The Patterson, Gimlin Film: Enmity, Evidence
and Evolution
Anonymous Author by request 2000

In 1973 eminent anthropologist and primatologist John Napier, then Visiting Professor of Primate Biology at the University of London, wrote a book entitled "Bigfoot, theYeti, and Sasquatch in Myth and Reality". Napier's book was a milestone in the field of hominology as it represented the first published effort of a "mainstream" scientist to analyze the phenomenon.

Many who have read the book, scientists and laymen alike, have found it be somewhat ambiguous in its conclusions. The physical evidence of the Patterson, Gimlin Film in particular was assailed by Napier and various consulted colleagues who found it to point to "a hoax of some kind". (Napier, pg 95) Upon close examination by the author, however, there are many simple, scientifically verifiable explanations for most of the observed "problems" with the analysis.

In the subsequent few pages the author will evaluate, in a systematic and scientific manner, the critiques by Napier and others of the visible anatomy of the subject in the 1967 film. At the same time I will demonstrate why the subject does stand up to functional analysis, whereas Napier argued that it did not. (Napier, pg 95)

The ideas contained herein are wholly mine and have not been taken from any other materials published previously, in print, on the internet, or elsewhere. It is the author's feeling that this effort is necessary because so many have taken Napier's analysis as the final word on the subject. As one of the most distinguished anthropologists of the last century many looked to Napier for vindication of Patterson's film. What they received instead was a vague and inconclusive work.

The Head

One of the biggest arguments that Napier and others have with the subject in the film is the appearance of the head.

"Frank Beebe of the British Columbia Provincial Museum, who concluded quite independently that the bodily form of Patterson's Bigfoot was male in spite of its female appendages, also made an extremely pertinent observation. Why, he asks, does a creature with a tall bony crest on its skull, as Patterson's creature clearly had, have a non-protuberant abdomen? To understand this apparent irrelevance one must appreciate the biological meaning of the bony crest which forms such a prominent feature on the male gorilla and orang-utan skull anatomy. The crest is an adaptive device to provide supplementary attachment for muscles operating the jaws. Gorillas and orangs have big massive jaws and teeth, which demand very large muscles to operate them during chewing. Heavy jaws are necessitated by a diet of large quantities of roughage, low-energy food which demands powerful mastication and consequently, a pot-bellied appearance." (Napier, pg 92 & 93)

Bebee is making an inference using living great-apes, in particular the Gorilla and Orang-Utan. He fails either to note or be aware of the fact that the Gorilla's diet consists almost exclusively of leaves, pith, and stalks, whereas Orangs are "primarily frugivorous, but bark, leaves, insects, and meat (on rare occasions) may also be eaten." (Jurmain, Nelson, et al. pg 129) Stalks and leaves are indeed "low-energy" foods, but fruit contains considerably more nutritional value and is much easier to digest.

In addition, both sagittal crests and nuchal crests can be observed in the cranial morphology of extinct hominids, most noticeably in the robust australopithecines. "Because the major changes (between gracile and robust australopithecines) are in the teeth, jaws, and chewing characteristics, a different diet seems … likely…". (Relethford, pg 326) In what way was their diet different? "Their diet is thought to have consisted of small, hard-to-chew objects, such as seeds, nuts, and hard fruits. Such objects require heavy chewing and large teeth." (Ibid)

To understand the relationship between heavy chewing and the sagittal crest one must understand that its function is as an anchor point for the temporalis muscle which has its origin on the skull and its insertion on the coronoid process of the mandible. The nuchal crest, on the other hand, serves only to anchor the muscles which travel down the back of the neck and has no correlation with an animal's diet. Prominent nuchal crests are visible in the skulls of most extant great-apes and many extinct hominids. Both the sagittal and nuchal crests are "purely functional; they have no phylogenetic valence at all." (Class notes, Spring 2000) Thus the vastly larger comparative size between human and gorilla (and sasquatch) temporalis muscles (and concomitantly the sagittal crest) is a reflection of a diet with an abundance of small, hard food objects.

The size of the crest visible on the head of the Patterson film subject is not at all uncharacteristic of what one would expect to see in a female gorilla of equivalent size (800 pounds). However, since female gorillas do not attain this size Bebee's reference is made to adhere to known dimensions and conditions. What is being ignored here that is absolutely pertinent is the scientific principle of allometry. Also known as "scaling", it is the differential proportion among various anatomical structures. "Moreover, scaling effects must also be considered when comparing species." (Jurmain, et. al., pg 483) Thus the statements of Napier and others regarding the contradiction of a visible crest with the otherwise female appearance of the film subject is not warranted when discussing such an immense creature.

The Body

The second apparent contradiction which Bebee points out (and which Napier gives credence to) is the lack of a visibly "protuberant abdomen." The abdomen of the film subject is hardly what one would consider svelte. The entire torso, as visible in several frames of the film, is extremely deep. Once again, the inference is made that since Gorillas have a "pot-bellied" appearance and a visible crest how can the Sasquatch have one without the other? The answer is simple. Gorillas, and all the great apes, are habitual and obligate quadrupeds. The Sasquatch, on the other hand, is obviously completely bipedal.

In apes, the pelvis, made up of the ossa coxae and the sacrum, is devoid of supportive function with the iliac blades lying along the back of the animal parallel to the vertebral column. In essence, the viscera are held in place by the abdominal muscles in a "suspensory" fashion. In other words, the stomach is free to hang down in great apes, whereas in bipeds the viscera are supported in the "bowl" of the pelvis to a great extent. Secondly, if small and/or hard food items are the dietary component which accounts for the presence of the sagittal crest (rather than high cellulose content plant matter) the larger intestinal tract (and therefore the "pot-bellied" appearance) would not be necessary.

Napier's own analysis of the overall image of the film subject can be summed us with his statement: "The upper half of the body bears some resemblance to an ape and the lower half is typically human. It is almost impossible to conceive that such structural hybrids could exist in nature." Alas, an incorrect statement of such magnitude is hard to stomach coming from someone of Napier's stature. The notion of "mosaic evolution" is well established in the hominid fossil record. The robust australopithecines in particular show hyper-robust cranial features along with an essentially human lower-body. Even the more gracile forms of australopithecine (A. africanus, A. afarensis, and A. anamensis) demonstrate "ape-like" cranial features (small brain, maxillary prognathism) along with an essential "modern" pelvic girdle and associated anatomy. This makes Napier's notion that such a "structural hybrid" could not exist in nature scientifically unsound.
The final point of contention regarding the body is what Dr. William Montagna, then the director of the Regional Primate Research Center in Beaverton, Oregon, points out regarding the breasts of the film subject. Napier quotes him as saying: "human female breasts do not bear hairs however hirsute the rest of the body. " (Napier, pg 92) Additionally, Dimitri Bayanov notes in his book "America's Bigfoot: Fact, Not Fiction" that:

"If Sasquatches were to read all of the learned criticisms of their filmed sister, they would find it to be a staple of Sasquatch humor. And first prize would undoubtedly go by a unanimous vote to Dr. William Montagna for his defense of propriety in the question of Sasquatch breasts. The question: Is it right for a female Sasquatch to grow hair on her mammary glands? Dr. Montagna's definitive answer: No, it is not! And he has short shrift for anyone inclined to the contrary. To wit: The crowning irony was Patterson's touch of glamour" making his monster into a female with large pendulous breasts. If Patterson had done his homework, he would have known that regardless of how hirsute an animal is, its mammary glands are always covered with such short hairs as to appear naked." (Bayanov, pg 149)

Dr. Montagna's comment holds true for many animals, in particular the great apes. However, the extant great apes are residents of the tropical equatorial world. A quick look at primates living in colder climes, in particular several species of macaques and langurs, would show that lactating females have very noticeably hirsute breasts with only the nipple devoid of hair. The North American Sasquatch is also a denizen of much more temperate areas, and could therefore be expected to follow the evolutionary example of the latter.

The Feet

Finally, the feet of the Patterson Film subject, and their relative proportions, are called into question. Napier refers to the analysis of his associate, anatomist Dr. Don Grieve, when approaching the question of the gait of the creature on the film.

"A stature of 6 ft. 5 in. is fine; there is no reason to exclude the Sasquatch on these grounds. But the footprints associated with this creature are totally at variance with its calculated height. The footprints are said to have been between 14 in. and 15 in. in length. On the basis of the coefficient given on p. 119 this should equate with a stature of 7 ft. 8 in.-8 ft. 3 in. The space (the step) between one footprint and the next is given as 41 in. A creature of 6 ft. 5 in. in height should have a step of 45 in., particularly, as is seen in the film, when striding out; in fact in view of the exaggerated nature of the walk, the step might be expected to be somewhat longer than the normal, say 50 in."
In the above paragraph Dr. Napier is arguing that the feet of the film subject are too large for its body. This is determined by generating figures using a length/width index for the feet as well as a big-toe index. Scalar comparisons of known examples of human feet often deviate out of expected range, however, and little can possibly be gleaned by such a comparison except the fact that the range of foot size in the Sasquatch reflects typical variation expected within a species. Indeed, the greater overall surface area created by the great dimensions of the foot would closely support the appearance of great bulk in the film subject, and the subsequent need to provide adequate support for the same.

Napier further muddies the issue by suggesting that the film subject is "striding-out" and, in effect, exaggerating the length of stride. From repetitive viewing of the film it is evident that the subject, to the contrary, is rather reserved in its stride due to the visible lack of full lower leg extension between heel-strike and toe-off. Thus, the notion that a greater stride length would be expected is unfounded.


In closing, it would appear that the "frame of reference" for Napier's analysis was much too limited in its scope. In essence he was "drawing inside the box", instead of looking outside of it for the needed answers. This is what one would expect of a cautious, academic approach to the subject in the early 1970s, especially from such a well-respected anthropologist not wanting to draw undue ridicule. Unfortunately for Dr. Napier, this occurred nonetheless. Despite the obliqueness of his conclusions on the Patterson Film subject and other "hairy hominoids", he was harassed as a result, as have been subsequent scientifically minded authors on the subject. Even so, he ends his book with the inclusion of the statement: "I am convinced that the Sasquatch exists, but whether it is all that it is cracked up to be is another matter altogether."

As a final note I quote from a current Anthropological text:

"Not all scientists were ready for such a theory from such an unlikely place. Hence, his report was received with indifference, disbelief, and even caustic scorn. He realized that more complete remains were needed. The skeptical world would not accept the evidence of one partial immature individual, no matter how suggestive the clues." (Jurmain, et. al., pg 277)

The person and discovery in question were Raymond Dart and his "Taung Child", the type specimen for Australopithecus africanus discovered in South Africa in 1924. It is included here only to demonstrate the apparent level to which the bar had been raised in another case. With a dearth of substantive Sasquatch evidence we too must find something more tangible than film and footprints in order to make a solid case for the existence of our subject.

© Author's name withheld by his personal request:
Bobbie Short, May 5, 2000

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