Patagonia is a region at the southern end of Argentina and Chile in South America. It contains the southern end of the Andes and the desert steppes and grasslands east of this mountain range. It is bounded by both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
The name “Patagonia” has a rather interesting meaning. This region was named by the famous navigator and explorer Magellan in 1520. “Patagonia” is derived from the word “patagon.” Magellan used this name to describe the people that he and his men thought were “giants”! Most historians believe that the people he was referring to were the Tehuelches who just happened to be a a bit taller than your average European at the time. The name of these people, Tehuelches, actually means “the fierce people” in their native tongue.
When the Spanish explorers first set foot in this area they came across some rather large footprints on the beaches and they thought them to have been made by giants. But, actually, the footprints were made by the Tehuelches leather boots (called “guanaco”) which they wore on their feet. But the rumors persisted and this land of Patagonia gained the reputation of being a “land of giants.”
The Tehuelches have lived in the Patagonia area for over 14,500 years. This claim has been verified by archaeological discoveries and research. These people have a nomadic lifestyle so archaeological evidence has been rather scant. They are also hunter-gatherers and they are rather well known for their cave paintings. One thing I find interesting about these people is that they are similar in appearance to the Hopi of northeastern Arizona and other Pueblo people of the American Southwest although taller.
It seems that throughout Patagonia’s history there have been stories or legends of hairy giants and ogres (man-eating giants). Some people have speculated that Patagonia might have been the home of some surviving Homo erectus hominids. This is used by some to explain the many sightings of an alleged Patagonian Bigfoot which has been reported since the time of the Spanish Conquistadors in the region. This explanation is rather interesting because mainstream anthropology says H. erectus was never in the Americas. But, as researcher Austin Whittall of Argentina says there is some controversial evidence that has been found in the area that is ignored by mainstream archaeology yet this evidence suggests humans were in the Americas long before we suspect. In fact, roughly 1/4 of a million years ago!
Homo erectus lived between 1.8 mya to 200 kya. At least that is what most anthropologists believe. But some think this ancient human ancestor actually survived longer beyond 200 kya which is also the time they point to as the dawn of modern humans, Homo sapiens. This would have been during the Pleistocene Epoch geologically speaking. Homo erectus may have been the first hominid to use fire. They were intelligent and adventurous They are the first species we believe to have migrated out of Africa, into Asia, and into Europe. The made their own stone tools which have come to be known as the Acheulean Stone Tool industry although the earliest H. erectus are believed to have used Oldowan stone tools used by Homo habilis (“tool man”).
Those H. erectus who remained in Africa were a bit different from those who migrated into Asia. Those in Africa are now called “Homo ergaster” by many researchers. Of course there is debate over which is the direct ancestor of modern humans or are both.
Homo erectus was very adaptable to their environments be they in Africa, Europe, Asia, or beyond. In fact, they seem to have adapted very well even in jungle regions such as Java. The famous “Java Man” is a H. erectus as is the famous “Peking Man” found in China. H. erectus had a larger brain than H. habilis or earlier ancient human ancestors. Their cranial volume ranged from around 700 cm to 1250 cm with an average of 900 cm. The skull of H. erectus was thick as if it were designed for head-butting, as has been suggested by some researchers. They had browridges over their eyes although it has been noted by Dr John Hawks and other Paleoanthropologists that earlier H. erectus had smaller browridges than the later. We are not sure why this is so as you would expect it to be the other way around. I and some other researchers such as Dr Susan Martinez suspect there was some retrobreeding going on with later H. erectus.
Their skulls were long (dolichocephalic) and low with receding foreheads. Unlike those ancient human ancestors who came before them H. erectus was taller and bigger. Their average weight is believed to have been somewhere around 100 lbs (45 kg) and their average height is believed to have been around 5 ft. 6 in. (1.7 m). However, some researchers hold the view that some H. erectus individuals may have been 6 ft tall (1.8 m) or more, myself included.
In terms of dating, fossil remains of H. erectus have been found near Ngandong in Java dating back to as recently as 53 kya to 27 kya! This is well beyond the typically accepted date of 200 kya believed by mainstream anthropologists! These dates of 53-27 kya were obtained by Carl Swisher and colleagues from the Berkeley Geochronology Center. What this means is that H. erectus lived alongside modern humans and even alongside the Neanderthals! Of course, if H. erectus was in the Americas then this would mean that they coexisted with modern humans also in the Americas.
In fact, following this line of thinking one could surmise that perhaps in some places in Patagonia some H. erectus groups may still be alive or may have been alive until recently. Are these what the Spanish encountered in Patagonia and the Andes? Of course this begs the question as to the possibility of small pockets of H. erectus populations still existing today! Is this what Bigfoot is? Is this what the “hairy giants” and “ape men” are that are spoken about all over the world today?
This takes us back to the finds at Valsequillo Reservoir near Puebla in Mexico. There researchers found hominid fossil remains dating at 250 kyr (thousand years old). These finds were found by an archaeologist named Cynthia Irving-Williams and published in 1969. However, the finds were very quickly marginalized and dismissed by the mainstream! Yet, these finds are part of a growing body of evidence based on diatoms. They may have been the remains of modern humans (Homo sapiens) but if they are then this means modern humans were in the Americas long before the dates commonly accepted by the mainstream. And then there are the stone find found at Calico Hills in California. Most archaeologists pass them off summarily as “geofacts” but some, at least to me, look every bit like artifacts!
Here’s the thing. The famous landbridge that spanned Siberia and Alaska existed MORE THAN ONCE and during all those times it was above water we have animals, birds, and all kinds of critters coming out of Asia and into the Americas. We even had modern humans who made their way across the landbridge. So why not archaic humans? If they were not all extinct then certainly the hardy, adventurous, intelligent H. erectus would have been among them! And for that matter IF Bigfoot is actually a surviving form of the giant Asian ape known as Gigantopithecus as postulated by Paleoanthroplogist Dr Jeff Meldrum of the University of Idaho et. al. then at some point even Gigantopithecus crossed the landbridge out of Asia and into the Americas! My point is this. There were all kinds of biotic organisms crossing into the Americas from Asia when this landbridge was above water several times so why wouldn’t H. erectus?
H. erectus was driven by something to explore. Am I to believe he came out of Africa and once he reached Asia and SE Asia he decided he was done? If he viewed the landbridge between Siberia and Alaska am I to believe he simply saw all of these other organisms crossing it and just sat down and gave up? I do not think that was the case and, in fact, NOT crossing the landbridge would most certainly be OUT OF CHARACTER for the adventurous early explorer we call Homo erectus!!!
Contrary to what some seem to think the “Out of Africa” theory is NOT the only theory regarding human evolution around. There is also the “Multiregional Theory” and the “Hybridization Theory.” The later holds that many species or breeds of humans coexisted and interbred eventually culminating in modern humans today. The former, the Multiregional Theory holds that humans did not only appear in Africa but also elsewhere. The MRT also holds H. erectus evolved into modern humans in different regions outside of Africa.
Austin Whttall speculates that the bones found at Denisovan Cave might be the remains of H. erectus in Asia. If so then it means H. erectus was around much longer than most think and more recently than most would like to think! But what about their stone tools? Why do we not find Acheulean stone tools in the Americas? Or do we? Are some of the finds at Calico Hills actually Acheulean stone tools? What about other stone implements found in the Americas and believed to be Native America? Are we mistaken? Are we looking at American versions of Acheulean stones tools in SOME cases? Are we even looking at some that are American versions of Oldowan stone tools? And as I’ve stated prior many times, why was the famous Louis Leakey so damned convinced he’d find ancient hominid remains like he found in Africa in the Americas?
Most Native Americans when using the Cephalic Index (skull shape) are “brachycephalic” meaning “broad headed.” This COULD indicate a common origins but let us remember that within groups of the same people we also find various skull shapes. Fore example, we can find all of the skull shapes in the Cephalic Index in Caucasians. Some have long skulls while others have broad skulls. Most have high vaulted skulls but some have low skulls and receding foreheads like H. erectus. And some are in-between! The same can be said for all other races, in fact.
Returning to Native Americans most have brachycephalic (broad) skull shapes but some have “dolichocephalic” (long) skull shapes. And, still, others are somewhere in-between! Does this mean some Native Americans have different origins? It may. It is these variations in skull morphology that have led us to postulate that there were more than one migration into the Americas from Asia by Paleo-Indians. And each of these migrations may have been by people of different Asian origins. But, then again, there are many Native American tribes throughout the Americas who claim intensely that their ancestors didn’t come from anywhere but that there people have always been here! And, interestingly, these tribes have NO migration stories and NO stories of their ancestors having come from the north or the sea!
It is also interesting to note that Paleo-Indians are believed to have been the first people to enter the Americas. Their skulls were dolichocephalic (long and narrow cranial vault) and their faces were narrow. In contrast, the Amerindians from which it is believed most Native Americans came from had short and wide cranial vaults with wide faces (brachycephalic). Further, the Native Americans in the Patagonia region have dolichocephalic shaped skulls like H. erectus and Paleo-Indians!
My belief is that H. erectus DID enter into the Americas and as other species of humans (ie: H. sapiens) entered the Americas they interbred at times. At least during the first migration wave or two or more. Then somewhere along the line one or more of the migrations brought broad headed (brachycephalic) people from Asia into the Americas and these people conquered and/or interbreed with the long headed people already here and that is why we find few long headed tribes and many broad headed tribes in the America’s today.
I think H. erectus did make it into the Americas and I think some of the finds we’ve made have been misinterpreted as Native American. I also think the same about some of the stone tools we’ve found in the Americas. Like I said, the landbridge existed more than once so there was plenty of opportunity to enter the Americas via land and maybe even more if the land masses were NOT exactly where they are today. And then, of course, there is the sea! At some point did H. erectus float on a makeshift boat to the Americas from Asia? Evidence for that would be long buried under the ocean waters most likely.
Patagonia is an interesting place, It is a beautiful place with a range of climates from desert to high mountains. Many discoveries have been made there over the years not just human but also dinosaur and other prehistoric remains that many people do not know about. I’ll post about some of these finds in the future.