Abominable Snowmen, by Ivan T. Sanderson, , at sacred-texts.com
The Importance of Feet
The study of footprints and foot-tracks—the difference between which was discussed earlier in this book—form the subject of a very precise science called Ichnology. This discipline is employed in quite a number of fields, notably in police work and in palaeontology. The identification of the tracks of living animals in snow and mud has, of course also been an art in hunting since time immemorial, and it is of great interest to the field naturalist. Its more psychological aspects were also discussed when we first introduced the matter of ABSM tracks. We should now consider the details of this discipline.
Tracks [the word I shall use from now on, unless dealing specifically with a single print] are caused by gravity. The first requirement is that the object on top that presses down be composed of a denser material than that upon which it is pressed, but this does not mean that tracks will invariably result. Thus, a body made of steel if rolled across a sheet of lead need not leave tracks. There appears here another factor—that of weight—which results in the beginning of the erection of a complicated formula. Above a certain weight the upper body will leave tracks, but the point at which it starts to do so is also dependent upon the compressibility of the under body, or surface. Then again, tracks can be either pressed or punched into a substance: in other words energy, in addition to mere gravity, may be exerted. In this case the point at which an impression begins varies according to quite a number of factors which fortunately need not concern us since they lie in realms of engineering that do not apply to
purely biological matters. Nevertheless, one must bear in mind that there is a considerable difference in appearance between a print made by pressing and one made by punching an object downward into a surface. The former will be found to be surrounded by little cracks all running inward to the "gutter" of the print, while the latter will be surrounded by a sort of levee or ridge.
One of the easiest ways to spot an artificially made print is to find such an impact ridge around a print where there is no cause for it under the natural conditions pertaining on the terrain. By this is meant, where the creature [and this does not apply to machines] had no cause to jump. Jumping results in the application of "weight" to the normal gravity and so is equivalent to "punching." Thus a creature running, rather than walking, will leave differently formed individual prints, and when going downhill, they will be quite other than when it is going uphill. Already the matter becomes, as you may readily agree, complicated. But there are several further complexities.
Perhaps the most notable is the area of the object which makes any print and, in the case of animals, the number of such objects [i.e. hands, feet, tail, or other appendages] employed in so walking, running, hopping, jumping, or otherwise progressing. The other most important factor is naturally the nature of the material or surface into which the tracks are impressed. This is itself an enormously complicated subject.
Tracks may be left in gravels or sands, all of which are of course much denser than any animal foot that passes over them. This is due to their particulation or "looseness." They are dry, and such substances range widely in consistency from what are called screes, of sometimes enormous boulders piled against the sides of mountains, to dry plaster of Paris. Much finer substances have now been artificially developed but in Nature we need not concern ourselves with anything much finer than what we call a fine dried silt, which is a little coarser than dry plaster.
There are two other types of solids in which imprints may be left. These are, first, materials, such as lead, that are themselves malleable or what is commonly called "soft" and, secondly
"solutions" in the widest sense of that word. This means, popularly speaking, wet. We need not overly concern ourselves with the first since such substances may be regarded as nonexistent in Nature—that is to say in the nonhuman world. The second is of course the most important type of material in which the tracks of animals appear—and this goes for snow, which in many respects holds an intermediate position, since, dependent upon temperature, it may be either a particulated material, or a mere wet mixture. Prints can thus be left in three kinds of substances—(1) dry, as sands, (2) wet, as in muds, or (3) snow, which has to be separately classified.
There are those, such as the technologists of police laboratories and road-construction engineers, who know so much about the factors just named and the results of making impressions in various substances that it would really startle you. On another hand, certain palaeontologists have made profound
op studies of this subject, and most notably in connection with the interpretation of fossil footprints of early amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds. The findings of all three groups of specialists of course coincide for, as I say, Ichnology is a very precise science. However, most unfortunately, totally insufficient application has been made of their findings in ABSMery. Also, there has been an extraordinary lack of appreciation of the basic theorem of Ichnology which is, simply stated, that a print can be left only by an object that exactly "mirrors" it—a term that should be self-explanatory. This brings us to the questions arising from the conformation of vertebrate animals' feet.
For some reason—and there may well be no real reason—it just so happens that the first creatures with backbones to crawl out of water on to land dispensed with all but five of the rays (digits) on the four appendages they retained. This gave all of us land vertebrates a basic pentadactyl pattern—i.e. four "legs" each with five "fingers" or toes. True, there are some animals like whales that have somehow again reduplicated the number of phalanges in their digital extremities. This is, actually, one of the most extraordinary things in zoology as it flies in the face of one of the basic precepts of
genetics; namely, that a characteristic once lost cannot be resuscitated from the same source. [The additional phalanges of the Cetaceans are phylogenetically developed by reduplication.] This basic five-fingered and five-toed pattern speaks much for the unitary origin of all land vertebrates—the amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.
Many forms of all these major groups have at one time or another lost one or more phalanges on various digits, whole digits, or even whole limbs. The snakes, for instance, have lost everything. The results may be most readily seen in the [mirrored] prints left by the hands and feet of the various types; and from such prints a great deal about their makers may, by inference from known types, be reconstructed. This brings us to the classification of feet and specifically of mammalian extremities. Happily we do not have to go into this vast question and may concentrate upon those of the Primates—i.e. the Order to which we belong, together with the apes, monkeys, lemuroids, and a few more abstruse types like the Feathertails.
The Primate foot [as opposed to their hands, which we may also from now on ignore] is pentadactyl—i.e. five-toed- but is otherwise of a variety of forms. These forms may be classified in various ways but two sets of factors are of particular interest to us. The first is whether they are what is called wholly plantigrade or not; the second, whether the big, great, or first toe is opposed to or lies alongside and points in the same direction as [and/or is bound to] the other toes. A plantigrade foot means that its owner stands and walks with the whole under surface, from the tips of its toes to its heel—which is to say the last bone of the ankle—on the ground. Some Primates, such as the tiny Tarsiers, do not do this, the ankle bones being greatly elongated. Men (Hominids), Apes (Pongids), and most Monkeys (Simioids) are plantigrade. Further, none of these three groups of higher Primates have long enough nails to produce clawlike excrescences which touch the ground and leave noticeable marks though those of some Cynocephaloids (i.e. Baboons and Macaques) may do so
when they are running or galloping. There are few—if any, as a matter of fact—other mammals that do not leave claw marks. Then again, claws and nails although having a similar origin anatomically, are not identical structures: but this also need not, fortunately, concern us further.
In dealing with Primate footprints we are therefore primarily concerned with the nature and position of the big or great toe. Among the photographs is one showing a wide variety of Primate feet. From this it will be seen that the only one that does not have an opposed big toe is the Hominid group. Nonetheless, this digit in Hominids also varies considerably in the degree to which it is set off from the other four toes. From both the prints found in the cave at Toirano in Italy and from the skeleton of a whole foot found in the Crimea, we now know that the big toe of the Neanderthalers was rather widely separated. There are people living today who have feet not unlike those of Neanderthalers —notably certain Amerinds from the extreme southern end of South America (see a photograph in an article by Dr. Carleton S. Coon, in Natural History, January, 1961) and some Australoids. However, there is no indication, even among those which we know, of any evidence whatsoever of a truly "opposed" big toe, among any Hominid.
One known fact about abnormalities among human feet is nonetheless of some significance to our story. This is that shown in the two photographs of a strange type in which the second toe is longer than the first, sometimes more massive, and also widely separated from the remaining three toes. This is the more odd in that the second and third toes of normal Modern Man are partially webbed. If a foot, normal or abnormal, of this nature developed [or even merely occurred] one would have supposed that the second and third toes [together] would have become widely separated from, on the one hand the big toe, and on the other, the remaining two. When this abnormality occurs, both the big and the second toes tend to curl downward and inward not unlike those of the Meh-Teh. But they are still not opposed.
Click to enlarge
(5) HUMAN Adult (Cromagnon Man). From clay floor of cave in France. (6) HUMAN Adult (Southern Amerind). From mud of river bank Chishue, Patagonia.
(7) SUBHUMAN (Neanderthaler). From moist clay floor of cave, Toirano, Italy.
(8) ABSM (Guli-yavan type). From a sketch of track in mud, Kirghiz S.S.R.
(9) ABSM (Meh-Teh). From photo of cast made from photo of print in snow, by Eric Shipton. (10) APE (unknown form). Sketch made by Charles Cordier in the Congo (over-all, 30 centimeters). (11) APE (Lowland Gorilla). From photo of cast of foot. (12) APE (Chimpanzee). Outline of extended foot from plaster cast.
Click to enlarge
(17) HUMAN (Malayan Negrito). From photo of cast. (18) ABSM (Sedapa). Traced from print found in Danau Bento Swamp, Sumatra, by Dr. Jacobson. (19) ABSM (Teh-lma). From sketch made by the author, under supervision of Gerald Russell. (20) ABSM (Apamandi). Sketch made by Charles Cordier in the Congo. (Over-all, 20 centimeters)
(21) APE (Orang-utan). Outline of extended foot from plaster cast. (22) APE (Orang-utan). Imprints of knuckles and foot, ex Huevelmans. (23) APE (Silvery Gibbon). Outline of extended foot from plaster cast. (24) MONKEY (Old Male Rhesus). Drawn from live specimen, ex Osman Hill.
Let us now analyze or try to analyze the prints left by the four types of ABSMs. These, we will arrange in the following order: (1) the Proto-Pigmies, (2) the Almas, (3) the Neo-Giants, and (4) the very different Meh-Teh type. It will be seen from the sketches of the outstanding types of known human feet [accompanying this Appendix] that those of the living pigmy human types such as the Negrillos and Negritos show a distinct tendency toward a very short broad foot with rather large [in proportion] and widely splayed toes and a very constricted or narrow heel. It is hardly even a "step" from them to the Sedapas, Teh-lmas, and other alleged pigmy ABSMs. Such a tiny, human-type, plantigrade, flat foot does not however begin to approach the form of the various bears, and not even the Malayan Sun Bear (Helarctos).
Coming to the prints allegedly left by what I have called the Alma type, one finds that they are hardly in any respect different from those of the Neanderthalers left in the cave in Italy. This, in turn, perfectly accords with the now expressed belief of the Russian scientists that the former are but living representatives of the latter. Despite their relatively low plantar index [i.e. the number of times their width goes into their length] they are hardly at all nonhuman: in fact, they can be matched by the prints left by not a few Modern Men living today and most notably by persons who have never worn shoes or other footgear. We hardly have to discuss these tracks any further, except to mention that such have been rumored from many places other than eastern Eurasia—such as, I may say, northwest North America, South America, and Africa. But how are we to tell whether such prints—if they ever really existed—were left by some wild thing or by local men, walking without footgear and happening to have Neanderthaloid-type feet?
Our real problems begin with the Neo-Giants. Here, I want first to try and wipe away a lot of dross. It has been said, and repeatedly, that such tracks and prints have been found all over northern Indo-China, and on northward through the arc formed by the uplands and mountains of Szechwan via
the Tsin Lings to Manchuria. The same—up to 20-inch-long humanoid-type prints—are also said to have been found in the Matto Grosso and in Patagonia in South America. This may be so but after, lo, these many years, I have been completely unable to obtain any photograph or even sketch of one that is stated to have been made on the spot. I have several "sketches" made by members of expeditions to these places but sketches made in retrospect after questioning and mostly in my apartment in New York, but nothing "original." The only areas from which I have been able to obtain such firsthand photos or sketches, and plaster casts has been from British Columbia and northern California.
These prints at first look wholly human and, I may say, a bit ridiculous. However, on further analysis they display other qualities. As may be seen from the accompanying sketch, they show one or two extremely odd characteristics that are definitely not typically human. As photographs of whole tracks of these monsters have shown, they walk with their feet pointing straight forward: not pigeon-toed, like bears, or in any way out-turned like most men. Thus, they must flex about [or across] a line that forms an arc at right angles to that line of travel behind the toes. Then this means that, although the whole foot is enormous and at first looks very long, it is really a very short and broad one [with an index of only 1.61].
A friend of mine, Mr. Fred Laue, long in the shoe business, has worked out the trade equivalents of these proportions. Working from one of our plaster casts with an over-all length of 15¾" and a width of 7", a No. 21 shoe would be needed but no less than 13 sizes in width greater than the widest shoe made—i.e., a EEE. Second, it means that the curious double inner pad under the ball of the foot has something to do with the basal joint of the big toe and not with the end or outer end of the first metacarpal. If this is so, and the foot bends or flexes along the arc that runs between the two pads all the other toes are not just extraordinarily but so exceptionally long that they cannot be of the typically human form. But, if they are that long, why don't they splay or, alternatively,
Click to enlarge
(Center row, left) PUMA (mountain lion) (Profelis concolor). Right hind foot. (Fore and hind prints of the large cats are very similar; so also are all prints of the Great Cats.) (Center row, right) NORTH AMERICAN PORCUPINE (Erethizon dorsatum). Left hind and right fore foot imprints.
(Bottom row, left) THE FAMOUS FOOTPRINTS OF CARSON CITY JAIL. The outlined portion was "restored" by Dr. Harkness. This was a left foot print in sandstone. The tracks were not found in the jail yard but some miles distant. (Bottom row, right) EXTINCT GROUND SLOTH (Mylodon). Skeleton of a left foot seen from the side.
why does not the mud in which the tracks were left well or squeeze up between them as it does with even a normal human foot?
In all the tens of thousands of prints that have now been found and examined of these creatures this has never been observed to have occurred. The only thing that I know of that could prevent this—and at the same time produce such a sharp left-to-right ridge under the flexure of the toes—is an almost complete web between all of them. Thus, although the Neo-Giant prints at first look almost completely human they are not. They have a double first subdigital pad; they are extremely short and broad for their size; and, the second to fifth toes seem to be conjoined. The significance of these points should by now be appreciated.
This leaves us with the most abominable problem of all—the Meh-Teh-type prints—and abominable this is, indeed. These simply do not fit into any pattern. They are definitely not Pongid in that the big toe though enormous is not truly apposed. Similarly, they are no more Hominid in that said big toe is "set off." However the second toe looks for all the world like a semi-apposed digit. Such a condition is not known in any mammal. As we already pointed out, the development of such a condition is somewhat more likely to be able to be undertaken by a Pongid [with an already offset and apposed big toe] than by a Hominid without one. These prints are not
those of a string of foxes all jumping into the same hole in the snow as we by now know all too well; also, and this has perhaps not yet been sufficiently stressed, the prints show very clear indication of a rather complex musculature which, although so far unknown in any other animal, accords perfectly with what would be expected if one developed such a foot and was bipedal.
Most but by no means all of the Meh-Teh tracks have been found in snow. The others have been in mud and sometimes first in one and then in the other in a continuous line. This absolutely and positively disposes of another proposition that has constantly been put forward; namely, that the prints were made by a comparatively small creature and were then subsequently enlarged by melting of the snow with or without regelation. Considerable work has now been done on this phenomenon [John Napier writes me that he carried out experiments in the Juras in the winter of 1960-61. Unfortunately his findings will not be available in time for inclusion here.] It is true that small prints may become large ones in this way, and it is an extraordinary fact that the tracks seem or appear in some uncanny way to grow to fit them. By this I mean that, optical illusion or whatever, the stride seems to grow. This of course is physically impossible whereas exactly the reverse should occur because, as the prints get bigger and bigger, their peripheries must get closer together. I observed this most closely at my farm by excluding all from going near a set of tracks made by my small wife wearing close-fitting boots in fresh firm snow from the house to the trash-disposal affair beyond our lawn. In a few days her prints had grown to enormous proportions and looked incredibly sinister and as seen from an upper floor window appearing for all the world like those of a positive giant—and with a giant stride. Actual measurement however showed that the stride had of course remained as originally laid down. Nevertheless, none of these things, actual or illusory can occur in mud.
The Meh-Teh tracks and prints are, in fact, by far the most puzzling of all, and especially since such persons as Shipton,
[paragraph continues] Bordet, and others obtained clear photographs of them taken from directly above. Here is obviously a bipedal creature of considerable size and weight that inhabits the Himalayas and the ranges north of the Tibetan Plateau. It was the original "Abominable Snowman" and it comes out as the last "abominable enigma."
Click to enlarge
THE FAMILY TREE OF MAN AND THE PONGIDS, WITH THE ABSMs INSERTED