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No, Alexander the Great Did Not Fight Yetis

Posted by: Loren Coleman on February 16th, 2010

 

The field guide’s Yeti.

The World History Blog asks the question: “Did Alexander the Great Fight the Yeti?”  My simple answer is “no.” But what actually might be behind the record being examined could be a lot more interesting.

The blogger Dr. Miland Brown sets up the question after reading the Anabasis Alexandri (Robson translation). He writes that it reads “as though Alexander’s men, in the course of the invasion of India, fought a pitched battle with a tribe of Yeti!”

The passage Brown quotes is this one:

Those captured were hairy, not only their heads but the rest of their bodies; their nails were rather like beasts’ claws; they used their nails (according to report) as if they were iron tools; with these they tore asunder their fishes, and even the less solid kinds of wood; everything else they cleft with sharp stones; for iron they did not possess. For clothing they wore skins of animals, some even the thick skins of the larger fishes.

Out of context, with little knowledge of the traditional Yetis from the Himalayan area, perhaps one could make such an error.

Brown gives the original passage, and therein are contained some important details.

Henry Stokes at the “I Love Yeti” blog passed this along to me about a week ago. I mentioned why I didn’t think it was Yetis, with some of my reasoning below.  The idea of Alexandar the Great and Yetis now seems to be gaining a life of its own, as it is popping up in email communiques. I suppose I best deal with it here, within the realistic context of hominology. 

Brown points to the longer passage, here:

Thence they set sail and progressed with a favouring wind; and after a passage of five hundred stades the anchored by a torrent, which, was called Tomerus. There was a lagoon at the mouths of the river, and the depressions near the bank were inhabited by natives in stifling cabins. These seeing the convoy sailing up were astounded, and lining along the shore stood ready to repel any who should attempt a landing. They carried thick spears, about six cubits long; these had no iron tip, but the same result was obtained by hardening the point with fire. They were in number about six hundred. Nearchus observed these evidently standing firm and drawn up in order, and ordered the ships to hold back within range, so that their missiles might reach the shore; for the natives’ spears, which looked stalwart, were good for close fighting, but had no terrors against a volley. Then Nearchus took the lightest and lightest-armed troops, such as were also the best swimmers, and bade them swim off as soon as the word was given. Their orders were that, as soon as any swimmer found bottom, he should await his mate, and not attack the natives till they had their formation three deep; but then they were to raise their battle cry and charge at the double. On the word, those detailed for this service dived from the ships into the sea, and swam smartly, and took up their formation in orderly manner, and having made a phalanx, charged, raising, for their part, their battle cry to the God of War, and those on shipboard raised the cry along with them; and arrows and missiles from the engines were hurled against the natives. They, astounded at the flash of the armour, and the swiftness of the charge, and attacked by showers of arrows and missiles, half naked as they were, never stopped to resist but gave way. Some were killed in flight; others were captured; but some escaped into the hills. Those captured were hairy, not only their heads but the rest of their bodies; their nails were rather like beasts’ claws; they used their nails (according to report) as if they were iron tools; with these they tore asunder their fishes, and even the less solid kinds of wood; everything else they cleft with sharp stones; for iron they did not possess. For clothing they wore skins of animals, some even the thick skins of the larger fishes.

 

Okay, that is much more than just a description of them being hairy bipedals. We become aware that these hairy people lived in “stifling cabins,” wore clothing of “animal skins”/”fish skins,” used fire to harden the tips of their spears, and fought in organized units.  They are not Yetis.

The nail in the coffin for the Yeti origins is the clarification of the location, which is certainly not in India.  The lagoon, the inlet, and the area itself has previously been described as Persia. Pierre Eggermont’s 1975 book, Alexander’s campaigns in Sind and Baluchistan and the siege of the Brahmin, identifies these peoples as the Fish-Eaters and discusses where they lived. Specifically, the Tomerus River is located as being in Persian Baluchistan, which today is the western province of Pakistan.  Balochistan is located at the southeastern extremes of the Persian plateau. These are far west of the known habitat of the traditional Yetis (which are, in essence, rock apes, that is pongids, not hominids).

The barmanu (which means literally “the big hairy one”) are said to live in northern Pakistan and Afghanistan. But do the Fish-Eaters sound more like kaptars? Could these “hairy ones” have been surviving Neandertals, not necessarily yetis or Homo sapiens? Most definitely with that description of the use of fire to harden their spear tips, they are not Yetis.  

The area has a wide variety of local names for the hairy ones.

Carter Family Drawing

There is the case of the killing of a gul’bi-yavan – the Tajik name for a wild man – in 1925 in the Pamir mountains. The incident was described to the Commission of the Academy of Sciences by KGB General Michael Topilski.

Carter Family Drawing

The military doctor Vazgen Karapetyan is shown checking a captured kaptar – the local name of the wild people – in Daghestan, Caucasus, in 1941, during World War II. The creature died in captivity. Karapetyan gave this information about his encounter to the same Commission.

These peoples that battled Alexander the Great might be Neandertals, but they just could be “wild people” of some archaic tribe that were, by comparison, hairier than the Greeks.

About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.


18 Responses to “No, Alexander the Great Did Not Fight Yetis”

  1. SCorrales responds:

    I respectfully disagree. There were hairy hominids not only along the “Trogodyte (not troglodyte) Coast” but also in Urartu, the Armenian uplands. These creatures were driven into battle by the Medes and Persians, much like the Avars forced the Slavs ahead of them in Europe. What I find interesting is that the creatures that Nearchos found lived in the same way that the Toonijuk on Baffin Island existed: building homes out of whalebone.

    Then again, none of us was there, so…moot point! :-)

    Thanks!

  2. Loren Coleman responds:

    SCorrales, I am not sure where we disagree.

    The main point I was getting at is that to use the word “Yetis,” one is referring to creatures that are pongids/anthropoids. And by all accounts, Yetis of the Himalayas (India) sometimes go down on all fours and do not live inside, don’t use fire and don’t wear self-made clothing.

    However, no matter what local name you wish to use, Alexander the Great certainly would have seemed to have fought hairy hominids. I think we are in agreement on that point.

  3. sschaper responds:

    I think much more likely that these are the people today called “marsh arabs.” They are not Arabs, but rather that usage is the older meaning of ‘nomad’. Saddam Hussein tried to wipe them out by draining the marshes, but they still survive. They are fully modern humans. The Anabasis is clearly referring to the mouth of a river on the ocean between India and Iran, not the Tauric/Araratu range of mountains extending from Turkey to Vietnam. Hairy compared to these Makedonians who were shaven in homage to Alexander, who shaved so as to appear a boy to his fellow homosexuals – so the histories go. This does not mean furry. Nor is there any evidence that the Neandertal, who from genetic studies appear to have had red hair, fair skin and green eyes, were furry.

  4. cryptidsrus responds:

    I agree that the descriptions of the creatures fought do NOT match those of Yetis.
    Actually, in the majority of account that I’ve heard about and seen on medieval illustrated books (Alexander’s exploits were HUGE in the Middle Ages) the evidence points to “hominids” in the style of Northern Wildmen.

    There’s a quasi-famous illustration from Medieval times of Alexander and his men doing battle with the Hairy People.
    And as far as I know it WAS indeed fought near Persia.
    The illustartions make them out to be more like the legendary “Wild Men Of The Woods” that are SUPPOSEDLY still occassionally seen in remote forested corners of Europe and England.

    Actually, Alexander is a veritable repository of Cryptozoological Animals, Faboulous Beasts, and Strange People Lore. According to Pliny The Elder, Alexander’s navy was harassed by a group of huge sea serpents as they made their way to India to rendezvous with their leader.

    According to another well-known tale from antiquity, Alexander harnessed a pair of Griffins to his chariot and attempted to fly to to the Heavens.

    Alexander’s famous steed Bucephalus was also said to be a KARKADANN, a type of Unicorn from Persia. Only this one had a Pecaock’s Tail.

    Alexander and his army even fought a group of Unicorn creatures near what is know the Holy Land with the help of his own Unicorn, Bucephalus.

    They were also attacked by a legion of snakes that dropped from the sky somewhere in North Africa.

    That plus all the tales of Alexander meeting with Yogis and Rishis and Magical People in India and Tibet and it does not surprise that there are tales of Alexander interacting with Unusual Things in his travel.

    The “Greater” the person one is and the farther back in time one gets, one inevitably will get a mixture of Fact and Fanciful Legend concerning one’s exploits.

    Particularly Ole Alexander. In fact, his persona was such that he got to influence the whole continent of Asia in unusual. If it matters, the famous Golden depiction of Buddha sittingin a lotus posion with a serene, Asia expression on his face is supposedly originally based on a statue of Alexander.
    Doesn’t matter now, but it goes to show the reach of the man’s influence even today.

  5. shumway10973 responds:

    Why are we arguing the difference between “wild men” and Neanderthal? As far as we know the neanderthals became the “wild men” in order to survive. Loren was just pointing out that the translation of these people as “yeti” was wrong (in the traditional ideas of what yetis are). If the animal known as yeti wore clothing of any type and even knew how to start fires, then we would have to rethink things, but seeing there is very little evidence of their actual existence everything just mentioned is mute on the fact that we have to prove their existence first and then discover what they know how to do.

  6. cryptidsrus responds:

    Shumway10973: I tend to agree with ya, Shumway, up to a point. The thing is, we would have to PROVE for a fact that the Wildmen were ACTUALLY Neanderthals. We simply cannot know or prove that right/now. Loren does have a good theory, though. Whatever they were, they “fit” descriptions of “Neanderthals”.

  7. red_pill_junkie responds:

    It is so tempting to imagine if Osama & his band of Al Qaida scoundrels have had their share of encounters with these ‘wild men’ deep in the caves between Afghanistan & Pakistan…

  8. wmmott responds:

    Scott, that would also tie in with the mysterious “Enkidu” from the epic of Gilgamesh.

    The whole of his body was hairy and his (uncut) locks were like a woman’s or the hair of the goddess of grain. Moreover, he knew nothing of settled fields or human beings and was clothed (in skins) like a deity of flocks.

  9. Paul78 responds:

    I’m sorry but the last known Neanderthal remains are dated 28,000 KA, roughly 26,000 ka before Aleaxander and to me this does not match up to them as they were a little more advanced than this implies.

    To me this sounds like an Hunter/Gather community, yes by the time of Alexander most of the old world was well into the Iron Age, but as with any archaeology any process is diffusionist in that not all communities reach the same level at the same time. And as we go further back in time there will likely be more H/G communities.

  10. Paul78 responds:

    As for hairy, it could be considering their location and the amount of clothing they do or do not were they could just be a little more hairy than your average Greek.

    Referencing Medieval illustrations is not a good idea as it is secondary.

  11. cryptidsrus responds:

    Wmmott:

    Not to mention ESAU, Jacob’s brother. He also was a “Hairy” Man.

    Got cheated out of his “birthright” as well. Hmmmmmmmmm.

    For those who are into “symbolism” in the Bible, that leaves one with much to ponder. There is so much we DON’T know…

  12. alanborky responds:

    Loren, wmmott quotes the Gilgamesh epic concerning Enkidu: “The whole of his body was hairy and his (uncut) locks were like a woman’s or the hair of the goddess of grain. Moreover, he knew nothing of settled fields or human beings and was clothed (in skins) like a deity of flocks.”

    As you know, the Sumerians, (and the likes of their successors the Assyrians), used a highly allusive style in which things were always indirectly implied or hinted.

    The quote “his (uncut) locks were like a woman’s or the hair of the goddess of grain,” not only marks Enkidu out as a proto Samson, but it implies he’s of divine descent, (a primordial spawn of the Earth goddess in the same way the Ancient Greek Titans were), but it also hints he’s a male who’s in some way “like a woman”, which may be a gay allusion but may also have more metaphysical implications.

    It also implies Enkidu belongs to a time before city-states arose, to at least the age when the crop growing experiment was first initiated.

    But then not only is his deityhood double-underlined, it’s implied he’s from an even more primordial era: “Moreover, he knew nothing of settled fields or human beings and was clothed (in skins) like a deity of flocks.”

    Now, apart from the amazing fact the ancients seem not only clearly aware of the roots from which societies evolved, but also that humans were preceded by earlier types of humanoid, I’m struck by the fact the ancients seemed to view these earlier humanoids as in some way godlike, which is somewhat suggestive when one recalls various accounts of Sasquatch, etc., exhibiting apparently supernatural capacities.

    Which brings me to the conclusion of the Alexander account: “For clothing they wore skins of animals, some even the thick skins of the larger fishes.”

    Now if one takes this information in a way the Sumerians would’ve, the implication is not only were these foes of Alexander from an era at least as early as Enkidu, but from an even more primordial one, the age in fact of Oannes, which makes it intriguing only some of these hairy men wore “skins of the larger fishes” because that was precisely the situation among the Sumerians, were wearing such fish skin marked you out as a priest of Oannes.

  13. norman-uk responds:

    I think it is very probable the natives were not yeti like for a student of such things, but the term is used in a wider sense by the media and does fit the bill for human like creatures but which are not human in the ordinary sense.In my opinion there were probably numbers of different types of these creatures widespread even during Alexanders time circa 300 BC. Probably too lots of references in ancient writings,some still coming to light.
    Covered in hair is a relative description it depends on what you mean, it might merely mean unkempt and ungroomed, unlike the Greeks
    Interesting description of the finger nails, ”like beasts claws” and used ”like iron tools”. This would suggest they were different to normal humans, and does raise questions about the finger nails of such as Neandertal man, homo erectus or anything else that might have been about, (even if this is would contradict official records). I wonder if type of finger nails, such as Neandertal can be determined from remains? Not something that seems to have been thought about a great deal possibly.

    Also mention of the nails being used to tear soft wood (Yowie like) and fish which descriptions strengthen the evidence for the hairy one having real talon like nails. Maybe the feet nails were also beast like as some local deities are shown with clawed feet.
    Here is an example of fishskin clothed beings see,
    http://www.tanogabo.it/mitologia/images/Altri_popoli/dogon_oannes2.jpg

  14. Paul78 responds:

    AlanBorky: “The quote “his (uncut) locks were like a woman’s or the hair of the goddess of grain,” not only marks Enkidu out as a proto Samson, but it implies he’s of divine descent, (a primordial spawn of the Earth goddess in the same way the Ancient Greek Titans were), but it also hints he’s a male who’s in some way “like a woman”, which may be a gay allusion but may also have more metaphysical implications.”

    I think you could be looking to deeply there and it simple states he had nice long hair, sometimes the simple explaination gets over looked.

    As an archaeology student it is wrong to see a person or a community as primordial because they do not have the ability to farm. Hunter Gathers existed long into the period of domestication 10,000 ka, as i mentioned in a previous post not everyone adapts at the same time or decides something is benefical to them. As my Prehistory Tutors will tell you, farming is not an advantage. It is more benefical to H/G as it is less time consuming and less risk. It is also important to remember H/G communities still exist today and are not a thing of the past.

    In all i think there is too much enthesis on the “hairy” nature of these people, considering male grooming is prevalent in Greece it is just likely that the tribe mentioned were long haired and unkept.

    I know it would be interesting to see this as a remnant Hominin group, but the only piece of information that is unusual is the word “hairy” which could be an exaggeration?

  15. Paul78 responds:

    Norman-uk the problem with the finger nail reference and early Homnins is that they used tools. Neanderthals used Mode 3 tool type verging on Mode 4, so if they were Neanderthals it is likely they were using tools.

  16. norman-uk responds:

    PauL78

    ” their nails were rather like beasts’ claws; they used their nails (according to report) as if they were iron tools; with these they tore asunder their fishes, and even the less solid kinds of wood; everything else they cleft with sharp stones; for iron they did not possess.”

    Yes, they used sharp stones as did Neandertal. Interesting mystery here and one that deserves a study on its own, but what ancient language scholars are interested in cryptozoological subjects? Also Wonder what else may be in Sumerian or Persian history and archaelogy ? Or indeed the Gobekli-tepe site?

  17. Paul78 responds:

    I just think the “Hairy” and “nail” references can be taken to literally, when reading a document you have to allow for exaggeration and/or a secondary writer who was not there.

  18. nzcryptozoologist responds:

    A large fire that very amazing but the description of these people seem to merge pretty closely with the description of the nz Moehau. hair covered, tool using (though at a stone age level), and having long talons capable of ripping asunder both flesh and a rotten logs.
    An amazing similarity.
    I think this was raised higher up in the blog it could be that there are a few species of Yeti, similar to the fact that there are two distinct species of guerrilla, the mountain species adapted and living at higher altitudes and the lowland species. Both similar in appearance but also having marked differences.



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