Alternate Perceptions Magazine, June 2019
Giants From America’s Ancient Mounds
by: Dr. Greg Little
In February 2014 British author Andrew Collins came to Memphis for a 3-week project. We visited numerous mound sites in the southeast gathering information on what archaeologists call Mississippian Iconography. The main purpose was to complete a book on Native American mound builders’ beliefs about the journey of the soul after death. It has only been in recent years that archaeologists have revealed ideas about the death journey, and we explained this complex belief in a book entitled, Path of Souls.1 It involves the soul traveling to a nebula below Orion’s Belt, then to the Milky Way, and then journeying to the Cygnus Constellation. It took more than a decade of work for more than 20 mainstream archaeologists, anthropologists, and folklore experts to reach these conclusions. One more assertion made by the archaeologists was that the priests and chiefs of the mound-building cultures controlled this death journey. The erection of several hundred thousand earthworks, tombs, and ancient mounds was not only directed and ordered by these elite members of the society, but it was an accepted duty of the population to follow their orders because they believed in the literal truth of the death journey. Most surprisingly to us, we discovered that the rulers of the mound building cultures were exceeding tall people—far taller than the general population.
Most of the death journey symbols were found on artifacts excavated in elaborate burials from Mississippian era mounds (A.D. 800-1700). Mounds at these sites are often large pyramid-shaped platforms arranged around a central plaza area. There were thousands of Mississippian mound sites, which were often made into fortresses with tall palisade walls that surrounded the village and mound area. When the first Europeans entered America in 1540s, the Mississippians were already in decline, but it is accepted that the population of North America was at least 10 million. Within two generations, the population declined by over 90% caused by diseases brought in by the Spanish. In part, this explains why there are so many mysteries in ancient American history. However, there is one element consistently found in the most elaborate burials at many of the Mississippian, Hopewell (500 B.C. to A.D. 1200), and even earlier (1000 B.C. to 200 B.C.) Adena mound and earthwork sites: the skeletal remains in the most important tombs often were of exceedingly tall individuals ranging in height from 6.5 to 8 feet.
Andrew and I were aware of the swirling reports of giant skeletons, but one report was most intriguing to me. I first learned of it from Jim Vieira. An 1870 article in the Memphis Daily Appeal related that the paper’s Editor had seen several skeletons at Chickasawba Mound, which is located in Blytheville, Arkansas. The article reported that an 8 to 9 foot long skeleton was excavated at the site, and the Editor viewed several large skeletons, over 7 feet in length, that had been dug up near the mound.
Neither Andrew Collins nor I intended to enter the controversy regarding giant skeletons in our book project. But after visiting mounds in Alabama and Mississippi, we planned to head north to Cahokia. We decided to stop at the 25-foot high Chickasawba platform mound for pictures. The day before we left we found a 2009 journal article on Chickasawba in the Arkansas Archaeologist. The article cited a lot of huge skeletal remains, ranging from 7 to 10 feet long, from Chickasawba.2
In 1877 the newspaper Editor wrote to the Smithsonian detailing his finds at Chickasawba. In 1881, the Smithsonian sent Edward Palmer to the site. Palmer visited for a day and in his journal he wrote that the site had been looted, adding that it would be too costly to excavate the mound. However, the 2009 article related that “hundreds” of exquisite pots had been dug from the site well into the 1980s. The mound and adjacent field, where a Mississippian village once stood, was said to look “like a bombed battlefield.” The article also related, without a hint of skepticism, that in 1976 a 7-foot skeleton was excavated from the site.2
When we arrived at Chickasawba in February a severe ice storm hit and we decided that going to Cahokia was too risky. We returned to Blytheville where a bookstore owner contacted the Arkansas Archaeology Field Station located near the mound. The archaeologists were delighted to have us visit their station. When we arrived, the two archaeologists at the site were busy copying an article for us, which they said contains, “everything known about the site.” When I was handed the article I asked the head archaeologist about the large skeletons that had been found there? The question was met by a look of bewilderment and the answer, “I have never heard anything about that.” The article handed to me was the same 2009 paper we had found the day before. I opened it to the pages where the large skeletons were discussed. The archaeologist looked at it and stated, “I’ve never read this before.” The oddity of the situation was striking. After a tour of the facility I asked if any of the skeletal remains had been studied and was told that no skeletons were kept. All were reburied after they were sent to tribes years earlier. It was at that point when Andrew and I decided to research the archaeology literature on the giant skeletons.
Giant Skeletons & The Smithsonian
A host of researchers, including Vieira, Fritz Zimmerman, and Ross Hamilton, have publicized approximately 1,500 newspaper articles from the 1800s through the mid-1900s reporting on huge skeletons found at sites scattered across America. These articles mention skeletons ranging in height from 7 to 18 feet. In response, a 2012 reissued Smithsonian article related, “There was no prehistoric race of giants.”3 The statement only deepened the controversy.
One fact cited as evidence for the conspiracy theory is that the Smithsonian has never displayed the giant skeletons. That’s true, but few of the large skeletons were sent to them. The main purpose of their investigation into mounds was to determine who built the mounds and to gather skulls as specimens. The other reason is that today the Smithsonian has less than 300 skeletal remains in storage, and those are from Central and South America. All other burial remains they held were repatriated and reburied starting in 1989.1
Hoaxes, Exaggerations, and the Smithsonian Reports
After returning to Memphis Andrew and I started to investigate some of the old newspaper reports. One of them, a 1922 report titled “Giant Skeletons From Tampa, Florida,” was an elaborate hoax. Several others we followed to the ultimate sources. Some proved to be accurate reports from the Smithsonian’s 1800’s excavations, but others were dead ends. Many were anecdotal reports about unnamed people finding skeletons.
Since we found that the most accurate newspaper reports came from the Smithsonian’s Mound Survey Project, we decided to carefully go through the two major reports (1877; 1894). They filled 842 oversized pages. I have original copies of the Bureau of Ethnology reports and having the actual written books helped. As a result of the findings from our search, we also decided to dig into a few other mainstream archaeology publications.
The Smithsonian’s Mound Survey Project
The Smithsonian’s Division of Mound Exploration (and the resulting Mound Survey Project) was established by an act of Congress in 1881. Cyrus Thomas was the project Director and author of the annual reports’ sections on mounds. It is known that he often used the written reports from his Field Agents verbatim. The main project ran from 1882 to 1891. Three Field Agents were employed at a monthly pay of $125, which had to pay for travel, lodging, meals, and the hire of local laborers. Thomas related that the project opened “2,000 mounds” and recovered “40,000 specimens.”1 The total number of skeletons found by the project isn’t known because many mounds had jumbled skeletal remains, partial remains, cremations, and because many skeletons had simply disintegrated.
Our analysis of the Bureau of Ethnology Annual Reports (1887; 1894) revealed that 17 “large” skeletons were excavated from mounds by the Field Agents. They ranged in length from 6’ 7” to 7’ 6”. At least 14 of them were seven feet or more in length. The mounds the large skeletons were recovered from were from Adena, Hopewell, and Mississippian sites. However, half of the seven footers were found in Adena Era mounds in West Virginia, primarily along the Kanawha River Valley.1
It is important to note that the Bureau’s reports mentioned numerous other “large” skeletons that were found, but many were so disintegrated that accurate measuring was impossible. In essence, the Smithsonian didn’t cover up the discovery of these tall people; it simply didn’t call them “giants.” But this led us to look at other reports made by mainstream archaeologists.
“Modern” Archaeological Discoveries of Giant Skeletons From Mounds
In May 1950 William Webb and Charles Snow of the University of Kentucky began an excavation of a large Dover, Kentucky burial mound. In the report on the 6-month-long excavation,4 it was explained that the mound had been erected over several smaller mounds. Several log-lined tombs were found at the mound’s base. Carbon dating placed the mound in the Adena Era (220-300 B.C.).
They found 55 burials, most of which had almost completely disintegrated to nothing. However, several log tombs at the base had survived fairly intact. Several skeletons of six-foot tall, robust men were found, but in one tomb the remains of four individuals were found lying. One skeleton was, “one of the largest known to Adena: the skull-foot field measurement is 84 inches.” Copper artifacts were found with this 7-foot-tall man along with mica, beads, flint, and shell artifacts.4
In 1958 archaeologist Don Dragoo of the Carnegie Museum excavated the Cresap Mound located south of Moundsville, WV. Dragoo found 54 burials in the mound. One skeleton was found in a prominent log-covered tomb under the mound base floor with a tablet, shell artifacts, red ochre, flint, blades, and beads. The skeleton found inside this tomb was a “tall adult male” with “flexed knees” ... “When measured in the tomb his length was approximately 7.04 feet” [7 feet one inch].5
There are numerous other examples of mainstream archaeologists excavating large skeletons from Adena mounds. The Welcome Mound in West Virginia was excavated in 1957 by Frank Setzler of the Smithsonian. Inside a log tomb he found the badly deteriorated skeleton of a “large” man. Because of the artifacts found with him, the man was determined to have been a shaman. Setzler also mentioned that the 7-foot tall skeleton found at the Dover Mound was also a shaman and that a similar shaman burial had been found at the Ayres Mound in Kentucky.6 Excavation of the Beech Bottom Mound near Wheeling, WV also revealed a shaman buried in a prominent tomb.4 A 1940 excavation of the Half Moon Mound site along the Ohio River in West Virginia revealed another elite burial of a shaman.4 Unfortunately, in many of these cases the skeletal remains had almost completely disintegrated making measurements impossible. In summary, it is clear that many Adena Era mound burials were of elite individuals. These individuals were exceedingly tall, and many of them were probably shaman involved with the Native American death journey.
Skeptical Claims & Adena Population Height: A Statistical View
Virtually all of the claims made by skeptics about the large skeletons have been shown to be false.7 There is no doubt that many tall individuals were interred in prominent tombs in America’s ancient mounds. Many of them were shaman and others were no doubt chiefs. But the important question is: could this simply be due to chance? Many people point to tall basketball players as a way of implying that tall people are found everywhere. But statistically speaking, in the modern world, the actual percentage of people who reach 7 feet in height is 0.000007%—or one in every 146,000 people. Applying this number to the Smithsonian’s discoveries, they would have had to excavate 2.5 million skeletons to find 17 individuals that height.1 But the Hopewell and Adena were much shorter: Adena men averaged 5’ 4” while Hopewell men averaged 5’ 6”. Applying the relevant statistical tool to the Adena height shows that only 0.0000002% of them would reach 7 feet (one of every 1.4 million people). Clearly, something unexplained is at work.
The Adena Elite
In response to our findings, one blogger claimed that we believed “giants from Atlantis” ruled America’s mound builders.7 We didn’t mention Atlantis in the book Path of Souls at all, but maybe the skeptic has found the answer. I am certain that the ancestors of Native Americans built the mounds, but I am just as certain that the full story of ancient America’s settlement and population sources aren’t fully known or understood. There are numerous ancient tribal legends asserting that “giants” (people towering over the shorter populace) invaded their lands. These giants became rulers and had knowledge that subdued and placated the more numerous indigenous peoples. When these elite individuals died, they were buried in mounds. The right to rule was passed on to subsequent generations of the giants through heredity. However, over a long period of time, these tall rulers became increasingly corrupt. Tribe after tribe revolted and gradually exterminated them. By the time the first Europeans pushed into the mound building regions, nearly all of the giants had vanished. But in Alabama Hernando de Soto encountered a 7-foot tall Chief named Tuscaloosa and his son was 7 feet tall. (De Soto killed both of them.) Other explorers also encountered some tall rulers of mound villages.1 Both Andrew Collins and I believe that these tall people, who to the shorter local populations seemed to be giants, were the elite who carried with them the knowledge of the death journey of the soul. In an extensive Afterword, Andrew asserts that they may have been hybrid people who entered the Americas perhaps as early as 16,500 years ago.1 In September 2019 our new book, entitled Denisovan Origins, will be released by Inner Traditions/Bear & Co. In the book, we go into much greater detail on the Chickasawba giants, which were verified by archaeologists to be nearly 9 feet in height, detailed evidence of giants in South America, and an incredible history of ancient America, which probably extends back some 250,000 years.
1. Little, G. & Collins, A. (2014) Path of Souls. Memphis: Archetype Books.
2. Childs, H. & McNutt, C. (2009) Chickasawba. Arkansas Archaeologist, 48, 15-56.
3. Science News (3/23/2012) Measure your giant carefully and his size will shrink.
4. Webb, W. & Snow, C. (1959) The Dover Mound. U. of KY.
5. Dragoo, D. (1963) Mounds for the dead. Annals of the Carnegie Museum, V. 57.
6. Setzler, F. (1960) Welcome Mound. West Virginia Archaeologist, 12, 4-14.
7. Little, G. (2014) The truth about giant skeletons in American Indian Mounds- 1,2. www.apmagazine.info.