It’s been a while since we checked in with Nephilim theorist L. A. Marzulli, who has spent much of the past few months promoting radical right-wing conspiracy theories about politics. But he’s back with a new DVD in his series On the Trail of the Nephilim. This video, billed as Episode 2, covers the “Mathematical Mysteries of the Moundbuilders.” Coming on the heels of Graham Hancock’s new book America Before, which covers much of the same material, it’s like looking to a funhouse mirror version of Hancock, where all of Hancock’s efforts to give credit to Native Americans for at least building on the inheritance of Atlantis have been replaced with an unalloyed Victorian insistence that barbarous Natives couldn’t possibly have piled dirt into earthworks without help from fallen angels and giants.
In the DVD, Marzulli asserts that there was a distinct race of Mound Builders who were different from the later Native Americans, and he ascribes this lost race to the Nephilim. He further claims that the circle and octagon mounds of Ohio are “the most mysterious” in the Americas, presumably because he doesn’t feel that Native Americans should have understood basic geometry.
Fritz Zimmerman, another Nephilim research, appears in the video to “investigate” the Grave Creek mound, an Adena site where the so-called Grave Creek Stone was uncovered in 1839. This stone, which bore a nonsense inscription in strange characters, had been discovered by Abelard B. Tomlinson and Dr. James W. Clemens, a believer in the lost white race theory. Clemens (in all likelihood) had faked the stone because he had expected his mound excavation to turn a profit from the fabulous lost white race treasure buried within. When he found nothing but bones and worthless beads, he faked the stone by carving on it characters from Ensayo sobre los alphabetos de las letras desconocidas (“An Essay on the Alphabets and Unknown Letters”) by Luis José Velázquez de Velasco, marqués de Valdeflores. David Oestreicher demonstrated a decade ago that Clemens had even copied transcription errors from the book.
Zimmerman claims that there is something nefarious going on at Grave Creek because the museum at the site has no record of giant skeletons being found in the mound. Nor does anyone else. That’s because there weren’t. But he points to a lithograph of the original Grave Creek museum, which featured a Native skeleton tacked to the wall as the focal point of its display, and claims that the skeleton looks big and therefore was a giant. The site report made at the time of excavation and later recycled for a number of publications does not remark on the bones being of any notable size but instead remarks that they were mostly disarticulated and crushed. I went back and read it again just to be sure.
This made me wonder where the idea came from. Clearly, it wasn’t Zimmerman’s original idea. He doesn’t have original ideas. The claim appears all over the internet, but eventually I discovered the direct source when I checked the archived version of Zimmerman’s old Nephilim blog. He got it from an October 22, 1922 article in the Charleston Daily Mail:
One of the most interesting of the five state parks is Mound Park, at Moundsville from which that city derived its name. Probably no other relic of pre-historic origin has attracted as wide study among archaeologists as the Grave Creeks mound which has given up skeletons of the ancients who constructed it.
Most of the details in the article are taken almost verbatim from the original site report, but where the newspaper writer got the idea that there was a seven-foot-four skeleton in the mound is a whole other story. The answer doesn’t come from the original site reports or the later scientific literature on the mound. Instead, it comes from an 1876 letter written by P. B. Catlett almost forty years after the fact relating his memory of being present during the excavation of the mound:
I would say that the engraved stone was found in the inside of a stone arch that was found in the middle of the mound, and in that stone arch was found a skeleton that measured seven feet and four inches. When the bones were placed upon wires, I took the lower jawbone, and put it over my chin, and it did not touch my face, and I was at that time a man who weighed one hundred and eighty-one pounds.
Obviously, there are some problems here. First, the excavator is recalling events of four decades previous without reference to written records or the bones in question. His account does not agree with the contemporary accounts from the 1839 excavation, nor with the testimony of others present at the time. This was noted even in the nineteenth century discussions of Grave Creek testimony. A lawyer who questioned Catlett a few years later found that Catlett had confused some events and misreported others. Although he was not questioning Catlett about the skeleton but rather the stone, his efforts demonstrated that Catlett’s account was a reconstruction of the past rather than an accurate record of it. Beyond this, the jawbone trick was understood as an illusion even in the early twentieth century. Because the jawbone is parabolic, it will easily fit over a living person’s chin and appear to be bigger, even though it is not.
In fact, the early twentieth century debunking of this claim by Gerard Fowkes in the Archaeological History of Ohio (1902) ought to be quoted in full:
It is a very common newspaper statement that a Mound Builder has been dug up somewhere “whose jawbone will slip over that of a large man.” Sometimes the man elevates the marvelous into the miraculous by having a growth of “remarkably heavy whiskers.”
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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