According to Coast to Coast AM, Micah Hanks is a self-proclaimed “but not self-righteous” skeptic who explores “the more esoteric realms of the strange and unusual,” including how UFOs, which represent non-human intelligences, will not be so mysterious when human technology catches up to their imaginary technology in the UFO singularity. Hanks describes himself as “the mouth of the South” and as “open minded, but skeptical.” I imagine that’s what makes him “not self-righteous”—he’s willing to believe some things that lack conventional evidence, like ghosts, incorporeal non-human intelligences, time travel, etc.
Why does this matter? Well, yesterday Hanks published an essay in which he described the article I posted earlier in the week about the allegation that the Smithsonian is covering up the discovery of the skeletons of “giants.” Hanks agreed with most of the points I made before deciding that even though I made logical claims they must nonetheless be wrong because giants are real. In doing so, he cited actual documents from the Smithsonian, which in turn actually support the case I was trying to make earlier in the week.
…what may be the very best evidence of curiously large skeletons from America’s past were published more than a century ago by the very target of the so-called conspiracies: The Smithsonian Institute (sic).
Hanks cites the Twelfth Annual Report of the Smithsonian’s Bureau of Ethnology, published in 1894 and covering the years 1890-1891, which reported the 1889 discovery of a “giant” skeleton in Mound 12 on the Holston River’s Long Island in Roane County, Tennessee. In nearby mounds, excavators found several skeletons they considered too uninteresting to describe in detail. Cultural artifacts found in these mounds indicate to modern scholars they were of Mississippian origin, and the succeeding Cherokee considered the island and its mounds sacred. In Mound 12, the Smithsonian men found a layer of mussel shells.
Underneath the layer of shells the earth was very dark and appeared to be mixed with vegetable mold to the depth of 1 foot. At the bottom of this, resting on the original surface of the ground, was a very large skeleton lying horizontally at full length. Although very soft, the bones were sufficiently distinct to allow of careful measurement before attempting to remove them. The length from the base of the skull to the bones of the toes was found to be 7 feet 3 inches. It is probable, therefore, that this individual when living was fully 7½ feet high. At the head lay some small pieces of mica and a green substance, probably the oxide of copper, though no ornament of copper was discovered. This was the only burial in the mound. (pp. 361-362)
Sadly, there is not enough information to draw firm conclusions. The Victorians, for example, were not aware of modern paleopathology, which has studied how bones change in various environments. The Smithsonian researchers noted that the mounds in question, being on a low-lying island in a river, were heavily saturated with water. Standard texts on paleopathology state that the repeated freezing and thawing of the water “will produce expansion by ice crystal formation.” This can make the bones appear larger, until such time as the ice crystal formation process results in the bones shattering. The Smithsonian report that the bones were “very soft” implies that they were in the thawing phase (obviously, they were not frozen during the warm-weather excavation) and had already lost a great deal of their integrity due to the gradual expansion of the bone structure due to such ice crystal action.
Such a process may well explain the frequent reports that “giant” bones disintegrated as soon as excavators tried to touch them; their integrity had been compromised and the bones shattered. Indeed, in the same Smithsonian report a similar skeleton of more than seven feet at another site was said to have “crumbled to pieces immediately after removal from the hard earth in which it was encased” (p. 115).
Obviously, of course, this kind of expansion won’t add feet to the size of the bones, but enough to turn a slightly above average body into a “gigantic” one. The report makes plain that the body buried in Mound 12—uniquely buried alone in that mound cluster—was a high status individual, and it’s likely that an abnormally but not super-humanly tall man achieved high status by virtue of his height and size. This is hardly unheard of, and it is probably telling that virtually no scholar discussing these mounds or citing the report found anything worth commenting on in the story of the more than seven foot tall man. Reports of Native Americans between six and seven feet tall occur with frequency from Vasco de Gama down to the colonial era, and there isn’t much reason to be shocked by it. Native Americans were consistently taller than Europeans. The Susquehannocks were also said to be giants. A forensic investigation of their skeletons, however, found that Susquehannocks averaged 5’7” in height, but still several inches taller than the Europeans. Nevertheless, occasional individuals of great height popped up from time to time. De Soto’s men said that the great chief Tuscaloosa was nearly seven feet tall.
Sadly, we can’t go visit the site to find out what was in Mound 12. In the 1940s, the Tennessee Valley Authority constructed the Watts Bar Dam, whose reservoir flooded the Holston River valley and submerged all by the highest ground of the former Long Island. In 1941, emergency excavations were conducted in advanced of the dam project. These excavations determined that some of the 19 mounds were in fact natural hills, and no “giant” skeleton was seen. However, the TVA and the Works Progress Administration pressured the archaeologist in charge to excavate and report faster in order to expedite national defense preparations.
But I guess this must be part of the conspiracy. Funny, though, isn’t it that the Smithsonian would publish an account of the giant in their annual report? Funnier still that this occurred more than a decade after David Childress claims that the conspiracy to hide the truth began in 1881. Micah Hanks wants to see the Smithsonian report as proof of “a deeper level of the mystery that has yet to be explored,” but in fact the inclusion of “giant” skeletons in the report makes plain that such skeletons were not being hidden, and the scholars of the era didn’t think they were particularly unusual or unnatural either.
I'm an author and editor who has published on a range of topics, including archaeology, science, and horror fiction. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter, The Skeptical Xenoarchaeologist, for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities, and subscribe to Culture & Curiosities, my Substack newsletter.
Terms & Conditions
Please read all applicable terms and conditions before posting a comment on this blog. Posting a comment constitutes your agreement to abide by the terms and conditions linked herein.