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Archaeological sensation: Giant human figure found in unusual sleeping position amazes experts in Uruguay ‎

The hoax began with a doctored photograph and later found a receptive audience online, perhaps thanks to the image’s unwanted religious connotations. A digitally altered photograph created in 2002 shows a reclining giant surrounded by a wooden platform, with an archaeologist with a shovel in hand to help. scale.

In 2004, the “discovery” was blogged and emailed around the world (“Giant skeleton unearthed!”) and has been enjoying a resurgence in 2007.

Photo falsification may be obvious to most people. But the big story refuses to go away even five years later, if a steady stream of emails to National Geographic News is any indication. (The National Geographic Society owns National Geographic News.)

The messages come from all over the world: Portugal, India, El Salvador, Malaysia, Africa, Dominican Republic, Greece, Egypt, South Africa and Kenya. But they all ask the same question: Is it true?

Helping fuel the recent resurgence of the story are some media outlets that have reported the find as fact.

For example, a March 2007 article in India’s oft-cited monthly Hindu Voice claimed that a team from the National Geographic Society, in collaboration with the Indian military, had unearthed a giant human skeleton in India.

“Recent exploration activity in the northern region of India uncovered skeletal remains of a human being of phenomenal size,” the report said.

The story went on to say that the discovery was made by a “National Geographic Team (Indian Division) with the support of the Indian Army as the area falls under the jurisdiction of the Army.”

The story added that the team also found tablets with inscriptions that suggest the giant belonged to a race of superhumans mentioned in the Mahabharata, a Hindu epic poem from around 200 BC.

“They were very tall, large and very powerful, so that they could wrap their arms around the trunk of a tree and uproot it,” the report says, repeating claims that initially appeared in 2004.

Voice editor P. Deivamuthu admitted to National Geographic News that his publication was misled by the false reports.

The monthly publication, based in Mumbai, published a retraction after readers alerted Deivamuthu to the hoax, he said.

“We are against spreading lies and hoaxes,” Deivamuthu added. “Also, our readers are a very intellectual class and will not tolerate nonsense.”

Other blog entries, such as a May 2007 post on a site called Srini’s Weblog, cite a report supposedly published in the Times of India on April 22, 2004. But a search of that newspaper’s archive revealed no such article.

Variations of the giant photo hoax include the alleged discovery of a 60 to 80 foot long (18 to 24 meter) human skeleton in Saudi Arabia. In a popular version, which also first appeared in 2004, an oil exploration team is said to have made the discovery.

Here the skeleton is presented as evidence of giants mentioned in Islamic, rather than Hindu, scriptures.

Websites dedicated to debunking urban legends and “netlore” became aware of the various giant hoaxes shortly after they first appeared.

California-based Snopes.com, for example, noted that the skeleton image had been lifted from Worth1000, which runs photo manipulation contests.

Titled “Giants,” the skeleton-and-shovel movie had won third place in a 2002 contest called “Archaeological Anomalies 2.”

The image’s creator, an illustrator from Canada who goes by the name IronKite, told National Geographic News via email that he had nothing to do with the subsequent hoax.

He added that he wants to remain anonymous because some forums debating whether the giant was genuine or not “were turning his entire argument into a religious one.” It was argued, for example, that the Saudi Arabian find was entirely consistent with the teachings of the Quran.

“This was around the same time that death threats and cash rewards were being issued against cartoonists and other industry professionals for doing things like depicting the Prophet Muhammad,” IronKite wrote.

IronKite began with an aerial photograph of a mastodon dig in Hyde Park, New York, in 2000. It then digitally superimposed a human skeleton over the beast’s remains.

The subsequent addition of an excavator posed the greatest technical challenge.

“If you look, he’s holding a yellow-handled shovel, but there’s nothing on the end,” IronKite said.

“Originally, the end of the shovel was there. But it looked like it occupied the exact same space as the skeleton’s temple, making everything look fake.

“Now it looks like I’m holding a stick and people don’t notice. It is funny.”

IronKite also altered the color of the man’s clothing to create a “uniform link” with the white-shirted observer looking down from the wooden platform.

The two figures work to exaggerate the scale of the skeleton, he added.

IronKite said it’s glad the image, which only took an hour and a half to create, has generated so much attention online.

“I giggle when a guy claims to know someone who was there, or even goes so far as to claim that he or she was there when they found the skeleton and took the photo,” IronKite said.

“Sometimes people seem so desperate to believe something that they lie to themselves or exaggerate to strengthen their own arguments.”

David Mikkelson of Snopes.com said such hoaxes are successful when they appear to confirm something people are already inclined to believe, such as a prejudice, political viewpoint or religious belief.

A hoax must also be presented “in a framework that has the appearance of credibility,” he said in an email.

According to Mikkelson, the “ancient giant” has both elements.

“It appeals to both a religious and secular view of the world as different and more fantastic than mere science would have us believe,” he said.

“The proof,” Mikkelson added, “comes in the form of a pretty compelling image.”

For anyone who knowingly spread the myth, Mikkelson added, the motivation “was probably no different than the motivation to play a game of ring someone’s doorbell and run away, because it’s an easy way to laugh at someone else’s life.” person”. bills.”

Alex Boese, “curator” of the virtual Museum of Hoaxes, said fake giants have a long history dating back to at least the 18th century.

The recent hoax is reminiscent of the once-famous Cardiff Giant myth, involving a 10-foot (three-meter) tall stone figure unearthed in 1869 in Cardiff, New York, Boese said.

Many people believed that it was a petrified man and claimed that it was one of the giants mentioned in the book of Genesis of the Bible: “There were giants on Earth in those days.”

Likewise, Boese said, the recent giant hoax “takes advantage of people’s desire for mystery and their desire to see concrete confirmation of religious legends.”