In recent years, independent investigators have become interested in the claim that remains of gigantic humans have been found in association with some of the North American mound-building cultures. At the same time, self-styled “skeptics” have taken up the task of debunking these claims. (For an overview, see Nina Strochlic’s article in The Daily Beast: “Hunting for a Real-Life Hagrid.”)
I’m fascinated by the topic itself. But I’m also interested in these investigations and the reactions to them, as a cultural phenomenon. Why are people drawn to this idea of giants walking the earth, and why does the idea draw such rabid opposition? I think several phenomena are operating around this issue:
- A long-time interest in giants within human culture.
- A fascination with what I call anomalistics.
- A particular interest in giants among adherents of Bible-based religions, due to the connection with the Genesis account of the Nephilim (see Genesis 6:1-4), a population of “mighty ones” who lived before the global deluge.
- Among materialistic contrarians, a compulsion to contradict anomalistic and supernatural claims, particularly those that might lend credence to the Bible.
Not just a bunch of sensational newspaper accounts
A recent series of articles in Ancient Origins reminded me of the claims of prehistoric North American giants. The articles are written by Jason Jarrell and Sarah Farmer, who are investigating anomalous physical types reportedly found at archaeological sites of the Archaic and Early Woodland cultures of North America. Jarrell and Farmer say that for the past five years they have been undertaking fieldwork and scholarly research around sites in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio. (See their articles here: “The Establishment Has Already Acknowledged A Lost Race of Giants – Part 1” and then “… Part 2.”
Jarrell and Farmer refer to the sensational 19th- and early-20th-century newspaper accounts you usually hear about in connection with the North American giants. However, they also cite a number of scholarly reports from government and institutional investigators, which are harder to dismiss. For example, they quote reports from University of Kentucky researchers William S. Webb and Charles Snow, who examined the Dover mound in Mason County, Kentucky and wrote:
The remains of burial 40 is one of the largest known to Adena; the skull-foot field measurement is 84 inches (7 feet)…
Not only do the Dover people show the results of head shaping (deformation), but they exceed the total Kentucky series in the great width and height of the skull vault!…it is to be noted that the head shaping…has been extreme in these skulls…These people as a group…have the highest skull vaults reported anywhere in the world…
One of the outstanding and un-Indian traits present among the Adena people is their prominent and often bilateral chins…One of the skulls from the Dover Mound, Burial 25…represents a bilateral chin with a width of 52 mm.
But where are the physical remains?
Perhaps the biggest problem with the investigations of the North American giants is the lack of physical remains available for study, at least today. Some researchers explain this paucity of remains with a claim that they were repatriated under the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).
I would add that cultural and natural processes also work against the preservation of human remains. Human bones buried underground usually don’t last very long unless they are intentionally protected somehow. This is particularly so in moist climates. Recoverable remains are inherently rare.
Anomalistic claims and investigations tend to bring out extreme reactions. Some people are willing to believe almost any extraordinary claim. As an example, take a look at the many comments submitted to my article, “Have Archaeologists Found Skeletons of Biblical Giants in Greece?,” in which I showed that some of the popular photos of giant skeletons have been faked. Even so, many readers persist in believing that the photos are authentic. At the other extreme are people who are quick to deny any anomalistic claim. The same article about giant skeletons also attracted some nasty trollish comments from “skeptics” who disparaged anyone who would take seriously the Bible’s accounts about giants.
Is a seven-foot giant really such a big deal?
In reality, the claim that the prehistoric peoples of North American included a race of oversized humans doesn’t seem that extraordinary. For the most part, the newspaper and scholarly accounts describe remains between six and eight feet in height. This is well within the known human range. What’s called gigantism today is generally seen as a rare hormonal disorder, but it does show that a large human frame is physically possible. There’s no reason to think that extraordinary size couldn’t be passed along genetically and appear within a clan or even a wider population. In fact, this appears to have been the case among some Canaanite groups mentioned in the Bible — see the accounts about the Rephaim at 1 Samuel 17:4-7, 2 Samuel 21:16-22, and 1 Chronicles 20:4-8.
While a seven- or eight-foot human isn’t such an extraordinary idea, literature and popular culture have often propagated the idea that the giants mentioned in historical accounts were 20 feet tall, 50 feet tall, or greater. As I’ve pointed out before, humans of such sizes are almost certainly impossible due to the ‘engineering’ challenges involved — see “Could Giant Humans Exist?”
It sounds to me as if enough written accounts exist to suggest that a race of giants could have lived among the ancient inhabitants of North America. It’s certainly worth investigating further, but it’s sure to be controversial. That’s the nature of anomalistics.
ARK — 24 May 2015