Yeti Footprint

Photo of cast of footprint, Courtesy of UCL Bioanthropology Collection, taken by Maria

About

The “Yeti footprint” is a plaster cast modeled on photographic evidence from the 1951 Mount Everest expedition. The photograph depicted a large footprint imprinted in the snow and for decades remained the key evidence for the existence of the Abominable snowman. This originated the debate on the pages of top-tier science and conservation publications such as Nature or Oryx. One of the renown scientists studying its mystery was a primatologist John Napier, who donated the plaster cast to the UCL Bioanthropology collection alongside his numerous specimens in the 1980s. Finally, the adoption of the DNA sampling technology revealed the footprint’s connection to the Himalayan Brown Bear, based on the collected fur samples. However, the myth of the Yeti remained, and the search expeditions did not halt their efforts to find the creature. Ultimately, the Yeti became the symbol of the unknown force of nature itself, degraded by human activity and escaping one’s reach as the technological intervention expands.

 

Object name

Yeti Footprint

Collection

Napier collection, UCL Anthropology

Date received

October 1983

Catalogue number

PA1230

Dimensions

23 cm x 33.9 cm x 7 cm

Photo of back of cast, Courtesy of UCL Bioanthropology Collection, taken by Maria

Protection

The plaster cast of the Yeti footprint has therefore an interesting, two-fold relationship with the theme of protection. On one side, the photograph it was based on protected the fragile piece of evidence for the Yeti, which soon would have melted in the snow. In fact, John Napier noted down in his personal notes, that upon closer scrutiny it is plausible to say that the footprint had already melted by the time Shipton took a photograph of it, as it did not resemble anything he had ever seen before. On the other hand, the plaster cast can be seen as a physical embodiment of the beliefs and legends circulating through the world of mouth and prompts us to think about the ways in which we can protect them for future generations. 

 

Want to know more?

Numerous witness accounts contributed to the popularity of the Yeti legends, which spread throughout popular culture. In North America, the craze for the Yeti was reflected in films, music videos, and T-shirt prints. On the other side of the world, however, the belief in a Yeti-like creature has been rooted in ancestral rituals and beliefs. In northern Bhutan, a 650km sq Nature Sanctuary has been established, which is a paradise for cryptozoologists and travel enthusiasts. The area houses many rare species, such as the Himalayan Black Bear or Red Pandas, but its primary function is to protect the Yeti. According to the local population, the creature hunts around the Himalayan mountains, and establishing an area untouched by development where it can “roam freely” can be seen as a recognition of their cultural beliefs.

 

Photo of Sanctuary, ( https://www.bhutan.travel/national-park/sakteng-wildlife-sanctuary)

 

Further Reading

If you want to learn more about the Yeti, make sure to check out the book written by a man who searched for it for 60 years: Taylor, D.C. (2017). Yeti – The Ecology of a Mystery. Oxford: Oxford University Press

An interesting article about the legends and beliefs present in cultures all around the world: de Waal Malefijt, A. (1968). Homo Monstrosus. Scientific American, 219(4), pp.112-118.

More information about the protected area in Bhutan: https://www.bhutan.travel/national-park/sakteng-wildlife-sanctuary

And finally, a more thorough analysis of the plaster cast: footprint analysis-1o6ixs2

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