The earliest account in written history of wildmen or Bigfoot was in the Epic of Gilgamesh. And their description were generally hairy, with both human and animal traits. Sound familiar?
Myra Shackley in her book Still Living?, Yeti Sasquatch and the Neanderthal Enigma, argues that the notion of ‘wild men’ has been with us for time immemorial “The wildman, in various manifestations, forms part of the culture and mythology of almost every society since records began”, but she deos concede that the problem is “ how to distinguish myth from reality?”
The earliest wildman to appear in literature can be found in the Epic of Gilgamesh. The stories which are about 4000 years old were written on 12 clay tablets and were discovered in the Assurbanipal Library in the ruins of Ninevah. There is no evidence at all that the Epic of Gilgamesh was based on reality, but some do speculate that the stories were written around an actual king of the same name who lived in southern Babylonia, modern day Iraq. According to the story, Arura the Potter created the Wildman Enkudu from clay. He was shaggy with ‘hair that sprouted like grain’, and who ate with the gazelles and drank with the wild beasts at their waterholes.
Initially enemies, Enkidu fought alongside Gilgamesh and earned his respect and friendship to such an extent that when Enkidu is mortally wounded in battle, Gilgamesh cries out ‘like a wailing woman i cry for Enkidu my friend.’ The important point here is that Gilgamesh viewed Enkidu the wildman as a man, saying ‘My friend who endured all hardships with me, has been overtaken by the fate of mankind’.
In 500 BC, the Historian Herodutus spoke about Hairy Monsters in Libya and in the Greek and Roman traditions, there are stories of half man, half beast creatures known as Satyrs. They were often depicted as having horns and a tail and were seen undertaking some form of sexual activity. Other types of Satyrs were called Fauns, sileni and nymphs and according to professor Boris Porshnev, they were different ways of depicting surviving Hominids.
In Medieval Europe, according to Myra Shackley, “Medieval wildmen were generally hairy, with both human and animal traits. Often they were covered with hair except for the face, feet and hands”. But unlike the satyrs of the Greek Roman imaginations, the tail and horns are absent. However Shackley makes the interesting point that “Although the wildman appears in an enormous range of medieval literature, he does not seem to occur in contemporary letters or semi-official documents”. So, perhaps the notions of medieval wildmens were grounded more in folklore and myth rather than fact.