The Fiske Center Blog

Weblog for the Fiske Center for Archaeological Research at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

December 10, 2014
by Stephen Mrozowski
12 Comments

The History Channel’s Giant Problem

Mrozowski after visiting Goshen

Mrozowski after visiting Goshen

When I was asked to appear on this History Channel show, Search for the Lost Giants, Episode 3 the producers told me that it concerned local mysteries and stone structures. I had recently visited several stone structures in Massachusetts, the builders of which remain a mystery. Therefore, I was curious to see what Bill and Jim had discovered.

The Goshen Tunnel that I inspected on the show was an intriguing structure comprised of a well, with a tunnel running from its base. The Vieiras’ interest was certainly genuine, and I admired their enthusiasm – not everyone has a dedication to get to the bottom of local mysteries and at some level all archaeologists have a reservoir of curiosity for questions of history.  I did not find any physical evidence that confirmed for me that the structure was built using modern metal tools such as chisels or pry bars, and I said as such. In my estimation the best explanation for the tunnel was that it was linked to some illegal activity: maybe to counterfeiting or  to the smuggling of bootleg liquor  probably coming from Canada.  The liquor could have been kept cool in the tunnel, which could have been concealed by a metal or stone cap placed at the bottom of the well, but above the level of the tunnel so that water could be filled in to make the well look like, well a well.  The day after the visit, I e-mailed Bill to look in the well for a possible ridge upon which the cap could have been seated. None of this appeared in the episode.

My point isn’t to question either the sincerity or motivation of Bill and Jim in pursuing their interest in the possibility of giants or the presence of a burial chamber connected to the Goshen Tunnel. I only wish they had shared this intended direction with me either before or during the filming or post-production information exchanges. During the 19th century, all sorts of theories were developed to explain the many large mounds and earthen structures located throughout North America.  Among others theories were put forward that linked the construction of these mounds to one of the lost tribes of Israel, Old World civilizations such as the Phoenicians, and a race of giants.  In 1890, Cyrus Thomas published the results of his review of all of the archaeological evidence collected from mound sites across North America. He concluded that the evidence confirmed that these large mound complexes were the work the indigenous populations. Archaeologists know today that these were the centers of complex, highly sophisticated indigenous societies. Attempts to link such structures to non indigenous peoples is part of a larger attempt to end Native American history and to replace that history with an American narrative that denies the identity of North America’s indigenous peoples. The perpetuation of long discredited ideas concerning a race of giants is an affront to the indigenous peoples of North America and need to be recognized as such.

December 5, 2014
by Stephen Mrozowski
2 Comments

Who said anything about giants?

In the Goshen Tunnel during filming

I was surprised and disappointed to see my appearance on the History Channel’s Search for the Lost Giants, Episode 3, used in a manner that appeared to give credence to a long-discredited theory concerning giants. Who said anything about giants?  I thought I was being asked to inspect the Goshen tunnel and to offer my opinion concerning who may have built it or what it was used for.  The site was very interesting.

The search for giants is a long-standing and familiar tradition of denying indigenous histories by promoting absurd alternate explanations. In North America the notion of such a race of giants is one of a list of explanations used to deny the accomplishments of Native Americans. Speaking directly to Native American scholars or consulting a widely distributed text such as Kenneth Feder’s  Frauds, Myths and Mysteries would provide ample documentation of the history of such ideas and the evidence used to disprove them. The real giants of the past were the indigenous men, women and children who built the sophisticated societies that flourished across the continent for thousands of years. Their descendants have been denied such histories by theories such as that discussed on the program.

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