In the Fields

Loren Coleman and Patrick Huyghe. The Field Guide to Bigfoot, Yeti, and Other Mystery Primates Worldwide. Avon Books, 1999.
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Following on the from the successful Field Guide to Extraterrestrials, this book gives excellent drawings based on eyewitness descriptions of a wide variety of hairy humanoids from all continents. These range from such well know favourites as the bigfoot and yeti, to a variety of lesser known breeds, including chupacabras and other mer-beings. As a work of a folklore there is very good, but the trouble is that unlike the Field Guide to Extraterrestials. and the Field Guide to the Little People which inspired it, co-author Coleman clearly intends that we should interpret at least some of these stories at face value, as encounter with flesh and blood primates.

He construct a classification of them, with features such as Neo-Giant, True Giant, Neanderthaloid, Proto-Pygmy etc. Even Coleman has to concede that the True Giants, which included Grendel and the Big Grey Man of Ben Macdhui, are essentially folkloric beings. Others such as the Mayan aluxs or the Hawaiian menehune clearly belong in the global tradition of little people and fairy lore, perhaps based on Lilliputian hallucinations. In many other cases the separate categories are more likely to represent individual images of the sub-human rather than separate real species.

Even in the those categories which can be more plausibly argued to be real creatures, such as Bigfoot, there are two main problems, the lack of physical evidence. There are no skins or pelts from which genetic material could be extracted, which as time goes on makes their real existence increasingly unlikely; and their lack of real resemblance to fossil hominids as currently interpreted. Rather than any real proto-human, they resemble folk images of 'hairy ape-men (their is no reason to believe that Neanderthals or Homo erectus were particularly hairy, that idea comes from the very popular paintings of Burian, which is how generations of school children were presented with ·ape men'. Furthermore the anthropology to which cryptozoologists subscribe is not some startling new theory, but the discarded theories and beliefs of half a century ago. In this field cryptozoology is a living fossil of yesterdays anthropology.

The authors seem to think that there is some kind of conspiracy against cryptozoolgists by professional anthropologists, I would like to think that, in a sense, their was and that any anthropologists who came across a community of living Neanderthals would examine their conscience very deeply before releasing the information. In the real world the lure of the Nobel Prize and the award-winning documentary would be far too great. The discovery of a relict group of hominids would be the anthropological discovery of the millennium, and very soon they would become the most inspected, prodded, poked about and tested creatures/people in the world, with a huge army of anthropologists, zoologists, teachers, missionaries, conservationists, development officers, government officials, tour operators, lawyers and politicians would be making their living from them. – Peter Rogerson. Magonia 68, September 1999.

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