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Sunday, March 07, 2010

LINDSAY SELBY: The Nittaewo

The Nittaewo (sometimes spelt without the 'a' or as 'Nittevo') were said to be a small tribe of small bigfoot- or yeti-type homins. Pliny the Elder mentioned the Nittaewo as a small, hairy tribe of people living in the country of Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka). They lived at the same time as the Veddha.


The Veddha tribe still live, mainly as farmers, on the island of Sri Lanka and their legends say they are responsible for wiping out the Nittaewo roughly 250 years ago. According to the Veddha tradition recorded by Frederick Lewis in 1914, the Nittaewo were approximately three feet (1 metre) tall, the females being shorter than the males. They walked erect, had no tails and were completely naked. Their arms were short and they had talon-like nails; lived in trees, caves and crevices; and caught and ate small animals like the hare, squirrel and tortoise.

They lived in groups of 10 or 20 and their speech was like the twittering of birds. They were said to be exterminated in the late eighteenth century by the Veddhas because both tribes were constantly fighting and the Nittaewo began to take the Veddha’s children. The elders of the Veddhas decided that something had to be done. The Nittaewo were trapped in a cave, which the Veddhas blocked the entrance to with wood and set it ablaze, killing all that remained of the Nittaewo.

In 1887 British explorer Hugh Nevill documented recent tales of the warfare occurring between the Veddhas and the Nittaewo, the Nittaewo being extinct at this point in time. In the 1940s British primatologist W. C. Osman Hill published reports about the Nittaewo. He led an expedition into the region in 1945 and found widespread belief in the Nittaewo still being alive on the island. He concluded that Dubois’s Pithecanthropus erectus of Java, also known as the Java Ape Man, which has since been renamed Homo erectus, matched the traditions and descriptions of the Nittaewo.

Captain A. T. Rambukwella theorised that the Nittaewo may have been a species of Australopithecus, described as small, man-like apes who stood erect and had a bipedal gait. He led an expedition to the Mahalenama area in search of the Nittaewo in May 1963. During an excavation of a cave at Kudimbegala they discovered, at a depth of ten inches (25cms), the vertebrae of a monitor lizard and a piece of a carapace of a star tortoise, both said to be part of the diet of the Nittaewo.

Recently the following came to light:

Dr Salvador Martinez, a Spanish anthropologist, claimed to have had the opportunity to spot the Nittaewo. The encounter took place in Sri Lanka in 1984, though only now has it been made known. The Nittaewo had a human appearance, its body appeared covered with a coat of long hair, and in some areas it showed signs of scabs. Despite the time that had elapsed, the anthropologist remembers that the Nittaewo began to emit unintelligible sounds before fleeing toward the denseness of the forest.

However, people have said he was mistaken and it was simply a local to the area, from a Nomad tribe. In October 2004 the discovery of the fossils of a proposed new species of the genus Homo, Homo floresiensis, from the Indonesian island of Flores, further gave weight to the idea of small human or ape-like species living amongst us in previous times.



* Hill, W. C. Osman (1945). "Nittaewo, an Unsolved Problem of Ceylon." Loris, 4, 251-62, Colombo.
* Lewis Frederick Notes on an exploration in Eastern Uva and Southern Panama Pattu. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Ceylon. 1914
* Nevill Hugh The Nittaewo of Ceylon. The Taprobanian. 1886
* Rambukwella Captain A.T. The Nittaewo - The Legendary Pygmies of Ceylon. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Ceylon, 1963

1 comment:

haritha said...

i lives in sri lanka (ceylon). i know legends about nittaewo. if you wish to know more about this. pls mail me via harithakaushika123@gmail.com