With the launch of my new book, The Mound Builder Myth, yesterday, I have much to do and too little time to do it. I had rather little time for writing thanks to book launch work, but I wanted to give notice of the disturbing situation unfolding in New Zealand, where believers in a lost race of giants are coming under fire for the very real damage that their efforts to excavate what they believe to be giants’ bones may be doing.
According to RNZ, for the past four years, a group of people who believe that the original inhabitants of New Zealand were giants who lived before the Māori came to the country have been tunneling beneath a road, excavating a tube-like cave where they hope to uncover the bones of the giants. As RNZ reported:
The group has determined one is the leg bone of an 8 foot tall human and could be up to 2500 years old. "This here, my friends, is a human bone of a pre-Polynesian inhabitant," a male voice says in a video of the hollow bone posted online by the group. "You can tell by the triangular shape. It's most likely a tibia, which would make this… individual 8ft 4 inches tall… Regardless of its length, this is an older bone than any human being in New Zealand. What do our detractors say now, we wonder?"
A representative of the local Māori iwi, or tribe, whose ancestors are buried near the dig site, called the dig “disturbing,” but the New Zealand government initially said it would do nothing to stop the dig on the grounds that they believed there was nothing ancient in the hole.
The RNZ article is well done and gives excellent coverage to archaeologists and Māori, with a rare instance where the racist underpinnings of the quest for giants are fully explored. It’s well worth reading in full.
But the denouement of the misadventure is also worth reporting. RNZ followed up a couple of days ago with the news that the giant hunters gave up and went home after their activities were exposed—and after the revelation that the landowner didn’t know they were digging and hadn’t given permission. They lamented that we “now never know for sure” whether a lost race of giants existed.
The follow-up article also quoted our friend and colleague Dr. M Dentith:
University of Waikato teaching fellow Dr M Dentith, who studies conspiracy theory, fake news, and secrecy, said theories about pre-Polynesian inhabitants of New Zealand were often used to make some variation of the claim, "'Well, if white people were here first, then the Treaty is null and void', or 'We did to Māori only what they did to our distant ancestors'".
What a strange coincidence: It’s exactly the same claims that we see here in the U.S. vis-à-vis Native Americans, and which—if I may shamelessly plug—I write about at length in The Mound Builder Myth.
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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