Merry Christmas! I’m celebrating the holiday today, so in lieu of a lengthy blog post today, I’m going to share a few of the strange images I’ve found in the British Library’s release of one million pre-1900 engravings, drawings, photographs, and other illustrations. Christmas was traditionally the time for stories of ghosts and other spirit monsters, so today’s selection is an appropriate way to honor the spectral tradition of Christmas with some monstrous imagery.
Before anyone complains: Look up the tradition of the Christmas ghost story. It’s real.
First up: The “Hairy Man” rock art of the Yokuts, a group of sixty tribes occupying central California. The image has been published a few times in Bigfoot-hunting circles as evidence of Native American awareness of Bigfoot. Although the picture has been published a few times in the past couple of decades, the Victorian book from which this copy was scanned, The Anthropological Series edited by Frederick Starr, is the first evidence I’ve seen of the image being published prior to the emergence of the Bigfoot myth in the middle twentieth century.
It’s usually described by anthropologists as a shamanic image of the spirit world, and frankly it looks more like Swamp Thing to me than it does a giant ape. It’s fairly typical of the animal-human mixtures seen in altered states of consciousness.
Our second image is a human figure from central Brazil carved in a tree. It’s one of several seen by German travelers in the region. Others had what appear to be clawed hands or large horns on their heads. Obviously, they are extraterrestrials. No, they’re shamanic images again, but it’s surprising that they haven’t showed up in the ancient astronaut literature as evidence of Greys or some other species.
Finally, this images shows the only Easter Island moai that were still standing at the end of the nineteenth century. It’s amazing to think how much work has been done restoring the island’s statues—not to mention how much destruction the Easter Islanders wreaked on the figures at the collapse of the statue-carving culture.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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