountains due to weathering and flowing down their slopes, banged against others, chipped and flaked. Then subjected to the rolling of waves (Lake Manix), pressure against other stones, removal and redeposition, etc, got shaped even further and resemble man-made tools.

Man made tools display delicate working and flaking while natural sources wear down the stone and round off sharp edges. This can be easily seen while walking by a stream: one does This means that geofacts are not so common. Why would there be so many of them at Calico?

My personal opinion is that the stone tools seem to be very (see the photographs at the Calico site's official website) similar to those made by men in other parts of the world, and at least some of them appear to be definitively human, man made. Their age is also a clear indication that they could have been crafted by H. erectus. But I am not absolutely swayed by them.
Nevertheless, and despite my own amateurish opinion, several scientific papers have been written on this subject and look into many factors such as the angle of the fractures in the stones, to decide if they are or not man made. The conclusions are mixed some opt for a natural origin others for artificial one.

Further research my clarify the point. Digging continues at the site Update: 2019: it was closed by the BLM.


[1] Calico Early Man Site. The Calico Lithic Industry. Online.
[2] Christopher Hardaker, (2009). Calico Redux: Artifacts or Geofacts?. Earthmeasure Research SCA Proceedings, Volume 22, p. 18.
[3] Leland Patterson, Louis Hoffman, Rose Marie Higginbotham and Ruth Simpson, (1987). Analysis of Lithic Flakes at the Calico Site, California. Journal of Field Archaeology Vol. 14, No. 1 (Spring, 1987), pp. 91-106
[4] Vance, Haynes, (1973). The Calico Site: Artifacts or Geofacts?Science 27 July 1973: Vol. 181 no. 4097 pp. 305-310.
[5] USGS, (2009). Changing Climates and Ancient Lakes. Online
[6] Image source. Anthro Tools: acheulian.

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

Ocupal, La Pampa, another cryptid

Ocupal, is what geographer Alberto Vuletín calls a "paleo-toponym" (ancient place name). In his book on La Pampa province toponyms he mentions it as one of the names given by the natives of that region (Araucanized Tehuelches) to the Salado River.

It is interesting because its name refers to a strange animal.

The River

As there are many Salado Rivers in Argentina, I will specify which one by means of the following map showing the Colorado (in orange) and Desaguadero - Salado - Curacó(in yellow) river drainage basins: [2]

Colorado Salado river map
Basins of the Colorado and Desaguadero - Salado - Curacó rivers.
Adapted by Austin Whittall from [2]

The river, which changes its name along its course is nearly 1,500 km long (932 mi.), and has its northernmost sources in the province of La Rioja high in the Andes at 5,500 m altitude (18,000 ft.). It flows in a North-South direction parallel to the Andean Cordillera and receives the flow of many rivers which also have their sources in the Andean glaciers such as the Jáchal, Vinchinas, Atuel, Tunuyán and Diamante. Many of these rivers are now used to irrigate the vineyards at the foot of the Andes in the Cuyo region provinces of La Rioja,Mendoza and San Juan.

This has led to a dramatic drop in the flow of the Desaguadero River. Its wetlands (such as Guanacache and Bañados del Atuel have dried up due to this cause). It has also led to friction between the province of La Pampa (downstream) and the provinces of Cuyo region (upstream) about water usage rights.

So, until the early 1900s, the river carried plenty of water and the western region of La Pampa was more humid than it is nowadays.

It is known as Desaguadero along the border between the provinces of San Luis and Mendoza, but after receiving the inflow from the Atuel River in the province of La Pampa (36°16'S) it is known as Salado ("Salty" due to its brackish water) or by the Mapuche language words Chadileuvú or Chadileo which mean the same thing (salty river).

It drains into the salt water lakes of Urre Lauquen and La Salada, and then, changes its name to Curacó (stone water) and continues southward until it flows into the Colorado River at (38°50'S, 64°58′W).

Its basin covers a surface area of 260,000 km2 (one hundred thousand sq. mi.).

The Animal

According to Vuletín [1]:

Its meaning [Ocupal] has been sought but nobody has found anything concrete about it, though it may seem to refer in a vague manner to some animal that existed in the area and that nowadays has disappeared [1]

He wonders if it could be the Aguará or maned wolf, or, "the name of the animal of a "horrid howl", mentioned by the native Mariqueo"[1] in the early 1800s.

He states that it is also spelt as: Osocopal, Osopal and locates the place in the Limay Mahuida Department, Lot 19, Fraction A, Section XIX. Which is roughly located at 37°07'S, 67°03'W. At the southern tip of Vutaló Creek and to the east of El Potrol Stream, west of the Chadileuvú River and north of the Limay Mahuida hills.

Regarding Potrol, Luis de la Cruz, who trekked through the area from Antuco Chile to Buenos Aires Argentina in 1806 (when it was still a wild country in the hands of the natives), said that at a lake there lived the ñirrivilu snake-fox. His guide "the Indian Pulemanque told him that the Salado used to be known as Ocupal and that it ran in the Potrol's bed" [1].

Oop, ocupal, the same beast

The monster of a "horrid howl" is mentioned by de La Cruz, as an "Oop" and it was named after its high-pitched yell (follow the link above Aguar&aacutr; for more details on Oop).

What is the relationshp between Oop and the faintly similar word "Ocupal". A lot! Actually the suffix "al" at the end of Ocupal turns what precedes it into a collective noun, thus "Ocupal" is the collective of "Ocupa", which is very similar to "Oop".

Ocupal would mean "pack of Oop" or "many Oop".

The other ways of spelling it, Osocopal, Osopal seem to imply that the beast was known as Osocop or Osop, both of which are similar to "Oop".

I want to point out that the word "oso" in Spanish means bear, but there are no bears in this part of South America (at least nowadays; see my post on Bears in Patagonia).


[1] Alberto Vuletín, (1972). La Pampa, Grafías y etimologías toponímicas aborígenes. B. Aires, Eudeba. pp. 148 and 106.
[2] Image by Knusser; Own work using Digital Chart of the World and GTOPO data. It is licensed under a Generic Creative Commons Attribute / Share-alike 3.0
I adapted the image by adding some place names. It is licensed under the same terms.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
2011 International Year of Forests
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