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Journal of Creation 33(2):65–72, August 2019

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Orang-outang or Homo sylvestris: ape-men before Darwin

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Troglodyta-Boentii
Figure 1. From left to right TROGLODYTA Boentii, LUCIFER Aldrouandi, SATYRUS Tulpii, PYGMAEUS Edwardi, from Hoppius’ academic dissertation Anthropomorpha, 1760, published by Linnaeus 1763. The illustrations gradually become more ape-like, with increasing crouch, an increasingly ape-like head, and more ape-like hands and feet.

This paper discusses the presence of belief in ape-men, and ape-women, prior to Darwin. Beliefs regarding various mythological creatures with human-like physical form were present in antiquity, but persisted even into the 18th century, and displayed in drawings of various quality. Lack of knowledge was filled in with speculation from mythology and influenced early science. For instance, poor quality drawings of Egyptian baboons became corrupted and modified in 17th and 18th century images, with their subsequent depiction as loose-living forest-dwelling people, sometimes known as satyrs, orang-outangs, or Homo sylvestris. Such speculation was even present in the work of Carl Linnaeus, and graphically illustrated by one of his students. With some controversy, Linnaeus placed apes and monkeys in the genus Homo and he tried to identify several missing links as part of an Aristotelian chain of being between apes and human beings. Linnaeus still believed in special creation, but others in the 18th century, such as Lord Monboddo, in contrast to Linnaeus argued for an evolutionary progression from ape to man. However, the evolution of man was rejected by Comte de Buffon and Peter Camper on the basis of direct studies of apes and belief in the divine uniqueness of human beings.

The belief that human beings evolved from apes developed among some European academics in the late 18th century, and not originally with Darwin in the 19th century. But careless thinking about this subject in the 18th century prepared the ground for Darwin’s theory. Historical testimony suggests that popular mythology from antiquity, and its influence upon scientific discourse, had already primed European minds to accept the idea of evolution of man from apes. This paper examines the rise of belief in ape-men (and ape-women) at a time when such popular mythology and speculation filled-in the many gaps left by a lack of knowledge. Poor drawings of the few available specimens were also copied and embellished over several centuries, thus compounding the problem.

Firstly, beliefs relating to strange creatures from antiquity will be outlined, via Pliny’s Natural History and Augustine’s City of God. Then consideration will be given to developments in the early modern period, followed by the flawed classification scheme set out by Linnaeus, and erroneously portrayed in drawings by his student Hoppius in the 18th century (figure 1). This was, perhaps unwittingly, one of the first ever ape-to-man comparative drawings, but without belief in an evolutionary progression. The scheme was based upon the Aristotelian great-chain-of-being, albeit still in the context of special creation. Lord Monboddo on the other hand argued for an evolutionary progression from ape to man, but this idea was rejected by Comte de Buffon and Peter Camper on the basis of empirical studies, human intelligence, and lack of capability for complex language.

Beliefs from ancient Greece and Asia

Accounts of strange human-like creatures or human beings with severe physical deformities are found in works from antiquity. Pliny, a first century Roman author, relayed accounts from the then-known world in his Natural History. The Sciapodas or Monocoli were considered to possess one leg, but with large feet with which to shade from the sun, while the Pygmies were a race of dwarf humans, often engaged in struggle with cranes. The Satyrs, from the mountains of western India, were said to sometimes run on two legs, sometimes on four, but were very swift. They were also referred to as forest-people, or wild people (Latin: gentem silvestrem), covered in hair with striking eyes and dog-like teeth, unable to speak, but only screech (Latin: sine voce, stridoris horrendi).1 It is likely that Pliny was relaying eyewitness sightings of apes, but the satyrs of ancient Greece were god-like creatures; half-human and half-animal, with the legs and ears of goats or horses.2

In the early Christian period Augustine set out a clear demarcation between Adam’s lineage, mythical creatures and non-human animals. His discussion included the pigmies, hermaphrodites, cynocephali, and skiopodes, and known animals of apes (simias), monkeys (cercopithecos), and sphingas. And he was skeptical of some of the incredible reports, wondering whether they were in fact accurate. He commented:

“But whoever is anywhere born a man, that is, a rational, mortal animal, no matter what unusual appearance he presents in color, movement, sound, nor how peculiar he is in some power, part, or quality of his nature, no Christian can doubt that he springs from that one protoplast [Adam].”3

Augustine commented further that if one did not already know that “apes, and monkeys, and sphingas” are not human but animals, then some “historians would possibly describe them as races of men, and flaunt with impunity their false and vainglorious discoveries”.4 Augustine correctly identified the pigmies as a tribe of humans and their small stature did not take away from their genetic connection to Adam.

 Breydenbachs-ape
Figure 2. From left to right: (a) Breydenbach’s ape from 1486 in Peregrinatio in Terram Sanctum; (b) Gesner’s ape or hairy satyr, in Medici Tigurini Historiae Animalium, 1551; (c) Aldrouandi’s image of Cercopithecus Formae Rarae 1637 in De Quadrupedibus Digitatis Viviparis; (d) Hoppius’ more humanlike drawing in Anthropomorpha, 1763. Note how much more human-like Hoppius’ drawing (right) is, in terms of face and feet, compared to Breydenbach’s image (left), probably of an Egyptian baboon.

In subsequent centuries, belief in the existence of satyrs or Homo sylvestris persisted (Latin: sylvestrisof the forest). The testimony of foreign traders and seamen also relayed fabulous stories from indigenous people living in distant lands, and these accounts subsequently passed into the academic imagination. While in Asia, beliefs about godlike men and women arose, sometimes with ape-like features. They were referred to as Vanara in India (vana: forest, and nara: man), and usually depicted as human, but with the heads of monkeys. They were believed to have some supernatural powers, and so became entwined with the Hindu pantheon. The Chinese believed in a god-like monkey king, Sun Wukong, said to be born from a stone, and possessing great strength and magical powers.5 Further east, the Indonesians held that there existed ape-human hybrids that lived in the jungle. The name given was orang-outang, meaning man-of-the-woods (orang: person, outang: forest), but in reality, they were probably a reference to the orangutan animal.6

Belief in ape-man during the early modern period

 Thoth-Hamadryas
Figure 3. (left) The Egyptian god Thoth portrayed as a quartzite sculpted baboon; (right) Hamadryas baboon Papio hamadryas. A male in captivity, Tierpark Hellabrunn, Munchen, Germany.

Few specimens of apes from Africa and Asia arrived in Europe during the early modern period, allowing confused speculation as to the nature of these animals to grow. Some knowledge of apes and monkeys was known from antiquity in Europe from their connections to India, Egypt, and North Africa. But much of this knowledge was understood through hearsay, influenced by speculation from mythology and sometimes imaginative illustrations.7

In the 16th century one of the best illustrated works on zoology was Conrad Gesner’s Historia Animalium, first published in 1551. This book depicted many exotic animals with remarkable accuracy, including monkeys and apes. Mixed in with these was an illustration of a large monkey (Cercopithecus) that was a virtual copy of Breydenbach’s image of 1486, a long-tailed monkey standing with the stature and form of a man with human-like arms and legs, holding a staff and leading a camel (figure 2). Gesner referred to his drawing as a hairy satyr with human-like form. The words underneath Breydenbach’s drawing “Non constat de noĩe [nomine]” implied there was no agreement about the name of the animal.8 Breydenbach’s image was possibly derived from an ancient Egyptian iconography of the god Thoth, sometimes portrayed as a baboon with a staff.9 It may also be a rather poor illustration of the hamadryas baboon (Papio hamadryas) (figure 3). Gesner also used the testimony of ancient Greek scholars such as Megasthenes, who referenced observations of monkeys in India, and like Breydenbach illustrated his drawing with the face of an ape.10

orang-outang
Figure 4. From left to right: (a) Tulp’s drawing of his orang-outang in Observationes Medicae 1652; (b) Aldrouandi’s female Homo sylvestris—foemina cinnaminiae gentis in Monstrorum Historia 1642; (c) Bondt’s drawing of an orang outang in Account of the Diseases, Natural History… 1658; (d) Hoppius’ TROGLODYTA Boentii in Anthropomorpha, 1763.

In the early 17th and 18th centuries apes and monkeys from various continents were collectively known as orang-outang, with much speculation as to their origins. Dutch anatomist, Nichalaas Tulp, had the opportunity to examine either a chimpanzee or bonobo that had been brought back on a trading ship, most likely from Angola, but with doubt as to its origin. This was a gift for the pleasure of the Prince of Orange, Frederick Henry. Tulp referred to this animal as an orang-outang (from the Malay language) or Homo sylvestris. He gave the specimen the name Satyrus indicus, thus adding some confusion regarding its true nature, but evidently with influence from Pliny’s description. The image (figure 4a) appeared in Observationes Medicae, sometimes referred to as a book of monsters because of its graphical depiction of various physical disorders, published in 1652.11 Another book of monsters was published in 1642 by Ulysses Aldrouandi entitled Monstrorum Historia. Aldrouandi depicted (as male and female) the Cinnaminiae gentis, a dark-coloured human being covered in hair, which he described as “hominum sylvestrium”; that is wild man of the forest (figure 4b). He placed the satyrs in the same group, and depicted various forms including goat-footed and feline forms.

Tysons-Pygmie
Figure 5. Tyson’s Pygmie in Orang-Outang, sive Homo sylvestris…, 1699

Jacob de Bondt (Jacobus Bontius), from his travels to Java, also graphically illustrated an ‘Ourang Outang,’ or wood-man (Homo silvestris) with the characteristics of a hairy human female, remarkably similar to that of Aldrouandi (figure 4c).12 This work was written in 1631, but first published by Willem Piso in 1658, after Bondt’s death, and after Tulp’s account of the chimpanzee. Similar terminology was used for apparently very different creatures by Bondt and Tulp. Bondt claimed to have seen first-hand both sexes walking on two feet, and that the females showed some human emotions and modesty. These beings he likened to the satyrs of Pliny, believing further that they were actually human-ape hybrids. He relayed indigenous claims that they could talk, but merely did not want to out of fear of forced labour, although he likely copied such claims from Richard Jobson’s The Golden Trade (1623).13 Bondt’s sightings, if real, were most probably of the orangutans, but he appears to have borrowed from other authors. More significantly, Jenson noted that Bondt’s drawing, evidently adapted from the images of Aldrouandi, Genser, and Breydenbach, had an extraordinary career as an illustration in zoological literature across Europe, over a period of two centuries.14,9

In England in 1698 Edward Tyson, an anatomist and member of the Royal Society, had an opportunity to dissect an imported chimpanzee, referring to it as a pygmie. He compared his dissection with human anatomy, and existing knowledge gained from studies of apes (albeit not especially accurate ones). He concluded that his specimen was probably the closest possible link between ape and man. He thought it was able to walk upright, had speech organs similar to humans, and a sizeable brain, but at the same time it was still an animal because there was no evidence that it was capable of speech.

Mandrill
Figure 6. William Smith’s Mandrill in A New Voyage of Guinea, 1744
“… that tho’ our Pygmie has many Advantages above the rest of it’s [sic] Species, yet I still think it but a sort of Ape and a meer [sic] Brute; and as the Proverb has it…, An Ape is an Ape, tho’ finely clad [emphasis in original].”15

His colleague, William Cowper, graphically portrayed it with some human-like appearance standing with a stick (figure 5). But the overall view of Tyson was that the orang-outangs and pygmies were animals and not human, despite drawing comparisons between the two. In fact, he wrote that all claims of strange creatures from ancient Greece were probably sightings of apes or monkeys, and that conclusion should have been the end of the matter for science.

“I shall accordingly endeavour to make it appear, that not only the Pygmies of the Ancients, but also the Cynocephali, and Satyrs and Sphinges were only Apes or Monkeys, not Men, as they have been represented.”16

Unfortunately, by calling his specimen a pygmy he blurred the distinction between apes and humans. The pygmy seems to have been understood from antiquity as a tribe of dwarf humans. And the accuracy of his work was called into question by Peter Camper (discussed below). The later drawing of the mandrill by William Smith (A New Voyage of Guinea, 1744), also helped to keep alive belief in human-like creatures that lived in the forest through the 18th century (figure 6).

Linnaeus

The connection between apes and human beings was strengthened by Linnaeus’ developing classification from 1735 to 1758.17 He considered that his endeavour, as a believer in special creation, was to function as a second Adam in naming animals and plants, and placing them within an intelligently designed plan. His plan was however influenced by the Aristotelian great-chain-of-being in which there could be no missing links. It was a hierarchical system and not evidence of an evolutionary progression, but he believed there were designed “missing links” between apes and human beings; links that he intended to identify.

Controversially, in his 1758 classification the genus Homo was placed within the Primate order, and broken down into two subgenera, which were Homo diurnus and Homo nocturnus (Homo troglodytes). The latter included the orang-outang as described by Bondt, and other apes and chimpanzees. The orang-outang or Homo sylvestris was said by Linnaeus to only come out at night, was covered in white hair and possessed a cat-like third eyelid (Membrana nictitante). He repeated claims by Bondt and Kjoep that it could even speak, but only with a hissing tone.18

Homo diurnus was subdivided into Homo sapiens, Homo monstrosus, and Homo ferus, thus including separate references to feral children and severely disabled human beings. But the more controversial aspect of this plan was placing monkeys and apes within the genus Homo, thus seemingly removing the distinction between animals and man, with loss of the uniqueness of man as the divine image bearer.19 In his thinking, the divine image in man was an invisible spiritual quality, while his classification scheme stressed anatomical similarities between apes and man without reference to sacred texts.

At this time exaggerated popular references to imaginary beasts were still informing science, and the uniqueness of human beings was being undermined by naturalistic commitments in science. John Locke had considered that attempts at classifying human beings were often arbitrary and based upon inadequate subjective criteria, although he recognised the uniqueness of human language and the distinctiveness of complex reasoning.20 But the separation of mankind from the other animals using only natural means became very problematic within the context of naturalism, especially when physical or mental defects, that may limit stature or rational ability, were considered.

Linnaeus’ scheme was illustrated further in 1760 by four images presented under the title Anthropomorpha by Linnaeus’ student Christian Emmanuel Hoppius as part of his academic dissertation (figure 1).21 The term Anthropomorpha was, incidentally, first coined in 1693 by John Ray to denote ‘nail bearing’ or ‘anthropoid’ animals, although humans were excluded by Ray because of his belief in the sacredness of humanity.22 Hoppius’ dissertation was overseen and published by Linnaeus, which suggests it reflected Linnaeus’ view regarding these entities, as Thomas Huxley later suggested.23 From left to right the illustrations gradually become more ape-like: with increasing crouch, an increasingly ape-like head, and more ape-like hands and feet (figure 1). They were named: TROGLODYTA Boentii, LUCIFER Aldrouandi, SATYRUS Tulpii, and PYGMAEUS Edwardi. While the Hoppius’ drawings were not considered to be an evolutionary progression by Linnaeus, the images seem to have been falsely and imaginatively modified from earlier drawings to fit into his scheme.

Chimpanzee-Hoppius
Figure 7. (left) Chimpanzee engraving by Scotin II, 1738 (British Museum collection); (right) Hoppius’ SATYR Tulpii in Anthropomorpha, 1763—note the more human-like face.

The first image on the left (figure 1) was called TROGLODYTA Boentii. This image was modified from Bondt’s imaginary impression of the orang-outang; a forest-dwelling creature that he considered to be an ape-human cross-breed. Hoppius modified Bondt’s impression to give it shorter hair (figure 4). Brown suggests Bondt’s image was influenced by Gessner’s drawing of 1551 in Historiae Animalium, and Breydenbach’s sketch of 1486 in Pilgrimage to the Holy Land, although there is also some commonality with Aldrouandi’s work. Linnaeus considered that this creature was a species of Homo nocturnus.24

The second image from the left (figure 1) was entitled LUCIFER Aldrouandi, primarily influenced by Gesner and Breydenbach’s drawings (figure 2). However, the given name is perhaps a reference to a 1637 copy by Aldrouandi.25 The earlier drawing of Breydenbach was most probably that of a baboon: Brown suggests that Breydenbach’s image is possibly derived from ancient Egyptian iconography of Thoth, often portrayed as a baboon with a staff.7 Hoppius referred to it as a cat-tailed person, and Aldrouandi’s image does contain feline features, as also did one of Aldrouandi’s satyrs in Monstrorum Historia. Linnaeus considered it to be Homo caudatus; a tailed third species of man.26 The clearly ape-like face and feet of the earlier drawings have been modified by Hoppius into a more human-like impression, and was used to fit Linnaeus’ scheme. So, Breydenbach’s baboon became almost human.

The third image from the left (figure 1) SATYR Tulpii is adapted from an engraving by Gérald Jean Baptise Scotin’s II, clearly marked as a chimpanzee in 1738 (figure 7). The graphic impression drawn by Hoppius depicts more humanlike features, but without the teacup. Linnaeus considered it might be the species Satyrus sylvestris.

The fourth image on the right (figure 1) is PYGMAEUS Edwardi, which is a copy of George Edwards Man-of-the-Woods (figure 8).27 This is a drawing of the animal that Tyson had described, which he noted was known as the chimpanzee from Africa. Edwards thought he could offer a more accurate drawing, but also relayed reports of satyrs or orang-outangs from Asia, which he speculated might be more human-like than his chimpanzee.

Comte de Buffon and Lord Monboddo

Edwards--man-of-the-woods
Figure 8. (left) Edward’s man-of-the-woods, in Gleanings of Natural History, 1758; (right) Hoppius’ drawing of PYGMAEUS Edwardi, in Anthropomorpha, 1763.

Buffon challenged Linnaeus’ views on the basis of his own study of apes, possessing a live specimen from Africa (called Jocko or Enjocko from the Congo), but he relied upon the reports of travellers for the large orang-outang from Asia (this animal he called Pongo).28 His Jocko did not speak, not even in a hissing tone, and displayed no more intelligence than a well-trained dog, despite having some superficial similarity to humans.29 Because Linnaeus also relied on reports from Bondt and Kjoep, Buffon doubted that sightings of the large orang-outang had been made accurately, or speculated that the creature with its white skin and hair was an African albino.

Buffon’s study was apparently set against an evolutionary connection between humankind and the apes, and he appeared to have maintained a distance between humanity and the rest of the animal realm. He considered the capacity for human reason and complex language to be a spiritual endowment from God, and this could not be acquired naturally. He was also open to acceptance of some evolutionary change among certain living organisms over extended periods of time. But such differences he thought were possibly due to degeneration from the original perfect forms: for instance, he considered that the donkey may have been a degeneration of the horse.30 However, Darwin found Buffon difficult to understand and thought his views often “fluctuated greatly” during his lifetime.31 Buffon was of course concerned to protect his reputation and position at the Jardin du Roi in Paris, and was perhaps guarded in expressing his actual beliefs in relation to evolution. Other writers in France in the early and mid-18th century, such as de Maillet and Diderot, were expounding the possibility of some forms of evolution.32

In the late 18th century Lord Monboddo was more determined to identify an evolutionary link between humans and apes. He practised as a judge in Scotland, and was otherwise known as James Burnett (1714–1799) (figure 9). Monboddo was influenced by the Greek philosophers, and he argued that the Aristotelian great chain of being should extend from apes to man via a gradual process of evolution. He continued to accept the accounts of travellers regarding the orang-outang, and with credulity the existence of the strange Plinean beings from the ancient world. He was mocked for suggesting men once had tails. His arguments were put forward in two volumes: Of the origin and progress of language (1773–1792), and Antient Metaphysics (1779– 1799). Therefore, he rejected the evidence-based opinion of Tyson and Buffon that apes and human beings were clearly different and separately created entities. Monboddo maintained, without evidence, that apes and monkeys possessed a rudimentary language, thus reinforcing the link to mankind and worked doggedly in support of his position.6

He also speculated that early man had lived peaceably close to nature and had a primitive language. To support his view, he proposed a number of experiments and studied several accounts of feral children. Monboddo’s acquaintance, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, had earlier argued for the social evolution of mankind from a state of nature, with early man living in blissful ignorance like the apes. However, Rousseau was less willing to argue for the biological evolution of mankind, believing that early man had the present physical form even though only possessing animal-like mental capacities.33

Monboddo also rejected anatomical studies by Peter Camper that found no evidence of speech organs on the orang-outang—this on the basis that Camper’s animals came from Borneo and not from the place of Tyson’s specimen (probably Angola).34 Camper’s conclusions were significant in view of the fact that he had dissected a good number of animals in his work. Camper commented:

“Having dissected the whole organ of voice in the Orang, in apes, and several monkies, I have a right to conclude, that Orangs and apes are not made to modulate the voice like men: for the air passing by the rima glottidis is immediately lost in the ventricles or ventricle of the neck, as in apes and monkies, and must consequently return from thence without any force and melody within the throat and mouth of these creatures: and this seems to me the most evident proof of the incapacity of Orangs, apes, and monkies, to utter any modulated voice, as indeed they never have been observed to do.”

Camper was also critical of earlier anatomical studies by Tyson, concluding he had overlooked the significance of the detail of the voice organs.

Summary

It is evident that beliefs stemming from antiquity regarding the existence of mythical creatures continued into the early modern period, despite clear statements of caution from Augustine. Popular superstition and mythology filtered into the minds of many academics when faced with new, but limited numbers of primate specimens from Africa and Asia. These were depicted through sometimes poor drawings, which reinforced error through several centuries. Tyson’s analysis from the late 17th century showed that there was a clear distinction between apes and human beings, and he argued persuasively that many of the claims from ancient times were most probably sightings of apes and monkeys. Such rational thinking should have clarified matters for science, although Tyson’s work left an opportunity for confusion, and was later criticised by Camper.

James-Burnett
Figure 9. Caricature of James Burnett, also known as Lord Monboddo (1714–1799), by John Kay, in Knight W.A. Lord Monboddo and Some of His Contemporaries, London, J. Murray, 1900.

Further confusion arose through Linnaeus’ classification scheme which placed human beings within the Primate order, alongside apes and monkeys which were classified within the subgenus Homo nocturnus. This classification was reinforced by the embellished drawings of Hoppius, arguably one of the first imaginative ape-to-man march-of-progress drawings. Although Linnaeus believed in special creation, it was a few years later that Lord Monboddo argued for an evolutionary connection between the apes and human beings.

It is noteworthy that speculation from travellers and popular mythology from antiquity was still informing scientific discourse into the 18th century, and this arguably laid some of the ground work for later acceptance of Darwinian evolution. But the best evidence-based scientific studies from Buffon and Camper showed a clear demarcation between human beings and the other animals. Buffon recognised the important distinctions of intelligence and language, and commented that apes showed no more intelligence than a well-trained dog, although Buffon was sometimes ambiguous in his beliefs. Camper clarified from anatomical studies that apes and monkeys are incapable of speech.

When Darwin and Huxley resurrected the evolutionary link in the 19th century, it was on the basis of comparative brain physiology. Belief in evolution also fed upon an undercurrent of popular mythology that there existed missing links between apes and men, but the search for the missing links soon passed from the present to the fossil record.

References and notes

  1. Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, in: Mayhoff, K.F.T. (Ed.), Lipsiae, Teubner, book VII, chap. 2, para. 23–27, 1906. He also called them Choromandarum, meaning dance-master. Return to text.
  2. See for instance the account of Satyrs given by West, M.L., Indo-European Poetry and Myth, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 292–294, 2007. Return to text.
  3. Augustine, City of God, XVI, chap. 8—Whether certain monstrous races of men are derived from the stock of Adam or Noah’s sons, and chap. 9—Whether we are to believe in the Antipodes; in: Schaff, P. (Ed.), Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, series 1, vol. 2., T&T Clark, Edinburgh, 1979.. Return to text.
  4. Augustine, ref. 3. Return to text.
  5. Meir S., The Shaolin monastery: History, religion, and the Chinese martial arts, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, pp. 92–93, 2008. Return to text.
  6. Blancke, S., Lord Monboddo’s ourang-outang and the origin and progress of language; in: Pina, M. and Gontier, N. (Eds.), The Evolution of Social Communication in Primates: A multidisciplinary approach, Springer Int. Publ., Switzerland, pp. 31–44, 2014. Return to text.
  7. Brown, L., Homeless Dogs & Melancholy Apes: Humans and other animals in the modern literary imagination, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York and London, 2010. Return to text.
  8. See: Davies, H.W., Bernhard Von Breydenbach and His Journey to the Holy Land 1483–1484: A bibliography, Haentjens Dekker and Gumber, p. xxvi & 42., 1968. Breydenbach also drew the ape beneath a unicorn, which calls into question the authenticity of all the other sightings. Return to text.
  9. Brown, ref. 7, p. 33. Return to text.
  10. Gesneri, C., Medici Tigurini Historiae Animalium, book 1, De Quadru pedibus uiuiparis, Christoph Froschoverum, Tiguri, Zurich, p. 970, 1551. Gesner attributes these discoveries to the ancient Greek historian Megasthenes—the large monkeys came from Prasiana Indorum (Sindh, India) (de simiis sive cercopithecis Prasianis et aliis magnis). Return to text.
  11. Tulp, N., Observationes Medicae, Medicarum Libri III, chap. 56, Ludovic Elzevir, Amsterdam, pp. 283–291, 1652. Return to text.
  12. Bontius, J., An Account of the Diseases, Natural-History and Medicines of the East Indies, trans. from the Latin of James Bontius, London, T. Noteman, London, p. 284–285, 1769 (first written prior to 1631, but published in Latin in 1658 by Willem Piso, after Tulp’s account). Aldrouandi, U., Monstrorum Historia, Nicolai Tebaldini, Bologna, p. 20, 1642. Return to text.
  13. See Brown, ref. 7, p. 33, with quotes from Jobson, R., The Golden Trade, London, Nicholasp Okes, p, 153, 1623. Jobson relays favourably the opinion of the Spaniards that the Babowne may be considered “a race and kind of people, who in regard they will not bee brought to worke, and live under subjection, refuse to speake … .” Return to text.
  14. Janson, H.W., Ape and Ape Lore: In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Warburg Inst. University of London, London, pp. 333–335, 1952. Return to text.
  15. Tyson, E., Orang-Outang, sive Homo sylvestris: or the anatomy of a Pygmie compared with that of a monkey, an ape, and a man. To which is added, a philological essay concerning the pygmies, the cynocephali, the satyrs, and sphinges of the Ancients. Wherein it will appear that they are all either apes or monkeys, and not men, as formerly pretended, London, p. 82, 1699. Proverb is from Lucian, adversus indoctum, Oper. p. m. 865. Return to text.
  16. Tyson, ref. 15, p. 2. Return to text.
  17. Linneaus C., Systema Naturae, 10th edn., Laurentii Salvii, Stockholm, 1758; Chazan, M., The meaning of Homo sapiens; in: Corbey, R. and Theunissen, B. (Eds.), Ape, man, apeman: changing views since 1600, Department of History of Leiden University, Leiden, 1995. Return to text.
  18. Linnaeus. ref 17, p. 24. Return to text.
  19. Corbey, R., The Metaphysics of Ape: Negotiating the animal-human boundary, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 43–49, 2005. Return to text.
  20. Locke, J., An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, book III, chap. VI, 27th edn, Tegg and Sons, London, p. 329, 1836. Discussed by Douthwaite, J.V., The Wild Girl, Natural Man and the Monster, University of Chicago Press, Chicago & London, 2002. Return to text.
  21. Hoppius, C.E., Academic Dissertation Anthropomorpha (1760), in Amoenitates Academicae, vol. 6, Publ. by C. Linnaeus, Laurentii Salvii, Stockholm, pp. 63–76. 1763. Return to text.
  22. Ray, J., Synopsis methodica animalium quadrupedum et serpentini generis, S. Smith & B. Watson, St Paul’s Cemetery, London, pp. 148–155, 169; See Brown, ref. 7, p. 32. Return to text.
  23. Huxley, T.H., Evidence as to Man’s Place in Nature, D. Appleton & Co., New York, p. 22, 1863. Return to text.
  24. von Breydenbach, B., Peregrinatio in Terram Sanctum (Pilgrimage to the Holy Land), Published by Pablo Hurus, p. 172, 1498 (first published 1486). Breydenbach also drew a picture of the devil, in conversation with Jesus, which is similar to his ape. Also see Huxley, ref. 23, p. 23. Return to text.
  25. Aldrouandi, U., De Quadrupedibus Digitatis Viviparis, book II, Apud Nicolaum Tebaldinum, p. 249, 1637. Return to text.
  26. Huxley, ref. 23, p. 23. Return to text.
  27. Edwards, G., Gleanings of Natural History, Royal College of Physicians, Warwick-Lane, London, chap. III, plate 213, pp. 6–8, 1758. Return to text.
  28. de Buffon, C., The Natural History of Quadrupeds, trans. from French, vol. 3., Thomas Nelson & Peter Brown, Edinburgh, pp. 272–308, 1830. Return to text.
  29. Blancke, ref. 6, pp. 31–44. Classification from Linneaus, C., Systema Naturae, 10th edn, Laurentii Salvii, Stockholm, 1758. Return to text.
  30. Caponi, G., The discontinuity between humans and animals in Buffon’s Natural History, trans. Catherine Jagoe, Hist. cienc. saude-Manguinhos 24(1), Jan./Mar. 2017. Return to text.
  31. Darwin C., On the Origin of Species, 4th edn, John Murray, London p. xiii, 1866. Return to text.
  32. See for instance Bergman, J., Did Darwin plagiarize his evolution theory? J. Creation 16(3):58–63, 2002; Taylor, I., In the Minds of Men, TFE Publishing, Foley, MN, pp. 45–47, 2008. Return to text.
  33. Bertram, C., Jean Jacques Rousseau; in: Zalta, E.N. (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Summer 2017, edn, plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2017/entries/rousseau/. Return to text.
  34. Camper, P., Account of the organs of speech of the Orang Outang—in a letter to Sir John Pringle, Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. LXIX:139–59, 1779. Return to text.

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Readers’ comments

Eddie C.
It is curious that of all the creatures that God created, the primates do have physical similarities to us that we do not find in other mammals. They also have cognitive capabilities that exceed most other mammals (though not all). Another curiosity is that they are not highly domesticated like dogs, cats, and other creatures. While some people do own pet monkeys, we don't see monkey's often being trained to help and assist humans like dogs, horses, and other domesticated creatures. One of the questions I have always thought I would ask God is, what was the original purpose of the primates? I often wonder if they were created to assist man in some way that we have never been able to fully understand in the fallen world. Dogs can do so much for us, but imagine having a creature with an extra pair of hands and great relative strength to be able to assist us. The bottom line is primates do share features with us that no other creatures share and I don't believe God does anything without purpose. I don't for a second believe that we were once like them, but I do think that their physical characteristics were made with a purpose in mind that could have been of great benefit to man.
Thomas R.
It would be nice to see a historical review of Jewish culture where scientific development is concerned, along these same lines.
In their artwork, they are distinctly different than almost all other cultures during antiquity and more ancient eras.
The point being, of course, to demonstrate how pagan culture has influenced science and philosophy, where the lack of pagan influence - and presence of divine creation - deters the growth of such grotesque “scientific mythology”.
Christian R.
Do you think it would be fair to say that early creationists (e.g. Linnaeus) predicted the existence of mosaic creatures between modern apes and humans? If so, this would be quite extraordinary. Evolutionists often make a big deal about how they have been able to predict the future discoveries of intermediate forms (Tiktaalik being the most well-known example). However, the fact that Linnaeus predicted the existence of a mosaic between modern apes and humans, which were later discovered in the form of the bipedal australopithecines, would be another testable prediction we can add to the lengthy list of accomplishments to the biblical worldview.
Tas Walker
Creationists would expect a clear break between animals and humans based on Genesis 1 and 2. And that is what we find. See e.g. The myth of ape-to-human evolution. As we would expect, Tiktaalik has been celebrated as the perfect intermediate form but this all changed when they discovered tetrapod footprints long before Tiktaalik. We have to be very careful not to just swallow the evolutionary bait that is proclaimed in the media. Things turn out to be quite different from the evolutionary claims and we need to do independent checking.
Phillip C.
In response to Eddie C., I would say that mankind has found some use for monkeys and great apes even if they're not as broadly useful as our truly domesticated animals. In Asia, macaques have been tamed and selectively bred to harvest coconuts because they can climb trees faster than any human and can pick coconuts quickly, too. Apparently, the males are the most efficient coconut pickers. It's a darn shame their masters often treat them brutally. Other than scientific experimentation and the pet trade, I can't think of any other examples that come to mind of monkey or great ape usefulness. However, as my example illustrates some people have already found some use for them.
Courtney K.
In response to Eddie C. and Phillip C., there is actually an organization called Helping Hands for people with mobility issues that trains capuchin monkeys for many years, and places them in homes for free. According to their website, the advantage of having a monkey as a service animal is that they live longer, and have better dexterity and fine motor skills. I think that primates are useful because they can replicate human tasks far better than other animal groups. I saw a video of a monkey smoking a cigarette at a zoo. I also saw an orangutan washing clothes in the river. It's like they say: "monkey see, monkey do." It's easy to forget that the fossil record is flung monkey scat and the genetics don't work out. But I think that's maybe how we were raised into thinking that is creeping in. It's like the statisticians say, "correlation does not imply causation."
Travis M.
I understand and agree with the overall point of the article. I would only add that it may not be correct to presume that early descriptions and depictions of apes as walking upright or being more humanlike were inaccurate or the products of classical mythology. Yes, it would be inaccurate to depict a chimpanzee or an orangutang as walking upright, but we know there were many species of apes that are now extinct that would have had a more human-like appearance or stance than the remaining species today. Presuming a young-earth creationist view, we would have every reason to believe that some of these extinct ape species may not have been extinct in some wild places 500 or 2,000 years ago. When the ancients were describing a “wild man of the woods” as something of a human looking animal, that may have simply been them describing a then living but now extinct species of upright walking ape. At the least, we shouldn’t assume that every ancient depiction of an ape or monkey that was based on a real animal must have been one of the species we know today. An evolutionist would be bound by that presumption because of the time frames they’re working with for X or Y species’ date of extinction relative to the era of man. A young-earth creationist isn’t bound by those presumptions. An ancient’s “wild man” may have been an australopithecus or similar extinct ape described somewhat accurately instead of a modern quadruped ape described inaccurately.

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