Tuesday, September 11, 2012

On The Margins Of Cryptozoology, Part Last, I think.

Once upon a time in the 16th century, one of those many bastards who became honored by various crown heads for being successful murderous bastards, "Sir" John Hawkins, was plying his grisly trade of killing people, abducting others for slave trade, and generally appalling his mother who thought she'd raised a nice boy. While in the Caribbean, his fleet fell upon hard knocks and several ships were sunk. Overloaded with survivors, Hawkins did the right thing: he threw the excess off the ship onto Mexican shores to fend for themselves. Priorities.

One of those excess was David Ingram. Ingram and two others did what they had to do. They walked all the way to Nova Scotia.

This is the world that David Ingram walked into. It was a world explored mainly at its edges. And mainly by Spanish mariners and their map-makers. The coasts were poorly known; the interiors almost not at all.

People doubt that David Ingram could have made that walk. I don't. The only issue is the amount of time it would take him to do it. When Ingram got back to England, his story, as far as its beginnings were concerned, was attested to by Hawkins. Ingram began in upper Mexico near Tampico, and somehow ended up in Nova Scotia from where he got passage home. The first part of his tale is sensible. The Indians of upper Mexico could easily be viewed as "cannibals". "High" Mexican cultures ate hearts of sacrifices, and there were other known flesh-eaters in America [whether to absorb an opponent's power, or just his protein]. Ingram came to the mouth of the Rio Grande, crossed over, and made his way around the Gulf coast to a known place in "Florida" named something like the Rio May. From there he apparently struck out for the Atlantic coast, on foot or using small boats when possible. Note on this map that the maker knows very little about the interior, except that it is speckled with Indian towns.

Somehow Ingram plows northward between the Appalachians and the sea until some say he comes near the mythical land of Norumbega. I've read the "official" rendition as compiled by interviewers of his responses to questions about his journey, and I see no evidence that he visited Norumbega in any form resembling the semi-magical descriptions some had of the place. Doubtless he did pass through Penobscot Indian areas, but the most one might truly say from his narrative is that the country was rich in good hides.

But that's not our current interest.

The passage of interest occurs within a general set of sentences about the wildlife of North America. This part of the narrative goes forward fairly believably and then this:

"This examinate {Ingram} did also see in those countries a monstrous beast twice as big as a horse and in proportion to a horse, both in mane, hoof, hair, and neighing, saving it was small towards the hinder parts like a greyhound. These beasts had two teeth or horns of a foot long growing straight forth by their nostrils." [He, by the way, describes Bisons clearly and differently].

Well, I can see a mammoth or more likely a mastodon in there. Other than the fact that Ingram isn't supposed to be seeing a mastodon, what's the problem? The problem is that you cannot obviously trust the written narrative in a variety of ways. This thing is no literal retelling of what Ingram said at all, but rather a botched-up mishmash of writing by whomever wrote it down. Topics range all over the place with no chronology and little geography. The reader gets the impression of a man being quizzed for answers and speaking of what he knew from all over the Caribbean and Mexico let alone the pre-USA area. The prose sometimes seems to include insertions possibly not meant or even said by Ingram at all. [An Example: directly following the "mastodon" remark, the writer says Ingram saw Elephants too.] Also, one gets the impression that this is a Poor Man's Marco Polo, integrating things actually seen with things merely told, and making no allowance for the difference in his remarks. One can actually see a possible "honest" way of interpreting this, if the inquisitor [this interview was instigated by Queen Elizabeth's Sheriff] was asking generic questions like "what sorts of jewels do they have?", and Ingram responds with both what he saw and what he was told, and the "secretary" just writes it all down without interpretation.

If that was all, though, that would be OK in my book, as the description is pretty good if it came out of nowhere. But other elements of Ingram's tale must give one at least some pause. I actually can come to peace with almost all of them, but two are real "intellectual irritations". One:

" He did also see one other strange beast bigger than a bear. He had neither head nor neck. His eyes and mouth were in his breast. This beast is very ugly to behold and cowardly of kind. It beareth a very fine skin like a rat, full of silver hairs". --- now where in the heck did he get THAT!?

Two: He states that there is a sort of demon in these indian religions called the Colluchie. The thing is a shapeshifter, sometimes like a black dog, sometimes like a black calf... which speaks. Upon once entering a poor man's house, the three walkers came upon a Colluchie. He said the thing had huge black eyes. Richard Brown immediately said that this was The Devil, and blessed himself with the Sign of the Cross. Richard Twide shouted at it: "I defy thee and all thy works!!!" At this assault, the Colluchie huddled down and stole away out the door "and was seen no more".

I might be able to dance my way around these inclusions [particularly the Colluchie, which could be a flat misperception of an animal], but to be honest, they do give one some concern over the tale-spinning option for dealing with some of Ingram's claims. All-in-all, the description of the reputed mastodon isn't bad, though.

So what's left? What's left are the oddly numerous enigmatic rock-carvings, pottery arts, statuary, et al which litter the anomalies landscape. To cover them would take a book.

Each bit of potential Mammoth/Mastodon evidence has its story. Some things like the Hava Supai canyon glyph and the Moab glyph [#s 3 & 7 in this stack] have interested professionals at least at the margins of the establishment. So has the Barnesville glyph [#1]. Others like the Holly Oak Pendant are widely thought to be hoaxed. The "tablet" thing is one of many tablets allegedly found claiming to demonstrate Phoenician pre-Columbian visitation to the New World, or Lost Tribes of Israel, or Mormon scriptural support. Everyone of these tablet-like things that I'm aware of are bad hoaxes. The one pictured here [#6], claims to mimic Phoenician alphabet signs, but I see little or no resemblance myself. The pottery impression though is particularly interesting to me, as it claims to come from a dig at Pachacamac, Peru, dating to c. 500AD.

The Moab Mastodon glyph has been stated to have significant desert environmental patina in the grooves of the design and is, therefore not very recent [i.e. somebody did not carve this thing in the last century]. On the other hand, the style/design of the thing, when compared with other glyphs in the same location, seems to place it in the "relatively recent but still old" category. [Thus, the last 1000 years].

In the very first issue of INFO Journal [the magazine of the International Fortean Organization, the "twin sister" of Sanderson's SITU], Ron Willis writes an exceptionally good review of the evidence on this topic. In it he states that in a dig at Petit Anse Island, LA remains of human habitation were found [including woven basketry] TWO FEET BELOW the remains of mastodons. A dig in Ecuador reportedly found mastodon bones with pottery, hearths, spearpoints et al. Ron also showed a rare, I believe, set of pictures for an Olmec-style statue with elephantine features. I am going to try to show these to you, but they are tough to see. INFO #1 was a very hard magazine to get any sort of quality from, and these are from pictures that I saved from rotting pages from Dick Hall's basement when I visited there [for a week] and cleaned the @#$%#* place up. Anyway, that's another story in UFOlogical history. Here are the photos.

Best I can do, folks. This basalt statue seems to represent a human/elephant combination. The sharp corners on the top of the head seem to indicate that it is an unfinished sculpture. That would be good enough to disregard it, but the thing seems to have both a trunk and elephantine ears. Whatever it is, it is in the Archaeological Museum in Mexico city now.

A. Hyatt Verrill did a dig in Cocle, Panama [Rio Cano area] which produced a huge variety of finds. I have a picture of the dig above, but can't find a picture of the elephant statue. Sorry, I'd like to see it, too. Almost everything that Verrill found here was interesting, but for our purposes, the "beautifully sculptured creatures not only with trunks and tusks, but with unmistakeable big leaf-like ears and the typical elephantine forward-bent joints of the hind legs..." are the items of choice. I have been amused to read other archaeologists' commenting on digs in central Panama, mentioning other things that Verrill found, and assiduously NOT mentioning the elephants.

Back to Michigan for a moment: As the map shows, my state swarms with Mastodon relics. I even have a tooth myself just for fun. With an environment loaded with the beasts, why not a population hanging on until quite recent times?? With that possibility in mind, let's see "the latest" find.

OK. It's like seeing faces in the clouds, or worse, pictures in Richard Shaver's Dero Rock Art. But this alleged glyph is supposed to be fairly clear to the diving team who discovered the boulder, and can examine it up close. So, until I hear differently, I'll keep this Traverse City, Michigan boulder in the running as a piece of "modern" mastodon evidence. It IS from Michigan, afterall.

What did Sanderson think? Ivan wrote an entire book about Elephants, one of his favorite critters. In it he broaches a lot of history, but stays away from any supportive statements about Mastodon or Mammoth survival. It seems that either he didn't buy it, or he felt that even if they did make it into historic times, they were all dead now, and so he couldn't "discover" any of them and wasn't much interested. What DID interest him, though, was the elephant on the Copan stele from Mayan cultural times. This was such an overpowering thing for Ivan that he became convinced that these elephants were IMPORTED into the Meso-American region from Africa or the Pacific. He actually favored Asia due to his belief that the carvings showed mahouts on top of the beasts. Somewhat boggled by the logistics of getting elephants across the Pacific Ocean [the West Africa-to-Brazil current is MUCH more obliging], he decided that these came the long way around from the near east through Africa and over. So, elephants there were; mastodons probably not.

Well, OK, Ivan, but I'm going to go back to my main man, William Berryman Scott, who started me into this mess. MANY years after he published that 19th century article in Scribners, Scott was asked about his 1940ish views on the subject. He said: it was his opinion that if the early Spanish explorers had more thoroughly penetrated into the American interior, they would have quite possibly encountered living mammoths.

There's a lot of smoke here. Maybe there's fire. So, I'm with you on this one WB.


  1. Prof I've read somewhere the explanation of some 'expert' the Copan Stele's actually a stylised depiction of some sort of toucan.

    But then why aren't the 'mahouts' stylised?

    I can strongly suggest to you two things based on my own experience as an artist.

    1) this was a scene the artist actually saw. He/she's been fascinated by the two men's interaction with the animal how one wraps his arm over it in a way both highly possessive and highly intimate [but also suggesting it's much larger than a bird] and how the other makes the similarly intimate gesture of personally feeding it a titbit almost as if the pair were two young sisters who'd just come into possession of their first pony.

    2) the fact the 'mahout' appears to be attempting to feed the animal via its eye suggests either the 'mahouts' were highly unfamiliar with the species or/and the artist was. The fact the artist seems to've 'mistakenly' placed a 'nostril' approximately where a toucan's would be either confirms the artist's unfamilarity with the beast or allows for the possibility the artist was exploring similarities between the animal's form and that of a toucan.

  2. ps

    'Your' elephant/man hybrid from INFO might be a clue Ivan Sanderson was onto something with his imported elephant idea if it turned out it was actually a form of Ganesha.

  3. Hmmmmm..... I actually think that I understood what you are talking about this time..... must be losing my mind.......

    yes, that's exactly the sort of idea that Ivan had, though he emphasized the seeing of real elephants with real mahouts, and not just transferred cultural ideas like Ganesh.



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