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The Mysterious Hominoids of Africa in light of Modern Research
by Francois de Sarre
The aim of present article is not to list the hitherto still unrecognized hominoids of Africa as they are known from the numerous eyewitness reports throughout the whole continent: The interested reader may refer to Bernard Heuvelmans' book "Les Betes Humaines d'Afrique" (which has still not been translated into English). I intend, in this paper to present the newest discoveries on fossil australopithecines, and to link them with the sightings of hidden hominoids in Africa for classification purposes.
Ape or Human?
In Aramis, Ethiopia, the recent discovery of the fossil of a creature that appears to be closely related to a chimpanzee, reopened the old controversy about man's origins. (Nature, 371, 1994). Australopithecus ramidus, as Tim White called it, dated from 4.5 million years ago. Some authors would have given it the generic name of Pan, but in contrast to Chimpanzees, the fossil skull presented a disposition characteristic of bipedality. The occipital hole (foramen magnum) where the spinal column enters the skull, was next to the base of the skull. In apes the hole is further back, which leads us to suppose that ramidus walked erect.
The teeth of ramidus were covered with thin enamel like those of Chimpanzees, demonstrating fructivorous habits, but the small canines look very human-like. The articulation of the elbow suggests that ramidus could easily climb up, around, and through branches. The fossils of Australopithecus ramidus are accompanied by fossils of fauna indicative of a forest environment. Many authors now suggest that the bipedal, upright stand is an ancestral feature that has been lost by the apes .
Henry Gee, assistant editor of "Nature," also emphasizes: "Erect posture will thus be seen as a primitive feature that chimpanzees have lost, rather than an advanced feature that the hominids have acquired." In this way, Australopithecus ramidus represents a kind of 'missing link' between an early terrestrial biped and the quadruped chimpanzees of today. The theory of initial bipedalism indeed, already claimed that the different types of fossil hominoids and the various monkeys and apes are vestigesof mans ancestral line rather than his predecessors! (de Sarre, 1994). This theory is now sustained by paleontological data. The discovery of the new fossils provides powerful support for this interpretation but there are other facts which confirm this point of view.
WAS 'HOMO' HABILIS
A. africanus thus presents a locomotor repertoire combining facultative bipedalism as well as arboreal climbing. In one specimen assigned to Homo habilis, the canal dimensions show similarity with the canal proportions in large cercopithecoids.
The authors Fred Spoor and Bernard Wood suggest that the specimen of habilis that they examined (stw 53) relied less on bipedal behaviour than the common australopithecines. Homo habilis may be a combination of several quite different creatures. The australopithecines were apes. They only retained a relictual bipedality, just like today's chimps. If Homo erectus was indeed an obligatory biped, the other hominoids of Africa, which are know only from fossils, usually had quadrupedal habits. To some observers, they appear to be apes rather than hairy humans.
DWARVES OR LITTLE
In several of the neighboring countries where they only survive in people's memories, legends continue to surface about these small men. In other countries such as Zimbabwe, (formerly Rhodesia), they are widely mythicised and considered as goblins or other spirits. My personal opinion is that Africa's little furry men, including those resembling Australopithecines, are in fact 'Infra-Pygmies'; tiny human creatures who lived in equatorial forests, outside the areas known to be populated by man.
BIG HAIRY 'APE
GEE Henry (1995): 'Uprooting the human family tree' NATURE, vol 373:15 5 January
(1980): 'Les Bêtes humaines d'Afrique'. Plon, Paris.
of Man" by Francois de Sarre.
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