Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

 
 
Remarkable Ancient Sculptures from
North-west America
1 (S433: 1891)

 
Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A note printed on page 396 of the Nature issue of 26 February 1891. Wallace's comments here seem straightforward enough, but it is interesting to note that Terry's report represents one of the first sources of information to emerge that later bore on the ongoing Sasquatch debate. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S433.htm


    Mr. James Terry has just published descriptions and photographs of some of the most remarkable works of prehistoric man yet discovered on the American continent. The title of his paper is sufficiently startling, but it is fully borne out by the beautiful full-size and half-size photographic prints with which it is illustrated. They represent three rude, yet bold, characteristic, and even life-like sculptures of simian heads, executed in basalt. One of these belongs to the author, one to Mr. T. Condon, and the third to Prof. O. C. Marsh, who referred to it, in his address "On Vertebrate Life in America," in the following terms:--"On the Columbia River I have found evidence of the former existence of inhabitants much superior to the Indians at present there, and of which no tradition remains. Among many stone carvings which I saw, there were a number of heads which so strongly resembled those of apes that the likeness at once suggests itself. Whence came these sculptures and by whom were they made?" Unfortunately we have no detailed information as to the conditions under which these specimens were found, except that "they would be classed as 'surface finds,' from the fact that the shifting sand-dunes, which were largely utilized for burial purposes, are continually bringing them to the surface and exposing them." This gives no indication of their antiquity, but is quite compatible with any age which their other characteristics may suggest.

    The size of the heads varies from eight to ten inches in total height, and from five and three-quarters to six and a half inches in width. The three are so different from each other that they appear to represent three distinct animals; and, so far as I can judge, they all differ considerably from the heads of any known anthropoid apes. In particular, the nostrils are much farther from the eyes and much nearer to the mouth than in any of the apes. In this respect they are more human; yet the general form of the head and face, the low and strongly-ridged forehead, and the ridges on the head and cheeks seem to point to a very low type of anthropoid. In a letter to Mr. Terry, Mr. Condon suggests "that they were copied from the figure-head of some Malay proa that may have been wrecked on the coast;" but such a supposition is quite inadmissible, since nothing at all resembling these heads is ever carved on Malay proas, and there is no reason to believe that if such a carving did come into the possession of the natives they would ever think of copying it in stone; while these sculptures were found two hundred miles from the coast on the east side of the Cascade Mountains.

    Taking into consideration the enormous antiquity of the stone mortars and human remains found in the auriferous gravels of California buried under ancient lava streams and associated with a flora and fauna altogether different from that of any part of America at the present time, Mr. Terry's own conclusion appears the more probable. It is, "either that the animals which these carvings represent once existed in the Columbia valley, or that, in the remote past, a migration of natives from some region containing these monkeys reached this valley, and left one of the vivid impressions of their former surroundings in these imperishable sculptures." The latter alternative appears to me, for many reasons, to be highly improbable; and though the former will seem to many persons to be still more improbable, I am inclined provisionally to accept it.


Note Appearing in the Original Work

1. "Sculptured Anthropoid Ape Heads found in or near the Valley of the John Day River, a tributary of the Columbia River, Oregon." By James Terry. (New York, 1891.)


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