The famous Bigfoot sighting from “Patterson–Gimlin film frame 352” by Patterson-Gimlin film.

Is There Archaeological Evidence of Bigfoot? (Part I)

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In 2015, Mitchel Townsend was featured in an article that announced that they had found archaeological evidence of Bigfoot, the mysterious ape-man said to wander the woods in the Northwest of North America. The article “Proof of Bigfoot is in the bones, college instructor says” reported that Townsend had found stacked bones in the woods with evidence of large human bite marks, and that this was evidence for the existence of Sasquatch. At the end of the article, Townsend challenges scientists to refute their findings that the chewed bones they found are evidence for Bigfoot’s existence.

Challenge Accepted! Luckily for me, I have the wonderfully brilliant Lisa Bright as a colleague at MSU, and her research on taphonomy is cited in the Mills, Mills and Townsend study (not yet published). Today, I’ll be sharing the background and possible interpretations of what the bioarchaeology and archaeology of Bigfoot would be if there was evidence, and tomorrow Lisa will share her research and discuss the issues with the Mills et al. [Forthcoming] studies.


Sign on Pikes Peak Highway

Sign on Pikes Peak Highway ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

First, let’s get some background and history on the big hairy guy. Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch or Samsquanch if you’re a Trailer Park Boys fan, is a cryptid simian or ape-hominid creature that is said to inhabit the forests and woods in the Pacific Northwest region of the USA and Canada. Many native groups in this region have stories of wild or ape-like men, varying slightly by region and culture. The folklore ranges from stories about nefarious human-like beasts that will carry away children, to more benign creatures who hide in the woods and avoid the modern world. The first major compilation of stories about Bigfoot appeared in the 1920s, a collection of local tales by J. W. Burns. Burns’ articles took different native stories describing similar man-like beasts and argued that they were all evidence of a single entity, which popularized the name of Sasquatch.

Records of Bigfoot sightings by non-natives in the USA begin around the 1850s, with records of hunters being felled by beasts who walked on two legs. Other stories from the 19th century include the “Wild Man of Crow Canyon” and “The Winsted Wildman” both reporting large hairy creatures that looked like men but were not human. In 1924, a prospector in Vancouver reported that he had been kidnapped by Sasquatch, and miners in Washington State reported that they were attacked by Wildman.

The famous Bigfoot sighting from “Patterson–Gimlin film frame 352” by Patterson-Gimlin film.

The famous Bigfoot sighting from “Patterson–Gimlin film frame 352” by Patterson-Gimlin film. ( Wikipedia)

The most famous sightings of the creature have been in the past half century or so. One of the most famous is the discovery of large barefoot prints found around a construction site in California in 1958. A construction worker took plaster casts of the footprints, and the event popularized the name ‘Bigfoot’ as a pseudonym for the beast. Years later, it was revealed that the foot prints were a hoax- the large feet were created by Ray Wallace, the brother of the construction crew’s overseer. Wallace’s nephew and other relatives shared the story and the pair of 16 inch wooden feet that were used to create the prints. Probably the best known evidence for Bigfoot is the Patterson-Grimlin video taken in 1967 by Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin in California, which documents a large creature taking long strides through the forest. Patternson and Grimlin had the video examined by experts from the special effects department at Universal Studios in Hollywood, who argued that “We could try (faking it), but we would have to create a completely new system of artificial muscles and find an actor who could be trained to walk like that. It might be done, but we would have to say that it would be almost impossible.” However, in 1999, Bob Heironimus, a friend of Patterson’s, said that he had worn the ape costume for the making of the film, and that the whole thing was a hoax.

Most scientists discount the existence of Bigfoot, considering it as a combination of folklore, misidentification and hoax. There is very little physical evidence for the creature and large numbers of the beast would be required to maintain the population (Despite this, a few researchers have focused their scientific work on the creature: see the work of Grover Krantz , Jeffrey Meldrum , and John Bindernagel ). Also, you can check out the work of Kathy Moskowitz, who tracks archaeological evidence of Bigfoot pictographs (Thanks to Jeb Card for sharing this with us!).


Keep me informed

Dr. Melba Ketchum of the sasquatch genome project up in Dallas , TX has already officially named the creature "Homo Sapiens Cognatus" after investigating many samples of this creature. Look her up on the net.

Anyone looking Melba Ketchum up on the net will get an object lesson on shoddy "science".

"However, in 1999, Bob Heironimus, a friend of Patterson’s, said that he had worn the ape costume for the making of the film, and that the whole thing was a hoax." Maybe Bob just wanted his "15 minutes of fame" and claimed he did it.

I remember seeing a documentary about the Patterson film where and anthropologist (I think) said that the creature in the film didn’t walk like a human in an ape suit. Something about the way the creature turned its entire body when it looked behind itself instead of turning just the neck as a human would. Sorry I can’t remember more, or the name of the documentary; it's been several years since I saw it

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