Bigfoot Encounters

Giants: Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine
by George M Gould and Walter L Pyle

Original Copyright 1896 by W.B. Saunders

The fables of mythology contain accounts of horrible monsters, terrible in ferocity, whose mission was the destruction of the life of the in-dividuals unfortunate enough to come into their domains. The ogres known as the Cyclops, and the fierce anthropophages, called Lestrygons, of Sicily, who were neighbors of the Cyclops, are pictured in detail in the "Odyssey" of Homer. Nearly all the nations of the earth have their fairy tales or super-stitions of monstrous beings inhabiting some forest, mountain, or cave; and pages have been written in the heroic poems of all languages describing battles between these monsters and men with superhuman courage, in which the giant finally succumbs. The word giant is derived indirectly from the old English word "geant," which in its turn came from the French of the conquering Normans. It is Of Greek derivation, "yiya'--or the Latin, 'gigas." The Hebrew parallel is "nophel,' or plural, " nephilim."

Ancient Giants.
We are told in the Bible" that the bedstead of Og, King of Basham, was 9 cubits long, which in English measure is 16 feet. Goliath of Gath, who was slain by David, stood 6 cubits and a span tall, which is about 11 feet. The body of Orestes, according to the Greeks, was 11 feet long. The mythical Titans, 45 in number, were a race of Giants who warred against the Gods, and their descendants were the Gigantes. The height attributed to these creatures was fabulous, and they were supposed to leap up mountains to scale the sky and to help them to wage their battles. Hercules, a man of incredible strength, but who is said to have been not over 7 feet high, was dispatched against the Gigantes. Pliny describes Gabbaras, who was brought to Rome by Claudius Caesar from Arabia and was between 9 and 10 feet in height, and adds that the re-mains of Posio and Secundilla, found in the reign of Augustus Caesar in the Sallustian Gardens, of which they were supposed to be the guardians, meas-ured 10 feet 3 inches each. In common with Augustine, Pliny believed that the stature of man has degenerated, but from the remains of the ancients so far discovered it would appear that the modern stature is about the same as the ancient. The beautiful alabaster sarcophagus discovered near Thebes in 1817 and now in Sir John Soane's Museum in Lincoln's Inn Fields in London measures 9 feet 4 inches long.

This unique example, the finest extant, is well worth inspection by visitors in London. Herodotus says the shoes of Perseus measured an equivalent of about 3 feet, English standard. Josephus tells of Eleazar, a Jew, among the hostages sent by the King of Persia to Rome, who was nearly 11 feet high. Saxo,the grammarian, mentions a giant 13 feet high and says he had 12 companions who were double his height. Ferragus, the monster supposed to have been slain by Roland, the nephew of Charlemagne, was said to have been nearly 11 feet high. It was said that there was a giant living in the twelfth century under the rule of King Eugene II. of Scotland who was ll and a half feet high.

There are fabulous stories told of the Emperor Maximilian. Some accounts say that he was between 8 and 9 feet high, and used his wife's bracelet for a finger-ring, and that he ate 40 pounds of flesh a day and drank six gallons of wine. He was also accredited with being a great runner, and in his earlier days was said to have conquered single-handed eight soldiers. The Emperors Charlemagne and Jovianus were also accredited with great height and strength. In the olden times there were extraordinary stories of the giants who lived in Patagonia Some say that Magellan gave the name to this country because its inhabitants measured 5 cubits. The naturalist Turner says that on the river Plata near the Brazilian coast he saw naked savages 12 feet high; and in his description of America, Thevenot confirms this by saying that on the coast of Africa he saw on a boat the skeleton of an American giant who had died in 1559, and who was 11 feet 5 inches in height. He claims to have measured the bones himself. He says that the bones of the leg measured 3 feet 4 inches, and the skull was 3 feet and 1 inch, just about the size of the skull of Borghini, who, however, was only of ordinary height. In his account of a voyage to the Straits of Magellan, Jacob Lemaire says that on December 17, 1615, he found at Port Desire several graves covered with stones, and beneath the stones were skeletons of men which measured between 10 and 11 feet.

The ancient idea of the Spaniards was that the men of Patagonia were so tall that the Spanish soldiers could pass under their arms held out straight; yet we know that the Patagonians exhibit no exaggeration of height in fact, some of the inhabitants about Terra del Fuego are rather diminutive.

This superstition of the voyagers was not limited to America; there were accounts of men in the neighborhood of the Peak of Teneriffe who had 80 teeth in their head and bodies 15 feet in height. Discoveries of L' Giants' Bones.--Riolan, the celebrated anatomist, says that there was to be seen at one time in the suburbs of Saint Germain the tomb of the giant Isoret, who was reputed to be 20 feet tall; and that in 1509, in digging ditches at Rouen, near the Dominicans, they found a stone tomb containing a monstrous skeleton, the skull of which would hold a bushel of corn ; the shin-bone measured about 4 feet, which, taken as a guide, would make his height over 17 feet. On the tomb was a copper plate which said that the tomb contained the remains of "the noble and puissantlord, the Chevalier Ricon de Vallemont." Plater," the famous physician, declares that he saw at Lucerne the true human bones of a subject that must have been at least 19 feet high. Valence in Dauyhine boasted of possessing the bones of the giant Bucart, the tyrant of the Vivarias, who was slain by his vassal, Count de Cabillon.

The Dominicans had the shin-bone and part of the knee-articulation, which, substantiated by the frescoes and inscriptions in their possession, showed him to be 22 feet high. They claimed to have an os frontis; in the medical school of Leyden measuring 9.1 x 12.2 x .5 inches, which they deduce must have belonged to a man 11 or 12 feet high. It is said that while digging in France in 1613 there was disinterred the body of a giant bearing the title " Theutobochus Rex," and that the skeleton measured 25 feet long, 10 feet across the shoulders, and 5 feet from breast to back. The shin-bone was about 4 feet long, and the teeth as large as those of oxen. This is likely another version of the finding of the remains of Bucart. Near Mezarino in Sicily in 1516 there was found the skeleton of a giant whose height was at least 30 feet; his head was the size of a hogshead, and each tooth weighed 5 ounces; and in 1548 and in 1550 there were others found of the height of 30 feet.

The Athenians found near their city skeletons measuring 34 and 36 feet in height. In Bohemia in 758 it is recorded that there was found a human skeleton 26 feet tall, and the leg-bones are still kept in a medieval castle in that country. In September, 1691, there was the skull of a giant found in Macedonia which held 210 pounds of corn.

General Opinions.
All the accounts of giants originating in the finding of monstrous bones must of course be discredited, as the remains were likely those of some animal. Comparative anatomy has only lately obtained a hold in the public mind, and in the Middle Ages little was known of it. The pretended giants' remains have been those of mastodons, elephante,`and other animals. From Suetonius we learn that Augustus Caesar pleased himself by adorning his palaces with so-called giants' bones of incredible size, preferring these to pictures or images. From their enormous size we must believe they were mastodon bones, as no contemporary animals show such measurements. Bartholinus describes a large tooth for many years exhibited as the canine of a giant which proved to be nothing but a tooth of a spermaceti whale (Cetus dentatus), quite a common fish. Hand described an alleged giant's skeleton shown in London early in the eighteenth century, and which was composed of the bones of the fore-fin of 8 small whale or of a porpoise.

The celebrated Sir Hans Sloane, who treated this subject very learnedly, arrived at the conclusion that while in most instances the bones found were those of mastodons, elephants, whales, etc., in some instances accounts were given by connoisseurs who could not readily be deceived. However, modern scientists will be loath to believe that any men ever existed who measured over 9 feet; in fact, such cases with authentic references are extremely rare. Quetelet considers that the tallest man whose stature is authentically recorded was the " Scottish Giant " of Frederick the Great's regiment of giants. This person was not quite 8 feet 3 inches tall. Buffon, ordinarily a reliable authority, comes to a loose conclusion that there is no doubt that men have lived who were 10, 12, and even 15 feet tall; but modern statisticians cannot accept this deduction from the references offered. From the original estimation of the height of Adam (Henrion once calculated that Adam's height was 123 feet and that of Eve l18) we gradually come to 10 feet, which seemed to be about the favorite height for giants in the middle Ages.

Approaching this century,we still have stories of men from 9 to 10 feet high, but no authentic cases. It was only in the latter part of the last century that we began to have absolutely authentic heights of giants, and to-day the men showing through the country as measuring 8 feet generally exaggerate their height several inches, and exact measurement would show that but few men commonly called giants are over 7 and a half feet or weigh over 350 pounds.

Dana says that the number of giants figuring as public characters since 1700 is not more than 100, and of these about 20 were advertised to be over 8 feet. If we confine ourselves to those accurately and scientifically measured the list is surprisingly small. Topinard measured the tallest man in the Austrian army and found that he was 8 feet 4 inches. The giant Winckelmeyer measured 8 feet 6 inches in height. Ranke measured Marianne Wehde, who was born in Germany in the present century, and found that she measured 8 feet 4 inches when only sixteen and a half years old.

In giants, as a rule, the great stature is due to excessive growth of the lower extremities, the size of the head and thaftof the trunk being nearly the same as those of a man or boy of the same age. On the other hand, in a natural dwarf the proportions are fairly uniform, the head, however, being always larger in proportion to the body, just as we find in infants. Indeed, the proportions of " General Tom Thumb " were those of an ordinary infant of from thirteen to fifteen months old.

Original Copyright 1896 by W.B. Saunders

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