A ‘Giant’s Femur’ – believe it or not!
Like ancient Greece, America has its own mythical past. But instead of gods residing on the likes of Mount Olympus, the New World has pale-skinned giants—some ranging up to 12-feet tall—who roamed about ancient America, and were supposedly associated with the mysterious Mound Builder Culture. These giants don’t have names or renowned powers like the Greek gods, but they have a way of coming back to life over and over. While the Greek gods were cultural heroes, the legendary giants of America were the product of speculative science and today—thanks to tabloid reality—remain the patron saints of fake news.
In 1894, ethnologist Cyrus Thomas seemingly slayed the giants of America en masse with his report that concluded that the ancient mounds were created by native Americans, not any lost white culture of giants. The theory of these ancient giants actually held sway in the early decades of the 19th century with the U.S. government, whose officials openly advocated the existence of a lost white race of Mound Builders, sometimes called Welsh Indians or “paleo-Hebrews.”
Even the Smithsonian got into the jolly white giant mode by referring to oversized skeletons, and attributing the American mounds to a lost white race until 1894. But by the turn of the century the great white giant hope had become a glimmer of the past, a part of “fringe” science. (Meanwhile, some ideas considered fringe by 19th century scientists—such as the concept that rock fell from the sky—became mainstream science, as any meteorite hunter will attest.)
Move up to the 21st century and, guess what, the giants are back. Just the other day someone sent me an article dated from the World News Daily News professing that the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled in favor of the American Institute of Alternative Archaeology (AIAA) against the Smithsonian Institute in a case claiming that the Smithsonian had destroyed thousand of giant skeletons in the early years of the 20th century. The fake article apparently has gained widespread attention on the Internet and many believe it’s real. But unfortunately for the believers there is no AIAA and no Supreme Court case involved the Smithsonian and the destruction of the remains of giants.
As a writer of fictional archaeology tales featuring the greatest archaeologists who never lived, I can sympathize to an extent with these adventures yarns, new and old, from the dark side of archaeology and journalism. Yet, in writing six original Indiana Jones novels—in addition to Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade—I worked under the guidance of George Lucas, who insisted that all artifacts be real-life objects, and all myths and legends be based on existing narratives. So, even in fiction writing, my stories needed to be based on some recognizable reality.
That included Indiana Jones and the Dance of the Giants! But my giants were made of stone, because the title is a folk name for Stonehenge. In the legend, a wizard—none other than Merlin—built it with stones he stole from Erin. Through his magic, he flew them from Wales and set them down on the great plains of Salisbury and made a ring of power to endure forever. According to the scribe Geoffrey of Monmouth, Merlin, the arch-Druid of Albion, built the Giant’s Dance to commemorate the treacherous slaying of Vortigern by Hengist, the Saxon, at nearby Amesbury.
All that said, our American giants, in spite of the help provided by the tabloids, probably will never become a legend in the heroic vein of Merlin’s tale. That would require the discovery of long hidden stone tablets or ancient scrolls telling of certain powerful giants possessing magical abilities, who filled the triple extra-large shoes of America’s ancient giants. Or maybe the next George R.R. Martin could make them up.