The Mythology of Indonesia- Ebu Gogo

The Mythology of Indonesia-    Ebu Gogo

The Island of Flores

Recently, skeletal remains were found on the Island of Flores in Indonesia.  These remains are named Homo floresiensis and carry the nicknames Flo, Flores Man or the hobbit.  Of course, the hobbit title comes from the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien and the presumed statue of the living version of Homo floresiensis estimated at 1.1 meters in height.  It seems as if science can’t agree on the age of these remains.  At one time it was estimated they were 12,000 years old, then 50,000 then 60,000 to 100,000 years old. Interestingly enough, stone tools also found with the bones could range anywhere from 190,000 to 50,000 years ago. 

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I know this, every time I take my children to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. and look at the timeline wall with all the partial skulls of human type creatures that walked this earth before us, I can’t help but think we don’t know history like we think we do. Scientists with grand educations and upper-level degrees argued if this new discovery constituted a modern humanoid species. 

Theories range from a stopping point on the migration trail of Homo Erectus to the Ebu Gogo.  Insular dwarfism seems to be the prevailing theory as to why Homo Floresiensis is the size it is. This theory follows Foster’s rule or island rule.

The complete skull of Homo Floresiensis is labeled “LB1.”  Some researchers believed the owner of LB1 had the condition of Down’s Syndrome.  I found this statement so absurd I had to research it. The oldest case of possible, yet unconfirmed, Down’s Syndrome is from 5200 BC.  The next seems to be a 9-year-old child who lived between 700-900 AD.  Anyway, this notion of LB1 having Down’s Syndrome has been disproven in a critical evaluation by Karen L. Baab, Peter Brown, Dean Falk, Joan T. Richtsmeier, Charles F. Hildebolt, Kirk Smith and William Jungers.  All this information brings us to the question of the Ebu Gogo and the lore surrounding it.

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This brings us to the tale of the Ebu Gogo. Ebu Gogo loosely translates to “a grandmother that eats anything” and is a part of the folklore of the Nage people on the island of Flores.  Legend has it these humanoid type creatures of short stature lived in the rain forest of Flores Island in Indonesia.  They stand approximately 1.5 meters in height and are covered with hair. They have a rudimentary language of their own but easily parrot another language. They are omnivores which do not or cannot cook their food.  It has been rumored they mingled with villagers and even celebrated with them.  They are known for raiding the village crops and at their peak of interaction, stole a village child and presumably ate that child.  

The villagers pursued the Ebu Gogo to a cave. Then they enticed the Ebu Gogo with some reeds for clothing.  The villagers proceeded to toss embers into the cave, igniting the reeds.  All the Ebu Gogo were thought dead from this fiery event.  However, legend has it a pair escaped into the forest and were never seen again.  The legend of the Ebu Gogo remains alive today in the folklore of the Nage.  It is suspected the tales are told to keep children in line. 

Do the discoveries of Homo floresiensis validate the tales of the Ebu Gogo?  There certainly does seem to be parallels between the two.  They would have both sought shelter in a cave and are both short in stature.  One difference would be the discovery of stone tools found within close proximity to the skeletal remains.  The lore surrounding the Ebu Gogo never spoke of the use of tools.

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