Fringe historians are claiming that the Greek government is conspiring to suppress the truth that white people evolved independently in Europe and are not descended from groups that evolved in Africa. Nephilim researchers have seized upon this as another example of an academic conspiracy to prevent the truth about human history from coming to light, which they are happy to provide you for a fee.
The story goes that in 1959 a shepherd found a cave in northern Greece, near a place called Petralona. The next year a skull was found in the cave, and initial estimates put its age at 70,000 years. Ten years later Dr. Aris Poulianos, a Soviet-trained Greek archaeologist, began working at the site and declared that the skull was 700,000 years old, a distinct species, and the ancestor of Europeans, whom he believed did not evolve in Africa. By 1995, he had also begun claiming that a tibia found in the cave was from a Homo erectus, 11 million years old, and more evidence that humans evolved first in Greece.
Mainstream anthropologists are uncertain whether the skull is a Homo erectus, a Neanderthal, or a very early Homo sapiens; the evolutionary history textbooks I consulted suggest that it is most likely a Homo hiedelbergensis. Electron spin resonance dating placed its age between 150,000 and 250,000 years ago. Poulianos asserts that stratigraphy places it at 700,000 years ago, while the Greek government favors a 300,000 BCE date. All fall within the known age range of Homo hiedelbergensis. Far from being “suppressed,” I found that the Petralona skull is well-represented in texts on the evolutionary history of human beings, where it is a frequently-cited representative of the Homo genus during the period of differentiation among Denisovians, Neanderthals, and anatomically modern humans.
Poulianos is a controversial figure and has been from the time he earned his Ph.D. His dissertation claimed to prove based on skeletal measurements of Greek immigrants in the Soviet Union that Greeks as a people were not related to the Slavs, the traditional enemies of the Greeks since Byzantine times, but rather were an indigenous people who evolved in Greece itself. He asserted therefore that Greeks had been living in Greece in unbroken succession for at least 30,000 years and the only outside influence on them was the adoption of an Indo-European language in the Mycenaean period. This had very important political consequences in Greece, which had attempted to assert genetic continuity with the glories of ancient Greece and to minimize medieval and early modern occupations by Slavic and Turkish groups. (Greece was under Turkish occupation until independence in 1830.) According to Poulianos, the invaders left absolutely no legacy whatsoever despite more than a thousand years of interactions between peoples on the Balkan Peninsula.
His research also “confirmed” that Albanians and Macedonians were similarly indigenous in their own countries, which conveniently supported Communist claims about nationalism. Somehow, amazingly, ancient peoples almost exactly conformed to modern political borders.
In 1981, the Greek government gave a contract to Poulianos to excavate the cave. Poulianos became upset when in 1983 the Greek Ministry of Culture cancelled his contract to excavate in the cave at Petralona, and he has made increasingly bitter accusations that the Greek government is conspiring to suppress his discoveries. He took the government to court for the right to excavate, which was restored to him in 1998 before being revoked again in 2012.
According to an article published last month on Ancient Origins, unnamed researchers assert that the skull contains “European” traits and demonstrates that the three major “races” (African, Asian, and European—or, less delicately, black, yellow, and white) were in existence as much as a million years ago. After Ancient Origins published its article, Poulianos cited it as evidence in a letter to the Greek government asserting that the “the continued destruction of anthropological evidence in archaeological excavations at more than 90%, has a negative impact internationally.” In other words, he asserts that the Greek government is actively destroying 90% of all anthropological evidence in order to preserve the Out-of-Africa paradigm. He also asserted that because a police officer harassed him while giving a speech at a high school, telling him he was not “permitted” to talk, that the government was actively trying to suppress his work.
Dr. Poulianos has unusual ideas, but it seems as though his difficulties with the Greek government are related to interpersonal disputes rather than scientific disputes. As mentioned above, the Petralona skull can be found in standard texts on human evolution, like the recent Human Lineage by Matt Cartmill and Fred H. Smith (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011) and the second edition of the Encyclopedia of Human Evolution and Prehistory (Routledge, 2004), where it is admitted to be a fascinating and challenging fossil that may represent a transitional species. The area of rejection is where Poulianos uses the fossil to claim that Europeans were evolutionarily distinct from other humans as part of an essentialist philosophy that also held European nations to be genetically, rather than culturally, distinct.
This, of course, escapes the attention of Nephilim researcher L. A. Marzulli, who yesterday published a blog post using Poulianos’s claims as evidence of a global conspiracy to suppress the existence of the Nephilim-giants of Genesis 6:4, whom he views a (sigh) red-headed cannibals based on alleged Native American oral traditions. He asserts that the U.S. government has systematically covered up or destroyed evidence of giants, which we have seen fringe historians assert over and again, and then he launches into the Paracas elongated skulls—which you’ll recall Brien Foerster had a Bigfoot researcher with ties to the Nephilim research community declare a non-human species!
This makes no sense at all, first because the hair wasn’t red in life but second because, even if it were, how would this challenge the Bering Strait crossing? At best it would merely suggest that those who crossing the Bering Strait were more genetically diverse, or that a mutation arose later. How does he think the Nephilim got to America? Down to the twentieth century fringe historians claimed that the Lost Tribes walked across Beringia; why should the Nephilim Atlantic travelers except for the influence of diffusionist fringe history, which turned to the Atlantic with Ignatius Donnelly?
Worse, Marzulli bases the claims of widespread Native American beliefs in red-haired giants from a confection of unrelated material, first and foremost an alleged oral history given by the Paiutes, which is no such thing. The original claim comes from an 1882 book by the Native American author Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins called Life among the Piutes (sic) where she describes having a dress with sewn-on locks of old red hair. There was a myth that explained this red hair, almost certainly derived from ignorance of the fact that old hair turns red or light brown with age, tied to a story of prehistoric genocide in response to cannibal attacks: “My people say that the tribe we exterminated had reddish hair. I have some of their hair, which has been handed down from father to son. I have a dress which has been in our family a great many years, trimmed with the reddish hair.”
To this became tied what Adrienne Mayor described in Fossil Legends of the First Americans as roadside hucksters displaying fossil bones as those of “giants,” quite possibly mammoth bones from nearby deposits, in place of the genuine (normal-sized) human remains of Lovelock Cave, a major archaeological site that was first explored in 1911. The bones from Lovelock Cave were found with massive deposits of bat guano, which smells like burnt flesh, leading Mayor to suspect that this was the origin of the myth that that bodies in the cave were those of a cannibal race. She further reported that red hair is indeed found in Native myths but that this was due to the natural decay of darker pigments; when the Paiutes, for example, found the Lovelock Cave bodies, they saw the red hair and naturally assumed that prehistoric people were red-headed.
From this Marzulli marries early twentieth century roadside attractions to Spanish accounts of races of giants, like this one made about Texas in a Spanish royal decree of 1521 on the authority of the Conquistador Alvarez de Pineda in 1519: “According to the Indians … somewhere in this land there are very tall people at ten or eleven palms in height,” about seven feet. It is a secondhand account of a myth, and one unrelated to the separate myth of the red-haired cannibals. To this we can add stories that Columbus recorded in his journals: that according to the Indians, there was a tribe “with dogs’ noses who were cannibals, and that when they captured an enemy, they beheaded him and drank his blood, and cut off his private parts” (4 Nov. 1492), or that in another place there were people “with one eye in their foreheads and others which they called Canibales, and spoke of them with many marks of fear; as soon as they saw the ships were taking that course they were struck with terror, and signified that the people went armed, and would devour them” (23 Nov. 1492), which I have previously shown to be a miscommunication related to interpreting half-understood Native stories through the prism of material Columbus read in Marco Polo since he thought he was in East Asia. (Columbus actually brought pictures of dog-headed people from medieval travelers’ tales in hopes of finding proof of the myths; he got told what he hoped to hear.)
In short, the red-haired cannibal giants are a conflation of three separate tropes—red hair, giants, and cannibals—that occur frequently in Native mythology, and sometimes in various combinations, but almost never all together.
And there is no conspiracy hiding any red-haired cannibal giants, red-haired long-skulled Nephilim, or super-ancient ur-Europeans. That is but a figment of the conspiratorial imagination.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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