“There were Giants in Those Days.”
The theory that humanity of the antediluvian period existed in forms which would now be considered colossal, has found many adherents among scientific men. A fossil skeleton of enormous size, recently discovered near Abbeville, France, was regarded as a proof of this theory. A Dr. Fullratt, of Berlin, has more recently found other remains of some antediluvian giant in the village of Guiten, near the junction of the Rhine and Dussal. The discovery has created quite a flutter among the wise men of Germany, and a commission has been formed for digging in divers places of the same geological formation as that wherein the giant skeleton was found.
The fossil beds at Abbeville would eventually yield the famous Abbeville jaw, found by Boucher de Perthes in 1863, which excited great controversy because it seemed too primitive and implied a more ancient species that had occupied France before the “Prussian” Neanderthals. The jaw was later discovered to be a forgery, planted by a worker hoping to earn a 200 franc prize for finding the bones of the people who made the flint tools Boucher de Perthes had previously found.
On the other hand, Neanderthals seem to lie behind the second reference in the Dollar Magazine article. The area where the Düssel River feeds into the Rhine is the area of the famous Neanderthal, or Neander Valley, where in August 1856 the first Neanderthal skeleton had been discovered. The cranium of said Neanderthal was found (well, obtained from workmen) and described by Johann Karl Fuhlrott, who must be the Fullratt of the Dollar Magazine. Fuhlrott said that he was the first to recognize the bones as human, for the workmen who discovered it thought it belonged to an animal. It was instead the second scholar to examine the bones, Hermann Schaaffhausen, who helped create the idea that the bones were those of a brutish monster. In his presentation, following that of Fuhlrott, to the Natural History Society of the Prussian Rhineland and Westphalia on February 4, 1857, Schaaffhausen compared the bones to the legendary monsters of medieval German folklore and myth (specifically the Classically described creatures said to live at the world’s ends), and he suggested that the bones belonged to the prehistoric antecedent of such tales, perhaps dating back before the Flood. He noted that the bones were thicker and more robust than those of human beings, suggesting an ogre-like appearance.
What’s interesting in this is that we have a clear case where a news report about the “discovery” of the bones of a “giant” by “scientific men” can be traced back to specific individuals and their known claims. We then see that the media misunderstood and misrepresented the claims. This helps to cast doubt on other news accounts from the time, and should remind gigantologists, who rely on old newspapers for their evidence, that uncritical acceptance of news stories is bad history and worse science. The “giant” Neanderthal, that antediluvian monster, stood all of about five and a half feet tall.