Giants of North America: prehistoric mound builders

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(ORDO NEWS) — In the 1800s, reports began to emerge of the discovery of very large skeletal remains in burial mounds in North America.

These skeletons were described as being seven to eight feet (2.4 meters) long, with rarer remains nine to 11 feet (3.3 meters) long, with very large skulls and gigantic mandibles.

Historians have often described these remains in early local historical records, such as the following entry from Cass County, Michigan:

“It was a mound about thirteen feet high, its base diameter was about fifty feet … Some of the skeletons were in good condition.

The femur, or femur, of one of the men now in Dr. that its owner had to be at least seven feet tall.”Alfred Matthews, History of Cass County, Michigan, 1882

Giants of North America prehistoric mound builders 2
Creel Mound in South Charleston, West Virginia, photo courtesy of the authors © Jason Jarrell and Sarah Farmer. At 35 feet (11 m) high and 175 feet (53 m) in diameter, the conical mound is the second largest mound of its type in West Virginia

Antiquarians have also written about the anthropology of tall people in prehistoric burial mounds. The following is a story from Chillicothe, Illinois, from American Antiquarian, Vol 2 No 1 (1879):

“Recent exploration of a mound near this site led to some interesting discoveries … The shape was large, the jaws were massive, and the teeth were perfect.”

As you know, the newspapers of the 19th and early 20th century often reported on giant skeletons found all over the country. The following report from Portsmouth, Ohio was published in the News Herald on January 3, 1895:

“A few days ago, the carpenters of the N. & WRR bridge railway found a giant skeleton while excavating three miles east of Portsmouth. The size of the skeleton is 7 feet, 4 inches …”.

In the 1880s, the Smithsonian Institution’s East Mounds Division discovered a number of giant skeletons during the wanton destruction of North American tumuli. The Bureau of Ethnology’s 12th annual report lists numerous giant skeletons found by Smithsonian agents:

“Near the original surface (of the mound) … lying on its back in full height, was one of the largest skeletons discovered by agents of the Bureau, its length, as shown by real measurements, was from 7 to 8 feet.”

“In the center (mound 11), at a depth of 3 feet below the surface, there was a crypt 8 feet long and 3 feet wide. At the bottom of it… lay a skeleton 7 feet long…”.

“The length from the base of the skull to the bones of the toes was 7 feet 3 inches. Therefore, it is likely that this man was 7.5 feet tall when he was alive.”

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Pre-excavation view of the Aden Mound, located in Chillicothe, Ohio, USA, northwest of downtown. A type site for the Aden culture, this site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places despite the mound being removed decades ago. It was excavated in 1901

In the twentieth century, archaeologists rediscovered the ancient giants. Working with Charles Snow, William Webb (University of Kentucky) positively identified the unique skeletal features noted in early sources with people of the Aden Mound Building culture.

Webb and Snow’s analysis of the anthropology of Adena was described in The People of Adena #1 (1945) and #2 (co-authored with Raymond S. Baby, 1957):

“The forehead is usually prominent, bordered below by rather prominent superciliary ridges…. The characteristic bulge of the upper and lower jaws (alveolar prognathism) moderately protrudes…

Usually the zygomatic bones are not only large in themselves, but they have an anterior and lateral protrusion.. .”. (Webb Snow and Baby, 1957)

In addition to these strong features, Webb Snow and Baby (1957) noted “the great breadth of the bony chin, formed by bilateral notches”.

Typical Adena skulls were extremely high cheekbones (brachycephalic):

“Approximately 89% of adult males and 92% of adult females are brachycephalic.” (Webb and Snow 1945)

In their report on Dover Mound in Kentucky, Webb and Snow noted that the Aden skulls represented “the highest skull vaults reported anywhere in the world” (Webb and Snow, The Dover Mound. 1959) Cephalic indices measured in Aden , range from 89 to 100. (Webb, Snow & Baby 1957)

The people of Aden practiced an artificial flattening of the occipital region, which increased the height of the cranial vault. This practice only strengthened the innate features:

“…skulls with little or no deformity (undeformed) are of similar proportions” (Webb and Snow, 1945).

“It is likely that many, if not most, of the skull characteristics so typical of Adena are genetic in nature…”. (Webb, Snow & Baby, 1957).

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The “Wolf Plains” group is a group of late adens, consisting of 30 earthworks, including 22 conical mounds and nine round fences. Located a few miles northwest of Athens, Ohio, USA

In the mound of Dover, Webb discovered a seven-foot-tall (two meters) skeleton with the following Adena-specific features (burial 40):

“… the remains from burial 40 are among the largest known in Aden; the size of the cranial-foot field is 84 inches (7 feet).” (Webb & Snow 1959)

In 1958, Don Dragout of the Carnegie Museum discovered the remains of a “large-sized” man in a subsurface tomb in the lowest layers of the Cresap Mound in West Virginia. Burial 54 is described by Dragout in Mounds for the Dead (1963):

“As measured in the tomb, it was approximately 7.04 feet long. The long bones were all heavy and had prominent indentations for muscle attachment.”

Dragout described Adena’s unique features, including a “protruding and massive chin” with “conspicuous bilateral projections”, as well as “people approaching seven feet in height”. (Dragoo, 1963)

It’s important to note that when considering this information from Webb, Snow, and Dragoo, the regularly encountered giant cocks are not the only unique feature of the people of Adena:

“The people of Adena were not only tall, but the massiveness of the bones indicates a powerful physique. The head, as a rule, was large with a large volume of the skull.” (Dragout, 1963)

Setting the Standard for Gigantology

Working in the 20th century, Webb, Snow, and Dragout essentially confirmed the findings of earlier antiquarians and associated giant skeletal types with a specific culture.

Thereafter, the pioneering research of Ross Hamilton and the late Vine Deloria set the scientific standard for gigantology by synchronizing indigenous data and archaeological records in Hamilton’s unsurpassed work The Tradition of the Giants.

And yet, despite this tradition of rediscovery, no satisfactory reconstruction of the giant Adena has yet been undertaken. While we are constantly reminded of the size of the giants in volumes reprinting hundreds of stories of their discovery, we are denied images representing their living form.

While numerous other anomalies (such as the Paracas and Starchild skulls) received their due attention, the giant adena remained shrouded in mystery. In May 2015, the authors embarked on a joint venture with the legendary Marcia K Moore to remedy this situation.

An artist fills in the gaps in a hidden story

Marcia is best known as the master artist, recreating the living images of Peru’s elongated skulls associated with the Paracas people.

Her work has been published in books by Brian Foerster and L.A. Marzulli, and have also been featured in the television series Ancient Aliens, with Marcia herself making occasional appearances on the show. (Ancient Aliens: Alien Evolution)

The skull used to recreate Adena was from Burial 16 of the Wright Mounds in Kentucky, photographed in Figure 25 of People of Adena No1, where it is described as having a “marked” deformity. In Skeletal Material from the Wright Site, Montgomery County, Kentucky (1940), H.T.E.

Herzberg noted that the skulls from the Wright site are characterized by large, prognathic mandibles (or protruding mandibles) typical of Adena, and despite the artificial deformation, the series show large congenital features detailed by Webb, Snow, and Dragout:

“…deformed, these skulls show marked brachycrania…it can be seen that the four skulls…showing sub-average deformity also give an average cranial index greater than 90%. Thus, it can be concluded that these individuals would have shown marked brachycrania even without distortion.

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Image of the North American giant

The dimensions of the Aden giant have been obtained from several sources with supporting details. Among them, the authors referred to the handwritten field notebook of P.W. Norris, an agent of the Bureau of Ethnology, who excavated the Adena mounds in Charleston, West Virginia, in 1883 and 1884 (Smithsonian Manuscript, Norris Mound Excavations).

Skeletons seven feet (two meters) long have been found in several burial mounds in Charleston. In Great Smith mound, Norris discovered a house-like wooden structure measuring 12 feet by 13 feet (3.6 by 4 meters) and 6 feet (1.8 meters) high, reaching 10 feet (three meters) on a ribbed top.

Inside this building was “a gigantic and prominent personality, surrounded by 5 of his (probably voluntary) warriors …”. Norris measured the central burial in situ and described it as “a gigantic human skeleton 7 feet 6 inches long and 19 inches between the shoulders…”.

Elsewhere in the manuscript this skeleton is regularly referred to as “gigantic” or “giant”. Notably, this particular burial was wrapped in bark and covered with dry clay.

This certainly suggests that the measurements at the site were accurate, and not the result of some sort of dismemberment under the weight of the mound’s mass, as mainstream sources often claim.

The measurements given by Norris are consistent with data from several other sources, including the story of a giant specimen found by Warren Moorehead in Ohio in his book Primitive Man in Ohio (1892):

“Six feet above these remains was found a partial skeleton of a man of almost gigantic proportions …. The width at the shoulders, with the correct arrangement of the bones, was nineteen inches …”.

Anthropological accounts of Aden recorded by Webb, Snow, and Dragout, as well as by early historians and antiquarians, corroborate Norris’ account and point to people approaching eight feet (2.4 meters) in height.

Since so many reports describe skeletons reaching this height, these data were used by Marcia to formulate the likely size and appearance of an eight-foot-tall adena in the flesh.

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Artist’s depiction of “Giant of Aden”, prehistoric mound builders

Marcia did more than just provide a visual representation of a tall representative of the prehistoric population. The giant from Adena represents a truly unique form of humanity, which until now could only be guessed at by the many newspaper and historical articles regularly reprinted in the gigantology market.

The re-creation of a very large representative of the “unique group of honored dead” Webb, Snow and Drag provides an opportunity to look into the distant past, to take a picture from behind the veil thrown over history by the establishment a century ago.

Marcia is currently working with the authors on a book that will feature an extensive set of her recreations of aden and aden-like people from burial mounds in North America and around the world. This important visual work will accompany the presentation of 7,000 years of clouded world history.


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