Sixteen hundred hours, or nine and a half weeks, or three and a half months: this is how long it took the Robotics Unit at ISU to perform the 3-D printing of a full-scale model of a Sasquatch, more popularly known as Bigfoot.
Idaho State has been conducting research for the past two decades on the discovery of the legendary creature. Jeffrey Meldrum of the ISU Anthropology Department is conducting the research, and focuses on finding relict hominids and the evolution of bipedalism.
A relict hominoid is an ancient form of ape, and bipedalism means walking upright, which he based on a discovery made in Washington.
“In 1996, I found fresh footprints in Walla Walla, Washington with about 45 tracks,” Meldrum said. “20 years later, I have over 250 footprint casts in my lab.”
These tracks measured out at 14.5 to 15 inches in length. Since then, Meldrum has dedicated himself to debunking the legend and proving the Sasquatch does in fact exist.
Bigfoot has become a media sensation, especially after controversial video footage was released on television in 1967. Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin caught the footage on Oct. 20, 1967, while horseback riding in Bluff Creek, California. They happened to witness what appeared to be a Sasquatch, and the film became an immediate target of analysis. The video has since been called both truthful and a hoax.
While many scientists and anthropologists claim that the creature was indeed a Sasquatch, others have claimed that it is merely a man in an ape costume.
When asked what he thought a Sasquatch was, Meldrum said, “One important thing to stress is that it’s not just one individual creature, because then you would have a monster if it was a single, lone being. I don’t think it is a hybrid cross between this and that.”
The first ancestor of Bigfoot is supposedly a Gigantopithecus, a giant ape that existed in eastern Asia and went extinct two to three hundred thousand years ago. The only remains were discovered in caves across China and Vietnam after being dragged there by porcupines for calcium sustenance. Meldrum’s second hypothesis on Bigfoot’s ancestry is that it is a descendant of an Australopithecus, another extinct species of ape.
However, the creature’s cranial proportions were different from an ape’s and it walked upright. Another philosophy is that a different, unknown species of ape developed upright walking movement and grew larger throughout the years.
Additionally, the infamous idea of a Bigfoot relative is that of the Neanderthal, or cave dweller. Neanderthals are measured to be roughly about 5 feet 4 inches tall, but their brain capacities were larger than modern humans.
“All we’re doing is creating a hypothetical facsimile of what it might look like to convey a notion of the dimensions,” Meldrum said. “First and foremost, it turns out there were other things that we can start to work with on that scale. Instead of starting from scratch we took an existing hominid skeleton, the most complete being a Neanderthal.”
The printing started after Dr. Meldrum agreed to make an appearance on the History Channel, talking about Bigfoot. While studying the Patterson-Gimlin film, researchers took the remains they were permitted to use by the archaeological corporation, Bone Clones, which collects natural history artifacts, and proportioned them to the exact specifications a Sasquatch ought to be.
“They gave us permission to do a 3-D scan on a Neanderthal skeleton they found,” Meldrum said. “We compared that to the Patterson-Gimlin film. We had to widen the shoulders and increase the thickness in the torso. The hips are as wide as the shoulders; the body was built like a tank.”
The model skeleton used in the research was that of a Paranthropus boisei, another type of primate. According to several witnesses of possible Sasquatch sightings, the creature has no neck; this is why researchers analyzed these specific remains.
As it turns out, a Paranthropus boisei has a large jawline and chin, and therefore, covers the neck.
However, before there was printing, there was scanning. The Idaho Virtualization Lab (IVL) located in the Idaho Museum of Natural History completed the scans.
“Their staff, with these expert technicians, is able to use some state-of-the-art equipment to create 3-D models and create a digital model that allows all sorts of manipulation and space to do all sorts of analysis,” Meldrum said. “You can show the animation, the variation, the position of the reflection, extension, or split and the traceability of the foot rather than the imprint of the static prosthetic leg or fake foot.”
The IVL scanned the footprint casts, which revealed the proportions of the body to the feet. It became conclusive that the size of Bigfoot is about eight and a half feet tall.
Much research has gone into the discovery of Bigfoot, and with Meldrum’s research and that of the Anthropology Department at Idaho State University, perhaps one day a further discovery will lead to more information about the creature that has baffled society for decades.