Titans Under the Earth: Evidence for The Tall Ones, and the Ancient Mounds of Pennsylvania
This article is dedicated to the memory of John William Dillon, who kept truth and dreams alive.
During the Early Woodland Period (1000—200 BC), the Adena people constructed extensive burial mounds and earthworks throughout the Ohio Valley in Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and West Virginia. Many of the skeletal remains found in these mounds by early antiquarians and 20th-Century archaeologists were of powerfully-built individuals reaching between 6.5 and eight feet in height (198 cm – 244 cm). It is the record of these remains, which has given rise to the subject of the ancient “giants” of the Ohio Valley.
Criel Mound ( Public Domain )
Destruction of Evidence
While doing research for a book on this subject over the last several years, the authors were struck by how little of the archaeology of some regions is freely accessible and available to the public. One of those areas is the state of Pennsylvania, where the Carnegie Museum destroyed countless burial mounds without filing comprehensive reports in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Many of the mounds wrecked by the Carnegie are only known to the public from old press reports, such as the following published in The Sun on December 8, 1893:
“This mound, which was originally about 100 feet long and more than 12 feet high, has been somewhat worn down by time. It is on the J.R. Secrist farm in South Huntington township…The most interesting feature in the recent excavation was the mummified torso of the human body…Portions of the bones dug up and the bones in the legs, Prof. Peterson declares, are those of a person between eight and nine feet in height.”
Miamisburg Mound ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )
Large Skeletal Remains
In order to add some clarity to the subjects of the mound builders and large skeletal remains from Pennsylvania, the authors reviewed a considerable amount of archaeological literature from the state and incorporated the information into several chapters of Ages of the Giants: A Cultural History of the Tall Ones in Prehistoric America (Serpent Mound Books and Press, 2017). Perhaps the most famous instance of press reports describing a large skeleton from a Pennsylvania mound is a case from Union Township in Washington County, Pennsylvania. In 1932, archaeologist George Fisher excavated the mound after he was informed that amateurs were engaged in heavy looting at the site. This situation attracted hundreds of spectators, and Fisher’s work became a subject of daily discussion by the local media. One discovery in particular was regularly reported at this time:
“One of the most interesting reports that will go into the archives is that on the body of a giant, seven feet five inches tall. This titan was found on the fifth level of the clay mound where the bodies were sandwiched between 11 layers of sandstone. The majority of the adults measured between five feet 10 inches and six feet three inches in stature…”
--The Daily Republican, 9/15/1932
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“One of the skeletons of these mighty men is seven feet, five inches in length, and even the remains of the women and children show them to have been of tremendous stature. Heavy, primitive faces must have topped their mammoth bodies, Fisher says, for all of the skulls are heavy boned, with massive jaws and strong teeth that could have ripped meat into shreds…”
--The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/14/1932
A human effigy pipe created by the prehistoric Adena culture, which lived in the Ohio Valley between 800 BC and 100 AD. ( OhioMemory.org)
Mystery of the Mounds
Over the last decade, these types of press reports have caused several researchers to seek out more information on the mound excavated by Fisher, but until now it has remained largely a mystery. The authors found that the site is known in the archaeological literature as the Pollock’s Hill stone mound. There is some debate over the age and cultural affiliations of the mound. Archaeologist and Adena expert Don W. Dragoo considered the Pollock’s Hill Cairn to belong to an Adena stone mound sub-tradition. In more modern times, archaeologists have re-evaluated some of the mounds that Dragoo included in this cultural taxon and have suggested that they could actually date to Late Woodland times—several hundred years after the age of Adena.
One reason for the difficulty in finding professionally documented information on the Pollock’s Hill Cairn is the fact that Fisher himself did not publish the official report. Instead, Donald Cadzow published the report in 1933, utilizing information taken directly from Fisher’s field notes. According to Cadzow’s document, Fisher unearthed an extended adult skeleton covered with packed mud and rocks in the northwestern portion of the mound, which is numbered burial 39 in the field notes. Regarding this burial, Cadzow’s report states, “As the bones were in poor condition, it was impossible to obtain exact measurements. Their size, however, indicated a very large heavy person, much larger than the other burials in the mound.”