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Bigfoot: A Myth or Reality?

Sasquatch, also called Bigfoot, (from Salish se’sxac: “wild men”) a large, hairy, humanlike creature believed by some people to exist in the northwestern United States and western Canada. It seems to represent the North American counterpart of the Himalayan region’s mythical monster, the Abominable Snowman, or Yeti.


Bigfoot: Giant Hoax or Giant Hominid?

Fact or fiction, Bigfoot has captured the world’s imagination after a road construction crew spotted giant 16-inch-long human footprints near Bluff Creek in northern California in 1958. The discovery seemed to provide evidence for the existence of the Sasquatch-like creatures of native American myth. Now, using advanced scientific methods, an expert team is re-examining the evidence for this elusive creature.

Ever since then, sightings of the creature have been reported at least once from every US single state over the past two decades. The latest was in 2018 by a woman who reported seeing what looked like a “a large pile of soggy grass,” as quoted in an article from that year in the Smithsonian Magazine.

If Bigfoot Were Real - Scientific American Blog Network

The footprints were subsequently proved to be a fake when the children of a man named Ray Wallace revealed after his death in 2002 that they had been planted by him as a prank. By that time, however, far more important “evidence” of Bigfoot’s existence had been gathered. This was in the form of a 1967 video by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin of a giant furry creature with its sloped head and torso pushed forward, its upper back hunched, thigh muscles rippling and long arms swinging at its side.

The duo had set out to find the giant Bigfoot creature in the forests around the area where the footprints had been spotted. The grainy one-minute 16mm motion picture video, known as the Patterson-Gimlin film, has been the subject of a raging debate ever since it made its first public appearance.

Scans of Bigfoot footprint casts. (D. Meldrum / CC BY-SA 4.0)

Scans of Bigfoot footprint casts. (D. Meldrum / CC BY-SA 4.0 )

Arguments For and Against the Existence of Bigfoot

So how does the evidence stack up so far? The evidence against the film is really no more than anecdotal claims and suspicions that Roger Patterson was an untrustworthy man; that Bigfoot was filmed in the same area that the fake footprints had been planted; and intellectual scepticism and arrogance that rejected the film outright without giving it the benefit of doubt.

Another argument against it is that Bob Heironimus from Yakima came forward years after the footage was released, claiming he wore the costume used to make the “fake” video, a claim that has been stoutly denied by Gimlin who is still alive.

Sasquatch searchers: Bigfoot festival coming to Ohio

On the other hand, four reasons are presented in favour of taking the claims of the film seriously. One, the film is in perfect focus and was processed to yield a perfectly exposed image, so it is lacking in neither quantity or quality. Two, while detractors of the film claim that the fact of the camera being hand-held and shaky makes its examination difficult, actually that is proof of its genuineness. Any doctoring of the film with special visual effects techniques would have required a lock-down camera on a tripod.

Three, the film can easily be subjected to new advanced forensic techniques by those who suspect its claims. Since the techniques didn’t exist in 1967, the makers of the film couldn’t have anticipated them and so have proofed it against them. However, the scoffers haven’t bothered to use these techniques to expose the film for fraud. Four, given the good resolution of the film, it can easily be determined if the movements and body proportions are those of a human wearing a fur costume or a genuine Bigfoot. In fact, the article argues, it shows to the contrary.

Bigfoot in the Patterson-Gimlin Film. (YouTube Screenshot)

Dissecting the Bigfoot Film With Modern Technology

Now, using AI and computer vision algorithms, a team of experts set out to once again examine the claims of the Bigfoot film in the latest episode of The Proof Is Out There series on the History Channel. The task the team set itself was to dissect whether the Bigfoot of the film is really Bigfoot, or just someone dressed in a hairy suit.

According to Mail Online , Dr. Jeff Meldrum, professor of anatomy and anthropology at Idaho State University, explained: “We are here 50 years later because advances in technology have provided opportunities to consider the film in novel ways.” On Dr Meldrum’s team are also computer scientist Issac Tian and veteran Hollywood costume and special effects expert Bill Munns.

Although the original film is lost, the experts made 22 copies of existing duplicates and then used an AI program to integrate them. The images were stabilized using computer vision algorithms resulting in a much less shaky footage.

The experts then looked at how the creature’s foot interacted with the ground as it walked. They saw a flexing in the middle of the foot that is common in apes and not humans, and an upward turning of the toes that points to it being something other than a human in a fur costume. Moreover, the calf muscles are defined in a way that could not have been seen in a fur costume. Such costumes do not define the body, they just hang on the person wearing them, particularly the fur costumes of 1967.

“Patty” in VFC-2 Frame 354. (Public domain)

The Jury is Still Out On Authenticity Of Patterson-Gimlin Film

Besides this, how Patterson and Gimlin came across a human big enough to fill the suit—someone at least 7 feet tall (213 cm) and weighing between 700 and 800 pounds (317 to 362 kg)—is anybody’s guess. As it strolls past the camera, its eyes look directly at it, and according to Munns, the movement would have caused a skewing of the costume to one side, had there been one.

The muscles on the back of the neck look like those of an ape, according to Meldrum. “I am struck as an anatomist by the massive size of these trapezius muscles and their intermediate attachment on the back of the skull.

This is not a human configuration.” Comparing the skull of the creature to that of australopithecine, an extinct early human species that lived in East Africa about three million years ago, Meldrum says: “All of the bony landmarks of Patty’s [the figure in the film] correlates with proportions seen in this skull.”

Why Do So Many People Still Want to Believe in Bigfoot? | History|  Smithsonian Magazine

Though the episode seems to provide proof that the Patterson-Gimlin film deserves more than outright dismissal by the anthropological community, the jury is still out on its authenticity. Meanwhile, the appeal of the mythical wild man continues unabated, call him Bigfoot, Yeti, the Abominable Snowman or Sasquatch.

New Bigfoot Evidence from Washington State: Tooth and Bite Marks

One of these places is Mount St. Helens in Washington State. In 2013 and 2014, along with one of my former college students, I located three different ungulate rib prey bone assemblages (elk and deer rib bones) that had seemingly inexplicable chewing marks left in them. We conducted a two year Zooarcheological field research project, which culminated at the 69th Annual Anthropological Research Conference on March 26, 2016.

At the conference I presented our conclusions to a room full of respected academic and governmental anthropologists and archeologists, in the form of incisor, molar and pre-molar dental signature evidence that we were able to very carefully link with current scientific literature describing historical and contemporary hominin chewing evidence. This published, peer-reviewed literature described a diagnostic framework for accurately separating and identifying hominin mastication evidence recovered from both pre-archaic sites and comparative contemporary chewing studies upon ungulate rib bones.

A new category of incisal dentition signature termed a Notch.

Hominin Mastication Activity Discovered on Bones

Furthermore, we proposed the evaluation of a new category of incisal dentition signature termed a “notch,” which consolidated the applicable literature and accurately described some of our field research evidence. The conference gave us a chance to demonstrate the links between the tooth marks that we recovered in the field, with current peer reviewed scientific research covering the same subject. This current research provided a framework by which we could compare our tooth mark descriptions. It also helped provide a very effective tool that enables scientists to re-examine other suspected human chewing evidence upon bones.

Giant Hairy Apes in the North Woods: A Bigfoot Study - Rolling Stone

All three locations contained the same evidence profiles of ungulate (deer and elk) rib evidence with clear and measurable evidence of hominin mastication activity. The dentition of other known local ecosystem specific predators and scavengers was compared against  Homo sapiens  dentition. Of the 25 total hominin incisor measurements taken from all three sites, 92% are outside the average lateral incisors size range for modern  Homo sapiens . In this same sample, 80% are outside the average measurement for central incisor. From this evidence, Upper Inter-Canine measurements can be accurately estimated. All of the comparative analysis demonstrated hominin dentition physio-morphology of at least two times the size of modern humans.

The evidence was clear and consistent across all three locations. The teeth marks and jaw shapes of bear, cougar, humans, porcupine, and wolverine along with every other potential species that might have been responsible was examined and eliminated or included. After identifying the teeth marks as Hominin, we measured the geometry of the individual marks and were able to determine that they were primarily outside the upper size range for current humans. From these measurements we were able to estimate mouth size, which again was over double the size of a modern human .

Fossil jaw of Neanderthal.

Rib Peeling as Evidence of Hominin Mastication

The Pre-Molar and Molar dentition signature evidence analysis is perhaps the strongest indication of hominin mastication evidence that emerged from the field research. The current peer-reviewed scientific literature describes Rib Peeling as a clear hominin assigned bone surface modification diagnostic characteristic. The physical act of rib peeling entails putting a rib in a hominins mouth and using their hands as levers to move the rib in cooperation with using their pre-molars and molars to masticate the ends.

This specific force application procedure has been evaluated over several peer-reviewed studies both pre-archaic and contemporary as clearly diagnostic of hominin mastication activity. This process creates specific secondary dentition signatures in consistent hemispherical regions of masticated ungulate rib specimens. The pre-molar impressions were triangular in shape while the molar evidence is characterized by double arch shapes. The evidence recovered from all three sites demonstrated clear and consistent rib peeling evidence.

Why Bigfoot and the 'Abominable Snowman' Loom Large in the Human  Imagination | History| Smithsonian Magazine

The physical act or process of Rib Peeling is very simple. It consists of using your hands to put a rib in your mouth and using those same hands to move the end of the rib around as you chew on the opposite end. This creates very specific damage and tooth marks in predictable locations on a rib. It also creates secondary tooth marks in expected locations. This predictable combination of damage and individual teeth mark impression evidence is clearly supported in current scientific research and is an accurate tool that enables the separation of hominin verses predator chewing evidence in bones.

Rib Peeling.

Bone Stacking and Other Hominin Behavior

Behavioral evidence analyzed from each site supported the forensic evidence. A review of the applicable scientific literature also demonstrated that ungulate ribs were a central and connecting theme. We have proposed the addition of three behavioral manifestations or categories illuminated by the neoichnological analysis of the supplementary data. All three are fundamentally connected to ungulate rib mastication evidence.

The first is called Bone Stacking and has a very long history in hominin evolution. In the case of our data, bone stacking was present at all three locations. We propose and the literature supports the assertion that hands are required to accomplish this behavior. The second revolves around prey of choice. Ungulate ribs were statistically the most prevalent bone evidence preservation medium recorded in all of the literature examined. Contemporary chewing studies initiated to understand hominin mastication strategies have all produced ungulate rib evidence in alignment with pre-archaic studies. The overall prevalence of this type of bone evidence modification medium is a central theme throughout the literature and the field evidence recovered from Mount St. Helens.

Was Australopithecus sediba Our Ancestor? | Discover Magazine

The final behavioral expression that we illuminated centered upon the behaviors associated with Rib Peeling. Rib Peeling is a behavioral act that requires hands to accomplish. As previously described it requires putting a rib in a hominins mouth and using hands as levers to help apply additional forces during mastication activity.

This association of hands and rib peeling is clearly supported in the literature and the analyzed field data. The central themes throughout that emerged were the statistically high incidence of ribs, the requirement of hands, and the assignment of associated dentition evidence coordinated with behavioral evidence as a reliable diagnostic framework for assessing potential hominin attributed mastication activity in bones.

Humans throughout time have behaved in certain predictable ways when selecting food and processing these foods. The accurate coordination of physical evidence with behavioral evidence is a well-developed field in criminal science. We were able to demonstrate a clear connection throughout our research with the physical evidence. This connection was clearly centered upon the use of hands, eating in a predictable manner, and selecting ungulate species as a primary food source.

Bone stacker.

What Does It All Mean? Is Bigfoot Real?

The conclusions generated by a careful analysis of the applicable peer reviewed literature and a cross comparison of the field data enable the construction of a currently unclassified hominin profile. The dentition evidence demonstrates hominin incisor measurements primarily outside the possibility of  Homo sapiens.  Evidence based reconstruction of inter-canine distances demonstrate a measurement that is over two times the size of a modern human’s mouth.

The statistically high presence of rib peeling and required associated supplementary regionally located evidence is perhaps the strongest indication of hominin dentition mastication evidence. The behavioral evidence mutually supported the forensic dentition evidence and is further confirmation of reliability across the applicable literature and field evidence profiles.

Did Bigfoot Really Exist? How Gigantopithecus Became Extinct | Science|  Smithsonian Magazine

When taken in totality both the Neoichnology and Taphonomy evidence is mutually supporting and grounded in applicable peer-reviewed literature. The data is mutually supporting and clearly illuminated in the current literature. The conclusions are accurate, well supported, repeatable, and construct physical and behavioral profiles of a currently unclassified hominin living (Bigfoot) at Mount St. Helens.

Anthropological Research Conference represented an opportunity for mainstream anthropologists and archeologists to examine part of the credible evidence that is slowly emerging. The Zooarcheological field research project that we conducted used the most current scientific theories and analytical techniques to illuminate data that clearly constructs a profile of a hominin with associated dentition physio-morphology and definable behavioral characteristics. Our conclusions are based upon clear and repeatable data grounded in and supported by contemporary peer reviewed science. They refer too, build upon and expand currently accepted mainstream scientific theory

The anthropological research conference gave those in attendance the opportunity to hear our conclusions and review the evidence we based them upon. They had a chance to analyze our process and framing theories. The audience’s reaction to our presentation was one of encouragement and astonishment. Attendees were very encouraged by our comprehensive efforts and broad based analysis. They were astonished by the results.

Conclusions image from Mills and Townsend 2016

Comprehensive Bigfoot Investigations Required

As we emerge full circle, once again we are faced with the central question of why mainstream science has failed to comprehensively examine the possible existence of what some people refer to as Bigfoot. Credible multi-disciplinary evidence continues to emerge from unlikely places, yet in general it has failed to attract the professional scientific attention it deserves.

By conducting this type of transparent research, writing a paper, and presenting it at a prestigious academic conference we hope to encourage deeper analysis of our own conclusions as well as inspire further scientific attention into the questions that surround the possibility of a giant, unclassified hominin living and thriving in the Pacific Northwest.

Bigfoot sighting: North Carolinians keep calling animal control, mistaking  a statue for sasquatch - The Washington Post

Our research has provided a place to begin for those willing to take up the task and put credible evidence to the test. At the end of the day why are we still asking the same question: “is Bigfoot real”? We encourage the scientific community to move beyond their skepticism in order to conduct deep examination of our efforts as well as that of others in this emerging area of research.

Science has an obligation by definition to explain the unexplained, whatever that may be. By presenting our conclusions at a prestigious anthropological research conference and authoring this article I hope to highlight a place where researchers can start.


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