Denisovan Origins: Hybrid Humans, Göbekli Tepe, and the Genesis of the Giants of Ancient America
Andrew Collins and Gregory L. Little | 432 pages | Bear & Company | ISBN: 1591432634 | $21.60
Denisovan Origins is a team-up between Andrew Collins and Greg Little, two authors whose combined oeuvre includes wild and extreme claims about history ranging from Atlantis and space aliens to giants and Nephilim. Their new book carries an endorsement from no less than Graham Hancock, who claims that the book uncovers a “missing chapter” of American history that supplements “my own book, America Before.” Normally, a publisher will give me a copy of a book and I will write a detailed review that—and this should surprise no one—also serves the publisher’s purpose of promoting the book. I didn’t get an advance copy of Denisovan Origins, in large measure because Andrew Collins reportedly was upset that the publisher had sent out copies of his last book several months ahead of publication, and I am not terribly interested in giving too much space over to promoting a book that the author and publisher wanted to hide from me. But in the interest of the public good, I will look at it anyway, even though it contains very little new material that isn’t repeating claims from the authors’ earlier books
Like many of the Bear & Company / Inner Traditions volumes that carry multiple authors’ names, this is not a true collaboration between two writers to produce a single book. Instead, as with other half-assed books from the same publisher, each author wrote half of the book, and the two parts don’t really go together so much as serve as an excuse to fold two long-form articles into a book. We’ll look briefly at each author’s contribution in turn.
Part One: “Old World Cosmogenesis”
Andrew Collins leads off the volume with the longer of the two sections, and the one that is the most repetitive of his earlier work. Having reviewed his last volume on the Cygnus Key, there was little added here that he had not previously (mis-)stated in that book or his earlier volume on Göbekli Tepe. The second half of the book is largely concerned with material that Collins and Little published in 2014’s Path of Souls, which posited that the Denisovans were the Bible giants and the builders of the ancient mounds of North America. Here, he calls them “the undisputed founders not only of a universal cosmology but also of a unique form of shamanic-based civilization.” I will leave it to others to go into greater detail about his many misstatements, generalizations, and mistakes and instead focus on the main through-line of his argument, but let me state here that the “undisputed” adjective is eminently disputable.
Collins attempts to argue that Göbekli Tepe preserves memories of the alleged Younger Dryas Impact Event and that this is tied to the constellation of Cygnus the Swan, both claims appearing in his earlier books, which I have critiqued in reviewing his Cygnus Key (my review: Part 1 and Part 2). Nothing changes in the retelling. Here he expands the discussion to imagine Göbekli Tepe as the font of Neolithic culture, and he folds in his earlier idea (as refined in a revised edition of yet another book) that the comet impacted the Caribbean basin, which had formerly been Atlantis before the end of the Ice Age flooded it. He purports to create an entire fictitious history of the earth centered around a quasi-mystical society of Denisovan astronomer-priests who were also Bible giants. These people migrated across Europe where they became the Solutreans and then transferred their fluted points to North America, where they became the founding population of Native Americans when they met their own cousins, the Denisovan-Neanderthal hybrids, coming the other way, from Asia. They also transferred their genius and some DNA to the Swiderians (a Paleolithic/Mesolithic people of modern Poland) who became, he thinks, the founders of Göbekli Tepe and through it the patrons of all Western civilization. At some point, they apparently fucked some Neanderthals. I may have a few details out of order. Collins tends to be so boring a writer that it becomes easy to gloss over his repetitive, tiring text.
Collins provides as evidence the same old chestnuts about haplogroup X (which he declares, sans proof, the Denisovan haplogroup) and the ideas of Dennis Stanford that have been debunked time and again, and he relies on nineteenth century discussions of skull size and shape to try to connect groups across time and space. Actually, there is a lot of nineteenth century material in the book, and this should surprise no one. It’s a calling-card of pseudohistory.
It’s difficult to find much in his argument that hasn’t appeared in his earlier books, and it seems a waste of time to repeat earlier criticisms about his rank speculation, tendency to extrapolate far beyond the evidence, and slipshod methodology. For him, everything is a star, so every mythological reference to a bird is proof of a Cygnus cult and every shamanic ritual was inspired by the zodiac. It’s all rather tedious, not to mention at odds with the historical record, where the modern constellations can’t be confidently traced much further back that Babylon.
That at least some of his evidence comes from the same Arabic-language Hermetic lore about star worship and the pyramids that I have interrogated at length for most of the last decade, and which I am writing a book about, does not inspire confidence. Collins imagines that Arabic accounts of the Sabaean Hermeticists of Harran in the early Middle Ages reflect Denisovan lore from Göbekli Tepe eight or ten thousand years earlier. Here’s some news for you: The Arabic stories barely reflect Late Antique lore accurately, let alone Neolithic events, or earlier. (Also: Collins conflates Hermes and Hermes Trismegistus in ways that suggest he doesn’t know there is a difference.)
Much of his analysis surrounds Göbekli Tepe’s Pillar 43, which contains some animal figures that, coincidentally or not, are also animals used in the modern zodiac, or in older zodiacs, or not at all, and therefore must be a star map to the comet impact at the Younger Dryas boundary. Somehow the many other pillars at Göbekli Tepe pale in comparison before this one, and I have spoken more than once about Collins’s (and others’) overly imaginative interpretation of some very common animals. Birds and scorpions and such are pretty obvious motifs to use, and no evidence suggests that they were intended as constellations. Indeed, using the same methodology, a skeptic found the same “meaning” in promotional images from the Looney Tunes movie Space Jam. Here, Collins spins an elaborate cosmology spanning millennia of time and thousands of miles of geography from a bird and a scorpion carved on a single pillar.
A very weird section seems to embrace a century-old bit of nonsense that Neanderthals were sexually liberated, left-handed, red-haired, matriarchal (!) celebrants of the menstrual cycle (!!) and that this feminist paradise had been hybridized into the aggressive, repressed, masculine Homo sapiens. According to Collins, the masculine/feminine human/Neanderthal hybridization produced a unique “hybrid mindset” coding for a love of both beauty and function. What utter bullshit. There is not a shred of evidence for ethereal Neanderthals or any “hybrid mindset.” This was an invention of Stan Gooch, a psychologist with a penchant for discredited Freudian views of the mind, and it has received no support from experts who actually specialize in anthropology and evolutionary biology.
Although the Inuit are a relatively late arrival in North America (descended from the Thule around 1000 CE, in turn splitting from the Aleuts and Siberians around 4,000 years ago), Collins believes that they are Solutrean descendants of Denisovan extraction, having come from Europe 15,000 years ago. Collins repeats a bunch of DNA material that Graham Hancock covered in America Before, and he adds nothing to it except to be even more extreme in proposing trans-Pacific migrations of Denisovan hybrids to serve as the founding population of America. His, however, are not Atlanteans, as Hancock’s are.
I do have to give Collins credit for this: By proposing that both the Solutreans and the populations that crossed into North America from northeast Asia were Denisovan hybrids, he covers his bases, so he can be right no matter what future science determines about the actual history of Native Americans.
Everything you need to know about Collins’s final chapters on Denisovans as Nephilim giants building American mounds can be found in this horrible conspiracy theory cum apologia for a lack of evidence:
Since then  the theory that the ancient American giants were Denisovan hybrids has been adopted and promoted by a number of ancient mysteries writers and researchers in articles, books, and even on popular TV shows. Yet even if this startling surmise is correct, it is unlikely to be confirmed anytime soon.
Repeat carefully: There are no “giant” skeletons larger than those known from humans in historic times. There is no conspiracy to hide them. Also: There is no evidence that Denisovans were “giants” in the mythical sense. The largest bone fragment found of a Denisovan, a jaw bone, indicates that they probably stood around six feet tall. “Giants” gets defined downward with each generation. Yes, it’s taller by a head than the average Homo sapiens of the era, but nothing like the heights of the supposed giants of legend, or even of Victorian newspaper hoaxes.
I’ll also mention in passing, just because it angered me, that Collins attributes autism spectrum disorders to “Denisovan introgression”—too much daydreaming about shamanic voyages to the inner world. He considers this an “advanced” feature that helped the Denisovans evolve to be able to calculate star positions just by looking at the sky and determining the math involved. Uh-huh. The precession of the equinoxes wasn’t discovered until Greek times, and it wasn’t calculated correctly until more than a millennium after that. The Denisovans weren’t doing it. Collins also adopts a bunch of crappy precessional numerology from Hamlet’s Mill, not knowing that he was actually falling prey to a mistake: that numerological system was invented by Abu Ma’shar in 850 CE and then retroactively applied to all the ancient myths and legends that preceded him. I know this because I did the damn homework.
Part Two: “American Genesis”
Greg Little takes over in the second half, or, rather, the last few chapters. I won’t belabor the point: It’s a bunch of paranoid bullshit. It starts with a lament that it is “racist” to look for non-Native founding populations in America and proceeds to rail against the “standard” view of American prehistory, which he quotes from a book written in 1956. Yes, 1956. He then cites a more recent account—from the 1970s. I swear to God these old men all have issues with their midcentury schooling and can’t imagine that the world has moved on since then. In a hilarious passage, he expresses wonderment that archaeological journal articles published in the 2000s contain different interpretations from those published in the 1990s, as though new data shouldn’t produce better conclusions.
Here, by the way, is Little’s assessment of the importance of archaeology, which reinforces the anti-academic theme of the book:
To a lot of people, the ancient history of the Americas is important only in an academic sense. To other people, it is completely irrelevant and unimportant. The eventual outcome to the controversy of who first entered the Americas will not matter to the vast majority of people. One explanation of why archaeology has become irrelevant to a lot of people relates to the field’s unending internal disagreements and disputes. Some of the quibbles and most hotly debated issues in archaeology are utterly trivial and unimportant to the general public. I’ve heard two archaeologists strenuously argue about whether a certain stone point is a Pickwick or Ashtabutla type. Both of them wanted to win the argument, but no one else cared. When I listened to their argument, what came to mind was something I was told when I was in graduate school: “Never argue over a turd.”
I’m a little confused as to how the skeletons were excavated and put on display but somehow the 1990 NAGPRA law completely devastated the entire field of gigantology. Did no one see them between the 1800s and 1990? What about those textbook authors Little quoted in order to disparage?
The giant skeletons never existed; they were incorrectly measured regular skeletons, misidentified Ice Age megafauna (and we have proof of that many times over), or hoaxes. In one case from 1896, a “giant” skeleton was just a rock.
Little’s section is a litany of complaints and grievance against everyone he considers to be a member of the intellectual or social elites. He complains about the Clovis-First hypothesis, though evidence disproved it decades ago, referring to it as “holy writ” that could not be challenged before 1997. His rage at theories he mistakes for dogmas makes Collins seem quaint in his old-fashioned piles of pseudo-scholarly nonsense.
Little presents a pile of old reports of “giants” from European explorers and early antiquarians and archaeologists, none very convincing, and then claims that skeptics refuse to acknowledge the reality of giants for the same reason that they clung to Clovis-First, a fear of breaking some unwritten dogma about the human past. Not wanting to cite me by name, Little quotes me on the origin of “giant” reports and describes my website in impersonal terms as “a well-known skeptical website [that] repeated the same verbiage that it has spewed at virtually all of the giant accounts.” He then accuses me of “the same eugenics-driven motive that began in the early 1900s. It is to keep the ancient Native Americans in their place as nothing special and racially inferior.” He did, generously, allow that I might be a “dupe” rather than an active racist. Remember, he is writing this in a book that claims that Native Americans are actually non-human hybrids who were ruled over by a European interspecies elite preserving secret star lore from Atlantis. I said that Native Americans are, well, Native Americans who ruled themselves, thank you very much. I can’t quite see where eugenics fits into this. In fact, I wrote an entire book—to be published in the spring by an academic press—about how ideas like Little’s derive from a long history of racism against Native Americans. He might want to read it.
In fact, he should probably read it if only because my book covers much of the same material as his section of the current text, and it does so in a way that explores the origins of the claims, their faulty foundations, and how they have historically served imperialist and colonialist ends. Little recycles old chestnuts from the Victorian era about the “moundbuilding cultures” being somehow connected to a lost race of giant elites, that Native Americans have no knowledge of the real origins of the mounds, and that Victorian newspapers and journals are a reliable source of scientific data. Because he has an essentially Victorian view, he doesn’t really consider modern ideas and evidence. For example, the reason that there are few Native oral histories of mound building is due to the massive disruptions of the Contact period, which saw tribes relocate, populations collapse, and historical memories sever. It’s not exactly the baffling mystery he presents it as. In other places, he cites Victorian accounts of skulls unearthed in America that early scientists claimed had Neanderthal features. He does not consider the fact that Neanderthals had only been discovered a few years earlier and the scientists of day didn’t have a full understanding of the subject, so their comparisons were superficial, not authoritative. To his credit, he doesn’t claim these to be Neanderthals—though he says they could be—only that Neanderthal-like humans (whom he says are actually Denisovan hybrid giants) had “special status” among Native Americans, a claim that has no support that I can find in the extant literature.
Little, though, is apparently overly concerned with my old blog posts, which he masks under a generic dislike of “skeptics.” “They typically point to a single novel and a few internet articles to support their racism accusation, but as far as this writer is aware, no archaeologists supporting the Solutrean hypothesis have made claims of white Europeans being the first Americans or the Clovis People.” The “novel” is a reference to a blog post I did many years ago about White Apocalypse, one of many white nationalist works that took the Solutrean hypothesis as support for Aryan nationalist narratives. “Skeptics” don’t point to the novel. I did. Little intentionally flattens my argument and mistakes the use of the Solutrean hypothesis by white nationalists for a blanket accusation that the very idea is inherently racist. It isn’t racist per se, but the use of it for white nationalism is.
After this, Little repeats much of what Graham Hancock wrote about ancient mound sites being aligned to the stars, and he tries to force this into Collins’s cockeyed cosmology based on vultures, swans, and Cygnus, a constellation not known in its Greco-Babylonian form in the Pre-Columbian New World. The book ends in the only way it could, with Little screaming into the darkness that skeptics are the real racists because they “demean” Native Americans by refusing to believe that they were superhumans ruled over by a giant Denisovan-Neanderthal-Homo sapiens elite. Like Hancock in America Before, Collins and Little reverse the traditional racist approach to the Mound Builder myth, making Native Americans themselves into the heroic lost race. The attempt at progressive mystery-mongering may soothe the souls of those who understand the racist origins of the old myths, but it does nothing to provide any evidence that those bonkers old claims have any relationship to reality.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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