Review of Richard Dewhurst's "Ancient Giants Who Ruled America" and Its "Pre-Indian Caucasian Culture"
I am just a-quiver with excitement. I’ve obtained a copy of Richard J. Dewhurst’s The Ancient Giants Who Ruled America: The Missing Skeletons and the Smithsonian Cover-Up (Inner Traditions, 2014), and am now privy to the “primary sources” documenting a supposed race of oversized “humanoids” who once reigned over our fair continent. You know it’s going to be a quality book because the author opens by giving “giant bro’ love” to the president of the publishing house and assorted other folks, repeating the “giant” pun four times in one paragraph. Plus: the unwieldy title pretty much assures you know what you’re getting into, at least until the search for a lost white race breaks out partway though.
Dewhurst was once, decades ago, an employee of ABC News and the Miami Herald and a writer for documentaries. None of that ancient experience is evident in this wretched, sloppy, miserable book, which takes the form of an anthology of historic documents about the discovery of giant skeletons, interspersed with brief editorial notes.
However, at the outset Dewhurst manages to be about 12% more interesting than your general issue Nephilim/giant book by introducing an epigraph from Abraham Lincoln, who wrote “The eyes of that species of extinct giants, whose bones fill the mounds of America, have gazed on Niagara, as ours do now.” He wrote this line in September 1848 (or, as other sources claim, July 1850—the text is undated) in unpublished notes for a lecture on Niagara Falls, and it closely reflects the mound builder controversy of the time and the more specific claims of the era that the giants of Genesis were identical with the antediluvian builders of the mounds.
Dewhurst excises the context (in fact, he never mentions it or the source for the quotation at all) and instead launches into his preface, in which he explains that he wants to prove giants really existed because he is himself tall. He admits that he gave newspaper accounts of giants “more credence” simply because of his personal height, and he then explains his book’s methodology. Sadly, his methodology was to take references to old newspaper accounts of giants and chase down the original full-length articles in newspaper archives—and not by actually searching back issues or microfilm copies, or by looking for follow-up coverage. Instead, he subscribed to “several online newspaper archive services” and searched by keywords “giant” and “skeleton.” I wish I were making this up.
He compiled the remainder of the book within a one month period by copying and pasting the results of keyword searches of whatever archives happen to have been digitized. (He admits that this helped him find less than 25% of the stories he remembers reading about in fringe books.) He does not quite recognize the remove that still puts him from the actual bones. Yes, he eliminated the creationist or mystery-monger middleman, but the newspaper accounts are not themselves proof that the stories they tell are true, especially with nineteenth century sources, which were prone to exaggeration, fraud, lies, hoaxes, and simple error. He make no move to evaluate any report; he simply accepts them at face value under the idea that anything printed in a newspaper must be true.
The preface having completed, Dewhurst proceeds to re-introduce the book in the Introduction.
In the introduction, Dewhurst describes the book as the “most exciting” intellectual adventure of his life, which strikes me as quite sad since he already admitted that the book was a glorified Lexis-Nexis search, with little to no attempt to evaluate the results critically. Instead, he claims that newspaper reports prove that giants were real, but goes beyond this to deliver a paranoid rant about American history taken straight from fringe history classics. His key points are instantly familiar to anyone who has watched America Unearthed:
All of these claims have been debunked time and again, but Dewhurst doesn’t even pretend to think critically about them—or, frankly, think at all. His Smithsonian claim is lifted, at times nearly verbatim, from David Childress’s “Archaeological Cover-Up” article from 1993 and more recent fringe books ranting about imaginary cover-ups. Dewhurst cites John Wesley Powell’s 1879 statement to the Secretary of the Smithsonian as proof of a cover-up:
With regard to the mounds so widely scattered between the two oceans, it may also be said that mound-building tribes were known in the early history of discovery of this continent, and that the vestiges of art discovered do not excel in any respect the arts of the Indian tribes known to history. There is, therefore, no reason for us to search for an extra-limital origin through lost tribes for the arts discovered in the mounds of North America.
Dewhurst presents this as a conspirator’s orders to his lackeys but fails to note that it comes in the middle of a lengthy discussion of the evidence that led to what is not a dogma but a conclusion. He also, incidentally, quotes selectively from Powell without indicating (at least in my eBook edition) that the lines are not consecutive. (My excerpt above is unabridged.)
Dewhurst, however, has no truck for any of Powell’s “science” because Dewhurst doesn’t believe in science. He opposes both evolution (but of course) and uniformitarianism, for he believes in degeneracy theory and the “modern school of thought” of catastrophism. (Modern in that it was promoted by Georges Cuvier and Immanuel Velikovsky.) He is particularly incensed by evolutionary charts showing the evolution of human beings from smaller, ape-like ancestors:
We have only to look at a bird and be told that it was once a dinosaur to know how false this paradigm of man’s growth is. Look at the evolution of most animals, and the record says they got smaller over time, not bigger.
Don’t ask me to explain how evolution can simultaneously explain change over time and be completely “wrong-headed,” as Dewhurst asserts. Consistency is for “scientists.” Creationists know that the only time things change is to get smaller, weaker, and worse as creation winds down before the Final Judgment.
Dewhurst further opposes the Bering Strait land bridge theory of the peopling of the Americas, favoring passage by ship. He asserts that the Smithsonian “told us” to believe in the land bridge (an idea Thomas Jefferson supported in the 1700s, before there ever was a Smithsonian!), and he is completely unaware that modern scholars are actively investigating coastal migration routes by boat. He also falsely asserts that the eruption of the Thera volcano (c. 1620 BCE) was responsible for the fall of the Minoans (c. 1400 BCE) and the Exodus of the Jews (c. 1250 BCE, conventionally)—all fringe claims popular in fringe literature. (See, for example, Acts of God by Graham Phillips , republished as Atlantis and the Ten Plagues of Egypt in 2003.)
But this pales before Dewhurst’s attempt to free his claims from the specter of racism in preparation for his eventual search for a lost white race of true Native Americans. He accuses science of being racist for denying white people credit for colonizing prehistoric America! According to Dewhurst’s confused thinking, Victorian scientists were racists (true) and thought little of Native Americans (also true) so therefore they were being racist in accusing the Native Americans of inventing their own cultures because it implied that their low level of development was their own fault! “When you step back for a moment from the pseudo-scientific double-talk, what he [Powell] is saying is this: these are essentially dumb savages with the minds of children.” So to be not-racist, we should blame prehistoric Europeans for… what exactly? It’s very confusing, but apparently we should also call Europeans dumb savages, but with boats.
All of this is prelude to establishing the existence of a conspiracy that Dewhurst believes can be uncovered and thwarted with a careful keyword search of subscription newspaper archives. Why didn’t the all-powerful Smithsonian think of that?!
At this point, the original—if you can call it that—material about runs dry. As we head into chapter 1, we begin reprinting out-of-copyright newspaper reports. If I were a total dick, I’d recopy and paste these reports as an eBook since Dewhurst doesn’t own them and I could undercut his book with a cheap knockoff. But I can’t quite do that because most of the book actually reprints later articles from the 1920s down to the 1990s that are likely still covered by copyright, and there is no indication that he sought or received permission to reprint this material. I imagine the Associated Press would be interested to learn that its September 18, 1963 article on the discovery of a (normal-sized) Native American skeleton in South Dakota was reprinted in its entirety, as was a Syracuse Herald-American article from 1983. I know for a fact that piece is still under copyright.
Seriously: As I worked through the book I was shocked by how much copyrighted material he has, frankly, stolen without any indication that he paid the authors or their publishers to use their work. This is especially hilarious since the copyright page warns me against doing what Dewhurst himself did: “No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.”
There is not a word about permission given the author to reprint, and if any of that were my work and used without payment, I’d sue the guy to Kingdom Come.
I should also note here that throughout the eBook, Antrik Express, the company hired by Inner Traditions to convert the manuscript to electronic format, has done a terrible job distinguishing between words written by Dewhurst and those written by others. I had a hard time telling in places whether material was written by Dewhurst, part of a cited article, or (as we shall see) simply plagiarized by Dewhurst.
But back to the “facts,” such as they are. Dewhurst summarizes uncritically an August 5, 1947 Hot Citizen story first reprinted by David Childress decades ago in Lost Cities of North & Central America that describes a physician’s claims (never proven) to have discovered a cave in Nevada filled with hieroglyphs and 9-foot giant skeletons wearing, and I am not making this up, “prehistoric Zoot-suits.” The AP also ran a brief summary of the Hot Citizen article in 1947, and this was reprinted in Atlantis Rising in 2002. The two articles differ in some key details, with the AP omitting the discoverer of the cave’s outrageous claims that the bodies were 80,000 years old, that the caves were the lost continent of Atlantis, and that “well-preserved” dinosaur mummies were found alongside those of saber-tooth tigers and mastodons, paired off “two by two.” As you might guess, the story was a hoax, and archaeologists immediately criticized the claims as ridiculous and unfounded. The hoaxer never showed the supposed find to anyone.
Dewhurst uses a version of the article that he attributes to the apparently non-existent Nevada News at the exceptionally specific date of “1947,” but which appeared in 2007 in the Russian newspaper Pravda, reprinted from UFO Digest, where it was authored by Mary Alice Bennett. Dewhurst appears to have mistaken Bennett’s summary-discussion of the original report (presumably the Hot Citizen account, with which it shares key details absent from the AP account, likely filtered through Childress’s reprint) as the actual words of the nonexistent newspaper, whose name he apparently took from Bennett’s note that this was “1947 Nevada news”—i.e., news from Nevada. He mistook this for a byline.
Remember, Dewhurst used to work for the Miami Herald.
What other sloppy research is in this book? How much more did he copy and paste from the internet without checking? Even David Childress did better than this. Actually, they both use a similar lie: Remember that photo of “giant” jaw I showed a few weeks ago? It’s reprinted here again—the same photograph!—as proof of giants. Dewhurst also does not understand the difference between jaws and gums.
As for the articles in the book, there is not much to say. Some are interesting, some are boring, some are obvious hoaxes, and some have no seeming relevance to the topic. Without any attempt to evaluate them critically, they are no better and no worse than a random Google search, which, in essence, they are.
In the end, Dewhurst expends most of his (brief) editorial notes arguing with Victorians about whether Native cultures were truly sophisticated. He seems to think that “Science” established a dogma in 1879 and has not waivered since, and thus his righteous anger is misdirected on two fronts: first because he fails to realize that science has moved on since the 1870s and no longer views Native Americans as backward savages, and secondly because he is outraged not on behalf of actual Native Americans but the imaginary Bible giants and European visitors he thinks actually gave rise to them. Don’t believe me? After several paragraphs apparently plagiarized verbatim (including the photos) from portions of several web articles (themselves apparently derived from a single source), he rails (apparently in his own words) against the “effort to clear the historical record of all references to a pre-Indian Caucasian culture in the United States.” Yes, he said it: He wants to reclaim America for white people as the real indigenous Americans and the rightful owners of all they survey.
(To be fair: The plagiarized portions might have been meant as quotations that the eBook design did not make clear, but the lack of acknowledgement anywhere argues against this.)
This book is wretched even by fringe history’s low standards. Dewhurst owes those whose work he is reselling for cash money both an apology and a share of the proceeds.
For the record, the publisher of this mess is Inner Traditions owner Ehud Sperling, and the editorial employees working on this were Jon Graham, Mindy Branstetter, Jeanie Levitan, Nancy Yeilding, and Cyndi Marcotte. I normally would not give them by name, but this book was such an insult to history and to literary integrity that they deserve special notice.
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.
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.