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

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Diabetes Neanderthals and modern Latinos

A paper published in Nature on Christmas titled: Sequence variants in SLC16A11 are a common risk factor for type 2 diabetes in Mexico puts forth the idea that Latin Americans share a genetic risk factor picked up from Neanderthals, which is not very common outisde of the American continent and which makes them more prone to diabetes:

Below is the keyline:

The risk haplotype carries four amino acid substitutions, all in SLC16A11; it is present at ~50% frequency in Native American samples and ~10% in east Asian, but is rare in European and African samples. Analysis of an archaic genome sequence indicated that the risk haplotype introgressed into modern humans via admixture with Neanderthals.

Once again a genetic marker linking Amerindians to Neanderthals but, unsurprisingly skipping their alleged East Asian "ancestors" who hardly share any of these key markers with American Indians. It is clear that current East Asians are not the stock that led to the peopling of America.

The paper explains why Latinos are almost twice as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes as Caucasians and African-Americans

I am working on a long article on these gentetic links and differences which I hope to post soon.

My previous post on Neanderthals and Amerindians

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2013 by Austin Whittall © 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Denisovans interbred with Homo Erectus

A paper published in Nature tells how a team (Prüfer, Racimo et al)sequenced the genome of a Neanderthal from Denisova and came up with some interesting findings.

Our interbreeding ancestors

The most unexpected finding results from a comparison of genomes. We, the modern African Homo Sapiens never left the continent and therefore were never in the territories occupied by Neanderthals or Denisovans. They therefore had no chance to mix with them and as a consequence, their MtDNA does not have traces of Denisovan or Neanderthal MtDNA. Any similarities between the DNA of all three comes from a common ancestor to all which should be equally distant to all. Well, it isn't.

The Denisovans have sequences that are more distant than expected. This can only be explained if the Denisovans interbred with some other population that had split from their common ancestor with modern African humans about 1 Million years ago.

The only candidate within this time frame is our old friend: Homo erectus who left Africa around that time. And this is what the team suggests: Denisovans mated with H. erectus.

Between 2.7 and 5% of their genome comes from H. erectus. Now, saying that y% of your genome comes from H. erectus means that the percentage of Denisovan's H.erectus parentage is much higher than y% because most of the genome would overlap, and maybe some lineages became extinct so we have no trace of it. How much greater than 2.7-5%? I can't say, but let's take a guess and place it at 10%.

This means that a considerable ammount of inter species intercouse took place (if the MtDNA is erectus, then the female erectus passed on their genome to hybrid offspring. So Denisovan males mated with H. erectus females.

So, did the lice of Homo erectus move from them to us directly (humans mating with erectus) or indirectly: Denisovans mated with H. erectus, got their lice and then we mated with them and caught their lice?.

Neanderthals and Denisovans split from our line about 400 kya. They split between them (Denisovans and Neanderthals) happened about 300 kya.)

So this is the current model:

  • Hominids appeared in Africa
  • A group left the continent (H. erectus)
  • Those that remained in Africa kept on evolving. Some left for Asia (They became Denisovans and Neanderthals)
  • In Asia they had sex with Homo erectus and got some if its MtDNA into its genome
  • Modern Humans then left Africa and bred with both Denisovans and Neanderthals, getting their MtDNA into our genome
  • Modern African Humans did not mix with anyone.

We already knew that Papuans and Australians had a Denisovan influx in their Genes (about 6%), now the paper mentions that Amerindians (0.2% approx.) and Asians also have Denisovan mTDNA. Which means that the modern humans who passed through Altai on their way to Western Asia also had sex with female Denisovans.

From my point of view, the fact that H.erectus survived to intermingle with Denisovans about 40 kya is amazing, and it is likely tht H. erectus or even Denisovans reached America long before the modern humans did. Perhaps a small Denisovan population interbred with H. sapiens paleoindians in the American continent and passed on their mTDNA to them there and not in Asia.

Perhaps the gene influx is even older (how about H.habilis?), see my post The first Asians were not Homo erectus.

Lets wait and see what further gene sequencing tells us.

See Supplementary information 16a on page 139. There is a lot of data if you are interested.

A Merry Christmas an a Happy new Year to all!

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2013 by Austin Whittall © 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

On Yetis and Polar Bears

A very short post to share an article I found online about the DNA analysis of some alleged "Yeti" (abominable snow man) hairs.


The article is this one: The Yeti Comes in from the Cold.

And below is the quote:

DNA analysis of two “yeti hair” samples, one collected from the western Himalayas and one from Bhutan, has uncovered a genetic match to a species of ancient polar bear. Professor Bryan Sykes, the Oxford University geneticist who conducted the analysis by comparing the hair DNA to a polar bear jawbone found in Norway, has called the finding “exciting and completely unexpected.
The dazzling discovery raises the possibility that a mysterious beast previously unknown to science indeed roams the peaks, and not just the fevered imaginations of locals. Professor Sykes offers two alternative explanations as to how an animal living today in the Asian mountains shares its genes with a Nordic polar bear that existed between 40,000 and 120,000 years ago: the creature is possibly a sub-species of brown bear that shares a common ancestor with the polar bear, or there has been recent interbreeding between brown bears and descendants of the polar bear.

The text was not too clear. Where did the samples come from? Who provided them? So I Googled "Prof. Bryan Skyes" and turned up more data... below is from National Geographic:

One of the most promising samples that Sykes received included hairs attributed to a Yeti mummy in the northern Indian region of Ladakh; the hairs were purportedly collected by a French mountaineer who was shown the corpse 40 years ago. Another sample was a single hair that was found about a decade ago in Bhutan, some 800 miles (1,290 kilometers) away from Ladakh. According to Sykes, the DNA from these two samples matched the genetic signature of a polar bear jawbone that was found in the Norwegian Arctic in 2004. Scientists say the jawbone could be up to 120,000 years old.

That made some sense... a "Yeti mummy" and the single hair could belong to some extant descendant of this yet unknown bear species.

The match with a 120 kya jawbone may be due to the time both species split: polar bears going, well, to the North Pole and surrounding areas an the other one moving into the Himalayan glaciers.

The daily The Telegraph added:

Professor Sykes added: “This is a species that hasn’t been recorded for 40,000 years. Now, we know one of these was walking around ten years ago. And what’s interesting is that we have found this type of animal at both ends of the Himalayas. If one were to go back, there would be others still there.”
Both hairs were brownish in colour. The Ladakh remains suggested a creature that would have been around 5ft tall – shorter than the towering figure of mythology. However, Professor Sykes suggested the animal could have displayed other characteristics which would have fitted with the yeti myth.
He added: “The fact that the hunter, who had great experience of bears, thought this one was in some way unusual and was frightened of it, makes me wonder if this species of bear might behave differently. Maybe it is more aggressive, more dangerous or is more bipedal than other bears.


If true, it supports my "theory" that "Myths are based on something real". Which does not mean that the real and mythical part are identical. A dragon may not be a dragon but a large lizard, a "water bull" may actually be a deer and so on.

What counts is that a "fact", something "real" originated the myth. The key is to find the actual "real" thing. That is what cryptozoology is all about.

New, July 2014, Bryan Skyes and his team published a paper which studied different hair samples from alleged Yeti and Bigfoot, finding them to belong to extant creatures and, this archaic polar bear. I have posted on this paper that claims Bigfoot is a fake.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2013 by Austin Whittall © 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Homo Erectus in America, a 1986 paper

Just a quick, short and to the point post.

I want to share a paper titled: Homo Erectus in America, Possibilities and Problems written in 1986 by by Frederick G. Dreier, which you can read online here


Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2013 by Austin Whittall © 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

More on the Patagonian Labrys, Phoenicians and Cretans

Getting back to my pervious post on the "Chelelon" or "Opposing triangle" shapes found in Patagonian rock art, and a possible link with Mediterranean cultures of ca. 1.500 BC., I have done some additional reading and can shed some light on some of the questions left unanswered in that post:

In the closing comments of that post I hinted "tongue in cheek" that:

"We could argue that the Cretan sailors reached Patagonia and smelted tin or copper and took it back to Crete in ingots shaped as Labyris, and that the Tehuelche natives imitated them and fashioned their own stone axes. Or that they saw the powerful religious connotations of the Cretan Labyris and adopted it as their own. But that is probably unlikely."

But I did not know then that the Cretans actually did smelt ingots that had a very odd shape! (in a Previous post, I mentioned that they came to Patagonia seeking copper) so it may possible that they had some influence on the native Patagonians. But first lets get back to the "labrys shape" and what my research found:

Patagonian tattoos

The Phoenicians according to Lucian of Samosata [1] tattooed themselves, and they represented these tattoos on their statues (such as the colossus at the Phoenician settlement of Amathus in Cyprus, which has “Tattoo marks on its arms” [2]

But what kind of evidence is this anyway, most human groups from different parts of the world tattoo themselves too!

George C. Musters, an English sailor and explorer who rode from Punta Arenas to Carmen de Patagones, with a band of Aonikenk Tehuelche natives in 1869/70, recorded first hand their customs and activities. He wrote about their tattoos too:

"Both men and women tattoo their forearms... the usual designs consist in a series of parallel lines and sometimes a single or double triangle, the upper one leaning on the apex of the lower one"

What Musters is describing is the opposed triangles motive or Chelelon design! [3]

They were done with blue clay or powered charcoal. He added that in the past the designs were more complex and were applied on the body and the face. He let them tattoo him.

What does this "double triangle" mean anyway? Why would they also tattoo themselves with it?

The Key to the Afterlife

Apparently a femenine goddess of the Tehuelches, whose name is written "Seécho, Sésom, was known as the " Old Woman of Heaven", nicknamed Karunon (which means hag).

She "Looks at the arm... she recevies the dead and examines that their wrists bear the Sháin (tattoo) and throws those who dont, into the sea.". The natives really feared her. [4]

This was also recorded by the Italo-Argentine scientist and explorer Clemente Onelli towards the end of the 1890s:

"They all have on their left arm small tattoos that, as an indian friend told me, are some kind of baptism to be able to enter the outwordly lands; the indian who does not have those hieratical signs marked on him is not allowed into heaven and if close to a river, his [body] is thrown into the water" [5]

A similar belief was held by the North American Sioux who believed that a warrior without tattoos would be turned away from the lodges of the afterlife, and wander the earth as a ghost.[7] Could this Trans-American myth have a common origin in the Paleoindians who peopled America ca. 30 kya? Or did they arise as separate myths?.

The Double cups

My previous post also mentioned "double cups" like two cones joined at their vertex with a shallow concave base.

They baffled me so I decided to read some more about the Tehuelche. They did not use glasses or chalice shaped cups, these artifacts serve another purpose:

They were Anvils. Here is the explanation:

Musters mentions that the Tehuelche jewels (except for the beads) "are home made: they make them by hammering coins that they obtain by trading with the colonies" (the Spanish outposts in Southern and Northern Patagonia or the Welsh one at Trelew, Chubut). [3]

Chilean author Mateo Martinic [6] goes into details on their metal working techniques:

"Anvils:, new handicraft activities arose, especially in working pieces of metal (bronze, copper) in which the natives besides using the elements that they acquired by barter (the most usual) they also used combined with tools belonging to their own culture, that is, stone anvils, adapted to making certain semi-spherical shapes... So that in some types of anvils were chipped to create small rounded cavities which were then used to make metal bowls." [6]

So this settles the mystery of the "double cups" they were anvils used by the natives to hammer coins into different jewels. Their concave bases were not designed to hold drinks but to shape the metal.

Oxhide ingots

For those longing for some Cretan or Phoenician link, other than Samosata's reference in the beginning of this post, there is a certain resemblance between the shape of the "Tehuelche axes" an the "oxhide ingots".

Oxhide ingots are metal slabs mostly made from smelting copper (though some are made from tin). They were manufactured and widely distributed during the Mediterranean Late Bronze Age (LBA).

Their shape resembles the hide of an ox, in which the "legs" are a protruding handle at each of the ingot’s four corners. These made it easier to carry the ingots on the backs of pack animals.

They have been found in Turkey, Cryprus, Crete, Sardinia, Sicily, Egypt and Bulgaria. The photo below depicts one:

oxhide ingot

Oxhide shaped ingot

The British Museum has more information on these ingots, and has a photo captioned "Copper Oxhide ingot from the Foundry Hoard, inscribed with a maker’s mark or Cypro-Minoan sign at one end (around 1200 BC-1050 BC)." So the Minoans made these ingots too.


[1] The Syrian Goddess De Dea Syria, by Lucian of Samosata by Herbert A. Strong and John Garstang [1913].
[2] Perrot and Chipiez, Phoenicia and its Dependencies, p. 165. Fig. 110
[3] Musters George, At Home with the Patagonians, Ed. Continente, B. Aires. 2007. pp. 158 and 159
[4] Alejandra Siffredi, Hierofanías y concepciones mítico-religiosas de los Tehuelches meridionales, Runa : archivo para las ciencias del hombre, 1969-1970, vol. 12, p. 247-271.
[5] Clemente Onelli, (1904)Trepando los Andes pp. 156.
[6] Mateo Martinic Beros, (1995) Los Aonikenk: Historia y cultura, pp. 99 and 214
[7] Faith Hickman Brynia 101 Questions about Your Skin that Got Under Your Skin ... Until Now pp. 142

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2013 by Austin Whittall © 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Chelelon, the “hourglass”, “Labyris” or “double ax” symbol in Patagonia

I was looking at some drawings traced from the rocks at some Patagonian rock art sites in Comallo, Río Negro province, Argentina, published in a book by Teresa Boschin [1], and was surprised by the “ape-like” appearance of the “men” and the strange shapes of their clothing (?) or bodies (?). (see image below). Could they be Neandertals or Homo erectus?

Intrigued, I read on, and got to the interpretation given by Boschin. The outcome is this post, which does not deal with primitive hominids but with some strange rock art and stone implements found in Patagonia.

rock art in Patagonia

Images traced from the Comallo rock shelters. From [1].

The strange men drawn at Comallo

The first thing that drew my attention were the ears, round, bear-like, mouse-like or even monkey-like (as can be seen in the top row of the drawing above –excluding fig. 185- , and in the second row in fig. 177, as well as fig. 242 in the third row).

The second thing were the “pot bellies” as can be seen again, in all figures of the first row, and, again, excluding the odd drawing depicted in fig. 185. In the second row it appears in figs. 177, 184 and 200 and again in fig. 241 in the third row.

What could they be? Pregnant women? Pot-bellied men? Persons wearing a blanket wrapped around their waist? What are these strange shapes?

Teresa Boschin, the author interprets them as follows:

  • Figures 200 (row 2) and 241 (row 3) carry an “ax” (the double triangle shaped thing across their chests –more on this below.
  • Seven of these figures are “examples of regional micro-identities” (meaning perhaps local dress or body paintings that are distinct from other regions) and these are all the figures that I noticed had the strange ears!, they are not ears but, according to Boschin some kind of earrings. Fig. 75 on the last row has a chest armour and a Tembetá or “lip plate”, to stretch the lower lip outwards
  • Fifteen of them have a clear identification of their gender (look between their legs).
  • Several have symbols that identify their “clans”: three toes of fingers (the Rhea or South American ostrich clan), snake, step-shaped garments and tatoo designs (figs 176 and 241). A head-dress with feathers (see bottom row figs. 108, 110), two leather capes (fig. 232 row three). Boleadoras (fig. 161 and 176 on the top row and fig. 75 on the bottom row) – the two pink or red round shaped things around the person’s waist). A combat armour and a cape (fig. 107 and 108, last row), and a one-armed person (fig. 161 top row).

My comments on Boschin’s interpretation

Boleadoras: The name boleadora derives from the Spanish word ‘bola’ (ball); they were stones balls sheathed with leather and attached to strong tendon straps that were whirled above the head of the hunter to gain momentum and then thrown so as to entangle around the hunted animal’s legs.

The problem is the size: the ´bolas’ were not as big as shown in the rock art. Even the largest stones were not bigger than a tennis ball. They were worn hanging from the waist, and in most photographs and engravings showing Tehuelche natives you never see the boleadoras. However, I did find one which shows a native riding a horse with his bolas strung around the waist as can be seen below (engraving from George Muster’s ride along Patagonia in 1870): [2]

boleadoras in Patagonia

Patagonian hunting, notice the boleadoras in his hand and slung on his waist.

Regarding earrings, in all the images (photos, paintings, etc) that I have seen, not one single Patagonian native man is shown wearing earrings of any kind. Women seldom appear wearing earrings, and if they do, they are tiny.

As an example, below is a photograph of a Tehuelche native Casimiro Biguá and his male relatives, at Carmen de Patagones fort in 1865. Notice: no earrings or boleadoras:

tehuelche indians

Casimiro Biguá and relatives, Patagones in 1865. No earrings or boleadoras.

The Axes

Boschin associates this rock art with Elumgássum, which she says is the mythical creator of the Tehuelche people. She points out that this particular rock art at Comallo introduces some stylistic changes: “that prioritize Elumgássum displaying a variety and quantity of axes...”[1]

For more on this Patagonian monster, see our posts on Elumgássum or Ellengassen.

Regarding the Axes, I have posted about Ellengassen’s hand ax postulating that it is the hand ax of some primitive hominid.

But this time I decided to take a deeper look into the matter and the odd shaped axes that Boschin mentions.

Looking at the rock art drawings, you will notice the ones she says carry an ax across their chests, it is a figure which she describes as follows “Chelelon are two triangles linked at the vertex [1] Surprisingly she does not go into the etimology of the word “Chelelon”, which I did, and found quite enlightening, but first lets look into these “double headed axes”.

The Minoan connection

The Palace of Knossos lies on the island of Crete, on the Eastern tip of the Mediterranean Sea. This complex at Knossos was built around 1,900 BC and was permanently occupied until around 1,200 BC when the site was destroyed by fire.

In one of the Palace’s rooms, an image of a double headed ax is cruedely engraved on the walls of the light well at the west end. The room received its current name as "The Hall of the Double Axes" due to this symbol. [3]

This is not at all strange since the Labyris or double headed ax was a very important symbol in the Minoan religion (something akin to the cross for Chrisitanity). [4] In Crete it was carved, painted, engraved and depicted in ceramics, frescoes and even cast in metal.

Labyris or double ax

The Labyris is a very ancient symbol (the word is of Lydian origin), and found in many places around in Europe and the Middle East:

  • Baring and Cashford describe it at the Paleolithic cave at Niaux, in Southeastern France [6]
  • E. O. James dates it as a religious symbol from the Fifth millenia BC and M. Eliade has the ax as part of religious rites at Tell Arpachiyah (of the Assyrian Tell Halaf culture), where it was found close to a naked goddess. In other parts of the Middle East it is a symbol of the “Mother Goddess” [7]
  • A Summerian text of the Third millennium BC mentions a sacred wedding which included the “Double headed ax ...” [8]
  • Even Afrodite (heir of the Cretan Mother Goddess) appears with the double ax symbol in the Afrodisia coinage [9]

Apparently the word for Labyrinth -the home of mythical Minotaur- derives from the word for double ax (Labyris) and meant “Home of the Double Ax”.

Its meaning

What does the double ax symbolize? Archaeologist Marija Gimbutas believed that the symbol predated metal axes by several millenia and that it represented a stylized Goddess of regeneration and death, with a hourglass shaped body and which was symbolized with a butterfly (because the various stages of its life cycle represent the cycle of life, death and rebirth).[5]

In my opinion Gimbutas seems to have been right (More on butterflies towards the end of this post). However, axes can be fashioned in stone, as we will see was the Patagonian case.

Furthermore the word labrys may derive from labia (with evident sexual and fecundity – Mother Goddess connotations).[5] Interstingly the double ax is depicted as held by women. It is never depicted as held by men. And, as an example of this: the Greeks would have Hercules steal Hyppolite's labryis, she was the queen of the Amazons.

Could Comallo cave rock art depict women? Hence the earrings?

Others interpret the symbol differently: Sir Arthur John Evans (1851 – 1941) the archaeologist who discovered the Palace of Knossos believed that the figure was a symbol of the union of complementary principles: the femenine and the masculine. Yet another interpretation is that it is the ax with which the Cretan bulls were sacrificed.

The Patagonian double headed axes

This takes us back to Boschin and her Labyris shaped axes. There are quite a few examples of these axes in Argentine museums. They are all fashioned in stone (well, the native Tehuelche did not work metals, so they had to use stone):

Patagonian Tehuelche stone axes

Some stone axes found at different sites of Patagonia and Northern Argentina. From [10].

In 1903 Juan Ambrosetti wrote a paper about these “Great Patagonian Ceremonial Axes”, and mentions that some were found in burial cairns along the Chubut River valley, and one was found at Punta Ninfas, Chubut, on the sea coast. All of them in Patagonia. On average they were 30 cm (one foot) long and a few centimeters thick (less than 1 inch).

He also mentions one tiny 8.5 cm (3.3 in.) ax that was given to him in Northwestern Argentina, at Molinos, Salta province (see above on the right). This is interesting since it may point at some type of cultural or religious influence that spanned the Andean and Patagonian part of America.

Most were carved out of basaltic rock (lava is quite frequent in Patagonia), and some were cracked in half at their narrowest part, due to manhandling when being dug out of the cairns.

Below is another of these axes, which belonged to a Tehuelche Chief named Foyel.

Foyel ritual Toki ax

Foyel’s ax, From: [11]

It was given by Foyel to an Argentine General, Liborio Bernal as a peace token, when the native troops he commanded surrendered to the Argentine authorities in 1883. It remained in the General’s family until his great grandchildren donated it to the Emma Nozzi Museum of Carmen de Patagones in 2009. The basaltic rock ax still is about 20 cm ling has some red paint marks on it. It symbolized Foyel’s authority (like a crown or a sceptre symbolize royal authority in Europe).[11]

More axes can be seen below, (A) is similar to the one shown above and is from the Gaiman Museum, Chubut. The ones shown in (B) are from Leleque’s Museum (Chubut), these two axes are “squarer”. And, from the Bariloche Museum, Río Negro we can see the common every-day ax, used for chopping, which has a more practical ax-like shape (C), and is therefore totally different to the “Ceremonial axes”.

patagonian axes

Some more Patagonian axes.

The paintings: Rock Art

This symbol (the triangles linked at their vertexes) also appears in rock art, clearly depicted on their own, and not stuck on the chests of people as in Boschin’s Comallo cave paintings.

rock painting

Hourglass shaped painting, in red, at the Alerces National Park, Chubut.

Curtoni [12] who analysed the different symbols painted across Patagonia, calls it a Clepsydra, or water clock (maybe meaning an hourglass, due to its shape, which would be a sand clock not a water one). In any case he finds it depicted in paintings in the provinces of Buenos Aires (Tandilia and Ventania sites), La Pampa, Neuquén, Mendoza and San Luis, which was the area where the Northern Patagonian Tehuelches lived until the arrival of the Spaniards.

Its symbolic value is powerful since it also appears on other artifacts, not only painted on rocks [12]:

tehuelche artifact

Notice the engraved shapes on the upper part of the object. From [12]

A Universal symbol

However the hourglass symbol is quite common, and it appears in rock art around the world. Some examples below:

Navajo rock art

Navajo Petroglyphs in New Mexico, USA [14]

tuareg rock art

Tuareg art in Northern Africa, Sahara.

It maybe meant different things to different people. It is a simple symbol, easy to draw. Rock art depictions can be interpreted to mean anything (like Boschin construing axes out of triangular shaped drawings).

But let’s get back to the stone axes:

Double cups

An interesting blog [13] by Gustavo Rubino Begner on Patagonian geoglyphs mentions a “Double Cup” which he says “is a symbol of being able to receive and keep the energy generated by the ceremony, and, if double amplifies it”.

Since the original text is in Spanish, I will quote in full:

Focusing on the central space that the overlapping and intersections create, we obtain an image which is similar to a double cup also called "ambilateral".
The same shape can be found in the rock art and petroglyphs in Patagonia, sometimes more or less outlined, to the point that it is drawn with straight lines. It is compared to the shape of a sand clock or a (number) eight. In Chubut several cups of this type have been found, generally of stone. The ritual cup symbolizes the power to receive and contain the energy that is generated within the ceremony. If it is double, there is an amplification in two dimensions or directions, external and internal

Indepentendly of Gustavo Rubin Begner's interpretation, I am not sure what these "cups" are, I am currently researching on them.

As you can see, they are quite different from the axes which are basically "flat", the "cups" look like two cones joined at their apex. Since they seem quite shallow it is unlikely that they served as drinking cups. What can they be?

double cup

“Double Cups” and an ax. See details below: Top and Right images are from [13]

The upper left image is a double-cup found on the Senguerr River, Chubut, Patagonia. On the Right, Double Cups also from Chubut. The lower left image is a decorated ceremonial ax printed on an Argentine stamp [15].

Chelelon or the opposed triangles are actually Butterflies

So now we go all the way back to the beginning of this post, where Boschin calls these axes by their native name “Chelelon” but did not say what it meant.

She shows how they could be combined and repeatedly superimposed:


Combined Chelelons at Loncoman site. From [1]

This image is important: those are not axes stacked one upon the other, they are something totally different: butterflies. I have seen butterflies gathered in a humid shady spot, they are symbols of fertility, spring, balmy weather and as can be seen below, can pile up together:


Butterflies grouped together. Photo: A. Whittall. Copyright © 2013 by Austin Whittall

In fact, that is what the word Chelelon means! [16] in Tehuelche language: Butterfly. Not triangle or Ax, just butterfly:

tehuelche words

Entry for Chelelon in the Tehuelche Dictionary [16]

A Patagonian historian, Mario Echeverría Baleta describes the painted capes crafted by the Tehuelche natives or Kai Ajnun. They were made out of Guanaco Lama guanicoe hides (they were the staple food of the Tehuelche, who used their hides for clothing and building the tents in which they lived in).

The native Tehuelche wore their hides with the fur towards the inside to keep warm and also to keeping burrs and branches from sticking to the hairs, the bare leather was tanned and painted with different motifs, such as the Chelelon, one of which is shown below.[17] Echeverría Baleta also states that they represent butterfly wings:

Tehuelche design

Chelelon motif, from [17].

Closing comments

The hourglass paintings on the guanaco capes and on the cave walls are butterflies not axes. They may symbolize family clans or even fertility. More research needed.

Humans have a limited repertoire of images and symbols (stars, crosses, dots and... hourglass shapes), and repeat them across space and time. The meanings are surely different, the symbol is the same one.

We could argue that the Cretan sailors reached Patagonia and smelted tin or copper and took it back to Crete in ingots shaped as Labyris, and that the Tehuelche natives imitated them and fashioned their own stone axes. Or that they saw the powerful religious connotations of the Cretan Labyris and adopted it as their own. But that is probably unlikely.

By the way there are many coincidences between Patagonian and Cretan myths.

They did make stone axes with two heads, and that is interesting and worth investigating. Why a double headed axe?

Then there are the “Double cups” which in my opinion are not cups and have no relation with the axes or the hourglass “Chelelon”


[1] María Teresa Boschin, 2009. Tierra de hechiceros arte indígena de Patagonia septentrional Argentina, Univ. De Salamanca.

[2] Musters, G., (2007). Vida entre los Patagones: un ano de excursiones desde el estrecho de Magallanes hasta el rio Negro: 1869-1870. B. Aires: Continente-Pax.

[3] Knossos Palace

[4] Symbols of the Minoan Goddess Religion

[5]Vicki Noble, The Double Goddess: Women Sharing Power.

[6] A.Baring & J.Cashford, 2005. El mito de la Diosa, Ed. Siruela. pp. 140

[7] E. O. James, Antichi dei mediterranei, Ed. EST, pp. 167
Mircea Eliade, 2006, Storia delle credenze e delle idee Religiose. Ed. BUR, pp. 152.

[8] Daniel Reisman, 1973, Iddin-Dagan's Sacred Marriage. Journal of Cuneiform Studies, Vol. 25, N. 4, 1973: 187

[9] Paule Faure, Fonctions des cavernes crétoises pp. 157

10] Ambrosetti, Juan B.,1903, Arqueología Argentina. - Las grandes hachas ceremoniales de Patagonia ( probablemente Pillan Tokis). 10 de Marzo de 1903. Anales Del Museo Nacional de Buenos Aires. Vol. ser 3 Tom.2.

[11] Julio Esteban Vezub , La vida social de las cosas y los artefactos-documentos del Museo de Carmen de Patagones CORPUS - Archivos virtuales de la alteridad americana

[12] Rafael Pedro Curtoni , 2006 Expresiones Simbólicas, Cosmovisión y Territorialidad en los Cazadores Recolectores Pampanos. Relaciones de la Sociedad Argentina de Antropología XXXI, Buenos Aires. pp133

[13] Geoglifosenlapatagoia.blogspot by Gustavo Rubino Begner

[14] Alex Patterson (Comp.), 1992. A Field Guide to Rock Art Symbols of the Greater Southwest , Big Earth Publishing.

[15] Díaz, José Fernández , 1984. Catálogo 2a exp Las Culturas de América en la Época del descubrimiento. 137pp. Madrid

[16] Ramon Lista, 1894, Los Indios Tehuelches, Una Raza Que Desaparece

[17] Mario Echeverría Baleta, Kai Ajnun - El milenario arte tehuelche de los quillangos pintados

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2013 by Austin Whittall © 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Ramsar, wetlands and Monsters

I was quite surprised to find the following document WETLAND MONSTERS – STORIES FROM THE RAMSAR CEPA ELIST which reviews how "Monsters" can be used to create awareness in the local population to preserve wetlands. It sees some Pros and some Cons, but, surprisingly it also mentioned Patagonian Monsters.

As you know, RAMSAR is a UN convention signed in the Iranian city of Ramsar (hence its name). It is now 32 years old, and its purpose is to focus international action and cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

We are proud to help with our tiny grain of sand.


Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2013 by Austin Whittall © 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Four years online. This is the beginning of our fifth year. And I want to thank you all for your patience and support, this is only possible thanks to you being over there, reading, posting comments and giving me feedback.

My recent trip to the US has (after seeing and feeling those wonderful forests from Arizona through Colorado to Oregon, Wyoming and California) given me me plenty of things to chew over. Bigfoot may not roam those mountains now, but H. erectus or our neanderthal ancestors must have surely roamed those forests!.

Patagonian forests, though distant and different may also harbor (or, in the recent past, harbored) a similar creature.

We must somehow come across definitive evidence in the form of stone tools that prove this beyond any doubt.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2013 by Austin Whittall © 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Bigfoot or a trip to the Rockies

A few weeks ago my wife and I visited Western USA, and in our road trip (by chance thanks to a fortuitous encounter with a couple who had just visited the place), ended up visiting Pikes Peak, Colorado. The mountain of 14,100 feet (4,300 m) is right next to Colorado Springs, in the Pike National Forest. A densely forested area in the Rockies. The road takes you all the way up to the summit. The view is amazing (there is also a cog railway that reaches the summit).

To our surprise there were road signs showing a "Bigfoot crossing", a wood carving (see below, with me next to it) of Bigfoot and an imprint of the creature's "big" foot in concrete (next to me on the ground in the photo). A sign informed tourists about a sighting here in 1989.

An amusing place indeed. However I must admit that the thousands of square miles of pine and aspen forests that we saw on our journey across Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming as well as the thick woods of Western Oregon and California (especially the Redwood and Sequoia forests, so similar to the Patagonian alerce Fitzroya cupressoides to which they are related)impressed me deeply. It could be the home to this "bigfoot" creature. There is plenty of space for it as well as other forms of wildlife.

Patagonian forests on the other hand, with their "Southern Beech" forests (Nothofagus), are quite different, more somber perhaps, more ominous, with plenty of underbrush, which lacked among the pines in North America. But also quite different: no squirrels, deer, elk or bears. More birds perhaps (no crows of course, they are not found in Patagonia) but less mammals.

Enjoy the photos:

bigfoot in pikes peak
Austin and a Bigfoot
Bigfoot crossing

Summer 2013 road trip to the US, Bigfoot and Austin Whittall at Pikes Peak
Click to see the full photo
. Copyright © 2013 by Austin Whittall

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2013 by Austin Whittall © 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Punin skulls from Ecuador and Homo Erectus

Last century some odd shaped skulls, with "archaic" appearance were dug up in Ecuador. Their appearance and apparent antiquity led some scientists to believe that these were of an Australoid origin, and that they predated the current Amerindians of Asian origin. Today's post deals with these findings.

The 1923 Punin skull

The Punin skull was discovered in the Andean highlands in Ecuador, by a team from the American Museum of Natural History.

The discovery took place on November 2, 1923, by field assistant G. H. H. Tate. They were exploring the Chalan ravine close to Punin, in Chimborazo near Riobamba, Ecuador when they uncovered the skull.

The site was close to a river at 9,000 ft (2.700 m) altitude, 3 ft. (1 m) below the top of the alluvial bank (2 m - 7 ft high).

When they found it, it was, according to one of the scientists (E. H. Anthony), damp and very fragile. Once it had been removed, it dried and hardened.

It was a startling discovery due to its archaic appearance perhaps due to its "exceptionally pronounced supra orbital robusticity" [2] (i.e. prominent brow).

The skull was ovoid and had a wide and short face with big teeth. It lacked its lower jaw. As it was surrounded by bones of extinct Pleistocene mammals (horses, camelids and mastodon), they assumed it was very old. These animal remains were between 15 - 30 m (50 - 100 ft.) from the skull.

It belonged to a woman who was about 45 to 50 years old, it was found embedded in a stratum of volcanic ash, with megafaunal fossils (10 - 20 kya). [2]

However, in the 1980s, Don Brothwell and Richard Burleigh dated the skull to 4,750 +/- 250 BCE [4], it is not "ancient", but quite "recent". Though it is contemporary with the Late Paleoindian stage no cultural remains such as tools or ceramic remains were found close to the crania. [3]

I believe that if it was a burial, the grave was probably dug into older strata (10-20,000 years old, with megafaunal fossils), but the woman was from 4.750 years ago.

Nevertheless, E. H. Anthony, who wrote the report on the finding, thought otherwise: the skull's position in the soil was not the usual one for a burial as was the lack of other bones; he believed it was contemporary with the fossils found in the ash beds. [5]

I have managed to unearth (pun intended) the description and measurement of the 1923 skull (Sullivan and Hellman, 1925) [5], and, as you can see in the photographs below, it does have a "solid" bone behind the eyebrows.

punin skull
punin skull
Photographs of the 1923 Punin skull. From [5].

In the early 1920s the Punin skull caused quite a stir in anthropological circles. Some, such as British anatomist Arthur Keith (1886-1955) noted that upon examination:

"its resemblance to the skulls of the native women of Australia [was striking] ...the points of resemblance are too numerous to permit us to suppose that the skull could be of a sort produced by an American Indian parentage.
We cannot suppose that an Australian native woman had been spirited across the Pacific in some migratory movement and that afterwards her skull was buried in a fossiliferous bed in the high plateau of Ecuador...The discovery at Punin does compel us to look into the possibility of a Pleistocene invasion of America by an Australoid people.

Harvard anthropologist Earnest Houghton stated " any competent craniologist would identify as Australian in type" and pointed out that ancient burials in America yielded more "Australoid-looking dolichocephals ...than anything in the way of a skull that resembles a Mongoloid."

They supported the theory of an ancient peopling of America by "Austronesians"

The Austronesian hypothesis

Allow me to quote from my book Monsters of Patagonia:

These ‘Australoids’ were indeed part of the first wave of modern humans (Homo sapiens) to leave Africa about 100,000 years ago. They used watercraft to navigate coastal waters and could have easily sailed along the shores of Asia, across Bering Strait into America long before the appearance of the Mongoloid type in Siberia 20,000 years ago.
When the Mongoloid Asians later moved across Beringia into America, they advanced on those original Americans replacing them. A few remnants of the first wave survived extermination by the newcomers isolated in the remote Patagonian hinterland.
This theory that we have outlined above was first proposed by French ethnologist Paul Rivet (1876-1958), but its validity rests on the disputed navigation skills of the Australoids. To overcome this, Portuguese anthropologist Mendes Correia (1888-1960) proposed a migration route via Tasmania, the Antarctic and Drake Passage, instead of trans-Pacific route, entering South America at Tierra del Fuego some 8,000 years BP, before the Antarctic ice cap formed. But this is conception is highly disputed and lacks archaeological proof.

Researching for my book, I came across many similarities between the myths of Patagonian natives and those of the Australian Aboriginals, they are remarkably similar in many strange ways. It gives support to the notion of a common origin for both groups.

But lets get back to the Ecuadorian highlands.

A second crania from Punin

Nearly fifty years later, on September 8, 1972, a farmer named Lucas Antonio Paredes came across a burial in Pailapata, 500 m (1/4 of a mile) from the site where Tate found the "Punin" skull. He promptly notified a trader in fossils and inca relics, Florencio Samaniego Santillán, who came over and, that same day, started digging at the site.

They uncovered a the bones of a (maybe more than one person) human being which was inside a layer of volcanic ash. They also uncovered a dolichoid skull, similar to the one found by Tate.

(One cannot help shuddering when imagining two amateurs digging up a grave without any scientific basis in their digging. Just imagine all the evidence they destroyed, tomb raiders of the worst kind.)

It was named promptly "Punin 2" and exhibited in 1979 at the Central Bank's Museum.

One of the bones (femur) were dated at 1,240 BCE, and belongs to the Formative Period however there is no proof that the bone and skull belong to the same body. [1] Once again, a primitive yet young skull.

Primitive but recent, how come?

Trying to accomodate the relatively recent date of the skulls wit their "primitive" features has led some to speculate that they were in fact of ancient stock, and that the Puninese people, may be a relict of an ancient population that survived in isolation in the Ecuadorean plateu until recent times, when they mixed with the natives of Asian stock.

On the other hand maybe they are just a modern group whose physical features were ingrained due to engogamy, in an isolated tribal group.

The missing upper third molars

An interesting point is the anomalous lack of upper third molars or M3 in the skull found in 1923 [5], this is a congenital defect, which is found at a very low frequency outside of Eastern Asia, but is especially common among the remains of Chinese people from prehistoric sites till nowadays. [6][7]

Table from [7]:

table of M3 agenesis

It was detected in the Lantian Man from Shaanxi (photo below) province in China which is about 650 ky old, and lacks both mandibular third molars congenitally, the more recent Liujiang Man (67 kya) also has congenital absence of upper third molars. [7]

This condition known as "third molar agenesis" is higher in Eastern Asia than in any other part of the world, including Australia and Melanesia, [7] it is very ancient and maybe an inheritance from our ancestor the Homo erectus:

The observations of dental specimens of Chinese populations showed the degeneration of M3 occurred as early as Homo erectus of 650,000 years ago. After that, the frequency of this trait has increased continually. [7]

homo erectus lantian man
Lantian Man (H. erectus) skull, note the similar brow to Punin woman's

Could the third molar agnesis of the Punin woman mean that she has H. erectus genes (from an ancient migration of Homo erectus into America)? or is it a more recent admixture of Chinese genes? (see my previous post on how did the Denisovan genes get to America, since the answer for both cases is similar: either erectus brought them himself or Chinese navigators did so).

She could be the only one in her tribe with this defect or maybe the whole tribe had it, we will never know unless we could obtain a larger sample of her group. It is possible that she has the agenesis because her ancestors were just plain Homo sapiens of Eastern Asian origin who trekked in to America with this trait in their genes, or she may have even been one of an Austronesian group who had this rare, among them, congenital defect.

The "primitive" appearance of the cranium tilts the balance towards a relict H. erectus population in America, thriving in Ecuador until recently... maybe the source of our bigfoot and ogre myths in the Americas.


[1] Daniela Carrillo D., (2007), La Quebrada de Chalán

[2] Joseph F. Powell, (2005), The First Americans: Race, Evolution and the Origin of Native Americans, Cambridge University Press.

[3] Frank Salomon, Stuart B. Schwartz Eds. (1999) Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas. Vol 3, part 1. Cambridge University Press. pp. 197

[4] Don Brothwell, Richard Burleigh. (1980) Human Cranium from Punin, Ecuador, With Particular Reference To Morphology and Dating. Journal of Archaeological Science. 7 1: 97-99. 1980

[5] Sullivan, Louis R., and Hellman, Milo, (1925) The Punin calvarium, Anthropological papers of the AMNH ; v. 23, pt. 7.

[6] Liu Wu and Zeng Xianglong, (1995) Preliminary Impression of Current Dental Anthropology Research in China, Dental Anthropology Newsletter, Arizona State University. Vol 9, No. 3.

[7] Liu Wu, The Dental continuity of humans in China from Pleistocene to Holocene, and the origin of Mongoloids, in Quaternary Geology. Volume 21 of International Geological Congress 30, 1996, Beijing, Editors: An Zhisheng, Weijian Zhou. pp 27

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2013 by Austin Whittall © 

Denisovans, Neandertals and the peopling of America

Skoglunda and Jakobssona postulated in a paper [1] published in 2011 that the apparent inflow of archaic genes into modern humans in two separate episodes (one involving Neandertals and the other Denisovans) is not totally correct, at least regarding Neanderthals.

Their computer simulations suggest that an archaic admixture event (not out of Africa, but in Africa) would result in the current pattern of higher similarity with Neanderthals the further you go from Africa.

This would be caused by genetic drift and ascertainment bias, and the outcome is "artificial differences between populations that have exactly the same admixture history." [1]

However the Denisovan genes in Austronesians and South East Asians could not be explained away by the same cause and the "results suggest admixture between Denisovans or a Denisova-related population and the ancestors of East Asians..." [1]


Ascertainment bias is a systematic distortion in measuring the true frequency of a phenomenon due to the way in which the data are collected: the sampling may cause some members of the population to be less likely to be included in the sample than others. This distorts the randomness of the population, which is not equally balanced or objectively represented.

The study

Their study defines two principal components (PCs) using Denisova, Neandertal, chimpanzee and modern human data.

They obtained a PC1 component which describes general genetic similarity to archaic humans (genomes of both Neandertals and Denisovans - it separates the archaic humans from chimps) and a PC2 which contrasts genetic similarity between Denisovans and Neandertals (it separates Denisovans from Neandertals).


They detected:

  • That moden humans can be grouped into three clusters: Africans, Oceanians and the other non-Africans. See Figure 1B below
  • That PC1 and PC2 were correlated with geography in America and Eurasia, they find this incompatible with existing admixture theories since they expect homogeneous admixture of archaic ancestry in all non-Africans.
  • The "East Asian [...] and Native American [...] populations were found to be more similar to archaic hominins compared with European and Central/South Asian populations"
  • Also the further the populations were from our African homeland, the greater the "archaic ancestry signal". Seen in Fig. 1C

Figures taken from [1].

human groups

Notice in 1B how Native Americans are closer to Neanderthals and further from Denisovans (to which the Oceanians are closer).

Fig. 1C, also shows that both these groups have a greater "signal" of archaic ancestry. (Click on image above to enlarge)

archaic ancestry

Fig. 1D, shows a high Denisovan frequency in Oceania and South East Asia as well as the expected high Neandertal frequency in their former homeland (Europe and Middle East, North Africa), but unexpectedly high in Central America, Mexico and northern South America.

They suggest that these Neandertal genes came to America after its discovery by Europeans with the influx of settlers from that region ("individuals that were skewed to having European ancestry" [1]), and they add that the "remaining pattern of increased signs of archaic ancestry in American populations more distant from Africa is in line with the joint effect of ascertainment bias and genetic drift" [1].

It could also be possible that Neandertals migrated to America and settled there in Mesoamerica, admixing later with modern humans who migrated to America later through Beringia.

Surprisingly the authors state that there is an "apparent absence of Denisova ancestry in Native Americans" is probably due to the bias that makes Neanderthal genome higher in America due to genetic drift and the ascertainment bias.

denisova neandertal content

As far as I can see, there is a high Neandertal frequency but also a high Denisovan one too.

Taking a look at Fig 1E, which replicates the same data as Fig 1D in Europe, SE Asia and Oceania, it clearly shows a high Denisovan frequency in Northwestern South America (Colombia, Ecuador)


Could it be due to an influx of SE Asian navigators' genes in the region (a junk sailing across the Pacific from China to Peru? or does it reflect an ancient migration of Denisovans into America long before modern humans ventured into the region to admix there, in America, with this relict Denisovan population?

If the latter was the case, then it is not a statistical artifact (bias in sampling), but a "real" admixture of genes. The Lack of Denisovan genes in Northern Asia is due to the fact that these genes did not arrive in America via Beringia carried by modern humans, they came long before, inside the bodies of the migrating Denisovans.

The authors however elaborate further by saying that if Americans lack Denisovan genes then their ancestors left Asia before admixture and, tainted with what I call the "recent-peopling-of-America-bias" they place this event some 14- 30 kya.

The maps clearly show an "island" between Mexico and Ecuador where there is a higher proportion of both Neanderthal and Denisovan genes in America. Is it due to a statistical bias? or is it faint proof of the ancient peopling of America by those archaic humans?

Our next post will deal with some odd skulls that were discovered in that region of South America, in Ecuador, and a possible link to H. erectus.


[1] Pontus Skoglunda, and Mattias Jakobssona, (2011) Archaic human ancestry in East Asia.
Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2013 by Austin Whittall © 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The maze is a maze but not Inca

I wrote to a hotel which is 1,200 m south (3/4 of a mile) from the Labyrinth and asked them if they knew about it. They were kind enough to write and explain:

Buenos días , lei su consulta . el lugar , es un museo a cielo abierto perteneciente al escultor fausto marañon . la figura del laberinto fue realizada por su hija , Yamila marañon . mas info , atte Sergio slobodianiuk geógrafo.


Good Morning, I read your enquiry. The place, is an open air museum belonging to the sculptor Fausto Marañon. The labyrinth shape was done by his daugher, Yamila Marañon. More details [he was promoting his hotel], Regards Sergio Slobodianiuk geographer.

I immediately googled her name and came across her website and a page dedicated to her mazes, it has photos of the one that I had spotted with Google Earth: her web is

Closeup of the "Maze" that was not an Inca one.

I felt a bit let down... I had thought that I had discovered - uncovered something new, but, it was very like a cretan maze and I had not found any references to Inca mazes with that shape. So, it was not an Inca maze at all. (if it looks like a dog and barks, it is a dog... if it looks like a Cretan maze it is one (and therefore it is modern).

On the bright side my conjecture about low walls was on the mark.

I will leave my Google Earth armchair exploration and focus on the possible arrival of pre-sapiens humans in America. So I am preparing a post on primitive stone tools in South America (prompted by some information and some bright remarks that Pablo Infantino shared with me (Thank you Pablo).

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2013 by Austin Whittall © 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Closer Look at the Inca Maze

I drew the outline of the path within the maze (Uspallata, Mendoza, close to Ruta Nacional 149 highway in Argentina), and it follows the classic "Cretan" design (actually it is a universal design, repeated across the globe spanning thousands of years):

The "inca" labyrinth of Uspallata
maze inca origin

The image above is the maze at Uspallata. In red I outlined the route from the center to the entrance. The yellow line is a "corridor" that leads nowhere. It makes the maze symetrical.

I believe that it is not a maze built with high walls, perhaps it is just a path outlined with boulders, less than 4 inches (10 cm) high. That would explain why the wind or a flood uncovered it recently. Not much soil had to be removed.

Notice how similar it is to the ones below:

Images of similar mazes (from top to bottom): Coimbra, Portugal. Cornwall, England. Finland. Hollywood Stone, UK. Padugula, India. Sardinia, Italy. Syria.

Sources of the images and further reading

The Mystery of the Labyrinth. M. Elviro.

L. Wormhoudth. Labyrinth / Maze

Labyrinthos J. Saward

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2013 by Austin Whittall © 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Uspallata maze is similar to Cretan labyrinths

More photographs of the geoglyph that I found next to National Highway 149 close to Uspallata in Mendoza Province, Argentina.

I used Google Earth image history tool which shows older shots of the same region. For this particular area there are three photographs taken in June 2002, August 2009 and December 2012. Then I went into Bing Maps and found an image which predates 2012 but is later than the August 2009 image (I know this because you can see that the road is being paved, something that happened after Aug. 2009 and before Dec. 2012).

Photo Gallery

Some photographs of the geoglyph over the years:

Geoglyph in Uspallata Mendoza. Copyright © 2013 by Austin Whittall

The sequence shows that the "drawing" was not visible back in 2012, but that it gradually became visible later. Perhaps it was covered with sand which blew away, revealing the shape below it. (or some flash flood from the river which runs just south of it). It does not seem to have been built during this period.

Its main axis seems to run North to South (maybe giving it some geographic or astronomic function). I have no idea what it is, but it is some kind of maze (the lines form a continuous path). I have been looking for similar maze shaped objects in South America but have not been lucky. Posting Labyrinth in Google shows up many shapes, but none exactly like it. Some images below:

cretan coin
The Minotaur's labyrinth. Cretan coin (67 B.C.).

A blog on maths describes how the Cretan maze can be drawn and gives an example and an explanation:

how to make a maze
Making a Classic Cretan maze.

Another online labyrinth site says the following "The two most common labyrinths are the Classic-7 or Cretan and the Medieval or Chartres. The Cretan labyrinth refers to the symbol on the ancient coins from Crete. Its single pathway loops back and forth seven times before reaching the center. Some people think that the Cretan pattern represents the movement of the planet Mercury over an extended period of time." and provides this image (which I have inverted so that it matches the Mendoza geoglyph):

A classic or Cretan Maze.

I don't want to bore you with mazes but the similarity between the Uspallata labyrinth and the Cretan one can one mean one of two things:

1. The wonderful human mind comes up with the same answer to similar questions time and time again, across the world and in different cultural settings. Inca and Cretan made mazes the same way because that is the way human brains think.

2. Cretans came to America, reached Mendoza and built a maze in the middle of nowhere...

I am more inclined to option 1.

I will keep on researching this matter.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2013 by Austin Whittall © 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Geoglyph in Mendoza, Argentina

I was pursuing my other "hobby" today, Argentina's National Highway # 40 (or, in Spanish, Ruta Nacional 40) when I came across a Geoglyph shaped like a labyrinth very close to National Highway number 149 in the province of Mendoza, close to the town of Uspallata.

Yes, I know, it has nothing to do with Patagonia or its monsters, but it struck me when I saw it. The "Inca Road" goes down this mountain valley coming from Chile on its way to Cusco, and here was a strange object in the middle of the arid valley.

I just wanted to share it with you, and also the surprising tools that Internet provides the "couch" scientist with!

See it on Google maps and check it out in the image below:

Inca rock shape drawn on the landscape. Copyright © 2013 by Austin Whittall

I checked to see if anyone had reported it, but no, I did not find any references to it.

It is about 50 x 50 meters (166 x 166 ft.).

PS In case you want to know why I was looking at Highway 149 when I am interested in Highway 40, they run parallel in that area, 149 closer to the Andes and link remote towns that are very nice (and I am considering visiting them in the near future). By the way, Ruta 40 is one of the worlds longest national highways +5.200 km (+3.230 mi) long that runs up the Andean side of Argentina from the Strait of Magellan (at Cabo Virgenes) to the Bolivian border at La Quiaca. It climbs to nearly 5,000 m (16.660 ft.) in northern Argentina.

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

More on Horses in Patagonia in the 1580s

Another post on the possibility of extant megafaunal horses in South America in the 1500s.

This continues my previous post on the subject.

I have found some references (more below) stating that Spanish explorers sighted natives riding horses in the region next to the Strait of Magellan in 1580. I decided to check the original sources and was surprised to find out that it was not so!:

Sarmiento de Gamboa 1580s

The account of the adventures and exploration of the Strait of Magellan can be found in Sarmiento de Gamboa's book [1]. And, there is an interesting part covering the interrogation that Tomé Hernandez faced in Lima, Peru in 1620 (forty years after the events).

Tome had traveled under the command of Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa to settle the Strait of Magellan in 1581. The expedition managed to set up two small villages but the ships with supplies never arrived and this doomed the colonies. The settlers were left to die of starvation and disease. The natives accosted them. And very few were alive two and a half years later when English privateer Thomas Cavendish sailed by and offered to take them to Chile.

All except one refused (they were Catholics, Cavendish an English protestant and enemy of Spain), Tomé.

Many years later, the Spaniards, worried about the intentions of the English regarding Patagonia and, also, wanting to know more about that mysterious area, interrogated him.

The image below highlights the interrogation regarding horses. I will translate it:

When Asked: Do the Indians rode horses and if there are any in that land? He Said: That whenever he saw them, they were on foot and that he saw no horses at all

No horses in 1580. From [1]

Darwin 1830s

However Charles Darwin, in his "Voyage of the Beagle" wrote [2] about the "Indians" by the Strait of Magellan:

"In the time of Sarmiento (1580), these Indians had bows and arrows, now long since disused; they then also possessed some horses.
This is a very curious fact, showing the extraordinarily rapid multiplication of horses in South America. The horse was first landed at Buenos Ayres in 1537, and the colony being then for a time deserted, the horse ran wild;* in 1580, only forty-three years afterwards, we hear of them at the Strait of Magellan! Mr. Low informs me, that a neighbouring tribe of foot-Indians is now changing into horse-Indians: the tribe at Gregory Bay giving them their worn-out horses, and sending in winter a few of their best skilled men to hunt for them.

I went over the text of Gamboa's book and he never mentions horses, only (on page 95 see pdf link below [1]), "deer" and "anta" (that is, tapir... I have posted on tapir in Patagonia elsewhere.)

So, in all fairness, Darwin misinterpreted Sarmiento's text assuming there were horses here. Sarmiento never mentioned horses. Other Spanish authors of the time did, but not Sarmiento.


[1] xxvii Page Viage al Estrecho de Magallanes por el Capitan Pedro Sarmiento de Gambóa en ... By Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa 1768

[2] Darwin, C. R. 1845. Journal of researches into the natural history and geology of the countries visited during the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle round the world, under the Command of Capt. Fitz Roy, R.N. 2d edition. London: John Murray. pp 232

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2013 by Austin Whittall © 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Extant Patagonian Horses Part III

This is our third post on the series about "Extant Native American Megafaunal Horses", and our second part regarding Anibal Cardoso's 1912 essay on the subject [1]

See the previous posts:

Part II
Part I

Cardoso mentions that the natives engraved rocks with American ostrich (Rhea) foot prints and also horse hoof marks. I have posted about this type of rock art in Patagonia ( Read More ).

He then goes on to analyze the Boleadoras. These were made by placing a stone inside a tightly fitting leather pouch, tied to a braided leather cord. They came in different varieties:

Bola perdida, a single stone, used to hit an animal or kill an opponent by smashing them on the head. They could be hurled long distances at running prey, to knock them on the head or body.

The small 2 stone variety. It was used to hunt Rhea (American ostrich) and was guanaco (the animal from which domesticated llama descend, native to Argentina). These were known as Bolas. One stone was larger than the other one (it was held by this one while the other whirled around the head). They were thrown at the neck of the animal because it was difficult to ensnare their legs.

The larger 3 stone variety used exclusively to hunt horses. The stones were considerably larger than the "bolas" type.

Bolas are found where guanaco and Rhea are abundant, from Bolivia to the tip of Patagonia. The 3 stone kind are found in the Pampas and Patagonia: the land of the American horse.

Patagonian horses

Cardoso quotes Alcides Mercerat [2]:

"I will just point out the presence of wild or Bagual horses in the Andes. It is a horse that is slightly shorter than the horse that currently lives in the Pampa, and its hide is invariably of the color known as rosillo. From the Indian traditions it seems that this horse has always existed in the Andes and that therefore this animal has never become extinct in American soil."

Rosillo colored horse.

Rosillo. This color is a mixture of red, black and white, where the first two prevail. See the photograph below.

Bagual. The word used by Mercerat, Bagual or Bawal, is not of Spanish origin. According to Cardoso, when the Spaniards resettled Buenos Aires in 1580, they used the native word for "wild horses" which in Spanish are called "Cimarrón" or "alzado" (feral, wild). They adopted the word used by the Querandí natives: Bagüalada as a collective noun and Bawal or Bagual as singular.

The English pronounciation of Bagual is: "Bag- Wall". Which as we will see below is not at all like the word used for horse.

The name given by the native Puelche in the Pampas, the Tehuelche in Northeast, Central and Southern Patagonia and the Mapuche in Chile and Northwestern Patagonia are all very similar: Kahualk, Kaahuel and Kahuwello (in English it would sound something like: "Cow-L-Oh") yet they derive from Bagual even though they sound similar to the Spanish word Caballo (horse) - it sounds, using English pronunciation as follows: "Cab-Al-E-Oh".

However, the Mapuche had a specific non-Spanish-origin word for mares: Auca and wild colts: Caftá. These were used in Prehispanic days. Only after the Spanish conquest did they adopt the word Kahuello to apply it to domesticated horses.

The maths

Cardoso goes on to do the numbers. He takes the 5 mares that were allegedly left behind when Buenos Aires was abandoned. And calculates their offspring.

Each mare has a life expectancy of 20 years, and produces an offspring each after an 11 month pregnancy, with an 80% survival rate and a 50/50 male to female mix. These in turn would reproduce after the age of 3.

The outcome, between 1537 and 1582 yields only 1,580 horses in total. A figure way below the "vast quantity of animals roaming the prairies from the sea to the Andes".

He does another calculation assuming no ponies dying, that the mix of offspring is 3 mares to 2 colts and that they begin to reproduce when they are 2 1/2 years old. This results in: 23.292 animals.

The only way to get vast quantities of horses is by assuming that they were already there in vast quantities: native horses.

More information

Apart from Cardoso, we have some additional information on these "American" horses.

Charles Darwin and George Musters both wrote that Spanish explorer had seen horses at the Strait of Magellan in 1580 and marvelled at how quickly they had dispersed from the River Plate to the tip of the continent. However Drake, was attacked by natives on foot at Puerto Deseado in Central-East Patagonia in 1586.

If the animals came from the North, from Buenos Aires, why were none seen in Central Patagonia yet they were abundant in Southern Patagonia?

An explanation is that they survived the shipwreck of the fleet of the Bishop of Plasencia, which carried horses. This happened in 1526, and only one ship survived, they did not manage to help the castaways and returned to Spain. The survivors were never seen again. Could these horses have survived in Patagonia?


[1] Anibal Cardoso (1912), Antigüedad del Caballo En El Plata. Anal. Mus. Nac. Bs. As., Serie III t. xv. Marzo 4, 1912. pp 371+ Read the article.

[2] Alcides Mercerat, Un viaje de exploración en la Patagonia Austral.

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