On trace of Almas

by Zhugderiin Damdin

I feel that my intention ¾ to tell about book “On trace of Almas” by Mongolian hominoid researcher Zhugderiin Damdin ¾ is something piquant because this book, as far as I know, was never in fact published. The manuscript in Mongolian was transferred to Professor B.F. Porshnev on his request in 1967, and apparently had been left by him without action. The manuscript, as it was found out later, was of remarkable volume (6 chapters on 312 typewritten pages with 124 photos and 7 figures) and described 4 expeditions of the author for search of Almas through Mongolian Altai in 1962-65. It is not known where the manuscript is now. We have now only the reduced translation into Russian of the most important first four chapters of the manuscript fulfilled by N.Munkuev. They contain descriptions of Damdin’s expeditions. This translation is now accessible to readers in the form of Internet-edition on this site. Certainly, absence of photos and pictures is the significant loss for researchers of hominoid problem as they often give more information than descriptions by words. But available materials also show featured achievements of Damdin’s expeditions.

I will narrate a fragment from the book about the most important result of the expeditions which is unique till now, namely, about finding of genuine skull of contemporary hominoid.

At first Damdin had revealed a person who some time before had found full corpse of hominoid. The man, Amardzargan Choidzoo, told him, that it happened at July 26 in 1953 about 10 AM at morning. He was riding on a camel near mountain Almasyn Ulan (in vicinity of southwest slopes of Bajanondor mountain were in old times sacred religious ceremonies occurred). There in a ravine he saw between two saxaul trees something grayish. Moving ahead and nearer to it Choidzoo come to a corpse of a hominoid animal, very big and covered by hair. In spite of that he was very disturbed by an unexpected find Choidzoo approached and examined it closely. The animal laid on a side. One hand, a leg and head were raised. The corpse was extremely similar to human, but it could belong neither to Mongols, nor to Russians, nor to Chinese, nor to Kazakhs. Choidzoo understood that the creature in front of him was not human.

The animal obviously was dead for a long time. Its head was large, the neck ¾ thick, hands and legs were long. Hair on its head was long, other parts of its body were covered by shorter hair. Hair was mixed with fine sand. All hair was brown. Armpits and stomach in low part had rare hair. The leather in groin, armpits and other similar places had dried up look and wrinkled, like belts from a leather of a fallen camel. The parts of hair were separated from body and scattered by wind on sand. Near to the corpse there were no things that peoples use.

When Choidzoo saw the corpse that was neither human, nor animal, but so terrible, he thought about devils and malicious ghosts. He became so frightened that did not tell about it either wife, or children. Nevertheless, he told about a strange corpse to a chairman of administration and to some other people. Due to strong feeling of fear he remembered well time and other details of the corpse.

Damdin had known about the corpse in 1962. Together with Choidzoo and some colleagues he started to the place, but for the first time they found no remnants of the corpse. The landscape changed since time of the finding.

After the end of the first expedition and Damdin departure, Choidzoo with help of agriculture station chief Chimitdordzh and some other persons again decided to find the corpse. They nevertheless found out the skull in the place near mountains Almasyn Ulan. Its photo was in the manuscript. The corpse, obviously, had been eaten by predators or carried away by a stream. So they found the skull only.

In second expedition next year Damdin together with Chimitdordzh, Choidzoo and other assistants continued careful searches of remnants. They explored district with interval of 10 m one from another. At 3 m from the place where the skull was found they dug out four hair bunches. The hair was black-brown and 18-31 cm long. Following down a stream they dug out also a bunch of similar hair. It was 36 cm long. They dug out over 10 bunches of hair altogether.

The skull has been transferred to Mongolian Academy of sciences.

In posted translation many witnesses tell about their observations. They saw both adult Almases and their children. It testifies that contemporary Almas population in Western Mongolia is viable.

The further fortune of Damdin’s book is quite mysterious. Numerous questions arise about it, and first of all: what was real attention of B.F.Porshnev to the manuscript, whether he made attempts to translate and publish it, what was asked by the author? With them I addressed to veterans of relic hominoid researches that worked with Porshnev.

J.-M. Kofman: "Presence of this book is surprising and quite new for me. Within decades Boris Fedorovich and me supported friendly and working contacts. When I was not absent in an expedition, we called up practically every day. He never told me about it and I cannot explain now, why".

Dina Vinogradova had said me the same.

I.D. Burtsev: "I saw this manuscript after Boris Fedorovich's death and even used one of pictures from it (pose of sleeping hominoid) in a publication. Then I gave it either to E.B. Zeligman, or to M.G. Bykova".

D.Yu. Bayanov: "I know, that such book was present but did not work with it".

A.I. Burtseva: "I do not have this manuscript".

E.B. Zeligman and M.G. Bykova are both now late. Whether the original manuscript is safe and where it can be, it still is unknown for me.

It remains unknown still who has ordered the translation to N. Munkuev and when. I do not know also, whether was N. Munkuev one of hominoid researchers at that time, who knew Mongolian, or he was a professional interpreter. Also, whether this translation was known to Porshnev and he ignored it, or it was made after his leave?

Last question is especially important, for we know from the book "In defense of troglodytes" about Porshnev's energetic activity in search for objects connected with hominoids. For example, for dried hands allegedly kept by a family in Central Asia. But here was a whole hominoid skull in friendly Mongolia where he easily can to visit.

Last years I tried to find by correspondence where this skull could be now. Son of professor Rinchen, paleontologist academician Rinchen Barsbold had informed me in a letter, that he heard from his father that the skull was sent to Poland. The present place of the skull is now unknown. J.-M. Kofman indirectly confirmed this possibility, having told me, that professor Rinchen often had a rest and medical treatment in Poland. There he had scientific colleagues and friends. Probably, the skull till now is there in some collection. Where now the found hair of the dead hominoid may present is unknown at all.

However, what then happened with finds of the expeditions, does not belittle merits of Zhugderiin Damdin, who not only received brilliant results, but also wrote the book about his travels. Unfortunately, it also has not found right way either to wide, or to scientific community. It was not published in the USSR, my searches in Internet have not shown, that it was ever published in Mongolia too.

The present Internet edition of available reduced translation is aimed to remedy the state in some possible way.

Michael Trachtengerts
February 2007.

Full text of the translation in Russian is posted on this site