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The Mysterious Giant of Castelnau

A pervasive feature of the myths and legends of many cultures all over the world is that of giants walking among us. Here we have colossal beings roaming the land to tower over all in their path, and it is all very intriguing and awe inspiring, yet these stories have often been taken to be more than mere legend. Peppered throughout history have been those instances of actual remains of these hulking beasts being found, and one of the most curious is the time a skeleton of a giant was allegedly found in France, which then made its way into scientific journals and could have constituted real evidence that these creatures were more than myth.

In the winter of 1890, the French anthropologist Georges Vacher de Lapouge was at Castelnau-le-Lez, a commune in the Occitanie region of Southern France near the city of Montpellier, for the purpose of studying its ancient Bronze Age burial tumulus, a kind of cemetery. Lapouge uncovered a large number of human remains there, including about forty skulls, but near the bottom of the burial site, in a section that would have dated all the way back to Neolithic times, he found something very strange indeed. There among the normal sized human remains were those from an individual who would have towered over others at the time and be truly called a giant. Lapouge would write of the bones in the journal La Nature:

I think it unnecessary to note that these bones are undeniably human, despite their enormous size. The first is the middle part of the shaft of a femur, 14 cm length, almost cylindrical in shape, and the circumference of the bone is 16 cm. The second piece is the middle and upper part of the shaft of a tibia. The circumference is 13 cm at the nutrient foramen…. the length of fragment is 26 cm…. The third, very singular, was regarded by good anatomists as the lower part of a humerus. The volumes of the bones were more than double the normal pieces to which they correspond. Judging by the usual intervals of anatomical points, they also involve lengths almost double. The subject would have been a likely size of 3m, 50. (11 ft. 6 in.)

Comparison of the giant bones and regular bones

That would have been a very large fellow, indeed, and along with the report was a photo engraving of some of the bones of the “giant,” including the humerus, tibia, and femoral mid-shaft lying next to normal sized bones, and the difference is profound. Indeed, the discovery was completely groundbreaking, in that if this was true it would be by far the tallest human being ever known, a true giant in every sense of the word, and so the remains were sent off to be studied at the prestigious University of Montpellier, where they were supposedly examined by a professor of zoology by the name of M. Sabatier and a M. Delage, professor of paleontology. The bones would further be studied in 1892 by a Dr. Paul Louis André Kiener, professor of pathological anatomy at Montpellier School of Medicine. An article in The London Globe would say of this analysis:

In the year 1890 some human bones of enormous size, double the ordinary in fact, were found in the tumulus of Castelnau, and have since been carefully examined by Prof. Kiener, who, while admitting that the bones are those of a very tall race, nevertheless finds them abnormal in dimensions and apparently of morbid growth. They undoubtedly reopen the question of the “giants” of antiquity, but do not furnish sufficient evidence to decide it.

Making this all even stranger was an additional discovery that was purportedly made at a prehistoric cemetery at nearby Montpellier, France, when workers excavating a water works reservoir supposedly stumbled across what seemed to be the skulls truly enormous individuals even taller than that of Castelnau-le-Lez find. The bones were allegedly then sent to the French Academy of Sciences for further study, and a report in The Princeton Union of Minnesota would say of this finding:

In a prehistoric cemetery recently uncovered at Montpellier, France, while workmen were excavating a, water works reservoir, human skulls were found measuring 28, 31 and 32 Inches in circumference. The bones which were found with the skulls were also of gigantic proportions. These relics were sent to the Paris academy, and a learned “savant” who lectured on the find says that they belonged to a race of men between ten and fifteen feet in height.

Was there any connection between these two, perhaps both of them pointing to some race of gigantic people? If any of these reports are true then these would be the tallest human beings known to have ever existed, and the Castelnau-le-Lez discovery is promising in that the remains seem to have been studied by various scientific specialists and published in a scientific journal, giving them some added veracity. However, as exciting as it all seems to be there are still problems with the story. For one it does not seem as if a peer reviewed paper was ever published on the bones, leaving us with only the article in La Nature. It seems after that initial discovery and analysis, along with some newspaper reports at the time, they were just sort of forgotten about. Also, considering the era, there were still many misunderstandings about physiology, and perhaps misjudgments made on the estimated measurements. The biggest strike against the case is that the bones have sort of been lost to history and no one knows where they are now, meaning they can’t be analyzed with modern techniques and standards. Because of this, we are left to wonder what these remains mean, and whether they really were true hard evidence that giants once walked the earth.