Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

THEO PAIJMANS: Singular Race of Human Beings.

Here's an item I found some time ago in a 1853 newspaper (Skateaneles Democrat, June 3, 1853) - and note inter alia the comparison with 'beings from another planet':



'There are now in London two very singular human beings, of a race which has hitherto been very little known to the civilized world. They come from South Africa, where they are called Earthmen.

They are totally distinct from all other known African races—as much as if they had dropped upon this earth from another planet. They are small in size mere pygmies—and unacquainted even with the art of building huts, They shelter themselves in caves and crevices of the earth; when these are wanting they make artificial scoppings on the surface, which they line with leaves and cover with branches. The Hottentots and Bushmen, are the avowed enemies of the Earthmen, and when they meet them will shoot them down like vermin. The poor little defenceless Earthmen have no refuge but holes, trees, or thickets, and the tribe is fast verging to extinction. They are a poor weak people -one of Nature's freaks— and destined not to perpetuate their race. Few colonists have seen them; and although it is known that a few yet linger in the mountains, these are rapidly dying away, and will soon
become a tradition of an elvish African race of old.

The two individuals above mentioned were carried to England from the Cape of Good Hope two or three years ago, and have now become domesticated in an English family. The Morning Chronicle from which we take these particulars, describes these little Earthmen as a boy and a girl, the former fourteen snd the latter sixteen years of age, and "complete little fairies" in appearance. The boy is 3 feet and a half inches in height, the girl a trifle taller. Their skin is of the brightest and most transparent bronze, and as smooth and polished as matble, In form the little creatures are perfect—their delicate limbs standing out in the most graceful symmetry, and
every motion instinct with the untaught ease of nature.

The faces, although decidedly African in feature, are full of sweetness and good humor, and expressive of archness and intelligence.

They are named Martinis and Flora. In their savage state they fed on locusts, ant-eggs, and such small game as they could take. Till they were carried to England they had no ideas of God or any supreme power. At present they have been taught some of the customs of civilized life, and are able to speak little English words, to sing, little English popular airs, and —the first of Earthmen— to play little airs on a piano.

Few sights are more interesting in a thinking person than that of the last of a rate of human beings on the point of being blotted out from the face of the earth. The individuals in question seem to constitute one of the most anomalous forms of our species that have ever yet been brought to the notice of the naturalist or the ethnologist. It is to be hoped that further light will be thrown on their history by scientific researches.'


Anonymous said...

Absolutely fascinating! Martinis and Flora sound like 'Littlefeet', of which Dr Shuker has written on his website.
This raises some tantalizing questions :- who were they living with, what became of them, and where are they buried?
Locating the bodies, or some possession of theirs from which DNA could be extracted,would be one of the greatest Fortean finds ever.
So,the laws of Forteanism being what they are,Ths will probably be the last we ever hear of them !

stevethehydra said...

Wow, this is very intriguing to me - although, of course, it's incredibly difficult to sift through the racism and colonialism to get to the truth. Descriptions of "exotic" people, like those of the disabled people exhibited as circus "freaks", were very often exaggerated - so, for example, these 2 "Earthmen" may have been much younger children described as teenagers to make them seem more freakishly small (as was the case with a lot of dwarf circus performers)...

I thought that they would probably be misnamed Khoi-San (the so-called "Bushmen"), until the mention that "Hottentots and Bushmen" treated them as enemies. Having said that, such terms were extremely vague and unscientific, being based in prejudice and slurring many different ethnic groups together.

They could also have been "pygmy" people from another region of Africa (who were, and in some places, such as DR Congo, still are, persecuted or treated as "inhuman" by other African ethnic groups) and the locality of "South Africa" could be inaccurate.

However, it strikes me that, if this was in London, there is likely to be documentation of it elsewhere than in some obscure local paper (presumably from the US? A Google search for "Skateaneles" turned up only this blog post...) - a lot has been written about the exhibition of African and South American "human zoo exhibits" in the UK, US and Europe (famous cases that come to mind are those of Ota Benga and Saartje Baartman, which names are worth searching for).

Using Occam's razor, i wouldn't jump to an identification as some sort of non-human cryptid. The way they are described makes them sound thoroughly human to me, just members of an ethnic group that was ostracised and stigmatised for physical difference, and then that compounded by the deep-seated "scientific racism" of the colonial era.

Sort of reminds me of some of the stuff about Picts and other pre-Celtic peoples in Britain, in a way...

stevethehydra said...

I did a bit more googling on the names "Martinis" (which apparently, from what i found, is most likely a misprint of "Martinus") and "Earthmen", and found a few PDFs of academic journals which reference these individuals. The consensus seems to be that they were Khoi or San.

The article with the most information on them seems to be this one:

stevethehydra said...

(if that link's too long to work, here's a shortened URL: http://bit.ly/25Q3Eb )