The Giants of Doddridge County: Burials of a Vanished Race – Part I
(Author’s Note: This article contains reference to an anonymous source. Although we have a rule of not using anonymous sources in our published work, we have made an exception in this case, since we feel that the possibilities yielded by this investigation could be of some importance.)
In the summer of 1930, a series of newspaper articles appeared describing a most sensational discovery: a race of gigantic beings unearthed from two burial mounds in Doddridge County, West Virginia.
According to the Clarksburg Daily Exponent for June 15, 1930, in an article entitled Two Prehistoric Indian Mounds Found Near Morgansville ( by Bruce Horton), the mounds were located on the farm of Benjamin Zahn in Morgansville, 12 miles (19 kilometers) west of Salem. The article mentions that Professor Ernest Sutton of Salem University carried out excavations.
Burials of a Vanished Race
The article makes remarkable claims regarding the “now vanished race” found buried in the mounds:
“The particular tribe or race which inhabited this section of the state is believed to have been composed of individuals ranging from seven to nine feet in height…”
Of the two mounds, the Exponent article notes that one, being “six feet in height and nearly fifteen feet in diameter” (1.8 meters high and 4.5 meters diameter) contained a type of megalithic chamber “shaped from large, flat rocks”, which was “carefully and tightly packed with clay”. Within the chamber was one sitting burial, considered to be a chief.
The Exponent explains that the second mound was “ten feet high and about sixty feet in diameter” (three meters high and 18 meters diameter), featuring three burials, one of which was “a man of height, strength and power, measuring seven feet, six inches tall” (228.6 cm tall), buried near the center of the mound and “carefully covered by flat stones”. Another skeleton from the same mound is described as being “hermetically sealed in a case of clay”.
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Another article, entitled Salem Professor Discovers Huge Skeletons in Mounds appeared in the Charleston Gazette for June 15, 1930. According to the Gazette, the mounds contained “what Prof. Ernest Sutton, head of the history department of Salem College, believes is valuable evidence of a race of giants who inhabited this section of West Virginia more than 1000 years ago.” Again four burials were mentioned from the two mounds, measurements “indicating they were from seven to nine feet tall” (2.1 to 2.7 meters tall). The burial sealed in clay is again mentioned, with a measurement given of “seven and a half feet tall”.
Artist’s representation of North American giant. Credit: Marcia K Moore / Ciamar Studio. Visit http://www.marciakmoore.com/giants.html
The Smithsonian Acquisitions
In the spring of 2015, the authors undertook an investigation of these discoveries made long ago. To begin with, the press articles all mention that Sutton sent the artifacts from the Zahn Farm mounds to the Smithsonian Institution. In fact, the acquisitions records of the Smithsonian do note the donation of several artifacts from the “Zahn-Maxwell Mound”, including a stemmed point, slate gorget, and a sandstone disk. The disk itself is mentioned in the press articles, noted as featuring several engraved lines on one side. These three artifacts were manually assigned to Ernest Sutton and Oris Stutler in the acquisitions journal at the Smithsonian, with a date of donation of July 9, 1930.
These are without doubt artifacts from the mounds in question and the material can be viewed at the online Smithsonian Collections Search Center.
Sutton himself published a paper detailing the excavations of the mounds in the 10th volume of the West Virginia Archaeologist in 1958. According to Sutton, the two mounds, dubbed Do-1 and Do-2, were located on a steep hill 400 feet (122 meters) above the village of Morgansville.
Do-2 was the Zahn-Maxwell Mound, the actual dimensions of which were 10 feet in height and 75 feet in diameter (three meters high and 22.8 meters diameter). Sutton documents four extended burials, one of which was encased in a type of baked clay, as well as the presence of red and yellow ochre in some burials.
Map from the Sutton Report, courtesy authors.
Sutton refers to Do-1 as the Zahn Mound, measured as 12 feet in diameter and three feet high (3.6 meters diameter and one meter high). The report offers extensive details regarding the burial in the stone chamber mentioned in the Newspapers: