Giant skeletons were found by the thousands, but most were destroyed or thrown in the ocean by the Smithsonian and Vatican
An old hoax has resurfaced in an Instagram meme claiming that giant skeletons were found but were destroyed because “having to explain the existence of these skeletons, contradicted the evolution of mankind and creation.”
The July 25 post by the user @conspiracytheories, which has gained over 54,700 likes, reads, “Giant skeletons were found by the thousands, but most were destroyed or thrown in the ocean by the Smithsonian and Vatican.”
The account has not responded to USA TODAY’s request for comment.
The claim has made its way across the internet in different variations over the years. A similar post appeared in 2015 claiming that the Supreme Court ruled that documentation of the giants was to be declassified, Jacksonville.org reported, finding the claim to be false.
A collection of photographs claiming to show the remains of giant humans also made the rounds in 2004, Snopes reported.
How did the hoax start?
Despite many reports and photos debunking the myth that has resurfaced throughout the years, the claim continues to be shared widely. The National Geographic Society has been battling the hoax since 2004.
“The hoax began with a doctored photo and later found a receptive online audience —thanks perhaps to the image’s unintended religious connotations,” National Geographic wrote in 2007, adding it “has not discovered ancient giant humans.”
Users often cite an article from India’s Hindu Voice to back up the claim that giant skeletons were found in India. However, National Geographic wrote that the Hindu Voice editor published a retraction after readers alerted the publication that the story was a hoax.
“We are against spreading lies and canards,” the editor wrote. “Moreover, our readers are a highly intellectual class and will not brook any nonsense.”
Other blog entries from 2007 reference a report allegedly published in the Times of India in 2004, but National Geographic found no such article in the newspaper’s archives.
Alex Boese, “curator” of the virtual Museum of Hoaxes, told the National Geographic that fake giants date back all the way to the 1700s and that the hoax “taps into people’s desire for mystery and their desire to see concrete confirmation of religious legends.”
Where do the images come from?
One photo of the giant remains is a manipulated image of a 1993 dinosaur dig in Niger, Snopes found. The user who shared the photo added a giant skull into the image, as the original photo has no such skull.
Another shared photo was an aerial photo of a mastodon excavation in 2000 in Hyde Park, New York. The photo was altered by a Canadian illustrator, who goes by the screen name IronKite, to show a human skeleton over the beast’s remains along with an addition of a digging man, the National Geographic found.
He told the outlet that the photo only took an hour and a half to create and generated a lot of internet attention. “I laugh myself silly when some 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 picture,” IronKite said, adding that he had nothing to do with the hoax.
The most recent version of the hoax claims that the Smithsonian destroyed thousands of giant skeletons. In 2017, Smithsonian Magazine reported on a photo of the Cardiff Giant that people believed to be true, writing that the giant remains “one of the nineteenth-century America’s most famous hoaxes,” according to scholar Michael Pettit.
“The story, which began on this day in 1869, was classic fake news — it looked like maybe it could be real, but it was deliberately left open to interpretation,” the Smithsonian Magazine wrote.
The Smithsonian did not respond to USA TODAY’s requests for comment on the most recent photo. There is no evidence or reports of the Smithsonian destroying giant human skeletons “by the thousands.”
A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America further found that a giant skull described in a paper was a hoax and had been planted in a mine, but groups still claim it to be real over the past 150 years.
An archeologist went to investigate the skull and found that “the natural finds were clearly of great geologic age, but the human remains and artifacts were not.”
“To suppose that man could have remained unchanged physically; to suppose that he could have remained unchanged mentally, socially, industrially, and esthetically for a million years, roughly speaking…is to suppose a miracle,” William H.
Holmes, a Smithsonian archaeologist wrote in the AIA article, adding that to suppose ancient people disappeared and left their bones “is to suppose the impossible.”
Story appears on satirical site
In October 2017, the Hoax-Slayer reported that reports of a giant skeleton being found was actually a mammoth found in Paris many years ago, noting that the claim started after World News Daily Report reported on the image.
According to Media Bias, World News Daily Report’s content is labeled as satire. On its website, World News Daily Report’s tagline is, “Where Facts Don’t Matter.”
Giant skeleton myth and religion
The discovery of large vertebrate bones were initially misinterpreted as the remains of giant humans, according to a 2017 study in Historical Biology, “The skeletons of Cyclops and Lestrigons: misinterpretation of Quaternary vertebrates as remains of the mythological giants.”
From there, Greek and Roman writers such as Strabo, Philostratus, Pliny and many others, interpreted the huge skeletons as bodies of the mythological giant Antaeus, Cyclops, and others.
A 2016 study that examined “correlates of belief in a narrative about the discovery of giant skeleton remains” found those who believed the myth were “significantly associated with greater anti-scientific attitudes, stronger New Age orientation, greater religiosity, stronger superstitious beliefs, lower Openness to Experience scores, and higher Neuroticism scores.”
Ulrich Lehner, the Warren Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, said the problem arises when one understands the book of Genesis as a history book with “literal” information.
“It is a book of stories conveying a theological message and mistaking the category of the text leads to a complete misunderstanding,” Lehner said in an email to USA TODAY.
“The Catholic way of reading Scripture never clashes with science and reason, while the fundamentalist reading of Scripture demands sacrifice of reason. For us Catholics however, reason and faith are always in harmony,” Lehner said.
“A Catholic therefore has no problem with either evolution or seeing the story about the ‘giants’ as a myth integrated into the Bible to emphasize fall and sin, but not as a historical account.”
The claim that giant human skeletons were found by the thousands and destroyed is rated FALSE because it is not supported by our research.
The myth has been debunked repeatedly throughout the years and the photos of the giant skeletons have been altered.
Outlets that have reported on the giant skeleton have removed the article and published a retraction.