Decades of cinema have accustomed us to the living realities extreme size life forms, from giants to leprechauns. To be fair, ogres, trolls, fairies, sylphs, and goliaths were believed in by humans at the extreme mercy of the mysterious natural world, which gives and takes. Yet many of these extreme size life form stories have their roots in long-forgotten, factual events. And did big people and little people co-exist? Let’s look at the factual reported stories of the past to better answer this question, and also learn more about the range of extreme size people that lived long, long ago . . .
There are many stories and facts related to extreme size life forms and huge hominins are big characters in more than a few of these tales. ( ginettigino / Adobe Stock)
Extreme Size Life Forms Report 1: 1877, Giant Legs
In 1877 a group of prospectors working near Eureka, Nevada found a human leg bone that had been broken off just above the knee. It was tightly wedged in solid rock. The miners chipped away at the stone until they freed the ancient remains of a lower leg, ankle, and foot.
The most entrancing aspect of the fossil was its size. From the ball of the heel to the knee it measured 39 inches (99 centimeters), interpolating into a person who would have stood approximately nine feet (2.74 meters) tall. Doctors who examined the bones agreed they were undoubtedly human and of immense age. Museums sent representatives to comb the area around appropriately named Eureka in hopes of finding other such remains, but none were ever located. For a time, the bones were displayed in a store window in Eureka, but there is no record of what eventually happened to them.
Huge footprints have also been found in West Virginia in 1896 that suggest the existence of people the size of the biggest basketball players today. ( Alexander Ozerov / Adobe Stock)
Extreme Size Life Forms Report 2: 1896, Huge Feet
In 1896 the American Anthropologist magazine reported the discovery of 15.5-inch (39-centimeter) petrified footprints in West Virginia. The tracks corresponded to a size 18 shoe, and someone with a foot this size would likely have been about seven feet (213 centimeters) tall.
Then in 1932 a government trapper found fossilized, human-looking footprints in gypsum rock at White Sands, New Mexico. The tracks measured 22 inches (56 centimeters) long by 11 inches (28 centimeters) wide. Whoever made these prints would have stood eight feet tall (2.43 meters).
In a more recent case, the Paiute Indian tribe have legends of a race of enormous, red-haired cannibals who once co-existed with them. In her 1882 book Life Among the Paiutes, then-elderly Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins, daughter of a Paiute chief, recounted how these beings’ lust for human flesh was so powerful they would rob her tribe’s burial grounds and eat the corpses. Although Hopkins was not certain of the precise date, she wrote that the Paiutes wiped out the last of these gargantuan man-eaters sometime during the 19th century.
At the time of her book’s release many readers suspected she had fabricated her tale of towering cannibals in order to boost sales. Then in 1912 a number of red-haired mummies were found in a cave near Lovelock, Nevada in what had once been Paiute territory. The bodies measured up to seven feet (213 centimeters) tall, and a few are still on display in museums and universities in Nevada.
Yet reports of giants in the New World go back much further than those chronicled by Hopkins, trappers, prospectors, and the American Anthropologist.
This old drawing in the Princeton Library collection depicts the Patagonian giants. The first mention of this mythical race surfaced in the 1520s from the account of Antonio Pigafetta, chronicler of Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition. (Princeton Library / Public domain )
Extreme Size Life Forms Report 3: 1500s, More Giants
In the 16th century the first Europeans to explore the southernmost region of the South American continent returned with tales of giants. The explorers called the area in question Patagonia, a region now shared by the countries of Argentina and Chile.
The first mention of these strange people came at the very beginning of the Great Age of Exploration. Ferdinand Magellan’s fleet was riding anchor in Port San Julian in 1520 when a gigantic native appeared on the beach. A crewman named Pigafetta described him as “so tall that our heads scarcely came up to his waist, and his voice was like that of a bull.” Magellan and his men abducted two of these altitudinous aboriginals, but both died at sea and their bodies were thrown overboard.
Throughout the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries reports persisted of abnormally large people in Patagonia. European merchants, missionaries and military personnel continued to report sightings of tribesmen from seven to eleven feet (3.35 meters) tall. Yet other visitors (who may simply have not encountered the giants) stayed firmly convinced these claims were false.
The Patagonian giants (or at least the reports of them) seem to have died out in the mid-19th century. The last recorded contact was in 1849 by a British traveler named Bourne. Provided there ever were any tribes of giants in this region it is possible they suffered the fate of so many other primitive cultures upon contact with Europeans and were wiped out by imported infectious diseases.
And other stories talk of people with six toes or six fingers indicating another race of beings altogether. The conversion of a DICOM-format X-ray from a ten year old male with six toes. (Drgnu23 / CC BY-SA 3.0 )
The Dim Past Is Full of Stories of Big Life Forms
Although the red-haired cannibals of Nevada and the giants of Patagonia are recent cases, oversized beings seem to have been a part of our world for ages, even in the Americas.
For instance, near Brayton, Tennessee there are footprints preserved in rocks of a ponderous primordial humanoid . The impression of the ball of the heel is over a foot across, and the huge feet that made these fossilized tracks had six toes apiece. It would seem Mesozoic Earth harbored a race of beings 20 feet (six meters) tall.
In 1833, soldiers digging a hole for a powder magazine near Lompock Rancho, California encountered a slab of cemented gravel. Beneath it lay the skeleton of a human being 12 feet (3.65 meters) tall. Enormous stone axes, carved shells, and porphyry blocks embellished with unintelligible symbols surrounded the bones. Surprisingly, the skull contained two rows of upper and lower teeth.
When local Indian tribes began attaching religious significance to the find the authorities, worried that a troublesome cult might develop, ordered the remains secretly re-buried in a different location that was later forgotten, and the find was lost to science.
The New World, however, was not through yielding finds that embarrassed the orthodoxies of science.
In 1925, outside Walkerton, Indiana, a group of amateur investigators dug into an ancient “Indian mound” and found the skeletons of eight prehistoric giants ranging from eight to almost nine feet (2.74 meters) tall, and all clad in copper armor. In a tragic loss to academia these diggers never made their finds available for study but distributed the artifacts among friends and relatives. The locations of the bones and armor are now unknown.
American folklore dating from before the European conquest may provide a clue as to the origins of these oversized relics.
The Delaware tribe of New England maintain that their ancestors migrated to the east from western North America. According to their legends, soon after crossing the Mississippi river the Delawares encountered a race of giants who called themselves the Alligewi (both the Allegheny river and Allegheny mountains are named after these mysterious people). When the Indians asked permission to pass through the Alligewi’s land the giants refused, so the Delawares went to war against them, driving them from the region. It is possible many of the giant remains scattered throughout North America are legacies of the dispersed, now-extinct Alligewis.
Extreme Size Life Forms: The Miniature Side of the Story
On the opposite extreme are reports of extraordinarily diminutive humanoids. Worldwide legends of little people attest to the likelihood of some widespread population of tiny beings (not necessarily exclusively in antiquity) that made such an impression on conventional humanity that they are found in the lore of virtually every civilization. Their impact was such that even today a certain travel agency uses a gnome drawn from northern European tradition as an advertising tool.
In October 1932 a group of prospectors working a ravine in the Pedro Mountains west of Casper, Wyoming found an odd color pattern in a vein of solid granite. Hoping they had located a rich mineral deposit they set off an explosive charge after which they clambered into the arroyo and saw a small opening in the rock. As the dust settled, the miners peered into the hole and were stunned to see a tiny mummy seated on a ledge. Sitting on his feet with his arms folded, the creature’s facial expression was almost as remarkable as his miniscule dimensions. He wore a half-smile, and one eye was closed in what looked like a knowing wink.
After carefully removing the body the prospectors took it to Casper, where x-rays revealed a fully developed human skeleton in miniature. The mummy was 14 inches (35 centimeters) tall and weighed 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms). Biologists reckoned it had been about 65 years old at death. It had a full set of teeth (including wisdom teeth,) precluding the possibility that this was the mummified body of an infant. It is unlikely it was a child victim of progeria. Although this disease causes rapid aging it does not hasten the eruption of wisdom teeth.
The cave in which he was found was a greater mystery than its occupant. Measuring roughly four feet (1.22 meters) wide, four feet (1.22 meters) long and 15 feet (4.6 meters) deep it had no apertures other than the one just blasted by the miners. There were no ancient tools, animal remains or hieroglyphics to indicate past habitation.
Evidence of dwarves can be found in historical records from ancient Egypt and the most famous of these is Seneb, depicted here with his normal size wife and children. (Egyptian Museum / Public domain )
From Harvard Authenticated Little People to Lost Mini Skeletons
One of the biologists who later examined the remains, a Dr. Henry Fairfield, theorized the being might have been a member of some unknown race of anthropoids who could have roamed North America during the Pliocene Age. He may have been something of an oddity among his own kind (explaining his relatively elaborate internment,) but this does not explain how he entered that sepulcher with no entrance in the first place.
The mummy was shipped to Harvard University’s anthropological department, where it was pronounced genuine. The corpse was then placed on display at the American Museum of Natural History. One of the museum’s resident paleontologists, Dr. Henry Shapiro, further attested to its authenticity. It was eventually returned to Casper, where it may remain to this day, crying out for more study.
There is only one other known instance of a mummified small hominin found in North America. Sometime during the 1920s Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave yielded a baffling corpse when explorers found a tightly wrapped, yard-tall body with red hair. Judging from its condition it was several centuries old. There is no record of what happened to these remains after their discovery.
Far to the south of where the Wyoming and Mammoth Cave mystery mummies were found there is additional, compelling evidence of a bustling primordial civilization of little people from so far back in time there are not even any legends to account for it.
Certain pre-Inca ruins in Central America have long bewildered archaeologists because of the diminutiveness of the structures. The tunnels and hallways are only tall enough for a modern toddler to traverse, but the floors are deeply worn by tiny feet. This would seem to indicate the ruins had to have been built by a race of little people who lived there for a considerable length of time.
Detail of a fresco depicting a Nilotic landscape with pygmies in the Naples National Archaeological Museum collection. The scene formed part of the internal decoration of a podium that surrounded the garden of the Casa del Medico in Pompeii. (Carole Raddato / CC BY-SA 2.0 )
Evidence for Little Humanoids Abound Worldwide
Traces of minute humanoids stretch the length of the New World, suggesting this cryptic culture may once have blanketed the Americas. At the opposite end of the continent from Central America’s tiny ruins come echoes of a similar society in the Far North.
Exquisitely worked pieces of ivory jewelry so small that several can fit into a thimble are often found on the Aleutian island of Shemya. This same island has also yielded tiny, perfectly shaped flint arrowheads scarcely half an inch (1.27 centimeters) in length. Both the jewelry and arrowheads are so old they do not even figure into the region’s folklore. Although it is possible they are ancient toys, it seems odd, were this the case, that no tiny playthings other than jewelry and arrowheads have been found.
Romans 1:22 reminds us of how the learned can arrogantly consider themselves and their beliefs to be above reproach, and that these beliefs easily can be erroneous. We must never forget how recently the Age of Science dawned, and that despite all we have learned there must still be an endless volume of truths remaining unknown to us. According to the laws of physics it is anatomically impossible for a bumblebee to fly–the wings are too small. Not a scientist on this planet can explain how these rotund insects continue to blithely take flight.
Because we are part of it all of us are essentially students of the natural world, and at its mercy. Learning the truth about Mother Earth and the non-human (or pre-human) races and civilizations that may have infested her long before we came along would add richly to our own understanding of this beautiful blue planet, and maybe even enable us to learn how to make life better for us all. To achieve this, we must keep open minds.
The evidence for giants and little people seems to be all around us. Should we cling to an orthodoxy that preaches these beings never existed, or should we embrace the hard facts provided by the fossil record, and learn from them? As Sherlock Holmes observed, “One must mold the theory to fit the facts–never the other way around.”
The little people have long lived in folklore, particularly in the British Isles. In the Outer Hebrides there is a speck of land the locals call the Little Isle of Pygmies. Legend identifies it as the final dwelling place of the fairies, who were driven to extinction by the Catholic Church, which regarded them as pagan manifestations.
Sometime in the 1500s a Reverend Dean Monro visited this island and supposedly dug up tiny skulls and bones. In 1630 a Captain John Dymes also excavated there and reported finding miniature human bones. If such small, one-man digs (which apparently are the only such searches ever made on the Little Isle of Pygmies) yielded this degree of success, more elaborate, well-organized expeditions might strike a bonanza of evidence for the existence of these beings.
If the onetime existence of little people can be indisputably established in primeval Britain, then how much more of the world might they have colonized?
Top image: Extreme size life forms have been reported on countless times, but we are encouraged to pretend they are nothing more than stories. Source: Sergey Nivens / Adobe Stock
By Kelly Bell
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