The Ebu Gogo Legend
The Ebu Gogo (pronounced abu, rhymes with Paula Abdul) are the main characters in a traditional folk story told by the Nage, a people on Flores Island. As the main characters in the island legends the Ebu Gogo are described as a small, nasty people with a voracious appetite that sometimes included the devouring of the occasional human baby. The Ebu Gogo were said to walk awkwardly and could be heard to murmuring in their own language and were said to be capable of parroting human speech. When they could tolerate the Ebu Gogo no more the Flores islanders drove the small people in the direction of the caves, perhaps near Liang Bau or perhaps they burned the survivors alive. In any case, these stories were probably told to keep truculent Flores children in line in much the same fashion as some western fairy tales are told.
Some scientists believe that the Ebu Gogo folk lore maybe a shared cultural memory of Homo floresiensis but there is no solid evidence to support that theory. However, legends have the Ebu Gogo disappearing about 400 years ago at the time of the arrival of the Dutch and Portuguese explorers. Scientists working on the Homo floresiensis find have also referred to the Ebu Gogo as "Hobbits". Followers of cryptozoology, the pseudoscience that studies legendary animals such as Bigfoot and Sasquatch, are also enamored of the Ebu Gogo legend. So am I, Erik John Bertel, the author of Flores Girl. The idea that the Ebu Gogo maybe a legend dating back to a time when Homo floresiensis shared the island with modern man is challenge to all thinking people. I even have a theory as how they got to Flores Island without a land bridge in my second Novel, Flores Girl: To Hell With Heroes, which will be out Spring 2010.
Stories of a small people, as for example the leprechauns in Ireland, abound in popular folklore. Can the same be said for the Ebu Gogo? For example, many anthropologists feel that shared memories can explain the flood mythologies that are common in almost all Middle-East mythology. In fact, scientists are now looking for a past flood event that can be tied to this mythology and that includes the Bible story of Noah. Who knows, perhaps the Ebu Gogo are integral part of our human mythology, and are a shared memory of the time when two species of humans occupied the planet. In fact, maybe two human species still do and the Ebu gogo are still waiting to be found!
In any case, fans of the Ebu Gogo will find these people coming alive on the pages of Flores Girl: The Children God Forgot. The author, Erik John Bertel is a degreed biologist, and he spent a considerable amount of time researching the Ebu Gogo legend, and reviewing the physical find in the caves on Flores Island in order to make this story come alive. The author even went as far as to contact leading experts in the field of physical anthropology to ensure the accuracy of his depiction of the Ebu Gogo and Homo floresiensis. You won't want to miss reading this amazing account of the discovery of the Ebu Gogo. Be sure to download the free Flores Girl adventure novel here.
The following is an excerpt from the novel where Sarah discusses with Richard the legend of the Ebu Gogo during their dinner:
“Look you know how the legends go about the Ebu Gogo,” said Richard.
Sarah replied, “Yes, I do, how could I not. I've been over it a hundred times. Let's see Ebu Gogo, meaning Grandmothers that eat anything. According to legend they are small hairy people with long arms, about a meter tall and the women have pendulous breasts that they throw over their shoulders or so the local legend goes.”
“Stop it, you're getting me hot,” Richard said.
Sarah continued to talk despite Richard's failed effort at humor. “Flores natives say the Ebu Gogo will eat anything, including raw meat, fruit, vegetables and the occasional human baby. They've been known to make a pest of themselves by raiding the native's crops and they were tolerated by the islanders. That is until the human islander's drew the line at the taking of their babies. The Ebu Gogo were driven away from human habitation and they forced to seek refuge in the caves at Liang Bua. Incidentally, at the very same caves, scientists have found seven dwarf skeletons belonging to Homo floresiensis that date back about 13,000 years ago. The last of the Ebu were seen on the island at the same time the original Dutch colonists arrived. They haven't been seen since.”
Sarah continues. “The question remains: is this a legend or a shared folk memory? All we know is there are at least four university teams scouring Flores looking for them as we speak. But guess what? We are looking on a totally different island that nobody knows about. What do they look like? I haven't a clue but I know that these little critters do vocalize.”
Richard decides to interject. “My guess is that the Ebu Gogo are not particularly hairy and they don't have pendulous breasts, thank goodness for that. I mean after all, I like a natural breast as much as the next man but down to the floor…,” Richard stops short after the eyeing the exasperated look Sarah gives him.
“But I digress. Okay, not much hair, no pendulous breasts nor do they eat everything. There is some truth to the legend in that they are probably omnivores and they enjoy eating a mixed diet very much like our own. Based on the remains at Liang Bua they are about a meter tall, long arms, with sloping foreheads, no chin and a naked skin similar in color to African or dark Indonesian people. Their hands and feet are probably very similar to our own as well. The question is how intelligent are the Ebu Gogo and how did they get from mainland to the islands with the technology on hand?” Richard asked.
The Ebu Gogo in Pop Culture
Not surprisingly a legend as compelling as the Ebu Gogo has found a home in pop culture. Besides playing a prominent role in Flores Girl: The Children God Forgot Novel the Ebu Gogo now have an eclectic rock band named after them. Hailing from Providence Rhode Island, the Ebu Gogo play what they call action/adventure instrumental rock heavily influenced by pop movie culture. Imagine rock music as played by Quentin Tarantino, one of the heroes of modern cinema, and you got a feel for this indie rock band. The Ebu Gogo are fun and worth investigating especially if you have a taste for alternative rock and you can check their music out at their Facebook or MySpace pages.
Homo floresiensis, nicknamed the ‘hobbits’ of human evolution, have been found only on the island of Flores, Indonesia, dating to 95,000 - 17,000 years ago. Are these fossil archaic humans the source of the Ebu Gogo legend on Flores Island and who was its ancestor? When and how did they get to Flores?
Everything we thought we kenw is with the discovery of stone tools on Flores that suggest premodern humans were there a million years ago, at least 120,000 years earlier than previously thought. A research team said they found 45 stone tools in Wolo Sege in the Soa basin in Flores. Led by Adam Brumm at the Center of Archaeological Science in the University of Wollongong in New South Wales, Australia, the researchers used new dating methods and found that the stone tools were about a million years old. "It is now clear, however, in light of the evidence from Wolo Sege, that hominins were present on Flores (a million years ago). This suggests that the non-selective, mass death of Stegondon sondaari and giant tortoise ... could represent a localized or regional extinction," they wrote in their paper. Early on researchers speculated that "Flores man" was thought to be a descendant of homo erectus, who had a large brain, was full-sized and spread out from Africa to Asia about two million years ago. Previous stone tool discoveries showed that a yet unknown early human had arrived on Flores by 880,000 years ago, suggesting that this species might have exterminated some of the Flores’s indigenous animals, including the pygmy elephant-like Stegodon and giant tortoises, which both disappeared at around the same time. The new tool finds imply that some human ancestor, perhaps the Ebu gogo's ancestors coexisted with these animals for much longer and their excessive hunting caused the disappearance of these indigenous species. "Whatever species made it to the island 1 million years ago, it was probably an ancestor of Homo floresiensis", says William Jungers, an anthropologist at Stony Brook University in New York. And one has to ask are they the progenitor of the Ebu gogo legend?
More importantly and more provocatively can the Ebu Gogo or Homo floresiensis stil be alived in a remote corner of Indonesia?