FactCheck Social Media

Photographic evidence of ancient giants a long-running tall tale

2021-03-25 14:31:47

The Statement

A Facebook post claims to show the existence of biblical giants through 10 images.

The post, shared by an Australian user, is captioned “our past GIANTS ON earth” and accompanied by a gallery of photos including skeletons at various archaeological sites, reproductions of Egyptian iconography and pictures of extremely tall people.

At the time of writing, the November 15, 2020 post had been viewed more than 92,000 times and shared more than 400 times.

A Facebook post
 A Facebook post claims there is evidence of biblical giants on Earth. 

The Analysis

The post claims the photos are evidence of ancient giants, or “Nephilim”, however, the images are either altered or taken out of context. The post continues a long-running photo hoax which was exposed by National Geographic back in 2007.

It’s true that Greek and Norse mythology, in particular, are peppered with tales of giants and some passages in the Bible contain references interpreted as referring to giants, however there’s no evidence that such huge mythical beings existed.

Four of the post’s 10 images show large skeletons claiming to be evidence of “the Nephilim”.

Nephilim is a Hebrew word that appears in some versions of the Bible. Nephilim are “a group of mysterious beings or people of unusually large size and strength who lived both before and after the Flood”, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. In the Bible (New International Version) the name comes up in Genesis chapter 6, verse 4: “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days – and also afterward – when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.”

The first image used in the post shows two skeletons at an excavation site with two men in the background. The photo appears to be taken at a site documented by Polish photographer Jakub Śliwa on a trip to Saqqara, Egypt. Photos from that trip were first archived in April 2001 including one that clearly shows the same skeletons and the same two men. The “giant” skeletons are just an issue of perspective – the men pictured are standing on lower ground below and behind the skeletons, which are close to the camera and above them on the edge of an excavated section.

The second image shows a man kneeling by a skeleton with a type of helmet. The photo is of a sculpture at the Atlantis water park in Yalta, Crimea, which was designed by theme park design company ART Stepanov, and is part of an online catalogue.

The third skeletal image comes from 2017 news reports (here, here and here) of an excavation of a Neolithic settlement in Shandong province, China. The source image is credited to Imaginechina via AP images . A 2017 Xinhua news report said the tallest person found measured up to 1.9 metres (six foot two inches) – tall for that time but not quite a giant by modern standards.

The fourth skeleton image appears to be a manipulation of a photo taken of an excavation at Cliffs End Farm in Ramsgate, England in 2004-2005. The skeleton in the altered image is in the same position and features the same markings as the photo taken at Cliffs End. The men in the manipulated image seem to be lit from different light sources and don’t match the background.

Another photo shows Russian model Ekaterina Lisina, who is 2.05m tall, appearing on the UK talk show This Morning in 2017. The post’s image has been altered from the original to make Lisina appear even taller.

The post also includes several images of Egyptian statues and iconography. One photo is sourced from an Assassin’s Creed video game and another is from an Egyptian documentary DVD. A third is simply a photograph of one of the ancient temples at Abu Simbel in Egypt, a popular tourist attraction.

Another image carries the title “Annunaki”, and text says Annunaki were “a god-like race from the planet Nibiru” who used technology to “genetically alter life on Earth.” This claim is from a fringe theory propounded by the late author Zecharia Sitchin, who claimed to have learned of the aliens from ancient clay tablets. Sitchin’s theory has been discredited, including by a NASA scientist.

On the matter of giants, it’s considered scientifically implausible for humans to be truly gigantic thanks to Italian astronomer and mathematician Galileo Galilei’s square-cube law, which states that as a shape grows in size, its volume grows faster than its surface area.

In the 1926 essay On Being The Right Size, British scientist J.B.S. Haldane describes how such ideas apply to giant humans: “Consider a giant man sixty feet high. … every square inch of giant bone had to support 10 times the weight borne by a square inch of human bone. As the human thigh-bone breaks under about ten times the human weight, (giants) would have broken their thighs every time they took a step.”

The tallest human who ever lived was Robert Wadlow of Alton, Illinois (1918-1940), who measured 2.7m in height. according to Guiness World Records. He died at age 22 as the result of an infected blister on one of his feet.

Regarding the Nephilim legend, Dr David J Cohen, an author and lecturer in the Hebrew Bible at Morling College (formerly Vose Seminary) in Perth, told AAP FactCheck Nephilim are only mentioned on two occasions – Genesis and Numbers – in biblical text.

“The Nephilim are characterised as intimidating giants who were ‘warriors of renown’ (Gen. 6:4). The Hebrew meaning of the word is ‘the fallen ones.’ Nephilim is not so much a name as it is a description,” he said in an email.

Dr Cohen said the existence of the Nephilim in the Bible could be viewed as more of an explanation for other beings, such as large, fierce warriors.

“Whatever the reason for their inclusion in the story we ought to be tentative in drawing conclusions about where they originated from, whether they existed and, by extension, whether material evidence for their existence might ever be discovered,” he said.

Similar posts making big claims about giants have been debunked multiple times including here, here and here.

World's tallest man and the shortest woman
 The world’s tallest man, Sultan Kosen of Turkey and shortest woman pose near the pyramids in Egypt. 

The Verdict

The images in the post and presented as “proof” of giants have either been digitally altered, misrepresented or are simply artworks or photographs of statues. Many of the images have previously used as part of a hoax which was debunked in 2007.

False – Content that has no basis in fact.

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