“Nonhuman” is a fairly ironic statement. By definition alone, a cat, giraffe, or bumblebee would all constitute nonhuman entities that, without a doubt, inhabit this planet alongside humankind. And yet, strangely, when you use an expression such as “nonhuman entities,” even without clarification, the image this spurs in the mind tends to be of something innately human like, just not quite Homo sapien.
Funny, then, that “nonhuman” almost invariably will evoke images of beings which, for the most part, appear very similar to humans, particularly among those of us of the Fortean persuasion. I’ve long wondered whether, in some capacity, there might have been (or might still be) other entities on planet Earth that were very similar to being humans–hominid sub-species whose branches only stemmed away from the evolutionary trunk a few thousand years before the course which led our ancestors to being what we are today–that remain undiscovered. This sounds particularly elementary as stated here, since anthropologists will quickly name the variety of early bipeds and robust hominids that did invariably precede us. Dating back to humanity’s frail beginnings that were entombed in dust and stone around our early Ethiopian relative, Lucy, she and her kind were later discovered by the Leakey family in parts of Africa beginning in the late 1950s. But aside from the known hominids, could there be evidence of other humanoids that have existed alongside us here on Earth for thousands of years or more?
Part of this riddle lay hidden not only beneath the soil of hundreds of generations, as did Lucy’s nearly infantile frame, but also steeped in the mists of rumor and folklore carried about in the verbal traditions of many cultures. The Cherokee natives of North and South Carolina have long held that their ancestors were visited by “people” of gigantic stature, who would travel from someplace far West of the areas they had settled. One such giant, Tsulkalu (later dubbed “Judaculla” by European settlers), represented the Cherokee god of the hunt, and was described as a large entity with peculiar, slanted eyes, living in a large cave that overlooked the Caney Fork River near modern day Sylva, NC. This all could easily enough be chalked up to being mere legend, if not for the fact that there is a multitude of evidence suggesting that people–or something similar to people, but larger–did in fact exist alongside early Native Americans.
In the 1890s, Cyrus Thomas, who oversaw the Bureau of Ethnology at the Smithsonian Institute, had included with his early annual reports to the Secretary of the Smithsonian the occasional discovery of skeletal remains that dwarfed the average human. For instance, during excavations of ceremonial mounds conducted by the Bureau of Ethnology, in 1884 a skeleton measuring 7 feet, 6 inches was found in a large stone chamber buried within a mound in Kanawha County, West Virginia. Thomas wrote about this in his 12th Annual Report on Mound Explorations of the Bureau of Ethnology, detailing the strange discovery; similar finds were reportedly unearthed in mounds found in Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota, Utah, and other states (a complete listing of gigantic remains unearthed in America can be found here.)
It is well known that many publications of the mid-to-late nineteenth century occasionally favored the telling of “tall tales” (no pun intended). Cyrus Thomas, on the other hand, was not only a man of science, but also a man of God; he had been a minister of the Evangelical Lutheran Church between 1865-69, before leaving on an expedition into the Rocky Mountains. It seems unlikely that Thomas, for all his integrity, would forsake his stature and credibility with the mere interest of spinning yarns about giants–unless, of course, it had been conducive to propagating a creationist mythos, where tales of Biblical giants were upheld with some degree of scientific fact–or at least a convenient facade of such. This might entail Lutheran giants of a different variety, but I digress.
In truth, even to speculate such of the noble Mr. Thomas wouldn’t account for other instances where large skeletons have been unearthed, and the phenomenon is hardly relegated to the nineteenth century. Zoologist Ivan Sanderson recounted a letter he received, detailing an airstrip being built on the Aleutian island of Shemya during World War II. During construction, the remains of what appeared to be humans–again very large ones–were uncovered. At Sanderson’s prompting, a member of the unit confirmed the reports, indicating that the Smithsonian Institution had been notified and had collected the remains, after which there had been no further correspondence. No data pertaining to the event in question was released, much to Sanderson’s dismay, famously prompting the Scottish researcher-extraordinaire to ask, “is it that these people cannot face rewriting all the textbooks?”
Occasionally there are still reports of these sorts of remains being uncovered, but if they have truly existed, what do they represent? Even the Neanderthal weren’t supposed to be so large that they stood several feet taller than the average human today, nor did any other known hominids further up humanity’s murky family tree. One potential candidate, the massive Giganitpithicus ape, remains of which were discovered in China (and touted by modern cryptozoology experts as a potential ancestor to modern Sasquatches), was likely a knuckle walker, rather than a biped. Who then, or what, were these mysterious giants that walked the Earth so long ago? If we could go so far as to assume they were sophisticated to some degree, on account of their desire to bury their dead in makeshift “temples” and “chambers” within ceremonial mounds before their demise, what other elements of their culture have been hidden away? More importantly, could others since that time have taken interest in preventing the release of such information to the public?