Yesterday I wrote about the Syfy channel’s admission that paranormal reality programming has passed its peak and viewers are looking for something new. Apparently, for too many channels the hot new thing is programming modeled on America Unearthed. Not only is there a casting call for an ancient artifacts show, as I mentioned the other day, but the Travel Channel just announced that the former host of Syfy’s paranormal Destination Truth, Josh Gates, has been given a new show called Expedition Unknown, which will investigate archaeological mysteries: “Armed with a degree in archaeology, a quick wit and a hunger for adventure, Gates investigates the latest developments in each unsolved legend before embarking on a fully immersive exploration.”
Since this will air in January on the network that brought you Ghost Adventures, I can’t express anything more than cautious optimism that the program will err more on the side of fact than fantasy. I am encouraged that Gates seems to recognize that unsolved mysteries are, in his words, connected “so uniquely to different cultures.” This is already a step above the History-H2 programs’ reductionist view of history as the story of one universal lost culture (giants, aliens, Templars, etc.) that overrides human diversity.
The growth of these programs comes just after the New York State Board of Regents voted to no longer require students to pass history tests to graduate, and will no longer require students to learn about events prior to 1750, guaranteeing that the History Channel and the Bible will be the most important sources educating future generations about ancient history.
I hadn’t planned to review more episodes of Search for the Lost Giants, but I ran out of ideas for today’s blog post, so I thought I’d give it a shot. However, since I could not possibly care less about show stars Jim and Bill Vieira and their brotherly bond, I’m going to be watching the show only for content—not drama—which, I believe, will make it go much faster, and give me time to look up which felonies the men pretend to commit in the name of gigantology.
S01E02 “A Photo, a Tooth, the Truth?” opens with a quote from Homer’s Odyssey (9.296) about the Cyclops eating human flesh, after which we go to the Ozarks to listen to the Vieiras yip and howl, and the narration tells us that the brothers are “dipping into their savings” to fund their journey. This is a crock, since they are being paid by the production company, Prometheus Entertainment, in some fashion, and someone is funding the camera crew shadowing them. They are looking for the lost race of cannibal giants that the Vieiras feel are part of Native American lore, citing Paiute myth. As we know, the Paiute story had nothing to do with giants, and the cannibals were normal human size. They became conflated with myths of giants due to the Lovelock Cave sideshow, whereby hucksters displayed mammoth bones from a nearby fossil bed as the remains of the bodies found in the cave, even though the actual bodies were normal human size.
The foundation for this hour is a June 11, 1933, newspaper report of the discovery of a giant skeleton in a cave near Steelville, Missouri, which at the time was quickly conflated with the remains of a cannibal feast that were found in the same cave in the Ozarks. The bones, when uncovered by the Smithsonian in 1920, were smashed open and the marrow extracted. The men visit the cave and find nothing but speculate that the giant—which isn’t there—might have been killed in a manner similar to Goliath because: Bible.
Because the 1933 newspaper report is covered by copyright, I can’t reproduce it in full, but I can link to someone who did. Here are the key details from the article:
The skeleton itself is seven and a half feet long without the cartilage layers that once separated the vertebrae, and with some of the bones of the feet missing, Dr. Parker believes the man must have been close to eight feet tall in life, but was apparently of slender build, for the bones are not of extraordinary size except as to length. His slenderness, too, must have been accentuated in appearance, at least, by the extremely small size of his head. With all his magnificent stature, this primitive chief, if chief he was, really was something of a pinhead. The skull measures only 20 inches in circumference—a pretty small skull, even for a man of normal height. The heads of most average sized men measure from 22 to 28 inches in circumference. A 20 inch dome perched on the shoulders of a giant eight feet tall must have looked tiny indeed.
The reporter notes that there was no way to know how long the body had been buried.
The Vieiras left out most of these details as they go looking for the giant, and the description sounds to me like a person suffering from a genetic disorder, as the disconnect between the size of the leg bones and the size of the head suggests. The Vieiras hope to use metal detectors to find copper artifacts because they believe, based on newspaper accounts, that giants used oversized copper weapons. They find nothing, but at the library they uncover a June 15, 1933, Steelville Ledger photograph of the oversized skeleton beside a man claimed to be six feet tall. Another article states that the Smithsonian requested that the body be shipped to them, “as they feel it may be a giant of prehistoric times.” The bones were then shipped to Washington.
I’ll stop here to note that this show is wearing its Biblical prejudice on its sleeve. Apropos of nothing, the show stops to inform us that while scholars dismissed Noah’s Flood as fiction, it is now believed that the Flood really happened, when the Black Sea filled. This is a claim made in 1998 and not generally accepted as the origin of the Flood myth. Nevertheless, the show asks us to consider that the reality of Noah’s Flood makes the account of the giants of Genesis 6:4 that much more credible.
Jim Vieira blames Dr. Aleš Hrdlička, the director of anthropology for the U.S. National Museum at the time, for suppressing the truth about the giants. Hrdlička, he says, was the ultimate arbiter of what facts could be considered truth, though Vieira fails too note that he didn’t do a very good job since he thought humans evolved in central Europe, near his homeland of Bohemia, rather than in Africa. Somehow, despite his massive influence, we do not follow this dogma today.
Bill Vieira discovers a tooth in the cave, and they declare it to be a human incisor of massive size. However, this would directly contradict the newspaper account, which emphasized the disproportionate smallness of the skull. An expert tells the men that he can’t identify the tooth. I’m not sure by what right they have removed the tooth if they genuinely believed it was an ancient part of a human burial site. As a presumed piece of human remains, it would seem to directly violate Mo. Rev. Stat. ß 194.410 (2009): “Any person, corporation, partnership, proprietorship, or organization who knowingly disturbs, destroys, vandalizes, or damages a marked or unmarked human burial site commits a class D felony.”
Did they have a permit to remove human remains not just from the cave but from the state to keep for their collection and conduct invasive testing upon? The same law stipulates that keeping said remains is a felony, too: “Any person who knowingly appropriates for profit, uses for profit, sells, purchases or transports for sale or profit any human remains without the right of possession to those remains as provided in sections 194.400 to 194.410 commits a class A misdemeanor and, in the case of a second or subsequent violation, commits a class D felony.” I’d imagine that a TV documentary, selling ad time on the basis of this tooth (as History’s Twitter feed promotions confirm), would meet the requirement of profiting from appropriating said remains. But as becomes evident, this does not apply because they are only pretending the tooth is human for television purposes.
After this, the brothers travel to Arkansas to look for evidence of a cave, now beneath a reservoir, that might have contained a giant skeleton. They send a camera down below the water to probe a sunken rock shelter. They think they see a carving of a face and a wolf on the wall of the cave, but I can’t make out what they say they see. They find nothing.
They conclude the show with a visit to anthropologist Todd Disotell at New York University and admit that they did no actual research to confirm the veracity of the 1933 Missouri articles, not even a cursory call to the Smithsonian to inquire into the supposed shipment. They give Disotell the tooth, and we discover that they could remove it from the cave because, as Disotell tells us, it isn’t human. (It looks something like a deer incisor, but I am not familiar enough with animal dentition to identify it.) Disotell allows that there is a small possibility that it might be, so he agrees to test the tooth. Again: If it were human, all involved would apparently be committing felonies if we read the Missouri law literally.
11/12/2014 03:01:11 am
Disotell is not an archaeologist but a geneticist who has become mildly famous due to his work with Bigfooters (always disappointing them since he is an actual scientist who gives them the real results of his analysis). He's appeared on several paranormal shows, and was the cohost of a reality show on Spike TV of Bigfooters competing to produce evidence.
11/12/2014 03:02:50 am
Then it sounds like the show is misrepresenting him, though I'll confess that I might have gotten the impression they wanted me to have while their exact words may have been slightly different.
11/12/2014 05:00:23 am
Disotell does evolutionary genetics and specializes in primates. Whatever those dumbasses called him, it seems like he actually is the man for the job.
11/12/2014 09:51:28 am
I went back and checked. They said "anthropologist," so I have amended the sentence accordingly.
11/17/2014 01:21:31 pm
This guy so called Todd Disotell is nothing but an actor. I have seen him in three different shows( counting this one). The one show was about UFO's with Richard Dolan. He played the part of a intellect supporting the UFO theories. The other show (sorry the name escapes me) he played the wild eye skeptic with a reddish Mohawk haircut.
11/17/2014 01:31:30 pm
11/17/2014 01:45:52 pm
"This guy so called Todd Disotell is nothing but an actor."
11/12/2014 03:28:21 am
It was a very intriguing and entertaining show. Accusing them of a crime is defamation and libelous if they had permission.
11/12/2014 04:57:12 am
Does this count as impresonating me? What does the Missouri law say about that?
11/12/2014 05:16:36 am
1. I did not accuse them of a crime, and if you read what I wrote you'll see I said that the laws don't apply because the tooth wasn't human. They only seemed to apply because they were pretending the tooth was human. I also asked whether they had a permit, since that is the prerequisite for excavating remains.
11/12/2014 05:20:35 am
Thanks for clearing this up, Jason. If this is the poster's real initials, then I, for one, have no hard feelings.
11/12/2014 04:31:48 am
Jason, I could somewhat see the "wolf head" on the cave wall because I think it was a trick of coloration. Even after overlaying the outline they used to reveal the "giant" face--something they only did once--I couldn't see the face either.
Not the Comte de Saint Germain
11/12/2014 05:10:19 am
"The growth of these programs comes just after the New York State Board of Regents voted to no longer require students to pass history tests to graduate, and will no longer require students to learn about events prior to 1750, guaranteeing that the History Channel and the Bible will be the most important sources educating future generations about ancient history."
11/12/2014 05:19:01 am
"Under the proposal, students can substitute career-focused courses in subjects such as carpentry, advertising or hospitality management rather than one of two history Regents exams that are now required."
11/12/2014 05:36:08 am
I don't know what my opinion is on the test element. Reading the about it elsewhere, what they're doing is allowing students to swap one of their social studies for a technical skill, but not both. So they're being mandated to take less history, not eliminate it entirely.
11/12/2014 05:52:48 am
I suspect that there is also something of a compromise involved in getting rid of history. New York is a place where you cannot possibly honor everybody's ideological sacred cows without alienating some politically significant group. It is also a place where ideological extremism has foothold in the educational system. (See CUNY's separate conflicts with Leonard Jeffries and Michael Levin.) It is unsurprising that there exists general movement away from addressing potentially divisive issues.
Not the Comte de Saint Germain
11/12/2014 06:09:37 am
It's true that eliminating history from the test doesn't make it not available. History doesn't have the obvious practical utility that, say, math does, which means it takes a better grade of teacher to make students interested at all, and good teachers are always in short supply. So it does seem a bit unfair to force high-school students to pass a history test to graduate. But schools are so obsessed with passing the tests these days that anything left off the test is in danger of being dropped entirely.
11/12/2014 06:43:28 pm
I never have really had a use for math. I found it quite boring and beyond the basics, not much use in my line of work. Now history on the other hand, I put it to great use. How ever I really wish the school I went to would have focused more on spelling. It's the one thing we use more thin any thing, but is the one thing they didn't do a good job of teaching at that school I went to.
11/12/2014 06:37:39 am
"Did they have a permit to remove human remains not just from the cave but from the state to keep for their collection and conduct invasive testing upon?"
11/12/2014 07:07:20 am
It could be, but I don't know the exact location of the cave to know what jurisdiction it falls under.
11/12/2014 06:33:39 pm
The cave is on private property and we (I was part of the shoot and originally located the land where the cave sat) has permission from the owner. There was no "dig" nor was there any "invasive" testing. The tooth was found in the top strata of dirt near the depression which was in the same spot described in the article you quoted. What you DON"T know because it wasn't revealed on the show is that the St. Louis Post Dispatch sent a reporter to Steeleville to document the story, take pictures, and interview Dr. Parker and others involved. I have the complete Post Dispatch article. What most of you are not aware of according to your comments is that most newspaper articles are NOT on the internet. One must go the library and search for articles. Maybe if you did that, like I have, you would find that instead of being less evidence supporting these finds there is a 10X ratio of supportive material at the library. If you look at th elink Jason provided, you will see this:
11/12/2014 08:58:38 pm
"The cave is on private property and we (I was part of the shoot and originally located the land where the cave sat) has permission from the owner. There was no "dig" nor was there any "invasive" testing. The tooth was found in the top strata of dirt near the depression which was in the same spot described in the article you quoted."
11/12/2014 10:43:02 pm
"Not to mention that there are pyramids on every continent yet we are to believe that it is all a strange coincidence? "
11/13/2014 03:12:54 am
Cable shows also plant evidence and the host says "here is something", this is a fact. Maybe not in this case but it happens on some shows that I know.
11/13/2014 06:53:44 am
"You can believe what you wish"
11/13/2014 07:48:34 am
11/13/2014 08:05:33 am
I meant to also point out that the article also included " primitive types as the Peking man, Piltdown man and the Neanderthaloids" under the umbrella of "popular science at the time". With modern "popular science" declaring Piltdown Man a hoax only 20 years after the date of the article.
11/13/2014 08:50:08 am
Lets ignore the standard talk of megalithic structures and Smithsonian conspiracies. James here opines on and claims to pracice prehistoric archaeology even though he doesn't seem to grasp the concept of disturbing a burial. While ignoramuses are a dime a dozen, if he really was involved with the production in any significant capacity, this shows that whoever is in charge of it either doesn't care enough to ensure that participants are at least competent enough to avoid breaking the law, or, which is more likely, are not concerned about liability because the whole thing is staged.
11/12/2014 07:03:49 am
I always enjoyed Destination Truth; its was not nearly as cheesy as others and participants were fun to watch. I stopped watching AmericaUnearthed because it was too grating; and I never watched AncientAliens because I am way over VanDaniken-like stuff. Lets hope "Expedition Unknown" plays it the same way as DT and maybe give them a bit more budget so it doesn't seem like they travel to the ends of the earth and spend 2 days at the final location.
11/12/2014 07:47:45 am
"S01E02 “A Photo, a Tooth, the Truth?” opens with a quote from Homer’s Odyssey (9.296) about the Cyclops eating human flesh..."
11/12/2014 10:26:45 am
Not the pun this show needs, but the pun it deserves :)
11/12/2014 10:38:17 am
11/12/2014 10:41:17 am
God that was a ridiculous movie! (Still vastly less ridiculous than the books, however...)
11/12/2014 12:49:42 pm
I still remember the old DOS game...first RTS game I ever played, and so frustrating that I didn't play another until Command & Conquer.
11/12/2014 01:27:54 pm
That's not the one with the shitty live-action cutscenes, is it?
11/12/2014 03:13:32 pm
The Dune game? No, looking back, it was Dune II, which didn't have live cut-scenes, although I think all the subsequent games in the series did.
11/12/2014 03:20:25 pm
Live-action cutscenes have always been shitty. Except for Red Alert 3, because there they had good actors who were intentionally hamming it up.
12/9/2014 03:40:19 pm
Homer also wrote about the city of Troy. Which was found.
11/12/2014 11:36:15 am
I was kind of hoping you would have a mention of last night Curse of Oak Island in todays blog post as it was my favorite episode of the series yet for its sheer comedic value. It was great to see the two brothers try to keep a straight face as they listened to the guy trying to explain to them how the treasure hidden on the island was really the lost treasure of King Solomon. They both tried so hard to be straight faced but it seemed like they wanted to burst out laughing. The expert who was making the claims was obviously put in the show at the behest of the producers since it was clear that while being polite no one else in the production took the theories with and level of seriousness.
11/12/2014 12:35:55 pm
I didn't see it because, frankly, there is so much better stuff on Tuesdays at 9, and there are only so many hours in the day!
11/14/2014 07:12:33 am
Scott Woter says he can't wait to get his eyes on the most recent discovery on Oak Island. So you might wanna force yourself to catch S2E2 ondemand when you get a chance and brace for cross-over :/
11/14/2014 07:20:28 am
For God's sake, H2, keep Scott Wolter out of the Money Pit! Legend has it that seven people must die before the Pit's secret is revealed, and we're already up to six!
11/12/2014 03:45:29 pm
At the risk of encountering some ire from the group, I must say that I find watching AU, Brad Meltzer's Lost History, Search For The Lost Giants, and other programs of similar ilk very beneficial. While I may not benefit mentally from watching these programs, the physical benefits I derive from my rapid side to side head shaking are as much as I would receive from an extra hour at the fitness center! :>)
Not the Comte de Saint Germain
11/12/2014 06:38:57 pm
It sounds like they deliberately evoked the stereotype. And calling Missouri the "Deep South"? There are reasons why Missouri is sometimes classified as Southern (though, as you say, I have always thought of it as primarily Midwestern), but I've never heard it called the Deep South. Half my family comes from the actual Deep South, so I think I can say with some confidence that Civil War border states do NOT qualify as the Deep South!
11/12/2014 07:46:58 pm
A lot of folks make that confusion and think all states south of the Mason-Dixie line are "Confederate States" and there for are a part of the "Deep south". We get that a lot from the foreigners off the trans-American trail here in Oklahoma who think Oklahoma was a confederate state even though it wasn't a state until 1907 some 40 pulse years after the Confederate States of America was abolished. and it was largely controlled by the Union and it's people sided with both the Union and Confederacy in equal numbers. Still we get people who make that confusion.
11/12/2014 08:59:33 pm
Kali is Deep South. Everyone knows that. San Francisco is the buckle of the Bible Belt :)
11/12/2014 10:32:11 pm
Really? I thought San Fan was the decorative fake leather surface of the bible belt.
11/13/2014 05:46:58 am
It's that glitter they use for fake gilding that you can't get off your fingertips... of the Bible Belt! :)
11/14/2014 11:58:44 pm
Yes, the glitter, the horrible evil glitter. haha
12/9/2014 05:05:39 pm
11/13/2014 03:38:47 am
So, minor correction: Gates' new show was announced months ago; if you read his book, he admits he knows he's really chasing mythology (and, of course, ratings) more than actual creatures, which is why I wouldn't put him in the same category as these true believers. As for the tooth, if the coroner believed it was a human tooth, wouldn't it be his job to keep it for study? Disotell was the "skeptic" judge on the billion dollar bigfoot hunt (or whatever it was called) TV show, and has become the go-to skeptical scientist with these sort of claims, so at least they didn't take the tooth to Jeffrey Meldrum ;-)
11/14/2014 03:44:43 am
Holy crap I'm from Right next to Steelville!
11/15/2014 01:04:46 pm
I enjoy watching these programs simply because it gives me the fuel to get the fire burning under my grandchildren to use the web for something other than Facebook (apologies to all my "friends"). However, I am trying to locate anyone who might have access to the microfiche shown. The photo of a young man below the "giant" may be my missing relative. The photo was shown briefly and I believe the name is Kilpatrick. Any one out there in Steelville want to look at it for me. BTW love your blog!
11/16/2014 06:25:18 pm
I used to enjoy the history channel when it actually produced intelligent shows about history. The ridiculous drivel that they are producing today like Oak Island, Lost Giants and Devils Graveyard is a real shame. I just decided not to watch their channel any longer. There are so many channel's today it is so easy to find something better. I would encourage other to NOT WATCH THE HISTORY CHANNEL. It is just no longer intelligent programming. Fortunately there are so many channels and competitors , it is no big loss. It's just a shame that the own the rights to the name , "History Channel"
11/21/2014 05:44:18 pm
Chris is no longer watching the History Channel. Instead, he has turned to Amish Mafia, Shahs of Sunset, and Teen Mom for historical information;)
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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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