Archaeotrek—Alternate Perceptions Magazine, August 2014
An Exclusive Interview with Dr. Greg Little about his new book Path of Souls
by: Brent Raynes
Gregory Little began his career in neuropsychology and psychopharmacology with his first publication in 1972 appearing in the then-fledgling Society for Neuroscience’s second publication. He has since published over a hundred research articles in scientific journals in psychology, addiction, and criminal justice. He has authored or coauthored over 50 books, workbooks, and textbooks. He has also published a series of books on Native American mounds and beliefs.
Brent Raynes: Most of us have a very distorted, inaccurate view of what Native American life used to be like. They visualize very primitive people living in isolated tribes and clans across the land. But you pointed out in your latest book, Path of Souls, that there were over 57 million indigenous people living in the Americas when Columbus came our way in 1492. And that was a conservative estimate! A conservative estimate for North America alone hovers around 4.5 to 7 million, possibly even up around 20 million. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that at present there are more than 317 million people in North America. That’s understandable to us, but to think in terms of the millions who lived here at the time of Columbus is rather mind-boggling for the majority of us today. Also in your book you describe how as de Soto and his men back in 1542 marched throughout the Southeast, from Florida all the way to Oklahoma, with many states in between (with most of us thinking of the land back then as being largely unexplored and uninhabited wilderness), you wrote “populations in some areas were so thick, it was difficult to tell where one village ended and another began. In some places, the army moved through 12 villages a day as they plodded along.” A lot of people are going to naturally ask, all of this being the case, what happened to these millions of people and their hundreds and hundreds of villages that stretched across the landscape of the ancient Americas?
Greg Little: There are several population estimates of the Americas when Columbus arrived and they tend to range from 10 to 112 million. But the most reliable recent estimates are from the Folsom’s in 1993 who related that about 57 million people were here when Columbus came. Almost immediately after Columbus landed in the Bahamas, South Americans and the Caribbean island natives were devastated by the Spanish conquistadores in two ways. First, they killed and enslaved entire populations. But diseases quickly killed almost all the rest. Many islands were literally wiped clear of natives. Hernando de Soto and several other gold-fever driven explorers killed tens of thousands of natives on their marches through ancient America. But tens of millions of natives died soon after the Spanish left due to disease. The natives had no resistance to the smallpox, typhus, cholera, measles, and various viruses spread to them as they interacted with the Spanish. De Soto entered Florida in 1542 and by the late 1600s the native populations had declined by 90 percent. It was a horrible apocalypse for the Native Americans, but it needs to be put into some sort of perspective. Even if the first explorers had been completely friendly and no violence had occurred, the diseases would still have been spread into the Americas. But the old ones, the people who held the sacred knowledge, were virtually all eliminated. It was a near-complete annihilation of an entire culture, a culture that spanned two continents with at least 50 million people. It is really something that is incomprehensible to those of us in the modern world.
Brent Raynes: Your book is primarily about the beliefs of the ancient Native American people and how they perceived the afterlife. Only recently have we begun to really understand those beliefs and the symbols associated with them. Can you share with us a little about their early belief systems and why this only now seems to be coming to light?
Greg Little: There have been curious symbols discovered on artifacts found in many high status burials that were excavated from mounds. The symbols were found on exquisite artifacts from the Hopewell and Adena cultures, but the majority of them were recovered from Mississippian era sites scattered throughout the eastern half of America. The symbols include a cross or plus sign, the eye-in-hand, people dressed as birdmen, raptor birds, maces, objects that resemble spaceships, bones, skulls, skulls with what looks like fire coming from the mouth, feathered serpents, and various others. They have long been a mystery. In the early 1990s a large group of archaeologists started an annual conference at Texas State University with the intention of determining precisely what these symbols meant. They gathered a lot of information from ethnological reports and also did extensive statistical analyses. In the middle 2000s they started releasing their results in papers, reports, and books. Presently I think there are about 9 books that reveal their findings. Their ideas are fairly consistent and they agree on the basics. By the way, at least 24 mainstream archaeologists have been involved in writing up their conclusions. The symbols convey the journey of the soul after death. That knowledge is thought to be the explanation of why these ancient American mound-building people erected such large earthworks and mounds. The death journey, and the elite’s knowledge about how to control what happens to the soul after death, seems to have been the way that the elite exerted so much control over the society. Many mounds and geometric earthworks were used as ritualistic magic machines of earth employed in the death journey. One of the most interesting things, at least to me, was that the British writer Andrew Collins came to a few of the same conclusions back in 2004.
Brent Raynes: The Native American afterlife belief system seems also to have striking similarities in other parts of the world. Can you share with us a little on that and your personal thoughts on that as well?
Greg Little: Andrew Collins wrote about the importance of the Cygnus Constellation back in 2004. He speculated that a lot of ancient sites around the world, including some in South and Central America, Gobekli Tepe in Turkey, Newgrange in Ireland, and Avebury in England, all seemed to focus on Cygnus. While he was visiting sites in Ohio with us in 2004 he concluded that Newark’s Great Circle and several other mound and earthwork sites focused on Cygnus. He saw that site as an earthen machine to propel the souls of the dead to the Milky Way and on to Cygnus. By far the most controversial alignment he came up with was that the three main pyramids at Egypt’s Giza were built to reflect Cygnus. But we also knew that Orion was important to the Egyptians. For a long time I thought that both Orion and Cygnus were important elements in Egypt but the explanation eluded me. I think that the new information from ancient Native American beliefs resolves the Egypt controversy. Orion was the initial jumping off point to the Milky Way and the soul then went on a journey along the Milky Way until Cygnus was reached. Personally I see a trickster element in all of this, especially in the way so many of us latched onto the Orion idea so quickly. It was simple, too simple. But it appealed to a lot of people and made what is very complex into something so simple everyone could grasp it. But the truth is more complex. It is possible that we were never meant to know this information. In fact, it is clear that Native American shaman kept this information secret for a reason, as did the Egyptian priests. The secret nature of the ideas was a way to maintain their power. But the many people who just jumped to the conclusion that Orion explained everything were wrong. No doubt about it. Of course it is nearly impossible for people to change their beliefs once they publically declare something as their truth. When the Orion idea emerged I also latched onto it, but I had a suspicion something was wrong. It was just too simple and there were flaws with only one of them being that the three pyramids at Giza never really fit Orion’s Belt to start with. But one shaft of the Great Pyramid did target Orion. I think that in Egypt they also saw the souls going to Orion as the initial jumping off point. From there the soul moved on the Milky Way, the Path of Souls, until it reached Cygnus. But even saying this is a bit too simple. There was a lot more to it.
Brent Raynes: In this very thought-provoking book, you also researched the hundreds of stories across North America of giant human skeletal remains removed from Indian burials. While you found that many of these reports were inaccurate, exaggerated or were hoaxes, or simply lacked sufficient information to validate the stories, you nonetheless did find a good number of cases that were authenticated and even involved the Smithsonian, like the Criel Mound in South Charleston, West Virginia, that my wife Joan and I visited with you and Lora back in April and where the Smithsonian had reportedly found two skeletons over 7 feet tall out of 13 that were buried there. Why are these accounts significant and do you have any speculation as to why so many of these large skeletons seem to come out of burial mounds in West Virginia?
Greg Little: There is solid and indisputable evidence that a lot of tall skeletons were recovered during the Smithsonian’s 1800’s excavations. In general, all of them were between 7 and 8 feet tall. There were surely some that were taller but we didn’t look at all of the old reports, basically we evaluated the Smithsonian reports and several others from archaeology publications. In South Charleston, the Smith Mound, now completely destroyed, was one that turned up several 7-footers. Another 3 mounds there also turned up several 7-footers. There were others found in Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, and elsewhere, but it’s clear that the greatest concentration was in West Virginia, especially in the Kanawha Valley. In our evaluation of all of the Smithsonian’s large skeleton reports, it became obvious that there were far more of them than would be likely by chance. Today, for example, only one of every 147,000 people are actually 7 feet tall or more. That is a really, really small percentage. So I ran several statistical evaluations specifically on the West Virginia skeleton excavations including two evaluations where I assumed that all of them might have been measured wrong or subject to what archaeologists call spreading. Spreading is when stone and soil push down on skeletons and gradually push the bones apart. All four evaluations showed that statistically speaking there were so many large skeletons recovered there that it could not be due to chance. As to “why” they were concentrated in West Virginia, I don’t know. Andrew Collins has some ideas about that but I can’t reveal exactly how or why he came to that conclusion. He was focusing on that area of West Virginia even before we started evaluating the actual reports. In essence, Andrew related that in that area of West Virginia there were some groups arriving in ancient times that became the elite—and that they were very tall. He refers to them as hybrids, which means they were a genetic mixture of several types of humans. He was relating this idea before the book was started. I found that really odd and intriguing but I have basically given my word that he needs to follow up on that particular aspect. He will be making a visit there with us later this year. As for my personal feelings on it, I can only say that I was surprised. I didn’t expect that finding. In truth, I didn’t really expect to find that any of the so-called “giant” reports were valid. But a lot of them were true. I agree with Andrew that these exceedingly tall people were the elite, meaning the priests and chiefs, but precisely what their origin was I don’t know and haven’t speculated. They were clearly Native Americans, but I suspect that the Native American ancestry is far richer than archaeologists will admit.