Friday, March 13, 2009

Ogres, Trolls, etc = Neanderthals?

I was watching the documentary Journey of Man which deals with the discoveries made by the Genographic Project regarding the early migratory patterns of modern humans.

The film does not go into detail about other hominid races, like the Neanderthal and the Flores hobbit, but it occured to me that as these migrations took place between 60-15 thousand years ago, there were other hominid races in Africa, South Asia, and Europe not mentioned in the documentary, and that many of the myths and fairy tales that we received from the ancestors probably originated from these exchanges.

The program indicates that humans arrived in Europe 40,000 years ago from Central Asia, not via the Turkey route that we would expect. We also know that Neanderthal man did not disappear in Europe until 30-25,000 years ago. This means that for a period of between 10-15,000 years, Neanderthals and Humans coexisted in Europe.

What the program does not indicate is that Neanderthals were most likely the reason why humans waited so long to inhabit Europe - this was their territory. In Norse myth, there are several hominid races that appear to live in separate garths or territories, which means that the people who originated these myths knew of certain boundaries which were dangerous to cross, beyond which there was hostility (Jotunheim, Alfheim, etc.) or which were simply territories of another people ...

We have no way of knowing what was the nature of interaction between the two species. We know that they were unable to produce offspring if they intermarried, and that for many thousands of years they were neighbors in Israel and surrounding areas because some fossils have been found in close proximity and aged to around the same time - so that there was some interaction in some places.

But beyond that we do not know if there was hostility or animosity and how much, if one species enslaved the other, if there were slave uprisings or intermarriage, if they hunted mammoth together or hunted each other, etc. These would be interesting things to look into.

Some Neanderthal remains show signs of cannibalism ... and humans still consume chimpanzees and monkeys in many parts of the world, and we have evidence of human cannibalism in Papua New Guinea, so even the idea that humans literally hunted the Neanderthal to extinction and consumed them is not so far fetched and should be considered as one possibility.

Maybe what Norse myths call Swartalf (Black Elves), Ogres, Dwarves, Trolls, etc. were real members of a species. Maybe these mythical beings are based on historical encounters with Neanderthals or even other races? Maybe after they died out the stories about them became more magical and mythologized?

In the epic of the Ramayana, from India, we see primitive humans and an ape race fighting together against a common enemy. This, today, is unthinkable. The closest surviving hominid is the bonobo ape, who is more humanlike than other chimps, his head is more round and walks already on two legs for long periods of time, but has not evolved language skills, etc.

The Flores man (so called hobbit) may have been an isolated population but, if Indian travelers did come across them, it would not have been unthinkable that some of them were either taken as prisoners or enslaved, or that many of them may have migrated into India in remote times and coexisted for some time with ancient Indians. There is no archeological evidence of man in India 40,000 years ago, yet we know people were there from the findings of the Genographic project, which traced the Y-chromosome of one man in South India to the same group of people who eventually colonized Australia, which indicates coastal migrations.

What this means is that absence of archeological evidence should not be a reason to discard human and hominid activity during that age because genetic evidence shows that there was a coastal migration in spite of lack of an archeological presence.

The documentary Journey of Man also makes mention of the fact that during the Ice Age, the ocean levels were lower and migration between the islands all the way to Australia would not have been so dangerous as it is today because the shorelines were not as spread apart - which also tells us that fossil records from the Ice Age should be found undersea.

If this is the case, then it may be that the monkey-God Hanuman and the race of apes that is mentioned in the Ramayana (they were fighting in alliance with King Rama against King Ravana) may be based on actual hominids who lived as neighbors of humans in the ancient past in South India.

Indian folklorists have made much of the fact that the bridge that the apes and men built between South India and Sri Lanka can still be seen from outer space - and it's true: the shallowness of a path in the water is evident.

The Ramayana is interesting also in that it presents us with an elaborate APE CULTURE - like the fact that when the monkey king Rakshasa died, his two sons fought to see who'd become the alpha male, "as required by ape law".

Ramayana also indicates that the territory of the ape people had watchers at their entrance and that they had an army, which resembles the organization of a human village or city, and that they were very intelligent strategists and politicians. Which is a bit too sophisticated for apes: and so it should not be ruled out that Ramayana may have included characters that historically were Neanderthals or Flores men. If this was the case, I am inclined in favor of Neanderthal man who was more bulky and physically stronger than humans, since according to the Ramayana it was the ape race that did most of the hard labor during the construction of the bridge.

The Yeti legends of the Himalayas may also refer to ancient Neanderthal man since Yeti had white skin, and we know neanderthal had white skin and blond or even red hair. The monkey God himself, Hanuman, is depicted as 'golden-hued' by his devotees. At the end of Ramayana, Hanuman is said to have 'retired' and gone to the Himalayas.

3 comments:

Gary Gray said...

I recently watched the movie, "Beowulf and Grendel" and in this movie, Grendel is portrayed as a Neanderthal like creature. It is interesting to note that in the poem "Beowulf", Grendel is referred to as a troll. This made me wonder two possibilities, 1) Was the story "Beowulf" a legend that had been passed down for thousands of years, a legend of an encounter between humans and neanderthals, and/or 2) Is it possible that very small pockets of neanderthals survived in the northern reaches of Europe into the Common Era, possibly into 500 to 1000 CE?

phullax said...

Deeply facinating speculations based in part on brilliant observations. Why does conventional science (almost an oxymoron from a genuinely scientific perspective) refuse to entertain such speculations as these?

Jan O'Brien said...

I found this post as I had the same realization after watching a program on Neanderthals and the dna evidence in modern humans. I was wondering if some of the mythology of Greece, Scandanavia, etc., isn't very old stories of human andNeanderthal interactions. They wew bigger, stronger with barrel chests and strong arms. Could some of the heros (Heracles), be Neanderthal? They may have seemed imortal with immune systems developed to fight the bacteria of Europe, that the new humans didn't have. Interesting that someone esle has had the same idea. I don't feel so crazy!