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Anthropologists agree that humans have shared their world with a 10 foot tall, 1200 pound ape creature called Gigantopithecus Blacki. Giganto coexisted with humans for tens of thousands of years in Asia. Many believe that a remnant population of these apes may be behind the Sasquatch and Bigfoot sightings of the modern era. In the episode entitled “Giganto:The Real King Kong”, the Monster Quest team takes a look at Gigantopithecus Blacki as it relates to the search for Bigfoot.

The Background 

Ralph von Koenigswald discovered the first evidence of Gigantopithecus Blacki in 1935 at an apothecary shop in China. Chinese apothecary shops would grind up what they called dragon bones into different medicines. Koenigswald discovered that these dragon bones were actually fossils of different animals. He was able to obtain and identify some fossilized teeth of what he later named Gigantopithecus.  University of Iowa paleoanthropologist Dr. Russell Ciochon explains that only three jaws and 1,100 isolated teeth have been found from Gigantopithecus Blacki. From that minimal evidence, they are able to determine that Giganto was the largest ape to ever live and the only one to go extinct in the Pleistocene era (2.5 million years ago to 10,000 years ago).Giganto was so big that it would come up to the eves on a one story house. It is believed that this ape was a relative to the orangutan and could be almost 10 feet tall and weigh up to 1200 pounds.

Gigantopithecus Blacki was believed to have roamed the jungles of southeastern Asia for around a million years. Most scientists believe that it suddenly died out around 300,000 years ago. The only fossilized evidence is some jaws and teeth that have been found in cave sites. It is not believed that Giganto lived or died in the caves, but that they were brought there by porcupine that eat bones for calcium. The rest of the bones would have been consumed but the top parts of the teeth and the thick jawbones would have escaped consumption.  Dr. Jack Rink is a geochronologist at McMaster University. He wonders about the possibility of Gigantopithecus being related to any of the reported Bigfoot sightings in North America.  Wildlife Consultant John Mionczynski points out that there is an abundance of evidence that shows Asian animals migrating over land bridges to North America. Mionczynski believes that a remnant Gigantopithecus Blacki population may be responsible for the tremendous number of Bigfoot and Yeti sightings.  Professor of Anatomy and Anthropology Dr. Jeff Meldrum finds the modern day sightings of giant apes in North America and Asia to be very interesting. He believes that there are some similar environmental aspects of the sighting areas of Asia and North America.  Dr. Russell Ciochon believes that there is no connection between Gigantopithecus Blacki and the Sasquatch, Bigfoot or Yeti. He states that Gigantopithecus was a real ape form the Pleistocene era with evidence of its existence.

Whether or not a remnant population of Gigantopithecus Blacki is still among us, the fear of large apes is a common fear.Psychiatrist Gregory Bambeneck believes that great apes are scary to humans because they are so similar to us. He states that with the number of Bigfoot sightings, there should be some sort of investigation. If it is some type of mass hysteria, that should be investigated as well.  The fear of large apes was immortalized in the 1933 King Kong movie. Movie historian Robert Burns says that King Kong was truly frightening as he might not just kill you right away. Kong might carry you off or your girlfriend off and hold you captive.

According to anthropologist Dr. Esteban Sarmiento, gorillas are known to carry off humans. While studying gorillas in 1994, he was charged by three gorillas that started to drag him off. He did make his escape and says that he was never worried because gorillas do no eat meat.  If North America does not have any great ape population, it is hard to explain the Native American Bigfoot stories. They would not have had interaction with the large ape populations of Africa. According to U.S. Forest Service archeologist Kathy Moskowitz Strain, Native Americans had over 100 names for a Bigfoot like creature. Common traits of this animal included shyness, human like face, five toed feet, foul musty smell, fear of humans and rock throwing.

Washington State wildlife science veterinarian Dr. Briggs Hall believes that the forest of Washington could be home to a mystery ape. Many sightings have occurred in the Cascade Mountain area and Hall believes a clever nocturnal animal could remain undiscovered for a long time. Historian Chris Murphy points out that up until the 20th century, Europeans thought that the mountain gorilla of Africa was a myth.  Many credible eyewitnesses report Bigfoot sightings that could be a remnant Gigantopithecus Blacki population. In 1982, police officer Daniel M. Gordon encountered one of these creatures near Whitehall, New York. He came around a corner and saw a Bigfoot type creature walk in front of the cruiser. He got out of the cruiser but could not locate the creature again.

In 1988, a retired National Forest Ranger named Roger Blain had a Bigfoot sighting. He was driving down a road that had been closed for an extended period due to a washed out bridge.He observed a very large manlike figure step out into the road.When he stopped to look, the creature grabbed a tree and was able to clear a six to eight foot embankment.  President Theodore Roosevelt may have had an encounter in 1890. He was visiting the Cascade Mountains on a hunting trip and had heard a lot of the Native American stories of the Bigfoot type creatures. As he went to bed one evening, his hunting party was startled by the low rumbling roar of some creature. He described the noise as not being from any bear or beast that he had heard before. As an avid hunter, Roosevelt was familiar with most animals but this was some creature unknown to him.

Wildlife consultant John Mienczyski had a Bigfoot sighting in 1972 while on a research trip. While sleeping in his tent, he thought that a bear was pushing his nose against the outside of his tent. Mienczyski attempted to frighten the bear off by slapping at the nose of the bear. He found the object that he struck to seem much harder then a bear nose but the creature did seem to go away.

Soon after the creature came back to his tent and this time he could tell it was not a bear. When the shadow moved over the tent, he could see the shadow of a hand that looked two to three times bigger than his own. He grabbed his gun and got out of his tent but could not see the creature. He built a fire and could hear something moving in the trees. The creature did not come back to the campsite but it did begin to throw pine cones towards Mienczyski. The pine cone throwing continued for about 45 minutes and then stopped.

The Investigation


The MonsterQuest team follows two investigations related to these great apes. The first one starts out in China trying to gain more information on the relationship of Gigantopithecus Blacki to other primates and the dates of its existence. The second investigation is to the Cascade Mountains of Washington State.This search for Bigfoot will try to obtain evidence of a Bigfoot or a modern day Giganto.

The Washington State Expedition


Professor of Anatomy and Anthropology Dr. Jeff Meldrum leads an expedition searching for Bigfoot to the Northern Cascade Mountains of Washington State. Meldrum is the head of the North American Ape Project and he is looking for photographic or DNA evidence (hair, scat, etc…) of a Bigfoot type creature that may be related to Gigantopithecus. He believes that most Bigfoot sightings are seasonal in nature and occur in areas that could sustain an ape population.  Joining Meldrum is wildlife consultant John Mienczynski.  Mienczynski believes that he and other scientists have a responsibility to research the Bigfoot sightings and try to determine what is behind them. He believes that some relative of Gigantopithecus may have made it to North America.


The team concentrates on an area that has been cut off from human influence for several years due to bridge washouts. Prior to this time, the area was the location of numerous Bigfoot sightings by loggers and hikers.  The team sets up snag traps that are hidden in lichen and set above the height of known animals. If a tall bipedal animal was to walk through and brush up against one of these traps, it should gather hair evidence. Mienczynski believes that lichen may be a possible food source for any great ape in North America.

The team also sets several camera traps along rock strewn river areas in hopes of capturing photo evidence. Many Bigfoot sightings have occurred near river beds. The cameras are set in fake rocks to be inconspicuous.  This search for Bigfoot is unable to obtain any photographic or DNA evidence but they do find some useful information. The team conducted a survey of food sources in the area and they believe that this area is capable of supporting the diet of a great ape population.

The China expedition

Dr. Russell Ciochon leads an expedition to the Guangxi region in China. He hopes to find additional fossil records that may yield ancient DNA or protein structures. He would utilize this evidence to pinpoint the position of Gigantopithecus Blacki on the evolutionary tree and gain insight on how this creature lived.  This area is the home to many of the caves that have yielded Gigantopithecus evidence. One cave that he searches was the location of the 1965 discovery of 12 Gigantopithecus Blacki teeth. These teeth were the largest Giganto teeth ever found. Ciochon explains that Giganto did not live in these caves. The fossils were either washed in or dragged in by porcupines.

Joining Ciochon in China is geochronologist Jack Rink. Rink has developed a method of measuring the radiation that the teeth would have received during their burial. He hopes to use this to better determine the age of the teeth. He also uses an electron spin resonance meter to try to date what he believes to be the youngest of the Gigantopithecus caves. He will also use the teeth of other mammals found in the same level of sediment where Gigantopithecus teeth were found. The age classification of these teeth will help determine the age of the Gigantopithecus fossil remains.  Unable to locate any new samples, Ciochon travels to Frankfurt, Germany. This is where the only Gigantopithecus tooth samples are kept outside of China. He would like to extract DNA from one of the tooth samples. The sample would need to be less than 100,000 years old if it was to have any hope of providing DNA. The chance of DNA extraction will depend on the results of Rinks experiments.

Rink returned to Canada with the fossils found in the same sediment layer as Gigantopithecus teeth. He grinds the fossils in order to measure the magnetic resonance signal inside the fossil. He is able to determine results for five sites with the oldest being around 1,000,000 years old and the newest being 300,000 years old. This means that the known Gigantopithecus teeth would be too old for DNA testing.  Ciochon is still able to obtain a Gigantopithecus tooth for a micro CT scan. Paleoanthropologist Anthony Olejniczak of the Max Plank Institute conducts the micro CT scan. The process involves putting multiple images together in order to obtain a three dimensional image of the tooth. The images of the tooth show that it has the thickest enamel of any primate tooth. The Gigantopithecus tooth is similar in construction to modern apes and may have had a similar diet. Ciochon believes that he tooth is most similar to an orangutan indicating an herbivore. Dr. Meldrum disagrees and believes that the tooth is more similar to a generalist omnivore like the chimpanzee.

Theories

The fossil records of Gigantopithecus show that this was "indeed" a real creature that lived for sure as little as 100,000 years ago. While the existence of this extremely large ape shows that a 10 foot tall ape could exist even in the relatively speaking "recent past". Why would we have fossil evidence of Gigantopithecus and no physical proof of its more recent relatives? Could the early human contact with this type of fearsome creature leave a primal fear that leads to modern Sasquatch sightings? The Washington State expedition gave some evidence that a Sasquatch population could've crossed the Bearing Land Bridge, and still survive in the Cascade Mountains so there is still a slim possibility that can make us sometimes think “what if?”.  

 


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