Monday, February 17, 2014

SNECHNOMA CHELOUEKE or something like that.

Well, so there you have it!

Have what, you say? Yep, same thing that I said. {Some of you out there might recognize what these are, but I wager not many}.

I was glancing at the Sanderson Archive stacks and there sat these four Russian-language monographs. Employing my usual zero-comprehension-of-non-English, I of course had no clue. Brilliant Sherlock Holmes quality inspection revealed the words " Committee on Informational Material for Investigating the Problem of the ABSM." That and the designators indicating that three of these publications were owned originally by Bernard Heuvelmans, George Agogino, and Tom Slick, pushed my feeble analytical abilities to the conclusion that these were Russian collections of Yeti/Almas information, and possibly used by Ivan in his famous book.

Well, OK. It's always nice to feel that one is holding a little piece of Cryptozoological history, but if I can't read it, that's as far as it goes. Fortunately for me [and maybe you] neither could Ivan.

Ivan knew that this was a big deal for him [I'd venture as guess that it was even a major inspiration for him deciding to write his masterpiece] and therefore was desperate for someone to translate for him. Heuvelmans sent him the first of the monographs and appears to have translated it himself --- BUT INTO FRENCH. Ummm... I'm screwed again. Weirdly, so, to a degree was Ivan [I say this because he's very labored about what he extracts from monograph #1].

My salvation came when I spotted a typical "Ivan Notebook" entitled: "ABSMs: USSR ACAD. SCI. BOOKLETS #1 to #4 AND ANALYSIS." Inside were the Heuvelmans French translation of #1, but, The Lord Be Praised!, English translations of the other three volumes. So maybe I could have a little fun afterall.

What I want to do here, since this turns out to be a bit of a reading, logging, thrashing about grind, is to blog an overview of what I'm reading so far in monograph #2 [remember I can't read Heuvelmans' French], and sort-of promise/hope to do a better job of presenting "case studies" sometime later.

What seems to have happened here is that in about 1958 [three years before Ivan published his big book], some Russians got so fired up about the enigma of the purported "wildmen" of Central Asia that they set up a committee in Moscow to collect information. The committee was headed by Dr. B.F. Porshniev [or Porshnev] [pictured above] and A.A. Shmakov. Porshnev seems to have been lead dog, and became a Sanderson correspondent at least to send Ivan book #4 ultimately.

Collecting of information was widespread: some done at headquarters with visitors, some of roads trips as far away as Mongolia, and some by letters and expedition reports. There was, simultaneously with the 1958-1959 period of information gathering, a Soviet expedition to the Pamir Mountains region in Kirghiz, and the committee had a lot of cooperation from this expedition, rather loading the "data" density towards that area, as well as I can see so far. [yeh I know that I shouldn't just plough into this before reading the whole thing, but if I don't I might never do it --- so let's just explore together and be surprised].

This is the "Cliffnotes" version of what the committee seems to be finding as of monograph #2: "wildmen" may be a single type of humanoid but may be more than one thing. Areas of suspicious richness of reporting and/or story telling exist. Primary of these seems to be the desert and mountain wilds of the Uygurit region of Xinjiang. [the spellings of the areas, villages, mountain passes, and local names for the beasts are a nightmare. It is very difficult to have confidence in some of this, and is why I believe Ivan short-shrifted the "data analyzing" here and never made a complete list of what the committee found.]

The presence of the expedition to the Pamirs also produced the feeling that the Pamirs were a focus site for potential continued existence of wildmen. A trickle of case reports along the Tibetan side of the Himalayas pointed to that area as a third possible hot zone. If one continued to follow the Marco Polo road to the East. one would enter the semi-legendary province of Shensi {Shaanxi}, home of the mysterious pyramids and the Xian terracotta warriors. From Xian, extending directly west, is a lengthy mountain range [the Tzinlin-Shan in the terms of this monograph] wherein a Chinese professor insisted that wildmen still existed.

Other tales dotted about the region. In China, the idea was that if one continued south of Shensi, one would enter the mountains of Sichuan and Yunnan, and the further one went into those mountains the more likely wildmen persisted. This intrigued me as this is prime location for the Rhododendron forests of southwestern China, wherein not only Yeti was supposed to live, but where romantics placed Shangri-la.

The last map-like thing that I want to comment about today is why I have a circle in the big desert marked "Tarim mummies". This may have no relevance to any of this or it might.

Porshnev interviewed the Director of the Nepalese museum who said that they had photographs of a "snowman child". The story went that a wealthy man in Katmandu had acquired a snowman child in mummified form. No comment was made as to where this mummy was found. The man brought the mummy to the museum, left it there briefly, during which time it was at least photographed. He then retrieved the mummy and it was never heard about since. The photographs reveal a baby, 8-10" long, male, dark skin, hairless, somewhat sunken eyesockets, somewhat elongated arms. The director's opinion was that it was neither monkey nor human.

This thought occurred to me: somewhere around 1960 or so, the academic world of the Soviet Union began getting interested in mummies said to exist in the central area of the Takla Makan Desert. The ultimate hullaballoo about these mummies is that they seem not to be oriental in body type, but rather European like. But that is not why the thought came up here.

I can readily imagine that if academe finally focussed on desert mummies in the 1960s, the locals knew about some of this decades earlier. Could some entrepreneur have carried a mummified Tarim baby, stillborn?, to Katmandu and sold it to a wealthy collector of arcane artifacts? It could, perhaps, explain a rather odd "data point" in this story.

This is a Tarim culture mask. What does it represent? I do not know of course. Looks pretty awesome to me... spirit creature? Wildman?

These Tarim people lived a long time ago, perhaps as deep into the past as 1800 BC. They were significantly taller than the locals also, which brings up another thought. And they gradually died out, perhaps as their ecology dried up.

Many concepts arise from this. Could some wildmen stories be the old knowledge of a tall and very different sort of people dwindling away? Could those people have retrogressed to cruder states of living as their surroundings became less hospitable? Or could the Tarim, just like everyone else in the region, have known of the wildmen and told stories of them and represented them as awesome creatures, just as an Amerindian living on the Pacific coast would? That mask brings back strong memories of the masks of the Kwakiutl people and their neighbors.

i'm going to stop here. I'm going to TRY to get through the entire monograph #2 and do something which presents the committee "data" such as it is --- these things are just one anecdote after another, and no synthesis by them.

... but that must come later and the future is cloudy.

Till then, Peace.

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