Study carried out by G.A. Van Horn, Curator of the Department of
Based on the biographical note in his book: La Collection
Interdite, published by Castells-Labor
Alexandre Humboldt-Fonteyne (1883-ca 1939).
Born in Paris to a French mother and Prussian father, young
Alexander had a quiet childhood in an aristocratic environment. He
divided his time between Maison Alfort,
his mother's property in Paris, and Schloss
Langweil, his father's Berlin residence.
From an early age, young Alexandre was fascinated by the living world.
He made drawings, explored and observed the many forms of life in the
large park surrounding his home. His maternal uncle, Charles Fonteyne, a
professor at the Alfort Veterinary School, encouraged him in his
interest. Fonteyne would prove to have a crucial influence. Regular
visits to the museum at the Veterinary School kindled the young man's
imagination, especially the anatomical creations of Honoré Fragonard,
the celebrated 18th century anatomist whose masterpieces included the Homme à
la Mandibule and the
In 1901, Alexandre took science courses at the University of Berlin (zoology, botany, paleontology).
He was fascinated by the recent works of Pfizenmayer and Herz, who had
been commissioned by the Academy of Sciences in Saint Petersburg to
collect the remains of mammoths preserved in the frozen Siberian
wasteland. In February 1902, he met Pfizenmayer and helped him unpack
and prepare the carcass of a mammoth brought back from the banks of the Berezovska
After returning to Paris, Alexandre regularly visited the Jardin des Plantes
and set up house in Rue Cuvier.
In 1909, at the request of Wilhem Branca, he took part in a massive
series of digs in the hills of Tendaguru, in East Africa (modern-day Tanzania).
Sponsored by Duke Johan de
Mecklenburg, the expedition brought back fabulous skeletons of dinosaurs,
including the enormous Brachiosaurus brancai which, to this day,
dominates the great hall in the Berlin Museum of Natural Sciences. Humboldt-Fonteyne
remained in the hills of Tendaguru until 1916.
In 1917, Alexandre Humboldt-Fonteyne returned to Berlin and, having
been promoted to the rank of captain, found himself on the front in the Balkans.
In a fortified medieval town that had been bombarded, he discovered the
remains of a homo chiroptera. The mummy was packed up carefully
In 1922, he joined Roy Chapman's expedition in Beijing.
After falling out with the American team, he decided
to leave the group in 1923 and to organise his own expedition. He began
his research in the traditional Chinese apothecaries, where he ended up
discovering the 'dragon's teeth' used in pharmacopoeia.
In 1924, he explored the Bantang region at the foot of the Himalayas
in a bid to find the legendary yeti.
In 1928, he fitted out a brig - the Albatross - and travelled to
Papua. In 1931, he made it to the Gulf of Carpentaria in Australia and
ventured into the strait of the Flinders river.
All of his finds were carefully labelled and shipped to his sister at
'Villa Hermosa' in Naples. In 1934, the Albatross reached Macapa
and ventured into the mouth of the Amazon. In 1935, he abandoned the
tropical forest and explored the Sonora desert in Mexico.
In 1939, after living in Lima for a few months, Alexandre Humboldt-Fonteyne
was contacted by two SS officers, Herman Müller
and Ernst Gross. They offered to let him be involved in the
research work done by the Ahnenerbe, along with considerable financial aid.
He refused to help the Nazis and disappeared mysteriously.
They also took most of the collection stored at Villa Hermosa.
(CT/H-F/ 1006) A freshwater octopus, Gulf of Papua.
Location: Notogaea -
Gulf of Papua, Erave-Purari delta.
Habitat: delta and coastal isles of the Gulf of Papua.
Ethology: Like marine cephalopods, Archicephaloteutis prefers
to keep to the crevices of the rocks. To capture its prey,
mainly crustaceans, it produces hoop nets made of plant fibres and
sets them with bait.
This animal is apparently gifted with uncommon skills and
intelligence. Humboldt-Fonteyne was able to observe several captured
specimens which seemed to communicate each other using a form of sign
language. The indigenous peoples of the Gulf of Papua are very fond of
the meat of Archicephaloteutis, which they say has hallucinogenic
Description: highly developed cerebral mass (18 cm in diameter); spherical, stunted body; two appendages with 'fingers'; 4 long
tentacles with suckers.
Eanthropus nivalensis (CT/H-F/0365) Yeti or Yeh-Teh, Tibet.
Location: eastern region, Mount Djalamar, Himalaya range
Habitat: unknown (probably high mountains, in the rocky zone
between the edge of the forested area and the eternal snows).
Ethology: sub-fossil species, probably extinct since the 11th
century. Primate with social behaviour similar to the current large
monkeys, omnivorous diet, social life in small isolated groups, probably
capable of learning.
Description: Eanthropus nivalensis could be a late form of
and is a probably an ancestor of modern man.
Note: Many legends from the Himalayas mention the presence of
these creatures as late as the 18th century.