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

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Australian Pygmies, fact and fiction

Australian pygmies are a source of controversy because mainstream science and the Aboriginal indigenous people oppose the notion that pygmies were the first humans to inhabit the continent.

Right wing supporters on the other hand believe that the pygmies came first and that the Aborigines took the continent from the pygmies.

Their argument goes as follows: Pygmies arrived first, the aboriginal people came later and drove the pygmies to extinction, the British were just another wave of migrants doing what the aboriginal people had done before. So why should invaders such as aboriginals have more rights over the land than the British. After all, the Aboriginals took it from the original Pygmie people.

A quick online search shows that there are not many references to pygmy people in Australia. I didn't manage to find anything recorded by the first European explorers or during the period of British exploration and occupation.

Most of the literature points back to an article published in Quadrant (Keith Windschuttle and Tim Gillin, The extinction of the Australian Pygmies, 2002).

Quadrant is a right-wing magazine (see what has to say about how far to the right they are), so Quadrant would have a reason to back the pygmy theory because it undermines the aboriginal people's claims of being the first people in Australia.

My Search for Pygmies in Australia

This is what I have found out about pygmies down under:

1. Pygmies are part of the Aboriginal people's mythology.

There is an Aboriginal myth, about the origin of the platypus (Source), which mentions the "small people" or "Dinderi". They hunted water snakes in the Brisbane River in what is now Queensland, but these managed to turn them into platypuses. But does this myth mean that there were a tribe of pygmies (the Dinderi)?

You can also read about Short people in Cape York Peninsula, Northern Queensland, Australia.

2. Short stature people lived in Queensland recently.

An article titled Pygmy elder faces eviction, published in 2007 (Queensland CourierMail August 25, 2007), reported that Lizzy Woods, 105 years old, was the "... oldest surviving matriarch of the Jirrbal rainforest people. ... the sole surviving link to the pygmy 'white cockatoo' tribe – most of whom stood less than 122cm (4ft) tall – of the Misty Mountain region near Tully.
... the 110cm-tall [3.6 ft] elder [said] 'I was born in the rainforest. I grew up chasing kangaroo and picking berries off the trees. I belong here. This is my land. The pygmy tribe – that is my mob'.

3. An anthropologist also reported the Dinderi myth.

Lindsay Winterbotham interviewed an Aboriginal man born in 1887, Gaiarbaus and wrote (1957) the book "Gaiarbaus story of the Jinibara tribe of south east Queensland (and its neighbours)", it was never published, but the book exists and you can read its index online, and this index mentions: "Pygmies (Dinderi), beliefs in south east Queensland tribes".

Winterbotham was advised by Norman Tindale during his interviews, and it is Tindale who is quoted in the article published by Quadrant.

3. Tindale and the Trihybrid theory

Tindale and American anthropologist Joseph Birdsell, worked together for over 50 years, starting in 1938. They put forward the theory that: The pygmoid and negrito people(the word negrito is Spanish, and means "small black people") living in the rainforests in Northern Queensland in the 1930s were the remnants of the first wave of humans to reach the vast Australian continent. These tiny people were later pushed in to the island of Tasmania (hence the name of "Tasmanoids" that Tindale and Birdsell gave them) and the deep rainforests by two later waves of humans invading Australia.

The two scientists later renamed them "Barrinean" after Lake Barrine. Yoy can read this theory in this 1953 newspaper article.

This "Trihybrid" theory included a second wave of pale skinned "Murrayians" which were supposed to be linked to the Ainu people of Japan, and the third wave of robust dark skinned "Carpentarians" possibly linked to primitive Indian tribes.

This website has some photos of these three "types" of humans proposed by Birdsell and Tindale as the successive waves that peopled Australia.

This theory has been discredited by later research (see this paper for example), but it was not invented by Tindale, I found an earlier publication suggesting the same idea:

In Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of South Australia, 1922, an article (Cylindro-Conical and cornute stones from the Darling River and Cooper Creek, Robert Pulleine. pp.304-308) mentions Albert Churchward:

"If we accept the views of Churchward, now gaining the attention of anthropologists, that mankind originated in the great lake districts of Africa, we find opened up a path which leads to an understanding of the origin of our aborigines and their beliefs. In his two books, "Signs and Symbols of - Primordial Man" and "The Origin and Evolution of Mankind," he pictures the Pygmy exodus throughout the world and their displacement and annihilation by the people of the second Nilotic exodus to which our aborigines, accord- ing to him, belong. He states that the Pygmies of the first Nilotic invasion were displaced in Australia and eventually only remained in Tasmania. "

Churchward had been writing about pygmies since the early 1900s, so he surely influenced Tindale.

4. There are "pygmies" in New Guinea

New Guinea has small people too, reported as early as 1910 (paper in Nature), as recently as 2013, and in between too (see this paper from 1961 (it mentions the trihybrid theory and Tindale).

Closing Comments

Probably different waves of humans colonized Australia, starting with Homo erectus and ending with the British. The Aboriginal people are without any doubt, the rightful original people of Australia, the first people to successfuly colonize the continent and live there for over 50,000 years. However it is also likely that other groups, linked to the Negrito people of Southeastern Asia and New Guinea also settled in Australia, whether it took place before, during or after the arrival of the Aboriginals is a trivial point.

But what if the Aboriginal myths aren't about the Negrito people, and instead refer to "small people" like the "Hobbits" of Indonesia? A distant relative of us humans.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2019 by Austin Whittall © 


  1. The argument in the introduction of your text is just being applied to the whole american continent too because of the "australoid" paleoindians. This to me sounds like double standard as the whole world went through demographic changes. Even modern science has double standard as reconstructions of ancient japanese are always made up to look east asian or caucasian, yet the early impression of people like the Ainu are VERY australoid. In the American continent, meanwhile, natives of southern Chile and eastern Brazil are rather "asian looking" yet reconstructions of their ancestors are made up to look african or australian. The superficial asian phenotype is probably more ancient than the skeleton, so we should not imply that because paleoindians look australoid they were exactly like aboriginals of Australia. They probably looked like a normal Yaghan with straight hair, slanting eyes, etc.

  2. I’ve search the subject and have read articles you mentioned. If I recall correctly little people were seen in some parts of Australia as recently as 1980’s. By the way, even though not related I would like to say relic Tasmanian Aborigines were seen by others in recent times. Best regards, Kerem.


  3. I think your final paragraph holds perhaps one of your most risky speculations!… but it´s undeniable that it has its own beauty… and it would be interesting to try to briefly analyze it, as well as its consequences, with the few elements we have at hand.
    We must previously take into account one important fact; the archaeological context of Liang Bua, Flores island, Indonesia… the craddle (or perhaps, the Late Pleistocene one) of H. floresciensis…, has been recently revised by Sutikna et al. (2016), and apparently, a minimum age of 60 Ka is tentatively managed today for their remains (in contrast with the surprisingly late limit, well below 20 Ka, formerly estimated ).
    Assuming this last, the major limiting factor would be related with this question; ¿ Is it possible for a myth to survive for so long, without being severely distorted in its essence ? ( I´m afraid I can´t give a valid opinion about this )…But if so, then your speculation would be not so reckless, and its feasibility could lead to the implications that you surely know well, among them;
    a) It would dramatically put down to the ground the preconception that only AMH could have first immigrated Sahul,… as this last, would be reached by means of a candidate whose average endocranial capacity, was no more than 400/420 cm3, about one third of that´s of an “archaic H. sapiens”…!!!
    b) The possible “Hobbit” immigration into this region would have had an “absolutely minimum floor” for its age at 60 Ka, given by Liang Bua´s revised context…
    Furthermore, if the very much older human jaw from Mata Menge site (also within Flores island), dated >700Ka, is definitely assigned to H. floresciensis…then, it couldn´t be ruled up the possibility that they could have been in Sahul since amazingly ancient times.
    Although, given the fact that within this tentative frame, the existence of these people would not have been restricted only to Flores island… and, as being precisely an absolute isolation, the widely accepted cause for their condition of dwarfed hominids…, perhaps we need to assume that since their arrival at Flores island, a long interval of time of isolated evolution have had to pass (long enough to consolidate their particular traits)… prior to their possible geographic expansion towards Sahul that could have given rise to that myth.

    If ever proved that H. Floresciensis, or similar lineage, managed to make their way into these lands, and therefore spread their genes there (with the corresponding consequences you know ) …you would have the right to claim for, at least, a bit of credit…
    Best regards


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