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Do enormous prehistoric ape-men share the Earth with humanity today?

Legends and myths from the ancient past of a rare and mysterious humanoid race sharing Earth with humanity continue to endure-- with the help of periodic reports of sightings and bits of intriguing (but inconclusive) evidence for the matter

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This page last updated on or about 12-31-05
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BACK to timeline contents: Perspectives 1,800 AD-1,990 AD...

[Caution: Speculation ahead]

Some of those who believe in the legends of giant 'wild men' inhabiting the remotest parts of the Earth think such beings may be descendents of or relatives to Gigantopithecus-- an enormous ape-man from the distant past of southeast asia.

But even if this is true, humanity knows precious little about the original Gigantopithecus-- mostly guesswork based on a few fossil teeth.

Weighing possibly 600-1200 pounds, and up to 10 feet in height, Gigantopithecus is the largest primate known to have ever existed, circa 1999 AD.

-- The UnMuseum - Gigantopithecus ["http://unmuseum.mus.pa.us/bigape.htm"] by Lee Krystek, found on or about 10-20-99

Some believe any real animal of this type to be more likely a descendent of Paranthropus.

-- Bigfoot: Gigantopithecus or Paranthropus? at Cryptomundo.com ["http://www.cryptomundo.com/cryptozoo-news/giganto-or-paranthropus/"] by Loren Coleman, found on or about 12-27-05

At this time however this page will focus on the possibilities relating to Gigantopithecus.

Gigantopithecus is thought by most experts to have gone extinct half a million years ago. But like the Coelacanth (an ancient fish) we mistakenly judged extinct prior to a live capture in 1938, it could be premature to absolutely rule out the continued existence of Gigantopithecus-- especially in the face of so much evidence to the possible contrary (there is much stronger circumstantial evidence in favor of Gigantopithecus' survival today than there was for the Coelacanth prior to 1938).

-- Coelacanth, page 146, The Concise Science Dictionary by Oxford University Press, 1984-1987

There's evidence in the Congo of a new and unknown large species of ape, apparently rare in number and perhaps adept at avoiding human contact.

-- Out in the forest, something stirs ["http://www.economist.com/science/displayStory.cfm?story_id=1389904"]; Oct 17th 2002; The Economist

-- ‘Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science’ on Discovery Channel for Blaine’s Doug Haijcek ["http://www.blaine-slplife.com/2003/January/16big.html"] by L.A. Jones; blaine-slplife.com; 1/16/03

If something along the lines of Gigantopithecus has survived however, it's had half a million years to evolve to its present niche. So it would not exactly be the same species for which we have found a handful of fossils so far.

It would be a mutated Gigantopithecus.

To explore what such a mutant ape-man might be like, let us consider its likely past challenges and other relevant matters.

We might use ourselves (a fellow primate) as a form of benchmark in some ways. For instance, how much behavioral change can occur in a primate species with modern human intellectual capacities in 500,000 years?

Well, in our own species, over the last 500,000 years we managed to go from a naked cave dwelling simple Stone Age tool maker/user (of rock chips) who could use fire but not ignite fires from scratch, and perhaps possessed a language of a few dozen words, to today's well dressed internet user, auto and computer builder, and common jet air traveler, who typically possesses a vocabulary of hundreds or thousands of words.

So given suitable capacities to begin with, lots of behavioral change can occur over 500,000 years.

But Gigantopithecus' ultimate fate also depends heavily on what talents and potential it possessed 500,000 years ago.

So let us make some assumptions about Gigantopithecus' starting point, in order to better speculate on where it might be today, in terms of intelligence and capabilities.

500,000 years ago Gigantopithecus was an enormous, super-strong ape-man, perhaps mostly vegetarian and non-aggressive (unless attacked or cornered).

But the climate was changing, or regional food sources were becoming scarce, or local competition for preferred food sources was intensifying between Gigantopithecus and giant pandas (bears). And suddenly Homo erectus (an ancestor of humanity) begins showing up in considerable numbers too, as yet another competitor for the same resources (bamboo and bamboo sprouts).

Homo erectus is at least a bit smarter than Gigantopithecus, and likely outnumbers him by a wide margin. Homo erectus hunts in packs, like wolves, pursuing, killing, and eating individual Gigantopithecus (or family groups), similar to how Polynesian settlers will do the gentle giant Moa of New Zealand millennia later.

-- Illustrated Transcript of The Future Eaters, Illustrated transcript of episode 2, Nomads of the Wind, Presented and Narrated by Dr Tim Flannery, Author of the Future Eaters, Australian Broadcasting Corporation. email: science@your.abc.net.au, http://www2.abc.net.au/, found on or about 9-12-99

Gigantopithecus clans are few and far between due to the required foraging ranges for each group. So there's not much chance of offering substantial organized resistance to the Homo erectus hunting packs. The huge size and fearsome appearance of Gigantopithecus, combined with their usually non-aggressive ways, makes them the perfect victim for generating bragging rights for male Homo erectus among the women and children of their tribes. The rarity and shyness of Gigantopithecus means women and children might never encounter one themselves, and so all they know is what the men tell them of the giants. A Gigantopithecus kill also brings in a considerable amount of meat, making the killers seem like powerful hunters and providers for the tribe. So hunting and killing Gigantopithecus might be a win-win situation for male Homo erectus at this time.

Unfortunately Gigantopithecus are somewhat rare and hard to find even in Homo erectus' time-- so the competition to find and kill one can be fierce.

Those Gigantopithecus clans which manage to evade and flee the packs survive-- those who don't, die. Thus, a propensity to retreat from the packs (and the skill to evade the hunters when they get too close) becomes embedded in the Gigantopithecus bloodline pretty quickly.

Something else gets added to the genetic line as well; an increased ability to adapt to changing circumstances in general. The hunting Homo erectus packs aren't the only threat to Gigantopithecus. The climate itself has already been changing for some time now, forcing changes in many habits. Now, as refugees from the hunting packs, the Gigantopithecus clans must also cope with increasingly different and often harsher foraging grounds and terrain. This change may be aided by the fact that the clans had throughout their history been forced to at least migrate on occasion due to depleted foraging areas. So the nomadic life they take on now may be more of an expansion or extension in age old habits, rather than a completely abrupt change.

The clans learn the hard way to use the night to their advantage, along with concealment during the day. If not already so, they now become nocturnal, as that's when the hunter packs are least active. Those clans who don't go nocturnal die out or are killed.

Hungry and cunning Homo erectus hunting packs were likely formidable foes. So those Gigantopithecus which survived such trials likely developed very sharp senses of smell, sight, and hearing, as well as some additional intelligence specialized towards eluding and possibly misleading their pursuers.

Gigantopithecus would have been encouraged by events to move into areas less hospitable to Homo erectus and its lineage. Places like rugged high mountains, dense forests and jungles, intractable swamps, etc.-- the very places most purported witness claims of later millennia will report them. Unfortunately, other large beasts (many of them predators) were also being forced into these same areas by the expanding human population. So Gigantopithecus had to find ways to cope with these new predators and competition too, even as it struggled to survive in lands foreign to its predecessors.

Gigantopithecus' primate intelligence advantage over the big cats, bears, crocodiles/alligators and other large animals helped much. Its large size and strength also were beneficial in direct conflicts with same. Wolf packs however would seem to have been a particularly thorny problem for Gigantopithecus-- especially in the harsher winters, when such packs may have become emboldened by hunger. Gigantopithecus' apparent tendency or necessity to travel as solitary individuals (according to most modern witness claims) would also beckon such packs, as canine pack instincts see solitude as a vulnerability. And since Gigantopithecus (by many accounts of modern 'Big Foot' encounters) suffers a uniquely strong odor, it would not be difficult for wolves or dogs to track them.

Gigantopithecus would not only have to be smart, but strong and fast too to successfully cope with the pack danger over millennia. And it seems to be all these things. Living at high altitudes will offer protection from the roving wolf packs of lower elevations. The presence of sheer cliffs nearby and the capacity to rapidly scale them also provides escape routes. Great running speed and long distance endurance (both of which Gigantopithecus may possess) could also help.

(There exist some reports of humans eating Big Foot kills in relatively modern times-- or trying to do so anyway, but put off by an exceedingly foul taste. One neat evolutionary trick for Gigantopithecus over the millennia might be the development of bad taste in its meat, to help discourage predation by both humans and other animals. This could help a lot in dealing with wolf packs too, except in the very harshest of winters. Over many generations sufficiently bad taste and odor, combined with enough bloody losses in contests with the man-apes, might even have caused wolf packs to avoid the giants completely unless they were starving.)

It may be that Gigantopithecus would have to regularly hunt down and kill at least a few wolves in the vicinity periodically to help maintain a healthy fear of its kind in the local population, thereby blunting the threat of the packs overall. Or perhaps during especially bad winters Gigantopithecus would either avoid traveling or try to do so in groups to minimize the danger.

Could Gigantopithecus possibly store food for the winter (or other contingencies) in a hideaway somewhere? It seems very likely, since much less intelligent animals (such as squirrels) do so.

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Combined with Gigantopithecus' nomadic nature, this implies that any particular Gigantopithecus clan would possess at least several 'nests' or dens or caches, situated over a wide area, which they might move between in a seasonal fashion, or perhaps once every several years. Such dens would almost certainly involve caves or other natural shelters, since it appears unlikely that Gigantopithecus is capable of constructing much in the way of artificial homes. At most Gigantopithecus may be capable of burrowing into deep snow to create a shelter, or perhaps pile brush against a naturally existing rock overhang to close it in. Abandoned human housings would likely be avoided due to the risk of returning humans, and also because of their cramped size, where Gigantopithecus is concerned. Gigantopithecus' apparent lack of fire-starting skills would seem to make it prefer only the shallowest or widest mouthed of caves, for vision reasons if nothing else. But having evolved into a nocturnal animal over the millennia, Gigantopithecus may be able to delve deeper into tunnels than we might expect. And some witness claims include hints that, unlike most other animals, Gigantopithecus does not overtly fear fire, but at times may even welcome its warmth, when found. This observation would seem to make modern Gigantopithecus somewhat similar to humans of 500,000 years ago-- as the humans could exploit fire for heat and light where it was available-- they just couldn't make it.

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If we can assume most of the encounter claim reports with possible Gigantopithecus mutants over past millennia and centuries are reasonable accurate, then we might also place Gigantopithecus into its appropriate category of equivalence with humanity's own ancestors, in terms of intelligence and general capacities.

Gigantopithecus seems to have went its own way on the evolutionary tree around 13 million years ago (during a mini-extinction event on Earth).

-- "Nearby supernova may have caused mini-extinction", SciNews-MedNews, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign 31-Jul-99, Contact: James E. Kloeppel, Physical Sciences Editor (217) 244-1073; kloeppel@uiuc.edu

The ancestral line for modern humans did not diverge from the ape tree until 5 million years later.

-- "Chimpanzees Offer Window In Time On Human Genes" By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent, Reuters/Yahoo! News June 1 1999

It was another two to three million years before humanity's ancestors split off from chimpanzees too.

-- "Chimpanzees Offer Window In Time On Human Genes" By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent, Reuters/Yahoo! News June 1 1999

So it seems likely humanity would not share more than perhaps 97.9% of our DNA with any Gigantopithecus mutant (unless it has managed to successfully interbreed with humanity on occasion, for which there seems to be some indications in the historical records). Indeed, the percentage might reasonably be as low as 96.7%, given the relative progression in genetic changes between the split of chimps from apes and then the split of human ancestors from chimpanzees.

So the original Gigantopithecus may have only had a DNA of 96.7% commonality (or less) with modern humans.

Of course, over 13 million years Gigantopithecus could have affected 3.12% changes in its DNA, compared to what it began with. That's a 2.1% bigger difference than exists between gorillas and humans today.

But how much evolution might have occured just since 500,000 years ago? That's much less, at around 0.12% or so. Or far less than the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee-- about 20% of the difference.

Of course, all the above is assuming no interbreeding between Gigantopithecus and humans over the past 500,000 years. However, this may not be a safe assumption, judging from some historical record claims.

-- The Encyclopedia of Unsolved Mysteries by Colin Wilson and Damon Wilson, 1988, Contemporary Books

For the curious, various claims exist of events including strange ape-like females being captured and held by an isolated modern human community, eventually becoming docile and helpful with chores, as well as amenable to sexual intercourse with village men. It is claimed basically human children have been produced from such unions. Would human males be willing to copulate with such creatures? The answer appears to be yes, if documented accounts of human male sexual acts with an assortment of animals such as sheep are considered. Other incidents include physical kidnapping of human men by ape-men, for purposes which seemed to include mating with the ape-men's daughters. In the reports I've seen the men eventually escaped their captors.

But the mutant Gigantopithecus would likely have evolved a bit since 500,000 years ago. Even if no interbreeding with humanity occurred along the way, it seems Gigantopithecus might have changed its DNA by some 0.12% due to natural selection alone. Or changed overall about 20% of the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee.

(Of course, there's a significant 'fudge factor' built into DNA adaptability that allows fairly rapid change (in as little as a single generation) in certain areas of the genome. But we will ignore that possibility here).

Today's mutant Gigantopithecus may possess a large brain-- perhaps even an enormous brain, larger than a modern human's. However, possessing a larger brain than a man doesn't necessarily mean it's smarter or more capable than a human being. A few large animals may sometimes possess larger brains than humans, but they don't appear to be challenging our dominance on the planet. Whales, for instance. Perhaps elephants too. Gigantopithecus may have the ability to walk erect, similar to 20th century humanity (most of the purported footprints appear to be similar to humanity's, which suggests erect walking abilities). So far there is insufficient fossil evidence to confirm or deny such behavior for the original Gigantopithecus.

Assuming erect walking is true, Gigantopithecus could have migrated away as the fiercer Homo erectus invaded its territory. This could even have allowed Gigantopithecus to cross over to other continents (like North America) thousands of years before the ancestors of 20th century humanity-- as it may have been driven ahead of humanity over the dry land bridges created by the ebb and flow of Ice Age glaciers.

-- The Bigfoot-Giganto Theory by Matt Moneymaker, found on or about 10-20-99; original URL was "http://moneymaker.org/BFRR/REF/THEORIES/MJM/whatrtha.htm"

Assuming a large brain, Gigantopithecus may have been sufficiently intelligent to avoid interaction with Homo erectus and all the later generations which led to 20th century humanity.

With its natural affinity for climbing (the legacy of tree swinging ancestors), great strength, and fur coat, Gigantopithecus may also have found it easier than other large primates to acclimate itself to rugged high and cold mountain ranges, as a refuge from the bloody rampage of Homo erectus and their progeny in the lowlands.

If the essence of modern day Big Foot and related sightings may be considered for clues to possible living mutant Gigantopithecus in the 20th century and beyond, Gigantopithecus (or its descendants) have adapted to the cold of high mountain ranges, and nocturnal foraging for food (to avoid daylight-loving humans). It's possible the primate has become an omnivore, at least to the extent of adding some grubs, rodents, cattle tongues, or raw fish to their diet on occasion (some legends, such as concerning the Yeti variant, suggest that human beings too may sometimes be consumed by the huge ape-men). They also exist in very small numbers, spread over several continents, and seldom travel in groups (it is likely an individual finds it easier to remain undetected than several moving together might-- just as a single human elite Navy SEAL commando circa 1999 AD might, in hostile territory). Families may consist usually of one large dominant male and one or several smaller subordinate females, along with a few children. A child Gigantopithecus may be as strong or stronger than the average mature human male. Young males may be driven out to found their own families by a certain age by the clan patriarch. Those who perceive death is near may hide themselves or attempt to move deeper into the wilderness. Their clan may bury them, or even eat them after death (actions which would also help conceal their existence by way of readily available fossils; prehistoric man too sometimes ate his dead). They may not remain in the same area for very long. They cleverly use the cover of forest and swamps to camouflage themselves, and even in the rocky, icy wastes of mountaintops have learned to crouch and remain motionless for hours to appear just like another large rock in the landscape to observers. They likely can sleep this way. It may be that some of the animals have adapted to their local regions in regards to hair color, with those living among the snow possessing light colored fur tinged with yellow or silver (like polar bears), and woodland/jungle natives being black, brown, gray, or reddish-brown in color, similar to woodland bears, jungle-living black panthers, mountain lions, and lions of the African savannah.

Gigantopithecus' typical response to a chance encounter with humans is to turn and head for cover-- perhaps running at high speeds for significant distances with a stamina few human beings could match, especially over rough terrain (keep in mind the possibly enormous stride of these beings). They likely could outclimb human beings too, over rocky outcroppings, with their prodigious reach and very strong grips. Great leaps up or over obstacles might also be within their capacity. A drop of ten to thirty feet may present little risk to them. All this would help greatly to explain why it's been so difficult for humans to capture such a being-- their physical escape powers may border on the superhuman.

Plus, their size and fearsome appearance likely discourages most human witnesses from trying too hard to capture them, too. Many claimed eye witnesses say they themselves were stunned into immobility briefly during encounters; so stunned they usually didn't even attempt to use cameras or guns they had in their possession at the time. Rather, they tended to gawk at the spectacle of these enormous and extraordinary beings beating a hasty retreat.

In short, today's typical mutated Gigantopithecus may be a supreme expert at wilderness survival, evasion, and escape, with some instincts, skills, and physical capacities that a human Navy SEAL might envy.

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Note that Gigantopithecus would require large foraging areas to prosper. This would make their widely dispersed and small numbers seem eminently logical. It would help explain their nomadic tendencies, as human ancestors too tended to move on when one area became depleted of food sources, or too filled with dangerous predators.

All the above indicates a primate roughly equivalent to humanity's nomadic hunter-gatherer ancestors of 3,000,000 BC to 2,000,000 BC. Such primitives possessed no real language, no clothing, no mastery of fire, but had the ability to make and use simple tools and weapons. They were also cannibalistic (at least on occasion). They may have only been 100,000 years or so away from realizing the secret of fire. Monogamous relationships and prolonged periods of child rearing were still a thing of the far future for these beings. The primordial human males of this time were very much like four foot tall chimpanzees-- a third to a half the size of the Gigantopithecus, at best. The females were smaller still.

Gargantuan, enormously strong, surprisingly fast and nimble, and enjoying an endurance few if any humans could match, Gigantopithecus may be as smart or smarter than chimpanzees but likely no more intelligent than a four or five year old human child raised by chimps. They may possess human-like vocal chords, but be incapable of speech unless taught at a young age (the speculation on speech is based on some historic claims of experiences with captured Big Foot beings in remote human villages).

-- The Encyclopedia of Unsolved Mysteries by Colin Wilson and Damon Wilson, 1988, Contemporary Books

-- "Scientists identify chimpanzee 'culture'" By JOSEPH B. VERRENGIA, Nando Media/Associated Press, June 16, 1999, http://www.nandotimes.com)

-- YETI The Giant Cousin of Ramapithecus ["http://www.nepalnews.com.np/contents/englishweekly/sundaypost/2002/jul/jul28/head.htm"] by Shiva Raj Shrestha 'Malla'; July 28, 2002 Shrawan 12, 2059; THE SUNDAY POST (a weekly magazine of the kathmandu post)

-- On the Himalayan hominoids external sizes ["http://alamas.ru/eng/publicat/Tracht8_e.htm"] by Michael Trachtengerts; published in "Natural and Technical Sciences" (Estestvennye i Tekhnicheskie Nauki, ISSN 1684-2626) 2004, Iss.4, p.75-76, in Russian. Translation by the author.; alamas.ru

The hunt and capture of humans by the beasts is rare but not unheard of. Usually such a capture will be for food, but occasionally perhaps out of curiosity, or even a desire to 'marry off' an extra wife or daughter to a hapless human male due to a local shortage of real man-apes.

Research experience with African mountain gorillas has shown indications that large primates under some conditions may accept humans into their social order.

If Gigantopithecus were longer lived on average than human beings, this would better allow smaller populations to sustain the race over millennia. And there is some indication this might be the case.

A longer lifespan might also allow Gigantopithecus to eventually achieve a higher level of intelligence in old age than is evident in younger examples.

It seems safe to say those ape-men that have been (reportedly) encountered possessed no discernable language or power of speech, beyond rudimentary animal-like calls, grunts, and whistles. But in one case of claimed cross-breeding of human and ape-woman, the children learned speech as readily as typical human children (and seemed of normal human intelligence). If the ape-men exist, and cross-breeding has in fact occurred on rare occasion, this would mean the ape-men are far more closely related to Homo sapiens than we might like to believe. Ape-man specimens (at least the females) seem amenable to eventual domestication or integration into human families (again, according to historical records which often as not amount to folk tales of remote regions).

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These items would seem to point to Gigantopithecus being perhaps as intelligent as human children, but usually suffering from a very backward social structure with little or no spoken language as such, and so a legacy of knowledge handed down between generations of precious little beyond the basic instinct and behavior patterns one might expect from succeeding generations of Mountain gorillas.

But in at least a couple respects the Gigantopithecus would seem to be smarter than Mountain gorillas in their behavior and history. Namely (if they exist) they have managed to successfully adapt and survive harsh conditions considerably different from that they first inhabited (since being pushed out of their native locales by humans). Secondly, they have consistently succeeded at evading capture and limiting knowledge about themselves falling into the hands of arguably much more technologically advanced beings-- ourselves-- for thousands of years.

Continuing this evasion in the last fifty years has been especially impressive. Of course, it's also true that we weren't trying especially hard to capture or investigate them. To my knowledge there has been little in the way of well funded and substantial expeditions dispatched by governments or respected research institutions with the express purpose of capturing or killing one of these mythical ape-men, as of 2001 AD.

-- The Encyclopedia of Unsolved Mysteries by Colin Wilson and Damon Wilson, 1988, Contemporary Books

"Satyrs" may have been one european reference to Bigfoot. Some believe the man-ape may be still surviving Neanderthals.

-- CHECKLIST OF APPARENTLY UNKNOWN ANIMALS From Science Frontiers Digest of Scientific Anomalies ["http://www.science-frontiers.com/"] #52, JUL-AUG 1987 by 1997 William R. Corliss, citing Bernard Heuvelmans; "Annotated Checklist of Apparently Unknown Animals with Which Cryptozoology Is Concerned," Cryptozoology, 5:1, 1986

Did 20th century man, gorillas, and chimpanzees all actually evolve from an earlier primate which was more similar to a human than an ape? Meaning that modern gorillas and chimps may have evolved from man rather than man evolving from them?

If this theory is ever proven out, it would seem to offer much greater credibility to the modern possibility of surviving man-apes like Gigantopithecus.

-- DESCENT OF MAN---OR ASCENT OF APE? From Science Frontiers Digest of Scientific Anomalies ["http://www.science-frontiers.com/"] #18, NOV-DEC 1981 by William R. Corliss, citing Jeremy Cherfas and John Gribbin; "The Molecular Making of Mankind," and "Descent of Man---Or Ascent of Ape?" New Scientist, 91:518 and 91:592, 1981

The Chinese have their own version of Big Foot, which reportedly can laugh, cry, weave bamboo, is unafraid of fire, sometimes eats small animals, and tastes terrible when cooked for eating.

-- THE CHINESE WILD MAN From Science Frontiers Digest of Scientific Anomalies ["http://www.science-frontiers.com/"] #35, SEP-OCT 1984 by William R. Corliss, citing Christopher S. Wren; "On the Trail of the 'Wild Man' of China," New York Times, June 5, 1984, p. C1. Cr. P. Gunkel

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