Giant of Castelnau

Quake42

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#1
Came across a Wikipedia reference to this case - there doesn't seem to be an existing thread on it:

The Giant of Castelnau was a fossil bone discovery which may represent one of the largest humans known to have existed. The bones, found in a Bronze Age burial tumulus, date back to the Neolithic period and consisted of a humerus, tibia, and femoral mid-shaft. The scientist who made the discovery in 1890 estimated from the bone size that the human may have been over three meters tall.

Discovery[edit]The bones were discovered by the anthropologists Georges Vacher de Lapouge at the Bronze Age cemetery of Castelnau-le-Lez, France in the winter of 1890. His findings were published in the journal La Nature, Vol. 18, 1890 Issue 888.[1][2] The height of the individual was estimated at about 3.5 m (11 ft 6 in) according to de Lapouge, and the bones were dated to the Neolithic period, since they were found at the very bottom of the Bronze Age burial tumulus. The journal includes a photo engraving of what was identified as the humerus, tibia, and femoral mid-shaft of the giant compared to a normal size humerus in the center.

Writing in the journal La Nature, de Lapouge describes the bones in detail: "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."[1]

The bones of the Castelnau giant were studied at the University of Montpellier and examined by M. Sabatier, professor of Zoology, at the University of Montpellier, and M. Delage, professor of paleontology at the University of Montpellier, in addition to other anatomists. In 1892 the bones were carefully studied by Dr. Paul Louis André Kiener, professor of pathological anatomy at Montpellier School of Medicine, for which he admitted they represented a "very tall race", but nevertheless found them abnormal in dimensions and apparently of "morbid growth."[3]

It is of some interest that in 1894, press accounts mentioned a further discovery of bones of human giants unearthed at a prehistoric cemetery at Montpellier, France (5 km Southwest of Castelnau) while workers were excavating a water works reservoir. Skulls "28, 31, and 32 inches in circumference" were reported alongside other bones of gigantic proportions which indicated they belonged to a race of men "between 10 and 15 feet in height." The bones were reportedly sent to the Paris Academy for further study.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant_of_Castelnau

Couldn't find much else about it bar the odd reference - does anyone know any more? An 11 foot human sounds impossible, but the Wiki entry suggests it was the real deal?
 

blessmycottonsocks

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#4
Came across a Wikipedia reference to this case - there doesn't seem to be an existing thread on it:



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant_of_Castelnau

Couldn't find much else about it bar the odd reference - does anyone know any more? An 11 foot human sounds impossible, but the Wiki entry suggests it was the real deal?
The discussion earlier about the Smithsonian alleged concealment of evidence for giants prompted me to revisit this and the David v Goliath threads.
The exceptionally large Castelnau bones still do not appear to have been debunked (as of March 2018) and may well have belonged to someone at least a head taller even than Robert Wadlow.
 

Yossarian

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#5
I'm very dubious about the Giant of Caselnau - for a discovery like that to have allegedly passed through so the hands of so many scientists and experts, yet not produce a single peer-reviewed paper, or prompt discussion in any journal outside of its initial mention in La Nature, strikes me as extraordinarily unlikely outside the realms of "museums are covering up giant skeletons because reasons" conspiracy.

The one photo doesn't really provide much of a frame of reference - we're told that the three bone fragments are placed next to a "regular sized" humerus, but could it not be that the larger bones are regular sized (or only slightly larger than average), placed next to a smaller humerus, in order to provide the illusion of scale? A hoax by the "scientific" community wouldn't exactly be unheard of in the late 19th Century, after all. Or perhaps just a misidentification of the bones as human.

Though perhaps more likely than a hoax by the scientific community is a hoax by the press - the first mentions of the Giant in the English language seem to have all come from reports in American newspapers, which makes me think they have been embellished and exaggerated in the name of a good story. All subsequent mentions of the height of the Giant seem to stem from those newspaper accounts - it would be interesting if anyone here can read French well enough to make sense of the original journal article and see if the newspaper reports match up to the original claims.


EDIT: Apologies, I'm on my work computer and can't access the linked translation posted earlier.
 

EnolaGaia

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#6
The rough English translation (still available at the link posted above) indicates Lapouge still had some uncertainties regarding the particular bones at issue.

First and foremost - the bones at issue were not complete. They were fragments. This means the type / skeletal location of the bone was part of the ambiguity.

Second - the bones at issue were not part of a particular burial. They were found scattered amidst a layer of fill (dirt; rocks; etc.) that had been laid over a set of graves.

Lapouge mentions ambiguity regarding the identification of one fragment as either a femur or a humerus. He also states the fragment represents an unusually large specimen only if it's a humerus, but not if it's a femur.

Here are the most relevant passages on this point (from the butchered text translation):

The third, very singular, was regarded by good anatomists as the lower part of a humerus, by others as that of a femur, and indeed looks as little as one rather than another . ...

But I believe rather femur teratological this paradoxical piece of normal size if it looks like the femur, but double the average if it is for the humerus. ...
I'd also point out that Lapouge's article mentions multiple scholars who'd examined the bones, but gives no indication what became of the evidence. Some articles claim the bones were forwarded to the 'Paris Academy'. I find no confirmation of this in Lapouge's article.

 

Yossarian

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#8
That more or less confirms my suspicions - something floated as a possibility in the original gets presented as fact by the time it makes the more sensational papers, and then, because of the language barrier and the greater availability of newspaper archive material rather than old journals, it's only the sensationalist version that gets passed around.

Archaeological "evidence" of giants was a recurring trope in the tall tales of American newspapers of the 19th Century, after all - mostly tales of unnamed farmers and amateur archaeologists uncovering the remains of a North American race of giants, though, so using actual archaeological findings (however dubious) from a scientific journal in another country still seems like a rare case.


There's a website that compiled a selection of newspaper accounts of giants - http://www.jasoncolavito.com/newspaper-accounts-of-giants.html - aside from just being good old-fashioned fibs, a lot of them seem to reflect a popular fringe theory of the time; because a lot of fossils of giant animals were being uncovered, it was theorised that the humans who lived alongside those animals must be correspondingly huge, because there was of course no question that man would have still held dominion over the animal kingdom!
 

blessmycottonsocks

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#9
The rough English translation (still available at the link posted above) indicates Lapouge still had some uncertainties regarding the particular bones at issue.

First and foremost - the bones at issue were not complete. They were fragments. This means the type / skeletal location of the bone was part of the ambiguity.

Second - the bones at issue were not part of a particular burial. They were found scattered amidst a layer of fill (dirt; rocks; etc.) that had been laid over a set of graves.

Lapouge mentions ambiguity regarding the identification of one fragment as either a femur or a humerus. He also states the fragment represents an unusually large specimen only if it's a humerus, but not if it's a femur.

Here are the most relevant passages on this point (from the butchered text translation):



I'd also point out that Lapouge's article mentions multiple scholars who'd examined the bones, but gives no indication what became of the evidence. Some articles claim the bones were forwarded to the 'Paris Academy'. I find no confirmation of this in Lapouge's article.
More good points to consider, but could a humerus really be confused for a femur? I'm no expert on such things, but a quick Google states that the linea aspera (a roughened ridge present on such long bones) differs between humerus and femur.
 

EnolaGaia

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#11
More good points to consider, but could a humerus really be confused for a femur? I'm no expert on such things, but a quick Google states that the linea aspera (a roughened ridge present on such long bones) differs between humerus and femur.
All I can tell you is that Lapouge noted there were differing opinions on whether it was a humerus or a femur.

Remember - all these specimens were bone fragments.

To make matters worse (and assuming I'm parsing the butchered text translation correctly ... ) at least one of the bone fragments disintegrated while being inspected.
 

EnolaGaia

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#12
More good points to consider, but could a humerus really be confused for a femur? I'm no expert on such things, but a quick Google states that the linea aspera (a roughened ridge present on such long bones) differs between humerus and femur.
Lapouge does mention the linea aspera feature on the one bone fragment he identified as the middle portion of a femur's shaft.

This was not the same fragment that was stated to possibly be either a femur or a humerus.
 

EnolaGaia

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#16
Doesn't the report say (as quoted earlier) if it was a human femur it was normal size, if it was a humerus it was double average size?
There were two different specimens - one claimed to definitely be a section of a femur, and the other believed to be either a femur or a humerus.

My response to blessmycottonsocks (#14) was based on the presumption we were talking about the specimen Lapouge claimed was a femur. The diameter of a central femur section could be used to estimate the bone's overall length (and, indirectly, the individual's height) if the species had been definitely identified.

The one you're referring to was the other one (maybe femur; maybe humerus).
 

blessmycottonsocks

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#17
Only if it were positively identified as a human femur.
The article states the circumference of the bone was 16cm. That is just over double the dimension of an average modern male human femur (2.4 cm diameter/7.5 cm circumference).
Thus, if it is definitely a human femur, its owner would have been extremely robust and tall. If it were a humerus, its owner would have been unfeasibly gigantic.
 

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#19
The big 'IF' in all of this is 'IF the bones were human'. Unless they can be re-located and tested, there's no compelling reason to presume the bone fragments piled with dirt atop an earlier burial site were themselves human.

It would be interesting if anyone could come up with evidence of how the back story played out. I've been unable to locate any clues that Lapouge pursued this matter further than writing the one speculative note that got published.
 

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#20
The big 'IF' in all of this is 'IF the bones were human'. Unless they can be re-located and tested, there's no compelling reason to presume the bone fragments piled with dirt atop an earlier burial site were themselves human.

It would be interesting if anyone could come up with evidence of how the back story played out. I've been unable to locate any clues that Lapouge pursued this matter further than writing the one speculative note that got published.
knowing the state of paleontology at the time, it is a big if.
 
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