It’s the moment we’ve been waiting for, seemingly for weeks. Last night The Unexplained Files “Lost Giants of Georgia; Bridge of Death” went in search of giants in the Republic of Georgia with Bruce Fenton, the fringe figure who does not want to be referred to as an expert in giants but does admit to being a psychic tempunaut in contact with ancient aliens. As always, I am skipping the half of the show devoted to the supernatural, in this case a haunted Scottish bridge that allegedly drives dogs to suicide, to focus on the ancient mysteries portion of the program.
Disclosure: I filmed a segment this week for Codes & Conspiracies, which airs on American Heroes Channel, a corporate cousin of Science Channel.
We open in the forests of Georgia, in the “Valley of the Giants,” to hear about how “ancient texts” refer to giants, particularly the Gigantes of Greek myth, the Nephilim of Genesis (but of course), and primeval Norse folklore giants. This leads to the claim that “Russian news” broke the story in 2008 that giant bones had been discovered in Georgia. I discussed some of this material earlier in the summer.
Pieces of the Russian report are replayed, but the show seems to take the news story at face value. According to one of the participants, locals claimed to have found oversized bones, which prompted scientists to look into the claims. They say they found the oversized femurs and skulls of two giant humans, which the show illustrates with what I believe is 2011 Russian video of the late Georgian paleontologist Abesalom Vekua (1925-2014) holding up what is claimed to be a large human femur beside what looks like a normal human skull. Vekua is translated as saying that the bones are comparable to those of the tallest recorded humans.
The show notes that earlier Vekua had earlier discovered 1.8 million year old human bones that demonstrated humans left Africa 300,000 years earlier than previously thought. The show implies that this undermines the consensus view of human evolution by demonstrating our ignorance of our true heritage, therefore making room for giants.
Logically speaking, the discovery of older (normal-sized) human bones doesn’t imply anything about the existence of a subspecies or distinct species of giant humans.
The show claims that Vekua could have made a major breakthrough in giant research, but he tragically died before “completing his research.” Of course the giant bones are now missing and are known only from Russian TV footage. The show asks if someone is purposely concealing the bones to hide the truth. Biologist Dr. Irakli Julakidze says that Vekua forgot to tell anyone where he stored the bones, and he can’t find them without the right call number in the University archives. This bureaucratic bungling is implied to be a conspiracy, but the show dutifully notes that this could be a hoax. They rehearse the story of the Cardiff Giant, a stone statue passed off as a Bible giant in the 1860s, as one such hoax.
Julakidze says that he has given up on trying to pull the archived bones since it’s just too hard to try to find the right box number; instead, he’s taking Science Channel up on its offer to pay for a whole new expedition to the Valley of the Giants in the hope of finding more bones. As a result, the show transitions from an ancient mystery into a sort of postmortem Finding Bigfoot.
Julakidze doesn’t speak English, so the show provides him with a team of what they call “experts.” According to the narration, “One is author Bruce Fenton, who claims to have found evidence of giants on the other side of the world.” The show does not acknowledge that Fenton believes he has been in psychic contact with ancient astronauts, or that he believes that Grey aliens have visited his house. Instead, it rehearses Fenton’s claims that in Ecuador in 2012 Fenton allegedly found the Lost City of the Giants. The show does not pass judgment on this claim, but the video footage of the “city” seems to quite clearly show a geological rather than an artificial formation. Let’s recall that Fenton told me that he was not to be described as an expert on giants, and yet the show identified him as part of a “team of experts” and that he investigates a worldwide “culture of giants.” This is very different from being an expert on giants of course.
The expedition travels into the woods, and one of the team members asserts, out of context, that there is a conspiracy trying to derail the expedition—though not the TV production.
With that, we head into commercial.
After the break, Fenton, now described as “author & researcher,” narrates the group’s progress over the river and through the woods. The narrator asks whether the bones might belong to people who suffered from gigantism, a medical condition. We are introduced to a man who has this condition, but the narrator discounts the possibility of gigantism with a falsehood. It claims that because only one in 3 million people suffer gigantism, 6 million people had to live in ancient Georgia to generate enough people to experience the condition. Statistical probability does not apply in this case since agromegaly (gigantism) is a genetic condition; some families have the gene and produce giants more frequently. There is no way to know when the giants were buried, much less that they were contemporary with each other—or that they weren’t part of the same family. They might have been two people buried 500 years apart, or people who were buried in one place because they suffered from agromegaly. All this, of course, presumes that the bones are those of giants in the first place.
Fenton becomes quite excited by “big stones” that he claims are Neolithic and artificial, but the video footage reveals what look very much like naturally cleaved and eroded rocks. He jumps to the conclusion that not only are these artificial but because he sees no quarry in his line of sight that they are also evidence of dramatic stone-moving techniques. He offers no evidence that there is any indication of human occupation at the site whatsoever. The rocks are very similar to the geometric cleaves and break points seen on the hillside above Fenton, where the river has gradually cut through geological layer, forming unstable valley walls whose rocks inevitably shear off and tumble into the river below in rectangular and cubic formations due to the shape of the rock layers laid down millions of years ago.
At the Natural History Museum in London, Prof. Chris Stringer tries to explain human evolution, but the show wants to use his description to imply that there is room on the human family tree for an unknown species of giants, parallel to the ancient dwarf humans found on the island of Flores. (These were the “hobbits” that America Unearthed host Scott Wolter felt were the oceangoing magical dwarves of Hawaiian myth.) It is possible, of course; different human species had different sizes and shapes, but the show fails to note that there is no evidence whatsoever that humans of giant size ever lived. Like Scott Wolter, cryptozoologist Adam Davies also believes that the “hobbits” might still be alive in the jungles of Indonesia. The argument seems to be that if dwarf humans still exist then giants are likely to also exist, though this does not strictly follow from logic. It is TV logic, whereby when there isn’t enough material to fill a full half-hour, you bring in somewhat related ideas and then pretend they are directly relevant to your main idea. In this case, Davies took a cast of what he says is a hobbit’s footprint and sends it to Bigfoot expert Dr. Jeffrey Meldrum, last seen on In Search of Aliens declaring sexual dimorphism in Bigfoot based on the existence of different sized Bigfoot prints. Meldrum, who believes in lost species of humanoids and apes, identifies the print as of some unknown species. The trouble is that we have no way of knowing that the cast is actually of a real footprint made by an animal rather than, say, a hoax. None of this is directly relevant to the existence of ancient giants in Georgia, though.
After the break, we’re ready to bring this story to a close, and it’s clear that the producers couldn’t come up with enough material to fill the half hour with Georgian giants. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have filled the time with so much unrelated and irrelevant material to try to make an argument by implication.
When the men finally reach the spot where the bones were supposedly found in 2008, the narration becomes more bombastic… and then nothing happens. The show claims that official permission from the Department of Reserved Territories to investigate the giants’ burial site is “suddenly withdrawn without explanation.” The narrator asks whether this bureaucratic bungling—and here they are clearly shown to be talking to the government agents in a clearing with houses, some distance away from the site, not as the show implies at the site itself—is part of a vast conspiracy, one that also suppressed the bones. “Is there a conspiracy to keep hard evidence of giants secret?” the narrator asks.
Next, Georgian journalist Lela Ninua admits that she kept one of the 2008 bones as a souvenir. A sample is sent off for DNA testing, and after the segment’s final break, Dr. Mike Buckley of the University of Manchester runs the tests. Now, presumably, the Georgian government gave its permission for exporting these bone fragments, and this would seem to undermine the earlier claim that it is suppressing the truth. Or did RAW-TV, the production company, just admit to illegally removing human remains from Georgia and send them across international borders in contravention of international treaties on treatment of ancient artifacts? Buckley concludes that the bones are human, and carbon dating places them around 1000 CE. There is not DNA of sufficient quality to sequence.
Fenton, who again I remind you emphatically says he is not an expert on giants, tells the producers that he plans to continue researching giants to “prove” their existence. Just not expertly. Completely amateur proof, of course.
The show concludes by thanking Georgia for saving this segment by giving them the raw materials for creating a conspiracy theory to cover up and distract from the fact that the “giant” bones were actually those of medieval humans. Well, not really; it actually darkly implies that ancient giants cannot be discounted until Georgia gives “full permission” to investigate.
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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