Dec 15 2014

The Mound Builder Conspiracy

Even after a couple of decades as a skeptical activist I can still encounter new dark recesses festering with pseudoscience. The human capacity for nonsense seems endless.

A report in an alternative news outlet from the American Institution of Alternative Archeology (AIAA – the tag “alternative” is a huge red flag) claims that the Smithsonian Institution “destroyed thousands of giant human remains during the early 1900′s.”

Why would they do this? The AIAA has an unconventional view of human history. Apparently based on mention in the bible that giants once walked the earth, they believe that the mound building cultures of the Americas were not the product of early Native Americans but rather an earlier race of technologically advanced giants. Reading the comments after the article, it also seems that the belief these giants were white and Aryan is popular.

This is an excellent example of how a narrative develops from a combination of religious beliefs and cultural biases, and then history is rewritten and conspiracy theories woven out of whole cloth in order to support the preferred narrative. Science and evidence do not guide the narrative, but rather it is the other way around – a hallmark of pseudoscience.

The WorldNewsDailyReport, and the AIAA, would have you believe that (as quoted from AIAA spokesman, James Churward):

“There has been a major cover up by western archaeological institutions since the early 1900′s to make us believe that America was first colonized by Asian peoples migrating through the Bering Strait 15,000 years ago, when in fact, there are hundreds of thousands of burial mounds all over America which the Natives claim were there a long time before them, and that show traces of a highly developed civilization, complex use of metal alloys and where giant human skeleton remains are frequently found but still go unreported in the media and news outlets.”

That the convenient thing about conspiracy theories, they are remarkably immune to facts. You can, in fact, make up whatever facts you wish, and ignore others, all as part of the conspiracy.

According to the AIAA, somehow the Smithsonian was able to monopolize all of American archaeology, to such a degree that they had complete control over evidence from hundreds of thousands of mounds. They allegedly destroyed thousands of giant skeletal remains, important archaeological evidence, because it did not fit the official story.

A comprehensive survey of such mounds was published by the Smithsonian in 1848 (before Darwin published his theory of evolution), a reference still used by archaeologists today. I guess the conspiracy was already underway. and they were supporting the theory of evolution even before they knew it existed.

It is true that when Europeans encountered Native Americans they were largely unaware of who built the mounds. That is because they were built by their ancestors thousands of years ago. The ancestors to modern Native Americans likely arrived around 12 thousand years ago. The exact history is still being worked out. It is unreasonable to assume that there would be continuous cultural knowledge across thousands of years.

It should also be obvious that if there were a race of giant humans walking around, leaving thousands of skeletons behind, no one organization could possibly control such evidence. If the Smithsonian decided to suppress such evidence (itself a bizarre idea), then their competitors in New York or at the Peabody in New Haven could have easily preserved and described the undeniable evidence.

You would have to expand the conspiracy to involve all of archaeology – all museums, universities, researchers, etc.

Of course, all the AIAA would have to do to expose this giant conspiracy and catapult themselves to fame is to produce a single verifiable giant skeleton. Bones from a few thousand years ago would be well-preserved, could not be hoaxed in such a way to evade detailed scientific scrutiny, and would even likely contain DNA. If there are hundreds of thousands of such mounds, it seems likely the Smithsonian goons would have missed a stray femur or skull.

Of course, we always have claims that such things exist. We never get to see them, however. The report also claims that the Smithsonian is being forced by the court to reveal documents that will prove the conspiracy, to be released in 2015. Somehow I suspect that these documents are not going to be what the AIAA would have us believe (if they even exist).

That is also a common feature of such conspiracies – they are always about to be broken wide open with incontrovertible evidence, evidence which somehow never seems to materialize. It’s like a carrot being held in front of the believers, keeping them going for one more cycle. Or it is just a way to get sensationalized articles and headlines – promising dramatic evidence right around the corner, then counting on the short attention span of the public to not follow through.


In the end the giants of the mound building culture is just another bizarre conspiracy theory being supported by rank pseudoscientists. In this case there seems to be a socio-religious belief system driving the conspiracy, one with not subtle undertones of racism.

As is often the case, all the claims and accusations can be settled with one verifiable piece of evidence. In this case it seems particularly implausible that such evidence could not be produced if the claims were true.

Addendum: The source linked above for this story appears to be a satirical site. However, the giant mound builders conspiracy theory is real, pretty much as stated in the article. (see here, and here, for example) The AIAA appears to be made up also.

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