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Alternate Perceptions Magazine, December 2015

New York & Pennsylvania Giant Skeletons:
The Tiaga Point, Spanish Hill, & Sayre Sites —
A Stone Skull and Cuneiform Tablet

By Dr. Greg Little — all photos by Lora Little

In April 2015, Dr. Lora Little, Britain’s Andrew Collins, and I made a long journey through New England, New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Kentucky. We visited numerous stone enclosures (see) as well as Meadowcroft Rock Shelter and numerous mounds. One of the most intriguing sites we visited was the Susquehanna River Archaeological Center of Native Indian Studies (SRAC) at 345 Broad Street in Waverly, NY. The town of Waverly is just north of Sayre and Tioga Point, (now Athens) Pennsylvania where numerous reports of giant skeletons were made. Bradford County (PA) was my grandparents’ birthplace and I grew up near the Susquehanna River in an adjacent county. As I related in Path of Souls, in 1822 a report was made of an 8’ 2” skeleton dug from a stone box grave in Bradford County. The story was related in the “History of Bradford County” (1878).

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At the SRAC we were met by the organization’s Executive Director Deb Twigg, who spent several hours with us describing the sites, showing us various artifacts, and taking us to places where some of the actual digs took place. (Photo1) shows Andrew Collins and Deb Twigg crossing the street to the SRAC. (Photo2) shows the author and Andrew Collins looking at the display windows in front of the building. (Photo3) shows one of the old periodical reports on excavations nearby. (It contained numerous photos of the skeletons excavated.) The Engelbert Site shown in the article photo is by the Susquehanna River in Tioga County, NY and is a Susquehannock burial ground. (Photo4) shows one of the actual excavation workers who participated in the digs at Engelbert who graciously came by to speak with us. In brief, Deb Twigg discussed the many internet reports touting the “giant skeletons,” and she essentially related that none of them were as fantastic or credible as the claims that have been made. For example, the “horned skull” allegedly found near there was in fact a skull with deer antlers mounted on the skull.

However, one curious artifact that the gentleman in (Photo4) brought along was a cuneiform tablet that was found locally. It’s not the first of these that has been found in America. For example, in 1877 Chief Joseph presented General Nelson Miles a sacred gift of a cuneiform tablet at the formal surrender of the Nez Pearce. Joseph related that the object had been passed down in his tribe for generations and was supposedly obtained from visitors long ago. We obtained several high quality photos of the cuneiform tablet that had been found near Waverly (Photos5 & 6) and Andrew Collins subsequently relayed them to a British Museum official. He responded by asserting that it was a genuine tablet and had trading business transactions recorded on it. However, he added that it was most likely obtained in recent times. We were not surprised by that.

Another oddity at the museum is a full sized stone carved skull. (Photo7) shows Deb Twigg holding it. (Photo8) is a closeup shot of the skull effigy. The skull was found over 15 years ago while a man was digging in his yard in Athens. It is an enigma with no explanation. I know of many effigy pots shaped into heads but have never seen a stone skull. So many artifacts have been found in the immediate area that the SRAC is packed with amazing objects (Photo9).

Ms. Twigg also took us to the actual site along the Susquehanna River where numerous skeletons (some allegedly giant) were excavated (Photo10). The homeowners were gracious and allowed us to inspect the area. In addition we visited another excavation site as well as another museum (The Bradford County Museum) devoted to area artifacts with Ms. Twigg.

Finally, we asked about Spanish Hill in the adjacent South Waverly, PA, a place where many giant skeletons were allegedly found. We were taken there by Twigg. In historic times the area was inhabited by the Susquehannocks, a fierce tribal confederacy of 20 groups and perhaps 6,000 members in the 1600s. The tribe, with unusually tall warriors, was an enemy of the Iroquois, about the only enemies the Iroquois feared. They were decimated by disease and eventually wiped out in the 1670s.

Spanish Hill (Photo11) was actually a 10-acre hilltop fort of unknown age and affiliation. Its overall appearance is similar to the “Adena Forts” of Ohio. It was originally encircled on its steep ridges by stone and earthen walls. Shell midden heaps, numerous native artifacts, and various stone implements have been found there with some on display at the SRAC and another local museum. The owners of the hill are not enamoured with the interest in the site and don’t allow visitors. The area immediately below the hill was the site of a large Native American village.

SRAC’s Deb Twigg is the expert on local archaeology of the area and we thank her for her time and interest. The center is certainly worth visiting. Their website.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023