Guide to Patagonia's Monsters & Mysterious beings

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

Austin Whittall

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Happy New Year!

I wish you all a very happy New Year, may it be far better than this one that is ending.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2020 by Austin Whittall © 

Friday, December 27, 2019

The Del Mar skull, supposedly 47,000 years old (maybe)

The Del Mar skull was discovered by Malcom J. Rogers when he excavated two sites on the coast of California near San Diego.

The skull appeared at the second site named SDM-W4, in 1929. It was located (see map) between Del Mar and Solana Beach at the base of a cliff on the Northwestern side of the San Dieguito River.

He found a skull and ribs there (source), of course at that time there was no way to date the remains.

It seems that Bada was the first to try, using his amino acid racemization technique, and obtained 47,000 years (see my previous post on this technique and the "Sunnyvale girl" skull).

The skull looks like that of a regular paleoindian, and why shouldn't it? If it is 47 ky old, it should look modern. Below are some images of the Del Mar skull:

Del Mar skull.

C14 date for this skull is 6,800 plus minus 100 years, which Bada didn't accept assuming that the sample could have been contaminated with carbonates.

Gerow who does not accept Bada's date, wrote (Amino Acid dating and early and early man in the New World, a rebuttal, 1981, Bert A. Gerow, page 9):

"Interestingly, the reconstructed Del Mar skull (SDM-16704) from southern California, dated at 41,000-48,000 years by aspartic acid racemization (Bada 1975, Table 7) corresponds closely to Gifford's Santa Catalina type (with) the following characteristics: lowest cranial index, lowest height/length index, lowest gnathic index, longest cranium, and broadest nose. These distinctive features are shared with the Del Mar skeleton.
An anthropometric comparison of the Sunnyvale female with a comparable series from a late local prehistoric site indicates a single physical type contrasting with other regional types proposed by Gifford for California. The Del Mar male belongs to another physical type, although both are fully modern and Mongoloid with respect to dentition. The idea that two distinct physical types entered California or developed here fifty to seventy thousand years ago and remained genetically isolated and morphologically unchanged during that period is totally unacceptable in the light of present knowledge of population movements in prehistoric California.

So based on the shape of the bones, which are different he cannot accept that Sunnyvale woman and Del Mar man lived in California 70 and 47,000 years ago, but he can accept that they were contemporary paleoindians (?) Weird argument.

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

Sunnyvale and Del Mar skulls from California and their age

I was reading about the Del Mar remains that were discovered in 1926 on the California coastline and which were dated by Jeffrey L. Bada at 47,000 years old (Bada, J. L., and Helfman, P. M. 1975, Amino Acid Racemization Dating of Fossil Bones. World Archaeology 7 : 160–183.) as shown below (blue box):

They were doing groundbreaking work with a technique that Bada had developed: "amino acid racemization" or AAR for short.

AAR measures the ratio of right-handed amino acids or (D) amino-acids to the left-handed ones or (L) amino-acids, and uses it to determine the age of a biological sample.

All apha-amino acids except glycine come in two isomers, that are identical except that one bends polarized light to the right (hence the right-hand part of the nam), and the other type bends it to the left.

Proteins are made up exclusively of (L) amino acids. And the moment a living being dies, its (L) amino acids start to degrade by a process called "racemization", and become (D) amino acids. There are many amino acids in our bodies, and scientists use one, aspartic acid because it has a relatively quick racemization speed.

As you can see in the table above, older specimens have (D) amino acids and less (L) amino acids, so the ratio D⁄L is higher than in younger specimens.

Bada calibrated his method against a radiocarbon dated specimen (Laguna Skull) and then extrapolated the dates shown in the last column.

Of course, it was a controversial claim, Del Mar skull at 47 ky and the Sunnyvale skull with 70 ky, were far too old for orthodox scholars.

The novel technique was scrutinized and torn apart, other methods (Uranium and Thorium) used on the samples, which gave a much later date, almost one order of magnitude -ten times less- than Bada's data.

To justify Bada, we must admit that despite his claims that "The effects which other physical factors (pH, humidity, leaching) have on racemization rates are discussed. Because of the close correlation between temperatures calculated from in situ racemization rates (under diverse environmental conditions) and actual mean annual temperatures at various sites throughout the world, we conclude that factors other than temperature have very small effects on the reaction rate.", there are many factors that affect racemization.

Bada pointed out in 1984 that radiocarbon dates and AAR didn't seem to correlate in American specimens, while in other parts of the world, the correlation was very good.

Apparently the cause of this discrepancy was the degree of preservation of protein (and therefore amino acids) in the bones (see Stafford, 1990.), meaning that the same bone can give a Holocene or recent dating or a Pleistocene or older date!

So we could argue that the age of Del Mar and Sunnyvale bones might (barely) be 48,000 and 70,000 years old, but then we have the issue of the uranium (U) and thorium (Th) dates (Bischoff, 1981), which gave ages of 11,000 and 8,300 years BP respectively for those remains.

Bones can uptake these elements (U and Th) from the environment which can alter the actual age of the specimens, and (Millard, 1996): "are liable to underestimate the true age by at least one-third."

This would make them younger than they really are...

So the age remains an open question -maybe.

Sunnyvale girl skull

But what drew my attention when I was reading about this subject was the photo of the skull of the "Sunnyvale girl" in New Scientist's edition of Jul. 14, 1983 is shown below:

Sunnyvale skull (left) and 4,000 year old Indian skull (right). New Scientist

That skull is really big! I tried to find other photos, but I wasn't able to. But I found a description of her in this paper (Amino Acid dating and early and early man in the New World, a rebuttal, 1981, Bert A. Gerow, page 9):

"The Sunnyvale individual is a female, judged to have been about twentyfive to thirty years of age at the time of death. Morphologically, she is fully modern, with a well developed chin, thin cranial walls, canine fossae, short face, and sub-quadratic orbits. The lateral incisors exhibit "shoveling" on the lingual side. The latter is a common Amerindian physical trait shared with populations of East Asia. "

One source (Biological and Chronometric Applications of Amino Acid Racemization Reactions, Patricia Masters Helfman, 1976, Biology, Univ. of California, pp. 67) says that it was Gerow who found the "Sunnyvale girl" in 1972, but he does not mention this date in the paper cited further up.

Perhaps some photos of the skull would shed some light on the matter of its size. But if I am not mistaken, these bones were reburied in accordance with the US law back in 1996.

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

Friday, December 20, 2019

Dorenberg Skull, more information

My post on the Dorenberg Skull mentioned a skull discovered in Mexico in the late 1800s, and lost during allied WW II bombing raids over Leipzig that flattened the local Museum of Ethnology.

Below are two images with more information from the book The Forgotten Collector: Josef Anton Dorenberg (1846-1935) by Ron Van Meer:

The description of it as a "Tertiary" skull is indeed interesting, the skull was set in stone.

The skull, though destroyed during the war, was studied by several scholars which identified new species of diatoms from samples taken from the skull.

Diatoms are minute single-cell algae that live in water. Their cell walls are composed in part of a transparent silica glass (they are the only living creatures that use silica to build their bodies -sea shells are made of calcium carbonate).

Well, Reichelt identified a diatom species he named Navicula dorenbergi in 1901 which he dated to the Sangamonian (80-220 Ky BP) -source.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2020 by Austin Whittall © <

More on the "erectus"(?) calvaria from Chapala Mexico

I recently posted about a very robust skullcap that was discovered in the region of Lake Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico by Mr. Federico A. Solórzano, today I will add some more information.

The skullcap (or a copy of it) -here we have two different versions! is on exhibition at the Museo de Paleontologia de Guadalajara (Guadalajara Museum of Paleontology), this city is the capital of Jalisco state and is located 28 miles (45 km) north of Lake Chapala.

Guadalajara's official tourism website tells us all about the museum and also mentions the calvaria:

"...Este arco superciliar humano tiene características muy antiguas y no se parece al de un hombre moderno (Homo sapiens y Homo robustus), sino que se asemeja al de un Neanderthal. De comprobarse esta hipótesis, se tendría que modificar la datación del poblamiento de América, ya que el hombre que cruzó por el estrecho de Bering era tipo Cromagnon."

In English: "... this human superciliary arch has very ancient features and does not resemble that of a modern man (Homo sapiens and Homo robustus), instead it is similar to that of a Neanderthal. If this hypothesis is proved true, the date of the peopling of America would have to be modified, because the humans that crossed Bering Strait were of the Cromagnon type.".

This blog, written by Roberto Diaz Sibaja has the following photograph, which he took; he says it is a replica:

Replica of Solorzano's skull, by Roberto Diaz Sibaja

But, where exactly was this skullcap found? In what setting? Well, according to an interview published in this blog, Solórzano said, regarding the calvaria: "The experts don't admit it for a reason: there is no context. Initially it comes from Chapala, but it was not found in any geological layer or in association with anyghing because I don't know if I found it or if it is one of those that I bought".

Solorzano (1922 - 2015) was an engineer who later specialized in pharmaceutical biology, he was an academic at Guadalajara University, and at the time of the interview by José Jesús Langarica Herrera in 2011, was 89 years old. No wonder he couldn't remember if he'd purchased it or found it himself.

Above (source) is another image of the skullcap (right), and an unidentified skull (left).

What if someone sold it to a young avid Solorzano, who wanted to collect as many bones as possible? Can we be sure it was an American skullcap? What if somebody sold him a Eurasian calvaria? Possible and probable.

Finally here is an article written in English (Mexico discovery fuels debate about man's origins), in Oct. 2004, which says: "... archaeologists have never found a trace of Homo erectus in the Americas. 'Most people sort of just shook their heads and have been baffled by it,' said Robson Bonnichsen, director of the Center for the Study of the First Americans at Texas A&M University."

Could Robson Bonnischsen be one of the Texas A&M osteologists mentioned in our last post, who in "an unpublished 1990 report... suggest the brow's thickness and robustness are comparable to those of (an) African Homo erectus"?

Bonnischsen was one of the anthropologists who took the United States government to court, fighting for the right to study the bones of Kennewick Man. And he won.

Chapala man is a mystery and will remain so until further evidence is found.

Lake Chapala is Mexico's largest freshwater lake (420 sq. mi - 1.100 km2) it is relatively shallow (34 ft. - 10 m). It drains into the Pacific Ocean. It is a lake formed by a tectonic rift valley, and has been around at least since the late Pliocene 2.5 Ma. It is set in a volcanic area.

Fossils of megafauna have been found near the lake: horses, mammoths and Gomphotheres, elephant-like animals, that lived there some 1.6 Ma.

You can hear Fernando Solórzano in a conference he gave in 2007 speaking about this calvaria here; listen after minute 20 of this 1:38 h. conference because he mentions the skull ("arcada" as he calls it), and an "English scientist" who sampled the skull.

He also says that "I found it" and that is a problem because he found it in Chapala, and it is out of place, so they suspect that he might have planted it there. And that (min. 41) "it was simply found among a large pile of bones that were collected over a long period of time on the shores of lake Chapala"

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2020 by Austin Whittall © 

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Homo erectus lived until very recently (~100 Kya)!

An article publised today in Nature (Rizal, Y., Westaway, K.E., Zaim, Y. et al. Last appearance of Homo erectus at Ngandong, Java, 117,000–108,000 years ago. Nature (2019) doi:10.1038/s41586-019-1863-2), reports that the remains of twelve Homo erectus discovered in the early 1930s on the banks of the Solo River in Ngandong, Java, are far younger than expected.

The scientists returned to the original site (excavated in 1931-33) and using the original notes and photographs, found an area that had been purposely left untouched, and dug there, recording the stratigraphy and dating the soil level where the skulls were found.

Their abstract reports:

" Abstract Homo erectus is the founding early hominin species of Island Southeast Asia, and reached Java (Indonesia) more than 1.5 million years ago. Twelve H. erectus calvaria (skull caps) and two tibiae (lower leg bones) were discovered from a bone bed located about 20 m above the Solo River at Ngandong (Central Java) between 1931 and 1933, and are of the youngest, most-advanced form of H. erectus. Despite the importance of the Ngandong fossils, the relationship between the fossils, terrace fill and ages have been heavily debated. Here, to resolve the age of the Ngandong evidence, we use Bayesian modelling of 52 radiometric age estimates to establish—to our knowledge—the first robust chronology at regional, valley and local scales. We used uranium-series dating of speleothems to constrain regional landscape evolution; luminescence, 40argon/39argon (40Ar/39Ar) and uranium-series dating to constrain the sequence of terrace evolution; and applied uranium-series and uranium series–electron-spin resonance (US–ESR) dating to non-human fossils to directly date our re-excavation of Ngandong. We show that at least by 500 thousand years ago (ka) the Solo River was diverted into the Kendeng Hills, and that it formed the Solo terrace sequence between 316 and 31 ka and the Ngandong terrace between about 140 and 92 ka. Non-human fossils recovered during the re-excavation of Ngandong date to between 109 and 106 ka (uranium-series minimum) and 134 and 118 ka (US–ESR), with modelled ages of 117 to 108 thousand years (kyr) for the H. erectus bone bed, which accumulated during flood conditions. These results negate the extreme ages that have been proposed for the site and solidify Ngandong as the last known occurrence of this long-lived species"

The paper also says: (bold highlight is mine)

"Furthermore, we can place Ngandong into a regional framework for Island Southeast Asia. H. erectus continuously inhabited the island, with dates on Java that start at 1.51 to 0.93 million years ago at Sangiran, then 540 to 430 ka at Trinil25 and ending with 117 to 108 ka at Ngandong. H.erectus was dispersed widely by 700 ka, as shown by archaeological evidence for hominins at Mata Menge (Flores, Indonesia) and Cagayan Valley (Luzon, Philippines). Two insular dwarf hominins are found on these outlying islands: Homo floresiensis at 100 to 60 ka and Homo luzonensis at 66.7±1 ka. Phylogenetic relationships have yet to be deter-mined for these two hominins, but they show morphological similarities with H. erectus. Sharing similar temporal ranges, Ngandong H.erectus, H.floresiensis and H. luzonensis represent three evolutionary trajectories of Homo in Island Southeast Asia, each of which ended in extinction.
Genomic evidence from modern populations in New Guinea provides estimates for the dates of the arrival of another early hominin in Island Southeast Asia. Two Denisovan lineages diverged from the Altai Denisovans, one at about 363ka and the other at about 283ka. These deep divergence dates provide evidence for the early arrival of Denisovans in Island Southeast Asia. Dispersing Homo sapiens encountered Denisovan lineages in Island Southeast Asia at about 45.7 ka and at about 29.8 ka. Additionally, a residual signal of approximately 1% archaic DNA in modern regional populations lies outside the human–Neanderthal–Denisovan clade. This may reflect a past introgression event with H.erectus and provide evidence that these Denisovans encountered a late-surviving H.erectus population

There are sites (Ngawi and Sambungmacan, also in Java) that have not been dated yet and may yield even more recent dates. But even 100,000 years is very recent.

The earliest evidence of Homo sapiens in Eurasia are the fossil skuls from Apidima Cave in Greece, dated at 210 Kya. By 100,000 years ago, Modern Humans were already living in Africa and very likely in the Levant (as per orthodoxy of coursee). So we coexisted with H erectus (I once posted about this -but in my post our ancestors and H. erectus mixed intimately in America).

All these sites and older ones (such as Trinil and Sangiran) are located on the Solo River where Eugene Dubois unearthed the first Homo erectus remains in 1891.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2020 by Austin Whittall © 

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Horn Rock Shelter a skull 11,000 years old with a distinct morphology

Horn Rock Shelter is located in Texas, and is the site of a double burial, a middle aged man (37 - 44 years old) and a girl of 10 - 11. Apparently the man was a shaman. Girl and shaman were buried together in this cave as shown in the image below (girl on the Left).

A recent comment on my Chapala "homo erectus" brow ridge revisited post prompted me to look into this site and its oddly shaped male skull (Thank you William).

You can read about the site, the skeletons and the tools and articles found in the grave, in this article: New Look at the Double Burial from Horn Shelter No. 2, by Margaret A. Jodry and Douglas W. Owsley 2014.

The remarkable point seems to be the shape of the man's skull, as portrayed in National Geographic, from which this image (below) was taken:

The skull appears to have distinctive features yet this paper says that there were "no significant differences" between the Horn individuals and later Central Texas populations.

This is a reconstruction of the male skull:

Notice the brow ridges. Credits

The bust depicting how the shaman looked when he was alive also displays prominent brow ridges:

The remains are old, 11,100 years BP, and surely reflect the great morphological diversity of the Paleoindians, lost during the depopulation of the Americas due to illness brought by the Europeans after 1492 (flu, measles, small pox, just to mention a few), diseases which wiped out millions of Native Americans in a few years.

There are several news articles dating to the period 2010-15 that mention samples having been taken for DNA analysis, but no results have appeared in print as a formal paper, only articles in newspapers. But they are interesting:

Waco Tribune Herald, 2010: "The handful of other ancient American remains whose mtDNA has been studied carry one of the five genetic markers that various Native American groups share. Not so with the Horn Shelter bones, according to numerous tests Baker has done so far.
'The results are different from what you'd expect from Native Americans,' she said. 'I'm looking at the sequence and I'm not able to determine a haplogroup. . . . Usually, when I run the sequence, I get something very clear.'
Baker is planning to send the bone samples to another laboratory for retesting to see if her results can be replicated"

KWTX, 2017: "Dr. Doug Owsley, head of the division of physical anthropology at the Smithsonian, said DNA material has been successfully recovered from the bones of a little girl recovered at the Horn Shelter, but analysis has not yet been completed.
He also said scientists failed in their effort to recover DNA material from adult bones found in the same grave, but are now trying a different technique to recover the material.

The local Museum at the site (Bosque Museum) published in 2013: "Dr. Lori Baker of Baylor University has received the most recent DNA results on the Horn Shelter Man. We are awaiting the publication of her report to find out what the results show. Earlier DNA studies showed that Horn Shelter Man was not related to modern Native Americans."

There is a paper: 2012 Pack, FL, Hulsey, BI, and Cabana GS. "Report on DNA Findings for the Horn Shelter Site." Report submitted to Dr. Lori Baker, Baylor University.

It is surprising that the results have not been revealed after all these years...

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2020 by Austin Whittall © 

Pendejo Cave: humans in America 55,000 years ago?

Pendejo Cave in New Mexico has produced some interesting evidence of an early migration into America. The book I browsed online (Pendejo Cave, Richard S. MacNeish, Jane G. Liddy UNM Press, 2003) has plenty of information.

It was excavated by MacNeish between February 1990 and April 1992. He found evidence of Pre-Clovis occupation and figures of up to 50,000 years BP were given at that time.

First a trivial remark. "Pendejo" (Pen-Day-Hoe) in Spanish means "pubic hair" and is used as a derogatory term equivalent to "idiot", "kid", "jerk", etc. Why was the cave given this name, is a mystery.

But let's get back to the science. Here several things were found:

  • Palm prints on baked clay 12-37Ky BP (source)
  • Human hairs 19,500 years old with DNA that did not correspond to the "four primary clusters" of Native American DNA (page 428).
  • A buffalo bone 35,000 years with chips caused by human workmanship (source)
  • The "heel bone" of a horse species which is now extinct, with a stone wedge jammed into it, 36,000 years old (source and photo)

The cave is shown below:

The book also includes several maps showing how the humans spread across the Americas from Beringia, but long before the currently accepted dates. Below is one image (I liked the lower left "sea level" swings during the different glacial and interglacial periods, as it shows several windows during which humans could have reached America earlier than 15 to 20 Kya and the purported Beringian standstill).

One of the book's maps

McNeish proposed a very early arrival date for Humans in America (58,000 to 70,000 years ago), below is an excerpt from the book (page 486) where he mentions it:

It mentions the "pebble tools" (Orogrande tool complex) such as those found in the cave and shown in the map above.

The coarse tools are used by those who question McNeish's findings because they dismiss them as too crude or even as geofacts (not man made).

However Homo habilis made very coarse tools ("Oldowan" pebble tools and choppers), so maybe the Pendejo Cave people were not even Homo sapiens.

As expected the dates were questioned by those who object an early migration into the New World. McNeish passed away in 2001, but his work has survived.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2020 by Austin Whittall © 

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Chapala "homo erectus" brow ridge revisited

A lmost nine years ago I posted about a superciliary arch unearthed in Mexico (See post), and a link to the paper itself:

Link: Irish, J. D., S.D. Davis, J.E. Lobdell, and F.A. Solórzano, (2000), Prehistoric Human Remains from Jalisco. Mexico, Current Research in the Pleistocene 17, 2000 pg. 95-96

Image (source):

The authors state that:

"One Chapala superciliary arch deserves specific mention due to its large size. Studies by Solórzano show the bone resembles that in archaic Homo sapiens at Arago, France. In an unpublished 1990 report, Texas A&M osteologists suggest the brow’s thickness and robustness are comparable to those of KNM-ER 3733 (African Homo erectus). Our measurements show the central torus thickness is 13.3, compared with 8.5 mm for KNM-ER 3733; the lateral torus thickness is 11.5 versus 9.0 mm (Rightmire 1998). Thus for the sake of comparison, the brow is more like that of Zhoukoudian Skull XI (Asian Homo erectus), with a central torus thickness of 13.2 +/- mm; lateral torus thickness was not measured (Rightmire 1998). Modern brows are too diminutive to allow these measurements. The brow also shows pneumatization (air pockets) along its length.
However, to reiterate the findings of the Texas A&M workers, these comparisons do not imply that pre-Homo sapiens were in the Americas. No phylogenetic or age implications are intended. Instead, the comparisons demonstrate the size relative to most New World specimens, although brows on the Lagoa Santa skull (Bryan 1978) and on recent Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia crania (Lahr 1995; C.L. Brace pers. comm. 1998) appear comparable.

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