Normally I don’t post an extra time between Ancient Aliens and America Unearthed, but I want to call everyone’s attention to a blog post yesterday from archaeologist Andy White, who disputes the claims of the gigantologists that there is anything special about the “double teeth” of the giants. I’ve received almost a dozen (!) notices of this blog post this morning, so I figured I’d better say something about it.
One of the most frequent claims of the gigantologist community is that double teeth are an anatomical feature of ancient giants. White reviewed newspaper archives and old dictionaries and made a few conclusions. Among these:
White backs this up with examples of each use in non-giant contexts.
To his examples, I’d like to add one from the vol. 6 of the Dental Digest (1900) that explains the exasperation of dentists that even archaeologists and anthropologists (who should know better) misidentified known dental conditions as somehow representing radically different types of teeth. The excerpt below is from “Medical Abrasions of the Teeth,” a talk given by A. H. Thompson, a dentist who read this paper before the Kansas State Dental Association on May 3, 1900 after examining 2,000 ancient skulls in Philadelphia museums and finding that all had severe wear and abrasions:
The incisors and cuspids may be worn down until the cervical third, the thick portion of the crown, is reached, and the edge looks wide and grooved. This appearance has led to the popular idea of old persons having “double teeth all around,” of which we often hear. […] Inexpert observers of ancient skulls are disposed to classify the much abraded teeth as being different from the teeth of other and later races which are not so abraded. For instance, when the incisors and cuspids are worn down to the thick part of the crown near the neck and more or less notched, they are crudely described as being radically different from the teeth of Europeans, and as having “double teeth all around.” Many old travelers thus describe the worn teeth of savage people, and even recently a newspaper archeologist writes of the teeth of the ancient Cliff-Dwellers of Colorado as being different from those of later man in being “double teeth all around.” Some of the early explorers in Egypt described the teeth of the ancient mummies as being “thick at the edge,” and different from those of living races. In the collections above referred to the writer found no ancient skulls with “double teeth all around,” but did find that destructive abrasion was almost universal, the anterior teeth being often worn to the base, and showing the round section of the tooth at that point which so often misleads inexpert observers and perpetuates the popular illusion. The mistake is pardonable in the laity, but is inexcusable in anthropologists who have a knowledge of human anatomy and are exact as to the anatomical variations of other parts of the human body.
Note carefully: Thompson actually went and examined ancient skulls, and he concluded that the archaeologists were in the habit of misidentifying normal wear as “double teeth all around.” Now, since gigantologists tell us that scientists of the Victorian period must be trusted in reporting the size of skeletons, what are we to make of a dentist who examined the teeth and concluded that the archaeologists were wrong about the teeth?
To this I must add a qualifier: The idea that giants had double teeth was not invented by ignorant Victorians but is very old. The Babylonian Talmud claimed giants had sixteen rows of teeth, and the Book of Howth reported on the double teeth of a giant around 1500. Further, the phrase “double rows of teeth” is also known to have had the meaning ascribed to them in gigantological literature. Thomas Berdmore, writing in the Treatise on the Disorders and Deformities of the Teeth and Gums (1768), asserted that there were “double rows” of teeth in the sense that modern gigantologists think of them. Pliny the Elder, writing in the Natural History (11.63) wrote of a man who had double rows of teeth in his mouth, which was different enough from normal wear for the Roman writer to remark upon.
That said, Thompson gives powerful testimony that the newspaper accounts can’t be taken at face value.
11/29/2014 04:01:36 am
I think this is very interesting, and potentially quite important in terms of the Victorian newspaper accounts (not that it will matter within the "community", as giants believers pretty much to a man are conspiracy theorists and the whole point is either a religious stance or a stance against professional scientific authority).
11/29/2014 06:02:39 am
Thought of an even-better equivalent. Marcelin Boule's reconstruction of Neanderthals as brutish man-beasts. Boule was interpreting real evidence of pathology (arthritic joints) as evidence of a stooped-over brute. Some voices at the time (early 20th century) suggested the real answer, but Boule's reconstruction made ideological sense due to a stew of the notion of progress, social darwinism, and colonialism, and became the "caveman." It would be difficult to explain Boule's mistake (and he was an expert) and why it wasn't sufficiently criticized, or similar reconstructions by others of his time, without understanding the larger ideological background.
11/29/2014 05:30:55 am
Your research skills are second to none. Just had vol 6 of dental digest from 1900 propping up a corner of the desk?
11/29/2014 01:53:02 pm
I have a 1910 book on New Jersey agricultural law laying around somewhere. Why? I have no idea.
11/29/2014 07:17:41 am
My plan is to write this up as a formal piece, either for a peer-reviewed journal or as an article of some kind. I have most of the data collected, but I'm missing a few things I want to track down and I haven't had the time to pursue them this semester. The "giant" phenomenon (both in its original form and its current incarnation) is a really fascinating study of the interplay of politics, economics, culture, religion, science, linguistics, etc. There's probably a whole book in it.
11/29/2014 07:55:16 am
Pliny writers: "Timarchus Nicoclis filius Paphi duos ordines habuit maxillarium." However, intriguingly, Pollux's "Onomasticon" gives the same story differently and says on Aristotle's authority that Timarchus had only doubles of his "cheek-teeth." This is assuming that both men are talking about the same Timarchus and have otherwise mangled some minor details.
11/29/2014 08:11:37 am
It is pretty to easy to find information on modern clinical cases of the "doubling" of teeth in parts of the mouth. It happens now, and there is no reason to suspect such cases would not have been present throughout human history/prehistory. It is entirely possible that some of the "double teeth" in these accounts of large skeletons were actually cases of supernumerary teeth. A careful look at the wording of the accounts (rather than just assuming that every use of the term "double" means "concentric rows of teeth") will help sort that out.
11/29/2014 07:48:41 am
I just looked (quickly) at the Berdmore volume. It looks to me like he is describing cases where permanent teeth erupt without pushing out the deciduous teeth, resulting in "double rows" or "supernumerary" teeth. This happens today as it did then, and this is indeed what most people (including dental professionals) think of when you say "double teeth" or "double rows" of teeth. This may have been what was being described in a few of the giant skeleton accounts, but in the majority of cases that I've seen it's pretty clear that phrases with the term "double" are referring to worn/molar teeth or simply having all the teeth present (i.e., "double rows of teeth").
11/29/2014 08:25:44 am
I can't think of an account that specifies two concentric rows of teeth, but the Talmud does talk of 16 rows of teeth, so the idea was certainly present. I don't think we can underestimate, too, the European experience mistaking fossil elephant bones for those of the ancient giants. Those big teeth were often thought of as double size or doubled teeth, and here in America Cotton Mather mistook a mastodon tooth for that of a Nephilim giant.
11/29/2014 02:35:44 pm
hopefully not the tusk.
11/29/2014 08:47:29 am
Yeah, teeth clearly identified as mammoth/mastodon (i.e., the writer knew what he was looking at) were often identified as "double teeth" because it was obvious that they were grinders/molars.
The Other J.
11/29/2014 10:05:23 am
Here's how that sort of tall tale can spread: Andre the Giant, who was 7'5 and over 500 lbs, was also said to have double rows of teeth like a shark. It wasn't true, but it was a rumor that was spread among other pro wrestlers -- Ric Flair apparently used to try to look into his mouth without being caught.
11/29/2014 12:46:16 pm
So the double rows of teeth are just all their teeth, as in a complete smile without missing or ground down ones, and the other double rows of cheek teeth are nothing more than the adult or wisdom teeth, molars mainly. That is perfectly normal.
11/30/2014 08:16:02 am
I have seen photos of dental situations involving extra teeth, in one case the teeth (little knobs mostly) covered the roof of a child's mouth. This seems to be an unpredictable abnormality and might have been the origin of some stories.
2/20/2018 04:13:31 pm
I myself was born with two full sets of adult teeth (beyond my 1 set of baby teeth), though mine certainly did not come in as two distinct rows of teeth, mine just came in everywhere. My nickname in grade school was shark. After 7 years of pulling teeth down to just one set I received braces at the age of 13. Interestingly I happened to run accross this page because I was looking up information on acromegaly, trying to look for potential causes for my barrel chest condition combined with why it was that I grew until age 23 unlike most everyone else.
12/3/2014 09:43:46 pm
Once I visit dental care for teeth cleaning and he said that there is something like two teeth inside my mouth. I shouted and just ran away to get out of that clinic. I am afraid of this .
1/30/2018 11:16:01 pm
I had bilateral torii surgically removed from my upper palate at the USC Dental Schoolapproximately 2008. Freaked me out because I thought they were like the second row of elephant teeth when the original row wore out. Dental assistant said the removed material was spherical, but as growths, the protrusions had mushroom shapes. The dentist said they were "not uncommon" and I could not believe anyone would live with weird bony growths -- but taking his word for it, I wonder if it is an Asian characteristic -- more specifically Japanese indigenous populations related to groups migrating to America through Alaska. My thought, if dental anomaly is truly "not uncommon"
David A Siegal
3/25/2019 12:12:31 am
This reasoning is just as "questionable" as anybody promoting the existence of "giants". And those who are in the true alternative research community do not call these "people" giants, the term "large hominid" is the correct terminology. Well, first off, we have the little problem of "corpus delicti", no body, no proof, the sword cuts both ways. So you can infer whatever you like, either side of the argument, "no ticky, no washy". You savvy? I can present a mountain of inferred evidence to the contrary, so what? I cannot examine the original genuine article, so there goes that for anybody trying to make it stick. Second, the good dentist evaluated 2000 skulls huh, well, how long does a detailed dental evaluation of a skull take? That would be nice to know, seems like something to crow about if it took what seems to be the time to do this. And "whom" did these ancient skulls belong to? Native Americans? From the northeast? What peoples? Assorted peoples? Fourth, even if it is "wear" that creates the "illusion" that there are double rows of teeth, it still has no bearing on the overall "size" of the skeletal remains that were reported and measured by such people as physicians and other learned people. The notion that people would not know the skeletal structure in detail of human beings is quite frankly preposterous with open battlefields of corpses with their bones bleaching in the sun for centuries everywhere on this planet, the whole east coast of the U.S. was littered with skeletons of Native Americans by the time the Mayflower came, all dead from diseases brought by the Europeans and laying around there villages white bones of people. And humans have eaten just about every type of animal down to the bone for millenia, anybody who's eaten has seen the local slaughterhouse and the bones that come from it, please, no confusion there, it's ridiculous. Sorry, but insufficient data to conclude precisely on either side, the question remains open.
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