Giants and Ancient North American Warfare

From History of Huron and Erie Counties (Ohio), we also have this excerpt recorded by W.W. Williams in 1879:

In the township of Milan there were three clearly-defined [sic] as first seen by him when the first settlers came into the country, and they are still not entirely leveled by the plowshare. All three were upon the highbanks of the Huron ...F. W. Fowler, one of the pioneers of Milan, describes these earth-works [sic], as first seen by him, to have been from two to four feet above the surface of the ground. Large trees were growing upon some of these embankments. Near these forts were mounds or hillocks, which were found to contain human bones, promiscuously thrown together as if a large number of bodies had been buried at one time. The skull bones, when found entire, were shown by measurement to be larger, upon the average, and all exhibited marks that would indicate that life had been taken in deadly combat. Scattered among the skulls and vertebrae, and arm and leg bones, were stone pipes and fragments of burnt clay.

Could these earthworks and remains have been slightly pre-Adena? The accounts of the Allegheny say that they built strong fortifications. Although the above notices offer some beginning evidence for earlier mounds, according to the 20th century archaeological investigations, the Adena seem to have started the practice of moundbuilding for the dead. Curiously, the Adena had "tall members" among their people, extraordinarily tall, in fact, and massive in skeletal structure, exactly the way the Allegewi were first described. This however does not mean that the Allegewi were the Adena, for there is no sign that the Adena were makers or recipients or war. This may be important to remember.

Unlike the Allegewi, and in accord with the statistics of Webb and Snow, in the majority of Adena skeletons cataloged, the average height of a man was considerably less than six feet (168.0 cm or about 5'6"), and the women were proportionally smaller (158.8 cm or about 5'3"). But there were also numbers of burials catering to a special class of individuals, wherein the skeletal length-of six feet was not uncommon. So while on one hand relatively fewer tall skeletons were discovered by academic archaeological efforts in the last century, on the other enough were found to give rise to special theories concerning these people. Most Adena folk were apparently cremated.

Don Dragoo, in discussing these "honored dead" and referring to this taller Adena stature, says in his Mounds For the Dead:

Two outstanding traits have been noted repeatedly for this group. One is the protruding and massive chin often with prominent bilateral protrusions (Webb and Snow, 1959, p. 37). The second trait is the large size of many of the males and some of the females. A male of six feet was common and some individuals approaching seven feet in height have been found ... Not only were these Adena people tall, but also the massiveness of the bones indicates powerfully built individuals. The head was generally big with a large cranial capacity.

"Massive in skeletal structure" perhaps reflects the term "stout" used by Heckewelder. These observances were in the late Adena tombs, and although the earlier Adena graves yielded far fewer measurable remains, large skulls were also discovered among those graves. Webb and Snow suggested the possibility of "sexual and social selection" being factors in the development of the large-chinned Adena type. Thus it is of course generally interpreted that these people possibly bred selectively. Dragoo agrees, adding:

If only certain inbreeding individuals of the total population were members of the "selected group" genetic factors would also have played an important part in the establishment of the unique Adena physical type found in the late Adena tombs. Any changes (mutations) in the gene pool either dominant or recessive would soon be distributed among all the members of the group. Dragoo, Mounds For the Dead

Adena male (top) and female
skulls. Note the "bilateral
protrusions at the strong jaw

 It would make sense that such selective breeding would be assiduously practiced, and for several good reasons. The main purpose could have been the creation of a guardian or warrior class made up of physically superior men and women. With any luck, these people would also have an above average intellectual capacity as well. But did the genetic traits for larger, more powerful human beings commence with the Adena? The grave evidence does not suggest it. As anyone who does breeding, albeit on the animal level knows, it's far easier to start with an established type that to start from scratch. It would be most difficult to attempt such a selective process if all you had to start with were a handful of unfortunate people owning the conditions of acromegaly and giantism.

Thus it would seem that these Adena folk already had among their race a very rare ancestral lineage and line descent. They had, in other words, people of pedigree. Studies have also indicated, as in the case of the Adena, when a people settle down and have a good nutritional food supply, they grow larger and stronger.

Robert Silverberg, in his well accepted The Mound Builders, after referencing similarly the appropriate authorities, writes:

This band of people of great size forced its way into the Ohio Valley about 1000 B.C., it seems.

Yes, it seems that way. Shortly after, he adds this interesting note:

Perhaps there was a small elite of round-headed giants dominating and ruling an existing long-headed Ohio Valley population.

It is not difficult to share Mr. Silverberg's wisdom in the speculation of an elite group of very tall people, perhaps a ruling class, being with the Adena. It might be reiterated as well that such a genetic trait could, in the light of practicality, be pre-Adena.

How ancient were the Allegewi? Did the practice of funerary moundbuilding stem from the post war necessity of quick physical interment? Were the "honored dead" buried in the tradition of the warrior class, in the non-cremation style, after the practice of mass mound-graves following great battles? Were the taller, perhaps more accomplished members of the Adena given special rank and privilege? Why did these giants show up with greater distinction in the later Adena burials? How long would it have taken the Adena to build a new tradition from Allegewi stock?

A Tradition of Giants

In Silverberg's words, Heckewelder's reference to the Allegewi as giants "touched off a search for a race of giant mound builders in the Ohio Valley."

Indeed, the pioneering whites and their descendants enthusiastically performed their own examination of the uncounted mound-tombs, leaving relatively few for the archaeologists some years later. Stretching in large part from Pennsylvania to Indiana, the sheer number of raised earthen and stone works boggled the imagination. Upon life's end, some Adena would be interred fight into the floor of their home, the whole covered with earth, making little clusters of mounds at intervals throughout the countryside, preserving the sites of their former hamlets. As it turned out, there were many extra-large skeletons reported in the various records of townships and counties, all independent of one another. Whether Heckewelder and others touched off this search may be irrelevant, because it was virtually irresistible for these early settlers to look inside these ancient earthworks, located in their "back 40" as it were.

Being mostly of Euro-Celtic decent, these pioneering-types enjoyed comparing the giant jawbones of the skulls they found with their own. Says Dragoo:

One of the peculiar features present in at least one-half of the observed examples is the great width of the bony chin formed by bilateral eminences rarely found among the skulls of the much earlier Shell Heap People or among the later Hopewell People. Mounds For the Dead

From the Ironton Register, a small Ohio River town newspaper, dated May 5th, 1892, we found this:

Where Proctorville now stands was one day part of a well paved city, but I think the greater part of it is now in the Ohio river [sic]. Only a few mounds, there; one of which was near the C. Wilgus mansion and contained a skeleton of a very large person, all double teeth, and sound in a jaw bone that would go over the jaw with the flesh on, of a large man; the common burying ground was well filled with skeletons at a depth of about 6 feet. Part of the pavement was of boulder stone and part of well preserved brick.

Then we found this account from Historical Collections of Ohio in Two Volumes. p. 350-351. Noble County. Ohio:

In Seneca township was opened, in 1872, one of the numerous Indian mounds that abound in the neighborhood. This particular one was locally known as the "Bates" mound. Upon being dug into it was found to contain a few broken pieces of earthenware, a lot of flint-heads and one or two stone implements and the remains of three skeletons, whose size would indicate they measured in life at least eight feet in height. The remarkable feature of these remains was they had double teeth in front as well as in back of mouth and in both upper and lower jaws. Upon exposure to the atmosphere the skeletons crumbled back to mother earth.

And finally this taken from A History of Ashtabula County, (Ohio, 1878), in two separate entries:

In cultivating the soil in the vicinity implements have been found and in excavating the ground for graves it is said that bones have been exhumed which seemed to have belonged to a race of giants. This land at one time belonged to a Mr. Peleg Sweet, who was a man of large size and full features; and it is narrated that at one time he, in digging, came upon a skull and jaw which were of such size that the skull would cover his head and the jaw could be easily slipped over his face, as though the head of a giant were enveloping his ...

This second entry may be of some interest, for it describes non-mound burials, perhaps characterizing the typical trench burial of the Archaic period, i.e., pre-Adena.

The graves were, distinguished by slight depressions in the surface of the earth, disposed in straight rows, which, with intervening spaces or valleys, covered the entire area. The number of these graves has been estimated to be between two and three thousand. Aaron Wright, Esq., in 1800, made a careful examination of these depressions, and found them invariably to contain human bones blackened with time, which upon exposure to the air soon crumbled to dust. Some of these bones were of unusual size, and evidently belonged to a race allied to giants. Skulls were taken from these mounds, the cavities of which were of sufficient capacity to admit the head of an ordinary man, and jaw-bones [sic] that might be fitted over the face with equal facility. The bones of the upper and lower extremities were of corresponding size.

Go Back