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No. 84: Nov-Dec 1992

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American Pygmies

Today's anthropological texts say little about pygmies populating ancient North America, but a century ago, when tiny graves replete with tiny skeletons were discovered in Tennessee, controversy erupted. Were they the bones of pygmies or children of normal-sized tribes? The latter choice was made, and we hear no more on the subject -- at least on the standard academic circuits.

But a few reverberations are still detectable elsewhere. V.R. Pilapil, for example, asserts that the disputed Tennessee graves really did contain pygmy remains. Not only that, but he hypothesizes that the pygmies arrived in ancient times from southeast Asia, probably the Philippines, where today's diminutive Aetas live.

To support his case, Pilapil recalls B. Fell's examination of the Tennessee skeletal material. Fell noted that: (1) The skull brain capacity was equivalent to only about 950 cubic centimeters, about the volume of a non-pygmy 7-yearold; (2) The teeth were completely developed and showed severe wear characteristic of mature individuals; and (3) The skulls were brachycephalic with projecting jaws. Fell had, in fact, described skulls very much like those of today's adult Philippine Aetas.

Another line of evidence adduced by Pilapil involved the traditions of British Columbia tribes, which recognized a tribe of very small people called the Et-nane. More significant is the oral history of the Cherokees, which mentions the existence of "little people" in eastern North America.

(Pilapil, Virgilio R.; "Was There a Prehistoric Migration of the Philippine Aetas to America?" Epigraphic Society, Occasional Papers, 20:150, 1991.)

From Science Frontiers #84, NOV-DEC 1992. 1992-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:

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  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987