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Posts Tagged ‘giants’

Uh, no.

As readers here will already know, you can pretty much assume that any photo showing a giant skeleton unearthed at an archaeology dig is faked.

I ran across this photo at an article on Liberty Voice called “Giant Human Skeletons Discovered in Wisconsin?Liberty Voice‘s tagline is “Boldly Inclusive,” and I would venture to describe it as a little too bold and a little too inclusive.

Faked photo of a giant skeleton

This photo is faked. Note how the shadow of the archaeologist is cast to the left, while the shadow of the skeleton is cast in a different direction.

A few years ago, I ran an article here called “Have Archaeologists Found Skeletons of Biblical Giants in Greece?,” which has proven very popular with readers. That article showed that some of the best-known photos of giant skeletons at archaeological digs have been “photoshopped.” That doesn’t mean that giants never existed, but it does caution all of us to avoid being gullible.

The Liberty Voice article was mostly about the old stories of giant skeletons discovered in connection with the North American mound-builders, which I wrote about at “Did a Race of Giants Live Among the American Mound-Builders?” It’s possible that a race of outsized humans existed in prehistoric North America, but those giants for the most part were described as measuring six to eight feet in height, whereas the skeleton shown here would obviously come up to 25 feet or more. Nevertheless, the Liberty Voice writer says:

It seems that the majority of people just do not believe in this type of thing, because it sounds like complete nonsense. However photographs have been taken to record the finds as the picture with this article shows.

One reason it sounds like nonsense is because people keep reproducing these same faked photos. If you’re wondering how I know that this photo is faked, take a look at the shadow cast by the archaeologist in the original photo. Then look at the shadow cast by the skeleton in the section that was pasted in to create a phony scene. The shadows are cast in nearly opposite directions.

ARK — 1 June 2015

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Artist's representation of a giant

Artist Marcia K. Moore has created some startling (but speculative) images, based on accounts about North American prehistoric giants.

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?

Doctored photo purporting to show archaeologists discovering skeletons of giants.

Doctored photo purporting to show archaeologists discovering skeletons of giants.

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?

Robert Pershing Wadlow

Robert Pershing Wadlow (1918-1940) suffered from a hormonal disorder and grew to nearly nine feet tall. via Wikimedia.

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

 

 

 

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Statuette of a proto-Elamite horned hero or deity

Proto-Elamite statuette of a “horned deity.” Credit: Camocon, via Wikimedia Commons.

How did today’s culture develop its images of the Nephilim (called “Sunder” in my fiction series The Cursed Ground), that is, the race of super-human “mighty ones” referred to in the Bible account at Genesis 6:4? Some Bible accounts, such as the King James Version, call these creatures “giants.” In my stories, they appear as giants, but only in the sense of larger-than-normal hybrid offspring of angelic “sages” with human women.

Echoes of these characters appear in human stories and legends, particularly in Greek myths, which often feature giant half-gods with violent natures. I’m interested in these mythological images, especially as they relate to the historical-fiction tales I’m writing.

One such image came to my attention during a recent tour at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The tour guide for Oasis Group Tours stopped briefly at a small statuette in the Met’s “Gallery 402 – The Rise of Civilization: The Ancient Near East ca. 8000–3000 B.C.” The statuette he showed us is similar to the one pictured here, but I’m not sure whether it is actually the same figurine.

The Met’s profile of this exhibit calls it a “Striding figure with ibex horns, a raptor skin draped around the shoulders, and upturned boots.” The Met identifies the figurine as Proto-Elamite, and the detail that our tour guide pointed out is that the copper-alloy sculpture is dated to about 3000 BCE. If the museum’s dating of this object is correct, he said, that would place it before the time of the great deluge of Noah’s day, which occurred in 2370 BCE, according to the Bible’s internal chronology.

That makes the connection to the Nephilim, because the Met’s description identifies the figure as a deity or hero:

This solid-cast sculpture is one of a pair of nearly identical images of a hero or a demon wearing the upturned boots associated with highland regions, his power enhanced by the mighty horns of the ibex on his head and the body and wings of a bird of prey draped around his shoulders.

If the sculpture was created before the Flood, then it was fashioned by an artist who could have known first-hand what the Nephilim and their materialized-angel fathers looked like. That would fit with the enhanced musculature of this figure and other characteristics mentioned in the description:

… the triple belt and beard that define divine beings and royalty … [the] blending of human and animal forms to visualize the supernatural world and perhaps to express shamanistic beliefs …

The Elamites are identified as Semitic in the Bible account at Genesis 10:22, but they could have become mixed in with descendants of Japheth, who were known for their mythological depictions of “mighty ones.”

I intend to post more articles about legends, historical accounts, and other depictions that could related to the pre-flood world, but I thought this image was particularly striking and noteworthy. Some related articles I’ve written include:

ARK — 22 May 2015

 

 

 

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Deluge by Paul Gustave Dore

The Deluge, bu Paul Gustave Dore. via Wikimedia

As a novelist setting a fictional story in the world before the Biblical Deluge, I find myself frequently having to make decisions about how to portray an ancient world that is only briefly described in the Bible account. One of those decisions has to do with the Nephilim, who are described at Gen 6: 1,2 4.

(Just so you know, I’m getting ready to release the first episode of an historical epic I’m calling The Cursed Ground, set in the ancient world. Once I start to release these stories, this blog might make a little more sense to interested folks.)

The question of who the Nephilim were came up recently in a discussion with a reader of my email newsletter, News and Updates From A. Roy King. As I understand it, there are two basic ideas about the identity of the Nephilim — that they were either humans or hybrid offspring of humans and materialized angels. I told my reader that the second explanation is the one that has always made the most sense to me. He raised the very good question whether angels have DNA that would allow them to have semi-human children. Since angels are spirit beings, it seems unlikely that they have DNA in their spirit state. However, various Bible accounts show that spirit beings are able to come to the earth and manifest physical bodies that can be touched and that can even eat — see Gen 18:8 and Luke 24:30. Such physical bodies could presumably have a genetic structure with the capability of reproducing.

Anyway, my primary interest here is not to get into long discussions over Biblical exegesis, but to explore the development of a fictional world. As I suggested above, I decided to portray the Nephilim as the offspring of humans and fallen angels. The Bible account associates the Nephilim with the increase of wickedness and violence on the earth, so I’ve decided to portray them as villains, along with their angelic fathers.

Doctored photo purporting to show archaeologists discovering skeletons of giants.

Doctored photo purporting to show archaeologists discovering skeletons of giants.

In working on this series, I’ve read many other fictional treatments of the pre-flood era — call it competitive research. Some of them try to follow the Biblical story closely, and others are more fanciful. I’ve written a couple of reviews over at Goodreads — see my reviews of Darren Aronofsky’s graphic novel Noah and of William Guy’s mythology-based story The Last Nephilim. Both of these stories present the Nephilim in a nuanced way, portraying them as not all and totally wicked, and even as potentially redeemable. It’s an interesting treatment, but in the end, I decided not to go in that direction.

In spite of all this discussion of the identity of the Biblical Nephilim, the true focus of my Edhai/Martyroi series (that’s what I’m calling the larger saga) is not on villains, but on humans and what it might have been like to live on the earth at various times in human history from a Biblical perspective. So the Nephilim and fallen angels are basically minor peripheral characters in these stories.

Some Bibles translate the Hebrew word ne-phi-lim’ as “giants.” I’m portraying them as unnaturally large, but more within the known range of human height, which seems to be able to reach as far as nine or ten feet.

I’ve written before about giants. One of the most popular articles on this site discusses the question whether archaeologists have discovered skeletons of giants and are covering up the fact — see “Have Archaeologists Found Skeletons of Biblical Giants in Greece?

Another question I’ve discussed has been “Could Giant Humans Exist?” In that post I explore the physical limits of the human body.

ARK

 

 

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Robert Pershing Wadlow. via Wikimedia.

Robert Pershing Wadlow. via Wikimedia.

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post showing that some popular photos of giant skeletons were faked — see “Have Archaeologists Found Skeletons of Biblical Giants in Greece?

However, in that post I didn’t say much about whether giant humans could in fact have existed at one time. The “giant skeletons” article has been viewed tens of thousands of times and has received many comments from people who seem to take it personally that I exposed these photos as faked. Many took it that I was contradicting the Bible account in Genesis, which they believe speaks of a time when giant humans walked the earth.

I should point out that very large people have been known even in modern times. The American Robert Pershing Wadlow lived from 1918 to 1940. Wadlow reached 8 feet 11.1 inches (2.72 meters) and 492 pounds (223 kg). So it doesn’t seem impossible to suppose that a human could reach a height of 10 feet or so.

About giants in the Bible: According to 1 Sam. 17:4, the Philistine giant Goliath was six cubits and a span, about 9 ½ feet tall (2.9 meters). That’s not too much larger than Wadlow. Pre-flood creatures described at Gen. 6:1,2,4 are sometimes called “giants,” but the actual word used there is nefilim, meaning “fellers” in Hebrew, or those who cause others to fall down by striking them. The Bible doesn’t say how big they were.

giants6smallIf you look at the first faked photo I show in the “giant skeletons” post, you will see that it shows a skull appearing to be about five feet high (or 60 inches). If you figure that a normal human skull is about seven inches high, the skull in the faked photo would have to represent a human about 50 feet tall.

Could a human exist at a height of 40 feet, 50 feet, or more? It’s an interesting question, but it has been explored by competent researchers.

In 1928, geneticist J.B.S. Haldane wrote a well-known essay called “On Being the Right Size,” in which he wrote that “it is easy to show that a hare could not be as large as a hippopotamus, or a whale as small as a herring. For every type of animal there is a most convenient size, and a large change in size inevitably carries with it a change of form.” Haldane gives an extensive discussion of the relationship between size and function in living things, but he also addresses the problem of a giant human by supposing a human were the size of the giants Pope and Pagan in the version of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress that he, Haldane, had when he was a child. He shows what engineering problems would result from being so large:

Let us take the most obvious of possible cases, and consider a giant man sixty feet high — about the height of Giant Pope and Giant Pagan in the illustrated Pilgrim’s Progress of my childhood. These monsters were not only ten times as high as Christian, but ten times as wide and ten times as thick, so that their total weight was a thousand times his, or about eighty to ninety tons. Unfortunately the cross sections of their bones were only a hundred times those of Christian, so that every square inch of giant bone had to support ten times the weight borne by a square inch of human bone. As the human thigh-bone breaks under about ten times the human weight, Pope and Pagan would have broken their thighs every time they took a step.

Such problems are solved in nature by what we might call “right-sizing.” Haldane offers the example of the gazelle:

To turn to zoology, suppose that a gazelle, a graceful little creature with long thin legs, is to become large, it will break its bones unless it does one of two things. It may make its legs short and thick, like the rhinoceros, so that every pound of weight has still about the same area of bone to support it. Or it can compress its body and stretch out its legs obliquely to gain stability, like the giraffe. I mention these two beasts because they happen to belong to the same order as the gazelle, and both are quite successful mechanically, being remarkably fast runners.

Movie poster by Reynold Brown via Wikimedia.

Movie poster by Reynold Brown via Wikimedia.

Cecil Adams of The Straight Dope goes into greater detail about the structural problems of being a 50-foot-tall human in his post “Could an attacking 50-foot woman actually exist?” The reference here is to the science fiction movie Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.

Adams explains that, according to the Principle of Similitude, “women, men, and critters in general can only get so big,” because “strength increases with the square of height while bulk increases with the cube.” So if an animal were to get taller while keeping the same proportions, it would get too weak to support its weight: “doubling the size of an animal while keeping its proportions the same increases the cross-sectional area of its muscles and bones by a factor of four while increasing its weight by a factor of eight.” Consequently, “if a woman starts off at five feet and 100 pounds and then grows to 50 feet, she’ll have 100 times the bone and muscle area but weigh 1,000 times as much — 50 tons.”

Adams also explains that a human of that size would run into insurmountable problems with its cardiovascular system, among other difficulties.

Given the engineering obstacles around human gigantism, I suggest that we all be satisfied with imagining giants of more modest size. After all, a nine-foot-tall guy would be pretty impressive, no?

ARK — 6 Nov. 2013

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[Updated 22 May 2010]

I was intrigued recently when someone sent me a series of photos purporting to show the skeletons of giant humans excavated at archaeological sites. Here is an example to the right.

However, some quick Internet research revealed that these photos are all doctored. You can see all the photos at About.com — here is an explanation and analysis by urban-legends specialist David Emery: “Giants in Greece — Analysis.”

The photo shown here turns out to be an altered version of a 1993 photo from a dinosaur dig by the University of Chicago — see the original here.

From the detail shown below, you can see that the image of the skull is inconsistent with the rest of the photo — the inserted segment is flat, and one of the workers at the site even appears to have his foot on the skull:

Giant skull detail shows doctoring

[Update added 22 May 2010] A reader asked about another photo in the series, showing a skeleton with a hole in its temple, lying in a grave. I believe she is referring to this one (linked from the About.com article):

Photo of giant skeleton in a grave - probably a fake

David Emery points out that the skull in this photo show “incongruously bright highlights on the teeth and around the edges of the gaping temple wound.” I’m no expert at analyzing photos, but to me the skeleton in the photo looks like a black-and-white image, whereas the surface of the ground surrounding the hole seems to be in color, which is certainly the case in the image of the two people in the photo.

Here’s a detail showing the suspicious bright highlights on the image of the skull:

Detail from photo of supposed giant skeleton

All that said, just because somebody was able to fake some photos and a bunch of people believed them only proves that somebody can use image-editing software to fake photos and fool other people. It doesn’t mean that the Bible’s accounts about the Nephilim and other giants aren’t true.

The Bible’s account of the Nephilim appears in Gen. 6:1,2,4 — you can look up Bible texts here. Apparently the Nephilim were hybrids resulting from the marriage of materialized angels and human women. Most likely they were sterile and had no descendants themselves. They would not have survived the global deluge.

The historical account in the Bible does not say how tall the Nephilim were. It does, however, say that the height of the Philistine warrior Goliath was six cubits and a span, which would make him about 2.9 meters or 9 1/2 feet tall — see 1 Sam. 17:4.

This height is not much greater than the heights of some humans recorded in modern times — see this list at Wikipedia of the world’s tallest people.

[Update added 26 Nov. 2013: I’ve recently written a blog entry exploring how large a human could actually get, given the limitations of physics and biology — see “Could Giant Humans Exist?“]

It’s not impossible that fossil remains of pre-flood humans are among those that have been discovered in the past or that might be found in the future. However, you need to keep in mind that human (and animal) remains normally decompose completely without leaving any trace. Also, the flood waters would probably have been unimaginably violent and destructive and could have covered human remains with hundreds of meters of sediments, making them rare and difficult to recover.

One intriguing archaeological discovery was announced by a group that conducted digs very recently on Mount Ararat, where they uncovered a wooden structure high on the mountain that some believe is the ark of preservation built by the patriarch Noah — see “Group Claims New Noah’s Ark Find on Ararat.”

[Update from 11 Sept 2014] Readers interested in this post might want to know that I have started up an email newsletter. If you want to keep up with my writings about ancient history from a Biblical perspective, as well as progress on my historical fiction series The Edhai, please follow this link to sign up now: http://eepurl.com/2U3Uf

ARK — 10 May 2010

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