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

Friday, April 27, 2012

Homo erectus and Neanderthals in America: another track

I read an online article[1] that prompted some interesting thoughts, its title: “Rise of Humans 2 Million Years Ago Doomed Large Carnivores”. The article is about a study presented a week ago at a workshop on climate change and human evolution at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

It seems that when our more distant relatives acquired the ability to make stone tools some 2 million years ago, our diet changed and this led to the demise of most carnivore species in Eastern Africa (from 29 species of large meat-eaters weighing more than 21.5 kg that existed before our appearance, only 6 survive nowadays).

Lars Werdlin has studied the matter and ruled out climate as a factor of disruption since only the large carnivores were hit, not the tinier ones. Climate would hit all alike. Furthermore, the decline in carnivore numbers began just when hominins started making stone tools and shifted their diet to include more meat, becoming less omnivorous. They were carrion eaters not hunters, but they successfully stole the kills of meat eating mammals, starving them.

Werdelin studied a time period between 3.5 and 1. 5 Mya (Million years ago) and found that not only did carnivores die out, but also omnivores that scavanged such as civets were gone too. They were in direct competition with the hominin carcass scavengers. Only “hypercarnivores” survived.

Werdelin (with Lewis) had already written about this in 2005 [2], and concluded: “ The extinction rate peaks at around 3.0 Mya after which it falls slightly, remaining nearly constant until 1.8 Mya, after which it increases considerably. The data support the hypothesis that the modern carnivoran guild of eastern Africa originated relatively recently, mostly within the last million years.”[2]. So we have extinctions in two distinct pulses, one about 1.8 Mya (when H. erectus made his Acheulean tools) which continues to this day and an older one 3 Mya.

Not all scientists agree with this, and point out that the correlation between the two events (rise of hominins and decline of carnivores) is not too strong.

American mammal extinctions and pre-sapiens hominids

What is most interesting is that the article is not talking about us, Homo sapiens it actually refers to our more distant Homo erectus ancestors, this made me wonder if a smiliar pattern could be traced in America before the arrival date of modern humans. If so, we could suppose that H. erectus or if later, the Neanderthals, were in America during an early period, devastating American mammals.

Since this is my first foray into this field, I will back up all my guesses with bibliography (see “Sources” below). I first decided to check the temporal boundaries of the different “Ages” (Land mammal ages or LMAs) mentioned in the studies. To my surprise these are, (allow me the pun) not set in stone. The cutoff of each LMA is variable. Nevertheless, below is the timeline we will work with and the names of the most important LMAs:

  • Uquian 2.5 to 1.5[5] or 1.2[3] Mya
  • Ensenadan 1.5 or 1.2 to 0.5[5] or 0.8[3] Mya
  • Lujanian 0.5 or 0.8 to 0.01 Mya

As you will see below, these in turn are subdivided into other “shorter” periods.

If we were to expect a pre-sapiens “into America” scenario, it would have to happen between 1.8 and 0.2 Mya, in other words the late Uquian, the Ensenadan or the early Lujanian. In Table 1, below (adapted from sources [3] and [4] ), I have shaded the time frame in red.

The hard facts

mammal extinctions South America
Table 1 Based on [3] and [4].

Table 1 shows us that genra have become extinct long before hominids even got out of Africa. It shows us that the rate of extinction is variable and that recently the “big” animals have been hit harder than the smaller ones (Lujanian vs. Ensenadan or Uquian), but, long ago, during the Chapadmalean, small and big alike disappeared and in large quantities. This probably reflects some other kind of event, maybe climatic or a combination of events that hit all-sized animals.

The event that marked the end of the Chapadmalean and start of the Uquian was the “Great American Biotic Interchange” about 2.5 Mya. It seems,[6] that: Large body mass and not food-niche was the main cause of extinction, since most herbivores were big, body mass caused them to go too. This paper’s appendix shows that few omnivores were hit.

Apparently this “Great American Biotic Interchange”, took place gradually: it was not a sudden invasion that wiped out the local endemic mammals [7].

Modern Humans and their impact in America

There is now doubt that no other contienent lost as many mammals in the Late Pleistocene as South America. [3] There is a clear spike in extinctions about 10,000 years ago during the Quaternary, and these are explained by two mainstream theories:[8]

  • Climate – Ecological changes. Pleistocene plants were more diverse and their growing season longer. Climate change (Pleistocene glaciations) wiped out many species putting stress on specialized herbivoeres and their carnivore predators.
  • Human hunting. Or “overkill” theory: humans irrupted into an isolated habitat with animals who could not recognize them as predators and adopt defensive attitudes –this explains why African megafauna survived: they co-evolved with humans and learned to adopt protective behaviours. And several authors (Patterson and Pascual, Webb and Marshall) uphold this theory.[3]

Regarding this overkill theory it is perhaps overblown. The extended use of fire and its destructive impact on the environement impacted negatively on local mammal species, perhaps even more than effective stone spears. Also: [4]

The archeological evidence indicates that the overhunting was focused on guanacos and deer, which, paradoxically, are those mammals that survived the extinction. The scarcity or infrequent occurrence of megammamals in archeological sites more likely implies that these mammals were less abundant in the area, not that they were ignored or inaccessible to humans
The extinction appears to have been more concentrated in taxa of South American origin. However, this is mainly apparent because many of the large mammals were xenarthrans (and litopterns and notoungulates). [4]

H. erectus or Neanderthal in America, what do extinctions tell us?

Its time to look at the possible impact our more distant relatives may have had in America. So lets take a look at mammal extinctions during the last four million years.

Below is Table 2 adapted from Fig. 6 in [9], which I colored to show when mammals were undegoing periods of growth (green) or extinction (red). Roughly, the Great Exchange took place between “C” and “B” (chapadmalean – Barrancalobean periods). During this period, extinctions are rife.

mammal extinctions Pleistocene America
Table 2 Based on [9].

Another very similar Table, shown below (Table 3) is adapted from Alberdi et al (1993), who, show the extinction rate in South America during this period (Fig. 2 of [10]), and compare local endemic species with those coming from the Northern Hemisphere during the Great Exchange

This Table 3 replicates the trends of Table 2, (but here you get a time scale and not only the names of the different periods). The colors, once again represent extinctions (red) or growth (green):

extinctions Pleistocene America
Table 3 Based on [10].

Table 3 clearly shows that for autochthonous species, there are two periods of growth (in green), one ending about 4 Mya and the other between 1.2 and 0.3 Mya. Each growth period is followed by a period of decline, painted red, (4 – 1.2 Mya and 0.3 Mya until now). Newcomers from the north, are always increasing but, (gray shaded) in Recent times suffered a loss (when modern humans came on scene).

So we do have periods of extinction predating the arrival of modern humans in America, what about other hominids?

Probable indicators of ancient hominds in America

The time window for ancient hominids to enter America depends on when they left Africa. If , as I posted previously (First Asians were not Homo erectus), the “primitive” H. habilis left Africa and gave rise to the Damanisi people or Homo georgicus about 1.75 M years ago, they or the Damanisians could have arrived in America shortly after (i.e. 1.6 Mya). The same could apply for H. erectus whose remains in Asia date back to about 1.7 Mya.

What impact could they have had on the South American mammalian fauna? What do Tables 2 and 3 tell us?

Any impact they may have had was limited: The autochthonous species were in the midst of a long period of extinctions (probably due to the “Great Exchange”), whose pace was slowing down (less extinctions).

The hypothetical arrival of H. erectus 1.6 Mya would fall towards the end of this period, during the Vorohuan and Sanandresian periods (5+6 in Table 3 and V-S in Table 2). At that time there was an swift change and the local mammalians went into a period where more taxa was appearing than going extinct.

This period of growth is painted in green in both Table 2 and 3, and happened during the Ensenadan (7 in Table 3 and E in Table 2), Table 1 also shows this trend, as it indicates that extinction rate dropped to a puny 8% during the Ensenadan Age

Lack of extinctions between 1.2 and 0.3 Mya indicates lack of human predation (if we buy the theory that humans are the cause of extinction).

Could this indicate that, if they ever reached America 1.6 Mya, the H. erectus became extinct here about 1.2 Mya? Or were they here in such small numbers that their impact was minimal and all of the extinctions are due to natural causes?

The Neanderthal option. The second period of increase in extinctions begins about 300 kya (8 in Table 3 and L in Table 2). This is long before the appearance of modern H. sapiens in Africa, let alone America. So it could indicate that if these extinctions were due to human action, then the culprit were the Neanderthals, who had arrived in America and were using their refined hunting skills on the local mammalians.

Closing comments

Modern human activity impacts negatively on the environment and that is an undeniable fact. However the impact that a few thousand primitive pre-sapiens men armed with stone spears and fire could have on the global mammalian fauna is something that, in my opinion has to be proven.

What data can we glean from the extinction of Late Pleistocene fauna? The paucity of remains, the large “slices” (0.5 My) into which this period is split up in the articles that deal with this subject, and the differing opinions among experts in the field, leave plenty of room to doubt if we can identify among the “natural” noise, the signal of a band of H. erectus or Neanderthals killing off American mammals.


[1] Kate Wong , April 25, 2012, Rise of Humans 2 Million Years Ago Doomed Large Carnivores. Observations. Scientific American.

[2] Werdelin, L, Lewis, ME, 2005). Plio-Pleistocene Carnivora of eastern Africa: species richness and turnover patterns. Journal Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, vol 144:2, 121-144. 06/2012.

[3] Paul S. Martin Quaternary Extinctions. A Prehistoric Revolution pp. 370.

[4] Cione, Alberto, Tonni, Eduardo and Soibelzon Leopoldo. Did Humans cause the Late Pleistocene – Early Holocene Mammalian Extinctions in South America in a Context of Shrinking Open Areas? Chap. 7 of Gary Haynes (Ed.) American Megafaunal Extinctions at the End of the Pleistocene. (pp. 125+).

[5] R. D. E. Mac. Phee. Extinctions in Near Time: Causes, Contexts, and Consequences pp. 37

[6] Lessa, Enrique and Fariña, Richard, (1996). Reassessment of Extinction Patterns Among the Late Pleistocene Mammals of South America. Paleontology, Vol. 39, Part 3. Pp-651-662.

[7] Aguirre, Emiliano; Vangengeim, Eleanora, Morales, Jorge, Sotnikova, Marina and Zazhigin, Vladimir. Plio-Pleisotcene mammal faunas: an overview .From: Van Couvering, John, The Pleistocene Boundary and the Beginning of the Quaternary Chap. 9. Pp.123 and 124

[8] Sánchez Begoña, Prado José Luis, Alberdi María Teresa. Ancient feeding, ecology and extinction of Pleistocene horses from the Pampean Region, Argentina. Ameghiniana [revista en la Internet]. 2006 Jun [citado 2012 Abr 27] ; 43(2): 427-436.

[9] Tonni, Eduardo and Noriega, Jorge, (1998). Los Cóndores (Ciconiiformes, Vulturidae) de la región Pampeana de la Argentina durante el Cenozoico Tardío: Distribución, Interacciones y Extinciones Ameghiniana, Rev. Asoc. Paleontol. Argent. 35 (2): 141-150. Buenos Aires,


[10] M. T. Alberdi, F. Bonandonna, E. Cerdeño, A. Longinelli., J. Prado, B. Sanchez and E. Tonni, (1993). Paleoclimatic and paleobiological correlations by mammal faunas from Southern America and SW Europe. Proceedings of the 1st. R.C.A.N.S. Congress, Lisboa, Oct. 1992. Ciencias da Terra (UNL), No.12 pp 143-149.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2012 by Austin Whittall © 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Curupi, a Paraguayan wild man

In a previous post I mentioned the Curupira or Korupira, the Amazonian “wild man”. Today I will write about a Paraguayan creature with a very similar name, but different in both its meaning and its physical appearance: the Curupi

The names

The Similar sounding name of the Curupi: COO- ROO–PEE (in English) is nearly the same as that of the Corupira COO-ROO-PEE-RA . Nevertheless the names differ in their meanings.

Both names have a different geographic origin even though both come from the Guarani language. Whereas Corupira comes from Brazil and is the combination of the words: “Curu” = boy and “pira”, body, meaning therefore “with the body of a boy”, the Paraguayan Kurupi comes from the words: “Kurú” = rough, grainy and “Pira” or “Piré” = skin, bark, crust. Therefore it means “rough skin”. [1]

The name is appropriate since this creature is a horrid Indian, whose skin is as rough as that of the Kurupikay tree, a hairy and well endowed man. [1]

Its very odd appearance

The Curupira of the Amazon is a lewd red haired wild man while the Paraguayan Curupi on the other hand is dark skinned, ugly and, equipped with an extremely long penis as can be seen in the following image:

Curupi, Asuncion, Paraguay
This travel blog photo's source is TravelPod page: Museo mitologico de Capiata

So, the Curupi is a veritable satyr, who carries his very long virile member wrapped around his waist. He is a lewd creature, always prowling around on the lookout for women to engage in intercourse with. It is said that he uses his masculine organ to snare his victims.[1]

As usual, there are many different descriptions for the same creature:

Argentine historian and archaeologist Ambrosetti describes him as a strong and white faced man, which some say is not too tall [3]. For Another source [2] , he is a stout reddish colored dwarf, capable of strangling the strongest man but whose body lacks joints, it is built in one piece, so he is easy to get away from: just climb a tree. He cannot climb it. Neither can he swim. He is a man eating being.

The Yasy-Yateré

Trying to explain the origin of this mythical being, Ambrosetti believes that the Curupí "is actually very similar to the Yasy-Yateré [and that] one is the other transformed”. He based the analogy on their “Dionysian” apetites (he wrote this around 1900, so we can forgive his Edwardian or Victorian euphemism). [3]

In other words, one morphed into the other. This Yasy-Yateré is another Guaraní creature, a naked blond dwarf, with a long beard, who carries a club. He appears during the early afternoon and kidnaps children which he kills or abandons after playing with them. He also kidnaps pretty women to mate with, and their offspring is another Yasy – Yateré. [3]

Yasy – Yateré and Curupi share some common features: they are both forest creatures of the Guaraní region, both are sexually aggressive and kidnap women. But one is an ugly dark hairy man and the other is cute, fair haired and dwarfish.

Coimán [4, explains the fair dwarf's name: "Yasí Teré, Yasí Yateré, Yasí Ateré (means) moon fragment”, an odd name for a being that shuns the night and, instead, stalks its victims during “siesta” time (the nap taken after lunch, when the heat is oppressive.

In my opinion the Yasy-Yatyré and the Curupi are not the same creature. Though both have an enhanced libido, they are not the same being.


[1] Eloy Fariña Nuñez, (1926). Mitos Guaraníes.

[2] Veldemiro Ayala Gauna (1944). La Selva y su Hombre.

[3] Juan Bautista Ambrosetti, (2001). Supersticiones y leyendas: región misionera, valles calchaquíes, las pampas. Emecé. Original Ed. 1917. pp.63

[4] Coimán, Narciso, (1937). Nuestros Antepasados.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2012 by Austin Whittall © 

Monday, April 23, 2012

South American Wild Men an Index

My recent series posts on "Wild Men" in the Amazonian jungles and surrounding areas of South America has grown considerably and I think it is a good idea to create a small index to link all the posts together in one place, for future reference and to make it easier to navigate through the posts.

I will be adding more posts to the series and place this index in the left sidebar under the heading "Wild Men".

An index on South American Wild Men

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2012 by Austin Whittall © 

Caapora - another wild man

This is another entry in my series on “Wild men” in Southern America. Also related to the Curupira, it has a very similar sounding name:

The Paraguayan Caapora. The word comes from the Tupí or Guarani language: and combines two different words: “caa” = jungle and “Porá” = inhabitant. So, the creatures name is quite simple “inhabitant of the jungle”.

This word, in English is pronounced CAH-POH-RA and sounds very similar to COH-ROO-PEE-RAH, the name of the Corupira. But, both names mean different things even though they describe a hominid living in South American jungles. (Perhaps even the same creature, or not –according to Father Joao Daniel).

Description of the “Caapora”

The Paraguayan natives (Guarani people) fear it and describe it as follows:[1]

a ghost of the forest, with a hairy body, and very strong, that eats people and usually shouts in a very special manner.” [1]

Thoug the word Caapora is Guaraní, there is another native name for it (but the native group is not clearly identified): Kripándufuá [1].

In Southren Brazil, in the state of Paraná, it is depicted as: “a gigantic hairy man, with a large head; that lives in the jungle eating raw, the animals that men hunt and kill, but cannot find “ [1], in other words, he eats the game that wounded gets lost in the jungle.

A goulish feature of Caapora is that he smokes his tobacco in a pipe fashioned from a human skull

It has a horrid voice that sounds like a roaring storm and is very hairy [2]

Another view on the Caapora

We have a description in the Amazon region by a Jesuit missionary, Father Joao Daniel, who worked there among the Indians between 1780 and 1797 and wrote a book about his experiences there (Tesouro descoberto no rio Amazonas). He draws a link between the Caapora and the Curupira. Below he is quoted by Cámara [3]:

It can be assumed that the Devil, disguised as a human, Coropira, has common communications with our gentle brothers and aldeados [civilized natives living in villages – i.e. aldeias, hence their name aldeados] and even more with the wild ones [uncivilized Indians], who are called Caaporas, inhabitants of the woods”.[3]

So Father Joao’s interpretation is that there are wild “untamed” natives living in the jungles and that they are the Caaopora. And that they and the civilized natives have close ties and communicate with the Coropira devil. They are then, two different creatures!


[1] Juan Bautista Ambrosetti, (1894). Materiales para el estudio del folklore Misionero. Compañia Sud-Americana de Billetes de Banco, pp 45.

[2] Boletín de historia y antigüedades, (1934). Vol 23, pp 394. Academia Nacional de Historia, Colombia.

[3] Luis da Camara Cascudo, (1972). Dicionário do folclore brasileiro, Volumen 1. pp205.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2012 by Austin Whittall © 

The "Savage" Man of Venezuela

The snow of the Andes regions run down its eastern slopes and joining the rainfall of the Equatorial region, feeds the great rivers of South America: the Amazon, the Paraná and the Orinoco. This area, a vast portion of the South American continent is covered in parts by the Amazon rain forest, and in others by immense wetlands, savannas or mountain ranges. It is the ideal place for a relict race of humans to hold out against modern men.

In my recent series of posts I have covered several of these hominids that have been reported since the first Europeans set foot in the area. They are deeply entrenched in the native’s lore and as such may have been based on fact, their “wild men” or “hairy jungle men” may be in fact their distorted view on our ancestors (H. erectus, the Neanderthals or even some other hominid race that moved out of the Old World and in to America).

My post on the Corupira led me to a source mentioning “savage men” in Venezuela. Today I will write about them, and, as usual go to the oldest known sources and not just copy and paste rehashed information of unknown origin.

The Wild man according to Gilij

Filipo Salvadore Gilij was an Italian jesuit priest (1721-1789), who lived in what is now Venezuela at missions set up along the Orinoco River. He lived in touch with the natives and learned their languages. He returned to Italy when Spain expelled the Jesuits from its American territories in 1767 and wrote an “Essay on American History...” which, in several volumes, deals with the natural and human history of the areas he visited.

In particular, he described the “Savage” or “Wild man” of the Orinoco. Below is the Italian language text of the part of his work that deals with this creature: [1]


A rough translation is the following:

In my history I said I had not met any Indians who told me that they had seen the “Savage” with their own eyes. But what did not happen over many years, happened recently when another missionary to whom I owe the following account.
At the Mission at the Falls of Aturi a child went into the jungle and with great pain to his relatives, did not return and though they searched for him. After 10 days the child reappeared, more dead than alive. The missionary called him in, gave him a substantial broth and heard the Indian boy’s account: The Savage took him by his hand and rescued him, took him to a cave in where he had food. On the the tenth day the food stash finished so the Savage went out to get more food, this gave Diego (the child’s name – James in English), the chance to return home. The boy was about ten years old. He said he was never left alone by the Wild man and that it was single, but gave no other details. He ignored or could not say what food the Savage ate. But being a wild animal, the abbot says a type of ape, I would believe it was fruit. But I cannot add more.

These Aturi Falls, or, as they are known in Spanish, “Raudal Ature” or Ature Rapids are located on the border between Colombia and Venezuela, close to the town of Puerto Ayacucho, Venezuela as can be seen in the map below:

mapa raudal Ature
Map showing the location of Ature Falls, home of the “Savage”.
Copyright © 2012 by Austin Whittall

Humbold’s account (1800)

German explorer and scientist, Alexander Von Humboldt,(1769-1859) wrote about this creature. Between 1799 and 1801 he travelled around parts of Southern, Central and North America. He visited the Viceroyalty of Nueva Granada (current Colombia and Venezuela) in 1799-1800 and again in 1801.

It was during his first trip that he explored the upper Orinoco River reaching San Carlos in May 1800. It was during this trip that he passed by the Ature Rapids and wrote about the Savage. Below are his comments (full English language text can be seen following the link at [1] in our Sources):

It was among the cataracts that we began to hear of the hairy man of the woods called salvaje [Savage is the translation] that carries off women constructs huts and sometimes eats human flesh The Tamanacks call it achi and the Maypures vasitri or great devil The natives and the missionaries have no doubt of the existence of this anthropomorphous monkey which they singularly dread.
Father Gilij gravely relates the history of a lady in the town of San Carlos who much praised the gentle character and attentions of the man of the woods She lived several years with one in great domestic harmony and only requested some hunters to take her back because she was tired she and her children a little hairy also of living far from the church and the sacraments

Humboldt is skeptical as can be seen in the paragraphs that follow. Where he calls the story a “fable which the missionaries the European planters and the negroes of Africa have no doubt embellished with many features taken from the description of the manners of the ourang outang the gibbon the jocko or chimpanzee and the pongo” [2]

He noted that this “belief is particularly prevalent among the people such are the banks of the Upper Oroonoko [sic] the valley of Upar near the lake of Maracaybo the mountains of Santa Martha and of Merida the provinces of Quixos and the banks of the Amazon near Tomependa [2] and that if after centuries of Spanish occupation nobody had ever hunted one of these great monkeys. He suggested the following reasonable explanations:

  • The capuchin monkey with its human-like appearance originated the myth.
  • A bear. He writes: "It may be also and this opinion appears to me the most probable that the man of the woods was one of those large bears the footsteps of which resemble those of a man and which is believed in every country to attack women" [2]

Humboldt concludes with a piece of advice for those who might follow his steps and explore the upper Orinoco jungles: “ continue our researches on the salvaje or great devil of the woods and examine whether it be some unknown species of bear or some very rare monkey analogous to the simia chiropotes potes or siruia satanas that can have given rise to such singular tales”[2]. The monkeys he mentions is the Black Bearded Saki. For photographs of this monkey see below [3].

[1] Filippo Salvadore Gilij, (1784). Saggio di storia americana: o sia, Storia naturale, civile e sacra de'regni, e delle provincie spagnuole di Terra-Ferma nell' America Meridionale . L. Perego erede Salvioni, 1780. pp 315 note XXII.
[2] Alexander Von Humbodt and Aime Bonpland. (1827). Personal narrative of travels to the equinoctial regions of the New Continent, during the years 1799-1804. Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown... and H. Colburn, pp 81+
[3] Photos of the Black Bearded Saki.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2012 by Austin Whittall © 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Korupira, the red haired Amazonian man

Korupira, Kurupira, Corupira
O Curupira - Lenda Amazônica. The Curupira, Amazonian legend),[2] by Manoel Santiago (1926) from [3].

The romantic style painting shown above, by Manoel Santiago, depicts a half-naked native sleeping on a hammock by the sea while a lewd satyre covered with reddish hair looks at her and caresses her leg. The satyre is no other than the Brazilian Corupira or Korupira (also Curupira or Kurupira as it has many other names as we will see below).

This “hominid” has been reported across a vast area of South America and may be, together with the other ape-men mentioned in my previous posts (found in Peru, Venezuela and Guyana) belong to the same species although they are known by different names.

map showing distribution of Korupira ape man
Korupira area of distribution. The places mentioned in this blog. The red circles show other places with ape-men (see my previous posts). Copyright ©2012. A. Whittall

The map above shows the distribution range of Korupira has been reported: the Amazonian basin and surrounding areas is this hominid’s territory. The red circles show places where other hominids (or all are the same being?) have been sighted.

First written account 1560
The first written reference about it dates back to the end of May,1560. In a letter written by father José de Anchieta to the General Fatehr at Sao Vicente.
Anchieta ( 1534 – 1597) was a Spanish Jesuit missionary who was living at that time in the oldest permanent town of Brazil, Sao Vicente, in the Bay of Santos, very close to modern Sao Paulo.
I will quote his letter (you can check the original Portuguese text online at the link shown below at [1]). After dealing with real animals found in the area (sloths, tapir, etc.), he goes on to tell his superior about the other creatures:

I will now add some few words abouth the nocturnal spirits or rather demons with which the Indians frighten themselves with. It is well known, and all say that there are certain demons which the Brazilians call corupira that often attack the Indians in the jungle, beating them and bruising them, and killing them. Proof of this is given by our Brothers who have sometimes seen those killed by them. [...].[1]

He added that the natives used to leave on the summits of high mountains, feathers, arrows and similar presents, praying fervently to the Curupiras, so they do nota harm them.[1]

About the Korupira
The name Corupira or Korupira, Kurupira comes from the Tupi language and means curu,a contraction of curumi, boy and pira, body, that is “with the body of a boy”.
There is an excellent book by Joao Barbosa Rodrigues (1890), which you can read in full (Portuguese) by following the link shown below at [4] which deals entirely with this mythical being. He transcribes many native stories about it. He also describes it and its natural distribution over a vast area of South America. Below I will cite Barbosa Rodrigues: [4]
  • In Matto Grosso it is also known as Korupira. But some mistake him for the “wolf-man” or werewolf (Lobis-homem in Portuguese). He is a small sized black man that mounts a wild boar.
  • In Paraguay he is known as Kaapora and looks like an old native who is master of the forest.
  • In Amazonas and Pará states he is known as Kurumi, has only one leg and “Red hair, which civilization has turned into a red bertet (Pará).
  • He has a wife Yatacy (Amazonas) or Tatámanha (Pará) is an old dark native dressed in rags. They have children.
  • It is known as Máguare in Venezuela, Salvaje (savage) in Colombia and Chudiachaque in the Inca Peru. In Bolivia it is the Kauá of the Cocamas.
  • In Perú, in the mountains it is a nearly black satyre whose hair reacheas his waist, and who kidnaps women for his orgies.
  • The Makuchys of the jungles in Roraima (Brazil), call it Pokái and the Parikys of Yatapú River know it as Iurokó.
  • it carried about a wooden axe

Red hair: a Neanderthal?
The description of Korupira as being red headed is interesting if we believe that homind with red hair was shown on Piri Reis 1513 map of South America.

It was widely distributed
As we can see Joao Barbosa Rodriguez believed that the myth was indeed Pan-American and shared by the native peoples of Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Perú, Bolivia and Parguay . These people believed that Korupira protected and reigned over the jungles and its creatures.
In its northern reaches, in Colombia, it was also known with a different name: Boraro.

The Boraro skin
In Colombia, Corupira is also known as Boraro , Pírrarro and Hojarasquín and is described as a brown skinned giant with thick fingers [5].
There is a very odd story involving this creature which I will transcribe below [6], it deals with the The Bará, or Fish People (Tukanoans), of the Northwest Amazon, along the area shared by Brazil and Colombia.
These people which call themselves “Waípinõmakã”, live along the upper Tiquié and upper Igarapé Inambú rivers (see the map).
The Boraro’s skin myth is the following: a man found the skin of a boraro while its owner was fishing shrimps, “the skin was like clothing; the boraro always removed it to swim”, the man put the skin on, and it took control over him. It made him do some dreadfull things: kill and ate he boraro, go to his home and take over his place there –even sleep with his wife. Years later he returned to his tribe and told his story. He went back with a relative to the boraro territory and the relative donned the boraro wife’s skinn while she was fishing. They ate the woman and returned home. Their kinsmen refused to believe them so all went back to the boraro land. The two original men put on the boraro furs and killed and ate the other men.
So it seems that the “furry” “hairy” ape-man, the Boraro = Korupira is just a man wearing a fur, otherwise there is no explanation for a furry man to remove his fur. Could this imply that they were primitive beings wearing skins as clothing, just as our distant ancestors did?
Is this legend a myth about primitive Neanderthal men and their barbaric (i.e. murderous and cannibalistic) ways?


[1] Anchieta, José de, S. J. (1933). Cartas, informações, fragmentos historicos e sermões / Padre Joseph de Anchieta. Rio de Janeiro : Civilização Brasileira, 1933. Pp.128 Carta X.
[2] Painting: Manoel Santiago (1897-1987): O Curupira - Lenda Amazônica (The Curupira, Amazonian legend), 1926. Oil on cloth 96 x 157 cm. Taken from [3]
[3] Neto, João Augusto da Silva, Figueiredo, Aldrin Moura de. Uma imagem, duas narrativas: as representações de uma lenda amazônica em Manoel Santiago. 19&20, Rio de Janeiro, v. VII, n. 1, jan./mar. 2012.
[4] Barbosa Rodrigues, João, (1890). Poranduba amazonense, ou kochiyma-uara porandub, 1872-1887. Rio de Janeiro: Typ. de G. Leuzinger & Filhos. pp. 6, 12, 13
[5] Guillermo Abadía, (1994). 2.300 adiciones al vocabulario folklórico colombiano. Volumen 142, Biblioteca Banco Popular.Fondo de Promoción de la Cultura del Banco Popular
[6] Jean Ellizabeth Jackson, (1983). The Fish People: Linguistic Exogamy and Tukanoan Identity in Northwest Amazonia. Cambridge Studies in Social Anthropology. Nbr. 39. Cambridge University Press, 1983. Pp 108 – 111.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2012 by Austin Whittall © 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Ape men and Water Tigers in the 1620s

SSpanish explorers and the priests who accompanied them on their journeys to America, reported strange events and, more interesting to us cryptozoologists, weird creatures in their accounts.

One of these accounts was written by a Spaniard , father Antonio Vázquez de Espinosa:
Compendio y descripción de las Indias occidentales in 1628-1629. It is quite recent as nearly one hundred and forty years had passed since Columbus set foot on Santo Domingo Island. Nevertheless it has two interesting tidbits which I copy below (translation is mine). You can click on the links to go to the original Spanish language texts.

Savage men in Venezuela
This text is from page 92 (item 278) of Vázquez de Espinosa's book. Click to see original version.

Eight leagues [40 km or 25 miles] from this town of Tucuyo, behind the Carora at the mountain of Campuzano, there are some animals called Savages, rare in the world, they have the proportions and disposition of men in all things except that they are covered with hair a span in length, between brown and silver, they do not speak.
The map below shows the location of this town of Tucuyo, in the State of Lara, Venezuela. It was founded in 1545 by Juan de Carvajal.

Map showing location of El Tocuyo.

Enlarge map

Notice that it is quite close to the area where the Loys ape was found (accross the Maracaibo, towards Colombia).

It is quite surprising that the author says they are animals but does not call them monkeys. The fact that he uses the Spanish word "Salvajes", meaning wild, savage, to refer to them, is also interesting, since it was used to describe uncivilized native people. The being is definitively ape like (the hair as a long as a span -distance from tip of thumb to tip of little finger with hand stretched wide open- is very monkeyish). Nevertheless he describes them as human in all other aspects (except the lack of speech).

They are very likely some variety of South American monkey, but, (samall and doubtful but) they may also represent some unknown homind, same as those described in Guyana by Raleigh around this same period of time.

The "water tiger"

The next description is not actually an ape, it is an aquatic creature that captures humans that are crossing rivers using its long tail. The animal is described as tiger-like. Though he reported it in Chiapas, southern Mexico, right beside Yucatan, he also says that they have been seen in Perú.

This animal is very similar to the Patagonian "Water Tiger", and the fact that the myth is so widespread may indicate that the creature actually existed all over Sothern and Central America.

Its hunting method is identical to the one used by the "fox-snake" of Patagonia: wrapping its tail around its victims' legs.

Below is the translation (here is the original text from page 193, item 584 of his book)

There are [on the shores of the Chiapa River] some animals shaped like big monkeys, painted like tigers; they have a very big tail and usually go about under the water, and they wrap and jam the legs of the Indians that pass by, and drown them, though, as they already know that these crafty animals will jam their legs with their tail, they cut it off with their knives and avoid this danger. These demonic monkeys do not eat meat, instead they are inclined to do evil, and have not been seen in other places, though they say that they are, inland, in the mountains of Pirú [Peru].

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2012 by Austin Whittall © 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Choy and H. erectus in America


Emilio Choy Ma (1915 - 1976)

Emilio Choy Ma, a Peruvian of Chinese origin, (1915 -1976) an unknown archaeologist, but quite important because, he was I believe, the first person to put down in writing in a formal anthropological book, the possibility that hominids that predated modern Homo sapiens entered America:

That Neanderthals could have entered America makes it possible that other hominids that preceded them may have done so also, such as the Peking man (Sinanthropus) or the Java man (Pithecanthropus erectus)[1] [both of which we know name Homo erectus

He also added that: "Acheulean material found at Trenton implies that there were hominids in the New World, that is, the non specialized neanderthaloids." [1]

Trenton stone tools

These artifacts found at Trenton that Choy mentions, were unearthed by an amateur archaeologist, Charles Conrad Abbott at his family’s farm in New Jersey. He was convinced, due to their primitive nature, that they had been made by the ancestors of contemporary American Indians. Later (1877) he would believe they were made by primitive Paleolithic men. [2]

The idea found some support in professional archaeologists. But for the orthodox school, this was anathema, so the Smithsonian Institution quickly sent an expert, William H. Holmes to disprove Abbott.

Holmes said (1890, 1892)that these crude stone artifacts were not crude due to the poor techniques of their ancient makers, but because they were rejects. They were not finished tools but defective ones. Their crudeness was not an indication of their great age but of faulty manufacture. In fact, he said, the tools were recent. This dampened the mood and made everyone much more cautious.

Abbott had written in 1881“had the Delaware River been a European stream, the implements found in its valley woudl have been accepted at once as evidence of the so-called Paleolithic man”. He also added [3] (bold mine):

Mon. Mortillet has, in a late communication to the Society of Anthropology of Paris, given an interesting account of the resemblance between the implements found in the valley of the Debware, and those occurring in various localities in France. He says of a series of these implements collected by the author of this volume, and forwarded to him; "These stones do not chip so well as those of the Somme, because the latter are of si/ex, and silex is easily chipped. On the Delavarde [Delaware] River, there is no silex; men were there obliged to use a different stone — the trap, a sort of volcanic rock, slightly argilkiceous, and very hard and difficult to chip. For this reason the axes that you see here are not as perfectly made as those from St. Acheul.[3]

Choy also mentioned findings at the Niobrara and North Platte rivers as belonging to the end of the Tertiary period. And that these Asian hominids came into America with their own lithic technologies, “of the mid or even lower Paleolithic, that is the Soan industry and the Anyathian of Southeastern Asia, similar to the la Jolla findings by Carter and those in Wyoming by Renaud” [1]

Anyathian is a lithic industry that spans from 750 to 10 kya and belongs to the H. erectus of Myanmar (formerly Burma). The Soan industry refers to crude stone implements found in the Indian Subcontinent by the Soan River in the basin of the Indus River. The origin of the Soan toos are disputed as some say they geofacts instead of man-made.[4]

But Choy was clear, primitive lithic tools of Acheulean or even cruder technologies were brought to America by our more distant ancestors.


[1] Choy, Emilio. (1979), Antropología e historia. Unmsm. Vol 1. pp. 89, 110, 34-5, 126.
[2] Charles Conrad Abbott (1877) The Stone Age In New Jersey.
[3] Charles Conrad Abbott (1881). Primitive Industry
[4] Kenneth A. R. Kennedy, (2000), God-Apes and Fossil Men: Paleoanthropology of South Asia. University of Michigan Press, pp. 141

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2012 by Austin Whittall © 

Sacharuna or chullachaqui the “jungle men”

Sacharuna ape man
Indian dressed up as a Sacha-runa, from a watercolor by Joaquín Pinto (1842-1906).

Sacharuna or chullachaqui the “jungle men”
Continuing with my series of posts on South American hominids (I began in Guyana and then continued with the Colombian-Venezuelan border area, mentioned some Peruvian hairy beings) today I will write about the Sacharuna. As I usually do, I will not copy and paste or rehash what has already been written by my other cryptozoological colleagues. Instead I will go directly to the sources.

The oldest written references

As in all things dealing with ancient South America, the oldest sources about how things were, are the journals, minutes, diaries or accounts of the Spanish Conquistadors during the early sixteenth century. The native South Americans did not possess any written language other than knots tied on cords made from llama wool (known as “quipu”).

The word Sacharuna , according to Garcilaso de la Vega (He was the first American Born historian, son of an Inca Princess and a Spanish Conquistador . 1539 – 1616), in the ancient Peruvian language, meant "savage" and was used to name the people that lived in the mountains. Note that he is not speaking about animals, ape-men or weird beings, just coarse mountain men.
“Sacharuna” is actually the combination of two Quechua language words: Sacha = jungle and Runa = man.

Spanish jesuit priest Bernabé Cobo (1572-1657), in his Historia del Nuevo Mundo (History of the New World), published in 1653, mentions a very strange “ape-man” with notably human abilities: [2]

But among all the species of Apes or Monkeys, there is a strange one that has been seen in the Andean mountain ranges, not far from the city of Cusco: it is about the height of a twelve year old boy, that always go about on two feet, their face is more similar to the human one than to that of the other monkeys, its body is voered with hair, and its face has noen, or it is so delicate that it appears to have none, its feet like those of men, only different in that they bend, like hands do; the Indians call it Sacharuna, which means both Indian of the jungle or wild man, and they attribute to it such a strange instinct or inventiveness, that they affirm that this animal, sets snares for deer and in such a manner hunts them for his sustenance, that it makes balls with which it plays and even small drums with which it makes sounds, it is believed that some of them have horns, which if so, would let us say that they are satyrs, fauns or sylvans... ”[2]

A very man-like ape, or perhaps a primitive hominid (was it furry or wearing furs?).

Another Spanish chronicler, who lived in Peru was Antonio Rodríguea de Leon Pinelo (c.1595 – 1660), who recorded that in the jungle at Carabaya, a Sacha Runa was slayed, and he asserted that it was the outcome of an aberrant mating between man and monkey. (LeonP IV-5) note that he wrote down what others had seen, he did not witness the event. Apparently he based his account on a now lost work by Felipe de Pamanes (Los Notables del Perú) in which the Sacharuna are refered to as “Carabaya monkeys” and “Savages... whose face seemed human... it shouted like a man” and also “had the height of a medium brawny man”.[4]

The following map shows the places mentioned in this post and oultine the habitat of Sacharuna:

Sacharuna habitat map
Map showing Sacharuna's habitat. Copyright © 2012 by Austin Whittall

Trying to justify their origin, Pinelo suggested an antinatural mating between human and ape. In a similar line of thought, Miguel Cabello de Balboa (c.1535 – 1608), another Spanish priest, wrote about the case of an Indian woman who gave birth to a dead monster after being “impregnated by a bear” at Carangue, close to Quito, Ecuador.[5]

What is it like?

The creature is also known as “chullachaqui”, and in Northeastern Perú, on the Amazonian side of the Andes, in the region of Loreto, the natives name it “Yahsingo”, “Sranshico”, “Shaningo”. “Shapshico”.

The natives here, in the Equatorial jungles are not Quichua, but Amazonian natives (such as the upper Napo and Bobonaza Indians), describe it as a being that appears to hunters in the forest, to frighten them.

It is a man-like creature that prefers to live in solitude, far from humans, whose presence it tries to avoid. Interestingly: [3]

they are attracted to humans and will kidnap human beings for the purpose of copulationg with them. Yashingos use kidnapped human beings for procreation, even though they can also breed within themselves [3]

The image that appears at the top of this post [6] is an Indian dressed up as a Sacha-runa, from a watercolor by Joaquín Pinto (1842-1906) (Eduardo Samaniego y Álvarez Collection), its green color is due to the belief that its body was also covered by moss or lichen.


[1] Garcilaso de la Vega, (1617), Historia general del Perú: ó, Commentarios reales de los Incas. Impr. de Villalpando, (Ed. 1800). Vol 5, pp 353.
[2] Cobo, Bernabé (1653), Historia del Nuevo Mundo, pp. 978 - 980.
[3] Ilkka Pyysiäinen (Ed.), (2010). Religion and Reason, Religion, Economy, and Cooperation, Walter de Gruyter , Vol. 49 pp 84.
[4] Francisco Carrillo, (1990) Cronistas que describen la colonia: las relaciones geográficas, la extirpación de idolatrías Volume 5 of Enciclopedia histórica de la literatura peruana. Ed. Horizonte. Pp 75 citing Leon Pinela “Monos hay en todas las Indias y de Peregrinas Condiciones”
[5] Miguel Cabello Balboa, (1586). Miscelánea antártica: una historia del Perú antiguo . UNMSM.
[6] The Sacharuna Photo is online here, and is part of: pp.552, El arte ecuatoriano, by José María Vargas, O.P.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2012 by Austin Whittall © 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Ecuadorian Pre-hispanic "horned" beings

precolumbian bull rider
Pre-Hispanic Ecuadorian native riding a "bull" (?) . From [1]

Being saturday I will keep this post short. Browsing the Internet I came upon the image shown above. Which looks like some kind of "bull rider". The ceramic is on display at the "Museo del Banco Central del Ecuador" according to the source that posts the image, which is said to be Pre-hispanic.

It is a horned (with horns, not antlers) cow-like being. But since bovines were introduced in America by the Spanish conquistadors after 1492, what is this horned being? Furthermore, there is a Pre-hispanic native riding it!

Interesting! I have already posted on Pre-hispanic cattle in Patagonia and other parts of South America. This is just another bit of evidence.


[1], Museo del Banco Central del Ecuador.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2012 by Austin Whittall © 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

De Loÿs ape-man or Montandon's hoax

Loys ape man
Loys Ape-man Original photograph from Montandon's paper [2]

The Ameranthropoides loysi, a mysterious ape-man that is said to inhabit the South American jungles along the border between Colombia and Venezuela, is often mentioned in cryptozoological articles. The photograph which I post above (which in my case comes from the original 1929 article on the subject), is also included as proof of the existence of this creature.

I want to thank Pablo Infantino, who wrote to me commenting my recent post on hominids in Guyana and brought up the matter of Loys ape which many sites link with the Guyana cryptid. Pablo calls it the "famous (I would add doubtful) Loys ape". His comment prompted me to write about it, and yes, it is indeed "doubtful" and in my opinion it is not a real creature, just some kind of hoax put together by a racist Swiss scientist to back up his ideas about the origin of mankind. It is not related to the Guyana hominds mentioned in my previous posts.

But, lets read the facts:

The De Loÿs Ape-men story

A swiss geologist named Francois De Loÿs (1892 - 1935) explored the area south of Maracaibo along the Tarra, Catatumbo and Zulia rivers in Colombia (see the area in the maps below: a Google map and the original paper map [2])

View larger map

map with location of Loys ape man
Map showing location of Loys Ape-man Original photograph from Montandon's paper [2]

According to Montandon: De Loys explored this area between 1917 and 1920 and during this period, he came across a couple of ape-men or ape-like creatures which, walking upright, like men, came out of the forest, gesticulated, threw their own excrement at the expeditionary group, yelled at them and broke off branches which they brandished as weapons. [2]

As they grew more aggressive, the party, in a typical early 1900s attitude, opened fire and killed the female. The male ran away into the jungle. [2]

The creature was flayed to preserve its skin and skull also, but alas, "the skull fragments were lost" [2]. Loÿs knowing the value of his finding, kept the jaw for a long time, but it too got lost during his 3 year journey.[2]

Montandon and his paper

A Swiss anthropologist, George Montandon made the discovery public ten years later, when he published a paper [2] that named the ape and declared it to be an anthropoid (i.e. a tail-less, advanced primate variety of monkey, unknown in America such as the gorilla, chimpanzee or orangutan), the Ameranthropoides loysi or, "Loys' American human-like ape". All this based on a photograph and no physical evidence!

Among the things mentioned by Montandon were its great height (1,57 m) and the female's large external genitalia (more on this later).

He also added some strange information, evidently to support his theory of South American anthropoids from local sources:

Mayan Gorillas

At the end of his paper he adds this strange final note, citing a librarian of the Société des Américanistes de Paris by the name of Vosy-Bourbon, who translated from II Palacio (Santa Fé, New Mexico), vol. 25, sept. 22-29, 1928, p. 188-189, the following:

American Archaeology
Gorilla-Like Figure in Yucatan.
Monstrous gorilla-like figures of stone, coming from the gorilla-less land of the Mayas, are one of the unexplained curiosities of the Archaeological and Historical Museum in Merida. There are two of these creatures, legless, but standing more than five feet high on their stumps of thighs. They are rude but powerful works of art, done in rough and pitted limestone. They were brought to the museum a short time ago... seems bisexual, for while it has the masculine characteristics, it carries a child, motherlike, in its left arm...They were found near the town of Tekax, Yucatan

Montandon's paper is in French, but I found the original English language version above. Yes, it is true and it actually exists (check it out here [4]).

He later wrote about them again (Montandon George, 1931. Les statues simiesques du Yucatán. Journal de la Société des Américanistes, Vol 23, Issue 23-1, pp. 249-250) in an article titled "The ape-like statues of Yucatan". But no photographs were included (I have found some online, but am not certain that they are genuine.

The Yucatan gorillas deserve more research, but lets get back to the American anthropoid...

A normal Spider Monkey not an anthropoid

I am no expert, but the first time I saw the photograph of Loÿs ape-man I immediately thought it was some kind of South American monkey whose tail was concealed in the photograph. Its long limbs and slender body are very unlike those of "anthropoids" and they look definitively like those of a spider monkey. Compare the photograph below with the one at the top of this post. They are the same animals!

Spider monkeys
Spider Monkeys, notice one is walking upright. Source: Internet

The Loÿs ape was apparently (according to Montandon) much larger than the Spider Monkey, at 1,57 m (about 5 ft.) which are not more than 1 m tall (3 ft.). The photograph deliberately avoids anything that would allow a size comparison -other than the box, of unknown size.

But others have investigated the matter and concluded that it is all a hoax:

The Hoax with a racist tint

The fraud was uncovered by Vilorda and Urbani [5], who originally published a letter [3] which sheds light on the matter. This is a letter written by a Dr. Enrique Tejeda MD (1889 - 1980), to a Mr. Guillermo José Schael in July 1962. Tejeda tells Schael that while he was in Paris in 1919, he went to a conference given by a Mr. Montandon who presented the photograph shown above as that of a tail-less male anthropoid from the unknown parts of Venezuela.

Tejeda says that he knew it was tailless because he saw it being amputated and that at the conference he made this clear, in front of the audience: In 1917 while working with Francois De Loys in Perijá, prankster De Loys was given a monkey with a wounded tail so it had to be cut off. De Loys and his monkey became inseparable. While they were in Mene Grande the monkey died so De Loys photographed it. And that is the photo that Montandon presented to the world. The monkey is, according to Tejeda a Marimonda or spider monkey. He adds that evidently Montandon waited for ten years before going public again, hoping that the conference upheaval had been forgotten.[3]

The Vilorda and Urbani letter gives a reason for Montandon's fraud: He upheld the theory of Human Hologenesis, and wrote a book about it: L'Ologenese humaine — (Ologenisme), 1928, which stated that different races originated in different parts of the Earth. A racist theory which upheld the fallacy of Arian supremacy, it contended that "whites" descended from the archaic Homo sapiens, the Cro-Magnon, the "yellow" people descended from the orangutan, while the "blacks" derived from the chimps and gorillas.

He clearly needed an American anthropoid to be the ancestor of the "red skinned" people!, so he made up his Ameranthropoid[3] Also, the timing of the paper (1929) was perfect to butress his Hologenetic notions (he published his book in 1928).

By the way, Tejeda is right, and it seems that by 1929, Montandon had done his homework (he published that it was a female and expressly mentioned its large clitoris). The following quote clearly states that it was a female: "spider monkeys of South America [have] a pendulous and erectile clitoris long enough to be mistaken for a penis"[1]


[1] Joan Roughgardenm (2004). Evolution's rainbow: diversity, gender, and sexuality in nature and people. University of California Press, pp 39-40
[2] Montandon, G., (1929). Découverte d'un singe d'apparence anthropoïde en Amérique du Sud . Journal de la Société des Américanistes de Paris, 21 (6): 183-195
[3] Viloria, Angel; Urbani, Franco and Urbani, Bernardo. (1999). Interciencia. Vol 24. 04. pp 229+ Cartas al Director. La Verdad sobre el mono venezolano.
[4] Frank Thone. Gorilla Carvings ara Maya Mystery. Science News Letter. Vol 14. 1928. pp.313
[5] Bernardo Urbani, Ángel L. Viloria, (2009) Ameranthropoides Loysi Montandon 1929: The History of a Primatological Fraud LibrosEnRed

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2012 by Austin Whittall © 

Trauko and Red Headed Neanderthals

Red Haired Neanderthal
Red Haired Neanderthal. Trauko?. Photo by Thomas Kohler [2]

The Mapuche natives of northwestern Patagonia, that lived in the central part of the province of Neuquén, near what is now the city of San Martín de los Andes, believed in several gigantic beings.

One of them (which I mention in my book) was known as the Trauko -do not mistake with Chiloé’s Trauco dwarf which is a completely different creature with a similar sounding name.
Trauko dwelled along the banks of Collón Curá River -a name which means "stone mask" in Mapuche language- in Neuquén (40°00’ S, 70°49’ W).

The name probably reflects the presence of fossils in the area (there are plenty of dino bones in Neuquén province, close to the surface).

Native myths describe Trauko as a real hideous monster: a “terrible giant, man eater”. He was described as hairy and having “a very long beard and his hair, that seemed like rush stalks were fire red color”.[1]

Trauko was not invulnerable and the dogs of a young Indian woman killed it.
The interesting part of this story is the "fire red color" of his hair. Trauko was a primitive hominid with red hair!

It rang a bell as I recalled the "red headed" Neanderthals (see my post on Blemyes)... could Trauko be an ancient memory about Neanderthals among the Mapuche?


[1] Koessler-Ilg, B., (2000). Cuentan los Araucanos: Mitos, leyendas y tradiciones. B. Aires: Del Nuevo Extremo. . pp. 71.
[2] Photo, "Neandertaler", by Thomas Kohler, Some rights reserved Creative Commons License.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2012 by Austin Whittall © 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Dionysius and Patagonian bulls

Bull leaping Crete
Bull leaping fresco, from the Great Goddess Sanctuary in the Labyrinth, Crete, showing the members of a bull leaping team at work.

Minoan Crete had a very odd relationship with bulls and the frescos that they decorated their temples and palaces with, depicted a very peculiar ritual: that of “bull-leaping”.

This ritual involved a bull and some young acrobats (initiates?). They would run up to the bull, grasp its horns and use them to catapult themselves over the animal’s back, landing on the ground behind it.

Did it represent some kind of “regeneration”? Flying over the raging bull symbolized something (perhaps courage or bravery... what does the matador symbolize in Spanish culture? The macho he-man? Or was it merely a spectacle for the masses?

But it was not a cult (or sport?) restricted to Crete. Bull leapers are depicted in nearby Siria and even, along the shores of the Persian Gulf, in Arabia, and have been dated to 1,700 BC long before the oldest Cretan representations. [4] Perhaps this cult was an ancient religion that spanned the Middle East

Bulls and horns in Religion

Alexander Hislop, in his “The Two Babylons” [1] provides some interesting facts on bulls in the ancient Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean basin:
  • Bull stands for ruler. The Chaldean word for it is Tur, which latinized becomes Taurus, and deformes into Turannus (i.e. Tyrant, but which originally meant ruler not despot!). [1]

I have always loved astronomy and recall that the precession of the equinoxes had the sun rise in the constellation of Taurus between 4320 and 2160 BC.

Precession of the Equinoxes: The Earth wobbles like a gyroscope slowing down, as it rotates around the sun. Thus the Earth’s axis moves in a circular motion taking it nearly 26,000 years to complete one rotation. This causes the constellations to rotate (very very slowly) around the Earth and take turns in occupying the position where the sun rises.

Therefore the Bull shaped constellation being the one where the sun rose, must have given it some sort of preeminence, during that period some six to four thousand years ago.

  • The Greek Titan, Kronos, father of Greek Gods (the Roman Saturn), was known as “the Horned One” and horns symbolized the power of kings, and therefore royal power was represented with a crown: two horns mounted on a band. Some added even more horns and thus the spiky appearance of crowns.[1]

Dionysius horned god

Dionysius was a God the predated the Indoeuropean invasion of Greece, he was the “God of Nysa or Nyasi”. [2]

He was revered in Greece as a god of annual renewal. He was a “bull god” “bull-horned”, and as such a symbol of virility, fecundity and therefore women favoured him (the Romans took him as Bacchus, and their Bacchanalia were orgies).

The female worshipers at Laphystios “wore hons themselves[2]. Euripides Bacchae mentions him as a “horned God”.[2]

Zeus, son of Khronos, fathered a son with Persephone (his daughter – issue of Demeter –his sister), Dionysius. During the war between gods and Titans he adopted the form of a bull, he was captured and torn apart. Athene saved his heart which Zeus swallowed and from it gave birth to a renewed Dionysius.

The Titans were blasted apart by Zeus’ lighting bolts and their ashes mixed with Dionysius’ blood were the origin of humans, who carry both Titanic evil and Dionysian goodness in our souls. [3]


The Middle East and Eastern tip of the Mediterranean Sea were the source of a cult based on bulls. Horns were donned as caps during their worship. Gods bore horns on their heads, gods related to virility, sex, fecundity and renewal.

Horned god blended with horned Titan gave birth to mankind. A similar mix to what we find among Patagonian natives: ceremonies involving bulls (in a part of the world that lacked them!), rituals related to fecundity and the onset of puberty. Horned gods (by the way, Elal, the Patagonian Zeus myth is very similar to that of the Greek Titans, war and murder included).

As usual we have options, and each can make up his or her own mind on the matter:

a) Coincidence. We humans have a limited repertoire of mystic stories and many cultures assemble the same tales time and time again based on the same basic themes (lust, hate, violence, rape, war, incest, good vs. evil, etc. ).

b) Minoan, Mycenic, Greek, Phoenician or some other group of ancient mariners sailed forth from the Mediterranean, reached Patagonia and left their imprint in the form of ancient bull myths.

Minoan bull effigy. Notice the golden horns, which appear in northern Patagonian myths regarding bulls! See my posts on “Lake Bulls”


[1] Alexander Hislop, (1853). The Two Babylons or The Papal Worship Proved to be the Worship of Nimrod and His Wife. Chapter II.
[2] Marija Alseikaitė Gimbutas, (1974). The Gods and Goddesses of Old Europe: 7000 to 3500 BC Myths, Legends and Cult Images. University of California Press, pp. 227.
[3] J. R. Watmough, (1934). Orphism, Cambridge University Press.
[4] Michael Rice, (1998). The Power of the Bull Routledge.

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

Friday, April 6, 2012

Horned beings and Loncomeo

horned being in Patagonian Rock Art
Horned creature. The caption in original text is "head wearing head gear (shaman?). From [1]

Continuing with my series of posts on Patagonian mazes and their possible link to those found in the Mediterranean basin (i.e. Cretan Labyrinth and the Minotaur myth), in this post I will write about Elel and the "initiation" dance...

Some more information on horned beings

A Spanish Jesuit priest, Sanchez Labrador (1717 - 1798), who interacted with the native Patagonians, gives us an eyewitness account on their ritual dancing (the "lonkomeo" mentioned in my first post of this series). He wirtes about their demigod, Elel as follows:

"Elel, among the -Tuelche [sic] prince of the devils, or perhaps (in my opinion) a devil mask that the president or governor uses during the dances...
Then the Indians, naked, painted red and decorated with feathers, so that they resemble devils, also place two groups of feathers on their heads, mimicking horns, and on their behinds, a tail made from feathers or horse hair....
" [1]

The "dance" mentioned above is a native dance represented all across Patagonia, by the Tehuelche and also by the Mapuche, who called it Lonkomeo, whereas the Tehuelche called it yagüjü'm'anü.

The horned being depicted in the image above at Loncomán (40° 47' S, 70° 10' O, Río Negro) is interpreted as a shaman, actually the Lonkomeo dancers were not shamans, just men belonging to the native clan. By the way, Loncomeo means, in Mapuche language: shaking heads (due to the spasmodic motions of the heads of the dancers, perhaps simulating they were bulls fending off invisible assailants with their horns).

This dance was really a pan-Patagonian celebration, and the native clans of different ethnic groups enacted it when a young girl had her first period and became a woman...

Men wearing "feather" horns dance in front of the "pretty house" . From [4]

English explorer George Musters, who rode with a group of Tehuelche from Puerto Santa Cruz, on the Santa Cruz River, to Carmen de Patagones in 1870, experienced the "dance" and his book included a plate showing the dancers with their "feather horns", prancing in front of the casa bonita or pretty house, a tent which was decorated and housed the young woman who had had her first period.

So, there is a link between the men disguised as horned creatures (Minotaur-like dancers) dancing in circles, chanting, and fertility:

The female puberty rites, or menarche rites were critical: they marked that a given girl had become a woman, and was capable, as a fertile member of the community to bear children and ensure another generation.

So we do have a link between horns, mazes and fertility rites... men wearing horned costumes, with tails and all (bulls) dancing in circles (the labyrinth – see below) when a girl becomes a woman, and thus becomes fertile.

The “dancing in circles” part is, according to Casamiquela what gives the name to Gualicho, which seems to mean “who spins”, “who turns around”, “wheels around”, he goes to greath lenghts to prove this, analysing the origin of many Tehuelche words in their northern, central and southern variants. Towards the end of his book, he writes: “Summing up, here we have Gualicho, full of surprises, as the guide within the labyrinth. A labyrinth that the initiated had to go through dressed as bulls ...”

However Casamiquela believed that the real meaning of Gualicho was related to rebirth after death:[2]

... the labyrinth and its mythical meaning: ... the road of the spritis on their journey to the Other World ... the being whose spirit had to climb the mystical spiral... the labyrinth where only the bull was lord...[2]

To be continued...

It is Easter and Pesaj so, a Happy Easter and Hag Sameaj! it is also the full moon after the beginning of Spring (in the Northern Hemisphere) so it is an appropriate time to write about fertility and initiation rites! (Here in Buenos Aires we are in early autumn, in a climate changing world with mosquitoes and a balmy 20 something degrees Celsius.


[1] Sanchéz Labrador, J. (1936). Paraguay Catholico. Los indios Pampas, Puelches, Patagones. Buenos Aires.pp.67 cited by Casamiquela Rodolfo, see [2] below, pp. 57
[2] Casamiquela, R. , (1988). En Pos del Gualicho. Fondo Editorial Rionegrino.
[3] Boschín, Maria Teresa, Tierra de hechiceros: arte indígena de Patagonia septentrional Argentina. Volume 146 of Acta Salmanticensia: Estudios históricos y geográficos
Volume 146 of Estudios Históricos y Geográficos. Publisher Universidad de Salamanca,
[4] Musters C. (1871) At home with the Patagonians plate at pp. 174. The Pretty House and Dance.

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