Gigantopithecus and three students

From Dragon Bones to Mighty G: A Short History of SDSU’s Gigantopithecus Replica

SDSU Anthropology’s Biological Anthropology lab on the second floor of Storm Hall is the home of a remarkable figure. This is not your typical scholar or student, but rather a life-size replica of Gigantopithecus, an ancient primate that is believed to have existed from about 2 million to 400,000 years ago in southern China. This replica, standing eight feet tall and weighing around 500 pounds, is made of silicone, fiberglass, and other synthetic materials over a steel frame. It represents a creature that in life may have been as much as 10 feet tall and weighed over half a ton, and has been linked by some to the lore surrounding Sasquatch/Bigfoot. The species was discovered in 1935 by paleoanthropologist Ralph von Koenigswald who found its fossil teeth in a Hong Kong drugstore where they were described as “dragon bones” due to their enormous size. The replica, nicknamed Mighty G or Mr. G by its creators, adds a tangible dimension to the study of prehistoric life.

Mighty G was the outcome of a collaborative effort led by George York, a designer from YFX Studios. The studio was a Sacramento-based firm known for building animated re-creations for museums and the film industry. The overall design of Gigantopithecus is somewhat speculative because it is based on the limited fossil evidence available—four jawbones and over 1000 teeth. Despite these limitations, anthropologists have used established  correlations between molar size and body size along with other mathematical data to reconstruct the likely appearance of this extinct giant.

Mighty G was created for an exhibit at San Diego’s Museum of Man (now the Museum of Us) called "Footsteps Through Time: Four Million Years of Human Evolution," which opened in February 2002. When the exhibit closed in 2013 the museum wanted to find a new home for the replica and SDSU Biological Anthropologists gladly accepted. Mighty G is now stored in Storm Hall 231, SDSU’s Biological Anthropology Lab but he’s cooped up in a closet due to his enormous size.

Luckily the department gives Mighty G a chance to enjoy the sunny skies of SDSU campus when we display him once or twice a year for special events. While on display he provides students, faculty, and visitors a unique opportunity to engage with our planet's prehistoric past, fostering a deeper appreciation of anthropological research and the evolutionary journey of primates… and an opportunity to take a selfie with the largest primate to have ever walked the earth!

Learn more about SDSU Anthropology!