Friday, March 26, 2010

Almasty Update

Good mate Richard Freeman of the CFZ has a new post on Russia's very own hairy man-beast: the Almasty. In part, Rich says:

"Genetic evidence taken from a 40,000 year old finger bone in Siberia’s Altai Mountains is pointing to an unknown species of man-like creature that lived in the area along with modern man and Neanderthal man. The finger bone came from a layer radiocarbon-dated to between 48,000 and 30,000 years ago. Evolutionary geneticists Svante Pääbo, Johannes Krause, and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, ground up a 30-milligram sample and extracted and sequenced all of the 16,569 base pairs of its mtDNA genome.

"A team led by archaeologists Michael Shunkov and Anatoli Derevianko of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Novosibirsk found the finger bone in 2008 at Denisova Cave in Russia's Altai Mountains. The DNA suggests a new hominin lineage later than Homo erectus and earlier than Homo heidelbergensis.

"The implications here are huge. In what is, geologically, an eye-blink into the past the biodiversity of the genus Homo was impressive. We had Homo sapiens (modern man), Homo floresiensis (the tiny hominin from the island of Flores in Indonesia) the famous Homo neanderthalensis (Neanderthal man), and the new species dubbed Hominin X.

"The Altai Mountains are supposedly inhabited by a hairy wildman. It is tall, agile, muscular and primitive. It has no fire and only basic tool use, wielding clubs or hurling rocks. It feeds on berries, roots, vegetation and a wide assortment of animals from rodents to cattle. Despite its titanic strength, the creature is said to be un-aggressive unless provoked. The same creature is reported widely across the former USSR and surrounding countries.

"It is know mainly as the almasty, but in other areas it is called almas, albasy, dev or gul. It is smaller and more human in its appearance than the yeti or sasquatch but larger and more muscular than a man. It is generally thought to be of the genus homo rather than a pongid. Records of it go back hundreds of years in Central Asia and it was included it catalogues of local wildlife."

And here's Rich's full post.


jgm said...

"The implications here are huge."

Not for cryptozoology, though.

"The Altai Mountains are supposedly inhabited by a hairy wildman. It is tall, agile, muscular and primitive. It has no fire and only basic tool use [etc., etc.]"

Cryptozoologists need to stop grabbing the pinky bone and holding it above their heads while doing victory laps with it. They're going to embarass themselves and invite a backlash from mainstream science (of which this is their find, not cryptozoology's). This find has nothing to do with an "Almasty". The articles that are appearing linking the two are conveniently omitting the finds of tools and *jewelry* including a bracelet. Freeman debunks any links to the almasty himself with his sentence about fire and tools.

The degree of seperation in mtDNA between X-Woman and modern human is not nearly enough to argue that X-Woman was a giant hairy hominid. Given that an article in this month's Discover mentions a 750,000 year old hominid settlement in Israel where distinct hearth and tool-making locations were discerned (showing a previously human-only habit for housekeeping), this poor almasty has some explaining to do regarding its apparent lack of complex tools... fire... culture... language... jewelry... clothes.

In short, conventional science still supports the position that even rather ancient non-human hominids, let alone X-Woman, were far more advanced than the purported almasty, making Freeman's classification of it as hominid as unlikely as before the X-Woman find. Actually, how anyone can purport to classify a creature with neither bones nor DNA (or even a photograph) in the first place is a mystery.

Cryptozoological advocates today have been presenting articles that almost seem to post hoc modify cryptozoology itself to try to make X-Woman relevant beyond the fact that it raises the important and inspiring point that hominid evolution is far from settled. Loren Coleman for instance almost seemed to be suggesting that cryptozoology's claim has been all along that unidentified hominids once existed alongside modern humans in the mists of prehistory (their present existence being a minor subpoint) and that they have somehow been vindicated.
"“Forty thousand years ago, the planet was more crowded than we thought,” said Terence Brown of the University of Manchester.

Of course, cryptozoologists and hominologists had figured this out years ago. We also wonder if it continues to be so."
As far as I've always understood it, cryptozoology's claim has always been that unidentified hominids have been rummaging through Mrs. Smith's garbage cans last Wednesday, which is quite a bit different. I don't know of one cryptozoological dig looking to prove the past existence of something extinct. Perhaps the thinking is that you can't claim that Bigfoot left a butt-print in Grants Pass, Oregon (I'm not making that up) without implicitly claiming that an unknown hominid coexisted with ancient man. Fine, but mainstream science never disputed that possibility, only that creatures matching Bigfoot's description exist today (with the possibility of having ever existed as unlikely). The find of a possible new species or subspecies of fairly advanced hominid tens of thousands of years ago, though, in no way vindicates any claims of Bigfoots, Yetis, or almastys, which still differ mightily from all obtained hominid evidence to date in regards to size, intelligence, etc. Continued claims that it does from the cryptocognoscenti are going to invite, well, ridicule from paleontologists. I really wish they would keep their claims along the lines of the unsettled nature of our family tree and not making in-your-face posts that are going to come back to haunt the field.

As for Mr. Freeman, has he ever presented the scientific results of his 2009 orang pedenk expedition?

Nick Redfern said...

Re the points you raise and questions asked: I'll let Rich know and have him post a comment here in response.