Have you seen that Jim Vieira and Hugh Newman are running a tour of Egypt later this year? For $4,400, you, too, can spend twelve days investigating “earth energies,” “esoteric mysteries,” and “strange accounts of giants being found in prehistoric tombs.” Vieira and Newman advertise the trip as a chance to hobnob with “the stars of History Channel’s Ancient Aliens & Search for the Lost Giants,” but I am more interested in the fact that they plan to frame their adventure around following the footsteps of the “Followers of Horus.”
Graham Hancock popularized this obscure set of Egyptian semi-divinities credited with the origins of civilization in Fingerprints of the Gods, where he identifies them with the survivors of his lost civilization. But he was drawing on Victorian scholarship, which (wrongly) liked the imaginary Followers of Horus to presumed pre-dynastic Egyptian civilization that built the Sphinx before the first dynasty.
The weird thing is that the myth of the Followers of Horus is an odd amplification of an offhand comment. Gaston Maspero, the great French archaeologist, wrote about what the Egyptians themselves believed about their ancestors:
With the instinctive naiveté that leads people to seek perfection in the past, the Egyptians had come to regard the first centuries of their stay on the banks of the Nile as the happiest period of all the ages, and they saw their half-savage ancestors as pious men who were usually called the Shemsu-Hor (Servants of Horus). It is upon these generations without history that we visit the honor of having constituted Egypt, as we know it from the beginning of the historical period. (my trans.)
Because Maspero believed the Sphinx to predate the first dynasty, later writers, not quite as careful, expanded this to suggest that the Followers of Horus weren’t just the earliest Egyptians but were more advanced than their descendants. Helena Blavatsky, in The Secret Doctrine, cites a part of the paragraph I translated above and writes that it proves the existence of “a great civilization in pre‐historic times, and a still greater antiquity” for Egyptian culture than science recognizes—even though Maspero clearly stated that this view as imaginary. Modern writers, such as Hancock, picked up Blavatsky’s version and ran with it, inventing a lost civilization out of some unfortunate phrasing and dishonest Victorian speculation.
But this is hardly the only place where bad scholarship and giants collided.
Earlier this month, Adam Stokes appeared on the Earth Ancients radio broadcast to discuss the lost race of white giants that fringe believers allege reigned over ancient America. According to the promotional materials, Stokes discussed “the origins of advanced giants who settled throughout North American [sic], mined copper and built mounds aligned to the stars.” Stokes is a Latin teacher at the Trenton STEM to Civics Charter School and teaches Bible study courses as an adjunct at Saint John’s University. He wrote about giants for Ancient American magazine but, according to Earth Ancients, he has not produced any original work on giants, only reviews of other fringe writers’ work.
Stokes’s views are of no great interest—he parrots the work of his acknowledged sources, including Vieira and Barry Fell, and references Nephilim, aliens, and Atlantis—but his life story, sadly, is interesting. Stokes said that he was sucked into the world of giants through encountering the work of Fritz Zimmerman and becoming intrigued by a photograph the infamous gigantologist presented of an elongated skull. Wanting to learn more about such skulls, Stokes did not turn to scientific resources but instead contacted Ancient American magazine, whose owner, Wayne May, was suitably impressed by Stokes’s professorial credentials and commissioned him to write a review of gigantologist Richard Dewhurst’s shitty, plagiarized book on giants. Stokes was unable to exercise critical thinking skills and therefore felt as though he made a major discovery upon seeing the similarities between Zimmerman’s and Dewhurst’s work (though, in reality, both draw on the same archive of old newspaper articles) and concluding that wherever giant bodies were allegedly discovered, so too was their evidence for an “advanced civilization.” “These giants are never just found by themselves, but they’re found in these spots where we have evidence of advanced civilization,” he said. He claims that the giants are associated with copper and hieroglyphs, as well as “Hebraic, Semitic inscriptions, all over, not just in one region.” He accepts a series of Victorian and twentieth century hoaxes as evidence of “Semitic” people in the ancient Americas, and he is quite clearly influenced by May’s Mormon apologetics. Indeed, Stokes also writes for Mormon publications.
Stokes repeats the same bad claims and dubious evidence that every gigantologist does—celebrating early antiquarians, claiming a conspiracy by the Smithsonian to suppress the truth, and failing to recognize that Victorian scholarship does not meet modern standards. He claims that scientists are hiding the fact that the giants are Middle Eastern Nephilim, and he implies that this has something to do with trying to preserve the myth that Native Americans were the original inhabitants of North America. He alleges that the giants go back to a civilization “that can’t be identified”—by which he means the antediluvian cultures of Biblical imagination. He says that the giants, of course, are “non-Native” and probably “Semitic” in origin. His evidence, of course, is nothing more than other fringe writers’ books.
Weirdly, Stokes said that he would be “silenced” by his academic superiors if he were higher up in the academic hierarchy, and he claims that he has experienced pushback and problems from his colleagues for advocating that Noah’s Flood and the Nephilim were more than just myths.
Stokes’s interview is a fascinating example of how fringe media create fake experts whose understanding of their topic is derived entirely from the work of other fringe writers. This has the perverse effect of perpetuating errors across the decades but also of amplifying previous writers’ speculative conclusions into the next writer’s certainties.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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