- Skulls with horns, Extra teeth and other Cranial anomalies
The Adena and other Woodland Indians who built mounds from Illinois down to Georgia, often buried their top medicine man, chief or shaman at the center or bottom of the mound. Sometimes his servants or wives would be sacrificed and buried along side him, and sprinkled with red ochre and other burial goods, beads, copper axes, or other such funerary items. Some of the death masks, and headdresses these guys wore had deer antlers, or copper protuberances or “horns.” (See this fascinating article on Deb Twigg’s excellent webpage “Spanish Hill” on the real story behind the “horned” giants found in Athens, Pennsylvania in 1916, and other tall skeletons: Giant Skeletons )
Other shamans wore canine and ursine false teeth inserted into their mouths. Perhaps this is one explanation for the common stories of double rows of teeth found in some of the mound skeletons in the 19th century?
Dental anomalies, crowded, and even supernumerary teeth, were also documented in some Adena elites in addition to Cranial deformation, and other body modifications at several Adena mounds. Extra teeth in the jaw may well be the most straightforward explanation for some of the newspaper and 19th century accounts describing double sets of teeth. Some examples of supernumerary teeth from Adena mounds:
A female skeleton (burial #54) with a supernumerary tooth and retention of a baby tooth was found at the Dover Mound, Kentucky and in Franklin county, Ohio two skeletons next to each other, burial # 8 and # 11, at the Sidner Mound 1, both had a supernumerary tooth.
At the nearby McMurray Mound 1, also in Franklin County, Ohio, an individual (#14) had a supernumerary tooth as well. These dental anomalies, including supernumerary, or extra teeth, are considered to be a genetic trait, and “their occurrences may be a means to establish biological relationships between the mound populations” – See references below:
- But Were they Giants?
We know from Webb, Snow & Dragoo in their excavations at Adena mounds in 1950 to 1959 that in at least two mounds, taller than average persons were buried, even identified as shamans– men 6 feet tall, and some times a 7 foot man buried in the center of the mound, perhaps the central figure behind the mound’s very construction. (See Dragoo’s photo of the Cresap mound burial 54, and Webb & Snow’s notes on Dover mound burial 40).
The most interesting prestige burial from The Dover Mound: A bark tomb in the center bottom of the mound (burials 40 to 43) held 4 skeletons; 3 of them 25-30 year old men, and 1 skeleton of a 13 yr old girl. A 7 foot man (#40) an approx. 6 ft man (his femur was 19.25 inches, #41) a large cranially deformed man with wide cheeks and a hooked nose # 42, and the skeleton of a 13 to 15 yr old girl 5’3″ inches tall buried with some beads.
- Evidence of human Sacrifice at Dover Mound
These four burials were covered with red ochre and then set ablaze, but the cremation only smoked most of the bones, and didn’t destroy them entirely. I wonder if the 7 foot man was the chief, and the two other men his bodyguards or shamans, and the girl perhaps a princess, or wife possibly sacrificed to accompany her husband into the afterlife?
Another burial, # 9 was of a “rugged” male 5 ft 6 inches tall and 35 to 40 years old whose skull was encased with the jaws of a mountain lion, and he wore an elaborate cloak of mica and leather, made to impersonate a “great cat”, he wore copper bracelets on his wrist, and was buried with red ocher and other pigments. This shaman, or “Panther man” was found with the skeleton of a female about 20 years old on top of his own skeleton– Webb & Snow speculate that this young lady was the Shaman’s daughter, or “magician’s assistant,” and was sacrificed, “willingly or not” to accompany him “into the world of spirits.” ( See pages 17-20, Dover mound) More information of the 55 burials:
- The Cresap Adena Mound Giant, 7 feet 2 inches tall.
On page 50, plate 21 of Dr. Dragoo’s “Mounds for the Dead” is a photograph of the burial # 54, — the 7.2 feet tall individual:Dr. Dragoo placed a trowel in the rib section of the partially cremated but intact skeleton. Although not as ideal as a tape measure, this was standard practice in the 20th century, and can give us a fair estimate of the size of the skeleton. Also an approx. 5 to 5-1/2 inch small flaked knife was one of the burial goods situated between the knees of the skeleton. This places the trowelblade at about 5 inches long, consistent with the most common size of Marshalltown trowels –commonly used by most American archaeologists in the 20th century.
Using these objects as a reference I computed the skeleton to be from 6 ft 10 to 7 ft 2 inches tall in the flesh; the femurs approx. 22 to 23 inches long, the pelvis 14-1/2 inches wide, and the length of torso, approx. 42 inches long from skull to tail bone –or sitting height– which is about 50% of total stature in most individuals. This more or less confirms Dragoo’s initial measurement of an individual approximately 7.2 feet tall in life, by my estimates.
- The Greater Significance
These large skeletons of seemingly “paramount” or “important” individuals buried in the deepest stratum of the mounds, excavated in the 1950’s tend to support some of the early claims of field agents in the Smithsonian’s bureau of ethnology who occasionally reported skeletons of similar size in some of the largest mounds in the Ohio Valley, West Virginia, and South East — Skeletons ranging from about 7 to 8 feet in length. Here are several such examples from official Smithsonian reports of the late 1800’s:
-References and further reading:
For more references, check out Jim Vieira’s facebook page: Stone Builders, Mound Builders, and the Giants of Ancient America
And Micah Hanks great articles: Big Buried Secrets, Giants Skeletons and the Smithsonian
Also, a must read is Ross Hamilton’s book, A TRADITION OF GIANTS The Elite Social Hierarchy of American Prehistory
Greg Little & Andrew Collins also recently contributed some fascinating research into the Mound reports of tall skeletons in his new book: Path of Souls: The Native American Death Journey; Cygnus, Orion, the Milky Way, Giant Skeletons in Mounds, & the Smithsonian. and articles:
Jason Jarrell and Sarah Farmer have also written a fascinating 2 part article on Giants: