Two ribs at two churches in Skåne in the 1500s one at Kviinge church and another at Herrevad’s abbey church.
- A rib at Skärkind’s church
- A rib at Lagga church in Uppland
- A rib at Lunda in Uppland
- A shoulder blade at Stockholm’s Franciscan monastery
- Several bones at Visby cathedral, displayed as those of the giantess Wissna
He lists many more, of which some are still extant either at the churches or nearby museums. According to Svanberg, the bones’ utility as evidence of the existence of the Nephilim remained undoubted until around 1700, when Olof Rudbeck, Christopher Polhem, and Emmanuel Swedenborg began to argue that such bones were those of whales, not Nephilim. Carlus Linnaeus traveled to Visby Cathedral to view the bones of the giants on display there and determined, conclusively, that “giant bones, exhibited in the Cathedral as wonders are really whale bones.” After this, the spell of the giants seemed to break in Sweden.
Such events were not confined to Sweden by any means, and I had no idea how widespread the practice was. For example, St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna has a doorway called the Riesentor, or Great Gate, so named for a mammoth’s tibia, hailed as the shin-bone of a giant when it was uncovered and hung above the door in 1443. This time, however, the “giant” wasn’t a Nephilim but rather St. Christopher, the imaginary saint believed to have been a giant. To that end, his massive “tooth,” bigger than a human fist, shown as a relic for centuries in the city of Valencia in Spain, turned out upon examination to be yet another fossil elephant tooth.
The sheer volume of such reports—and I could list dozens more—seem to suggest that below the level of academic literature there was a widespread popular belief in giants and giants’ bones not entirely recorded among the elite. If this weren’t the case, then we would not see the 1763 second edition of the New Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, published at London, offering this definition:
GIANT’S BONES, in natural history a name erroneously given to certain fossile bones, vulgarly supposed to have been the bones of giants; but, in reality, are those of the elephant, or whale-kind.
Is it any wonder that the generally non-elite people who settled America therefore came to the continent with the popular culture of their homelands, one where it was simply accepted fact that giants had lived and left their bones in the earth? Therefore, it should not be surprising that when the tooth and thigh bone of an extinct elephant were dug up near my home here in Albany, NY that the governor of Massachusetts declared in 1706 that it could only belong to the “Nephilim,” “for whom the flood only could prepare a funeral,” to which suggestion the Rev. Cotton Mather enthusiastically agreed in 1712.
No wonder the people who today are the heirs to folk culture continue to look for the same giants they have sought for hundreds or even thousands of years.