Nittaewo (or Nittevo) were said to be a small tribe of small bigfoot or Yeti type hominids native to Sri Lanka.
Legends of the Veddha tribe, who still farm in Sri Lanka, say they are responsible for wiping out the Nittaewo sometime in the late 18th century. According to the Veddha tradition recorded by Frederick Lewis in 1914, the Nittaewo were approximately three feet (1 metre) tall, the females being shorter than the males. They walked erect, had no tails and were completely naked. Their arms were short, with talon-like nails. They lived in trees, caves and crevices and caught and ate small animals such as hare, squirrel and tortoise. They lived in groups of 10 or 20 and their speech was like the twittering of birds. They fought constantly with the Veddha; when they began to take Veddha children, the Veddha trapped the Nittaewo in a cave and blocked its entrance with a wood fire, killing them all. This account was recorded in 1887 by British explorer Hugh Nevill.
British primatologist W.C. Osman Hill led an expedition into the region in 1945 and found widespread belief in the Nittaewo still being alive on the island. He concluded that Dubois's Pithecanthropus erectus of Java, also known as the Java Man, which has since been renamed Homo erectus, matched the traditions and descriptions of the Nittaewo.
Captain A.T.Rambukwella theorised that the Nittaewo may have been a species of Australopithecus, described as small, man-like non-human apes who stood erect and had a bipedal gait. He led an expedition to the Mahalenama area in search of the Nittaewo in May 1963. During an excavation of a cave at Kudimbegala they discovered, at a depth of ten inches (25 cm), the vertebrae of a monitor lizard and a piece of a carapace of a star tortoise both said to be part of the diet of the Nittaewo.
Dr. Salvador Martinez, Spanish anthropologist, claimed to have seen a Nittaewo in Sri Lanka in 1984, though he did not report the incident for many years. According to him, the Nittaewo had a human appearance; its body appeared covered with a coat of long hair, with signs of scabs in some areas. Martinez remembers that the Nittaewo began to emit unintelligible sounds before fleeing toward the denseness of the forest. However, people have said he was mistaken and it was simply a member of a local nomad tribe.
In October 2004, the discovery of fossils of a proposed new species of the genus Homo, on the Indonesian island of Flores, gave new weight to the possibility of small human or ape-like species living amongst us in recent times.
- Kenneth A. R. Kennedy (2000). God-apes and fossil men: paleoanthropology of South Asia. University of Michigan Press. p. 361.
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- Hill, W. C. Osman (1945). Nittaewo, an Unsolved Problem of Ceylon. Colombo: Loris. pp. 4, 251–62.
- Lewis Frederick Notes on an exploration in Eastern Uva and Southern Panama Pattu. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Ceylon. 1914
- Nevill Hugh The Nittaewo of Ceylon. The Taprobanian. 1886
- Rambukwella Captain A.T. The Nittaewo - The Legendary Pygmies of Ceylon. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Ceylon.1963