1.  "Recovering the History of a Lost Race," excerpt from Interview With the Giant
2.  "Biblical Anthropolgy"
3.  Conferences



by Judd H. Burton, Ph.D.

“The Nephilim were on the earth in those days--and also afterward--when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.”—Genesis 6:4

When American academics began to realize that the aborigines of North America were quickly disappearing and taking their culture with them, they reasoned that it was both necessary and logical to attempt the preservation of those vanishing pasts.  As a result, in the late 1800s, the Smithsonian Institute sent out archaeologists and anthropologists to investigate and record the cultures of the American Indian.  Academics such as anthropologists A. L. Kroeber and Franz Boas went into the field to study native peoples in their element.  What they sought was nothing less than a cultural treasure trove.  This general methodology is familiar to anthropologists and cultural historians, and is known as ethnohistory:  the reconstruction of a vanished or vanishing people’s history.  While we may readily give vanished human societies their due within the purview of ethnohistory, one vanished race regularly finds itself marginalized. 

          In legend and myth, humans find themselves existing beside a variety of beings.  Among them are giants.  They are colossal and of varying temperament, but almost always anthropomorphic.  On the surface, the subject of giants might seem to be one which belongs in the realm of bedtime stories and fairy tales.  However, a subject so prominent in the traditions and literatures of peoples from around the world surely demands our careful attention this side of history.  If we were take the stories at face value, or discover evidence sufficient to convince us of their existence, would they not merit an ethnohistorical analysis?  In the absence of the material proof, we must rely heavily on text and tradition. 

          The giants were once here, among us, and now they are not.  If we are to believe this, then we must treat mythology as ethnography and history, as accounts of culture, rather than mere fancy.  As anthropologist Branislaw Malinowski observed, myth is no “idle rhapsody”—it is in fact a functional element of culture.[i]  Indeed, if we approach the subject of giants as an anthropologist would, interviewing the last remaining members of an ethnic group, or at least reviewing traditions surrounding them, then methodology is already in place.  Mythology must therefore be taken for face value, as a type of historical record, with a pragmatic function.

          The Biblical narrative is generally one of the more prominent sources containing elements of gigantic culture.  From Genesis chapter six, one learns that the race of giants, the Nephilim, is the product of sexual unions between rebellious angels known as the Grigori, or “Watchers.” 

Textual evidence for the Grigori and Nephilim exists, but it is not contemporary and represents much later traditions.  They are the documents with which we have to work, however, and do provide necessary clues.  The best we can hope to do as scholars is to make probability statements regarding the nature and existence of these beings, as based on the historical documents.  If any text is a beginning, it is canonical scripture in the form of the Bible.  The other sources are well known, and crucial works may be found in the bibliography.

The great problem of this area of study is that we are addressing prehistory, and as such, we have no extant written records.  To further complicate the matter, from this perspective in time, prehistory—at least theoretically—is in a constant state of flux.  Archaeological research in the arena of giants is unfortunately considered “fringe” in the current paradigm, and therefore both funding and support for such study is limited.  Excavation revealing both large hominid remains and related artifacts has been conducted, but results are seldom accepted for publication in peer-reviewed journals, and as such, are therefore relegated to the periphery of accepted scholarship.  Joe Taylor, curator of the Mount Blanco Fossil Museum in Crosbyton, Texas has in his collection a replica of a hominid femur (whose morphology does not match non-human species) based on an actual find in southeastern Turkey.[ii]  Bureau of Ethnology archaeologist Cyrus Thomas also recovered remains and cultural data suggesting races of giants in the America’s, specifically the Ohio River valley.[iii]  Such remains regularly go missing from museums, in the Bureau of Ethnology’s case, that was the Smithsonian.

Interestingly, antiquarianism and archaeology have turned up gigantic hominid remains in or dating to historic periods.  A giant was unearthed in France in 1456, which was said to have been fifteen cubits tall (about 23 feet).[iv]  In 1577 the skeleton of one such giant was recovered near a cloister of Reyden, in the canton of Lucerne, in Switzerland.  A storm had overturned a tree and revealed the specimen, which was some 19 feet tall.[v]  In 1613, a French surgeon by the name of Mazurier, discovered a set of bones in southern France, near Chaumont.  The skeleton was twenty five and a half feet in length, ten feet around the chest, and had a skull some five feet in diameter.[vi] 

In America, a variety of compelling evidence has been recovered.  A giant skeleton was found in a burial at Lompock Rancho, California.  The remains were human-like, had double rows of teeth, were twelve feet tall, and were surrounded by various grave inclusions such as carved shells, large stone axes, and blocks of porphyry covered with undecipherable symbols.  This specimen was unfortunately lost to science as local authorities ordered it reburied at another location when local Indians began to ascribe religious significance to the find.[vii]  The Paiute Indians of Nevada recognized these and other regional remains as the legendary giants of their mythology, the “Si-te-cahs,” who had caused much trouble and bloodshed in the past.[viii]  Indiana archaeologists found a human skeleton in 1879 while digging into a burial mound.   It measured nine feet and eight inches in length and had a mica necklace about its neck.  Its remains were stored in a grain mill and were unfortunately washed away in a 1937 flood.[ix]  These are but a few of the examples which archaeology has brought to light.  The evidence is literally below our feet, and when it does surface, meets all too often with the butchery of closed minds.

As noted, the field of ethnohistory will be increasingly important in the study of the Grigori and the Nephilim.  Ethnohistory combines the methods of anthropology and history in order to produce a record of the past for ethnic groups that may or may not be in existence.  Oral tradition, music, folklore, myth, ecology, art, and archaeology all contribute to the process of reconstructing a given ethnicity’s history.  Whether one believes in the supernatural or human explanation for the Watchers and their progeny, if we are to believe the textual and oral evidence we are indeed addressing ethnicities or groups.  1 Enoch is clear on the angelic nature of the Watchers, that they are the possessors of science, magic, and knowledge.  Their offspring—created by the taboo union with human females—were the gigantic Nephilim, whose culture seems characterized more by dominance, oppression, and violence, rather than the exchange of knowledge.  Their legacies exist in the religious traditions of the Near East, in myth, in oral tradition, and indeed in the lore and myth of the entire world.  Analogs for the Biblical and Enochic accounts may be found across the globe over space and time.  Therefore, it is crucial to utilize myths as records of the past in order to recreate the history of these races.  Some scholars, such as Andrew Collins,[x] have utilized some methods of ethnohistory to great effect, but more development is needed in its implementation regarding Grigori and Nephilim. 

          The myths of the world, in fact, contain a large amount of this ethnohistorical data.  In reassembling the culture of giants, we may turn to the civilizations which they were instrumental in building.  As we cannot—just as the anthropologist would—sit down to interview the giant as it were, we must utilize the next best thing. 

In extrabiblical sources, such as The Book of Enoch, one can find the very work of transforming hunter-gatherers and proto-farmers into a more sophisticated society.  The fallen angels waste no time in developing a scheme to influence man for their own ends.  We are told that under the guidance of their leader Semyaza, the fallen angels trade knowledge and technology for access to human females for the purposes of breeding offspring.  To the great misfortune of mankind, civilization was a high price to pay for what would soon become oppression and violence.  At any rate, the fallen angels along with the Nephilim taught men metallurgy, war craft, farming, husbandry, and a host of other bodies of knowledge defining civilizations.

          It quickly becomes apparent how invaluable mythology is to this sort of research.  We must treat myths as the transcripts—the interviews with giants—in order to make them of use.  Many scholars are not prepared to take this step, because it does not hold to the accepted mythological paradigms, namely, that they are artistic and functional only within a religious setting (which no longer exists).  However, these giants existed—in reality.  Dismissal of their existence often stems from our regard (more often disregard) for the manner in which non-literate and early literate peoples recorded their culture.  Thankfully, there are scholars who are able to treat myths as ethnographic material.

          The precedent for accepting historical qualities in mythology is well-established.  Perhaps the most renowned example is Homer’s Troy.  Heinrich Schliemann and Frank Calvert used the Iliad and the Odyssey as guides for locating Troy at the mound of Hissarlik in Turkey.  The myth of the Minotaur most likely has its historical origin at the cult practiced at the palace of Knossos, on Crete.  The city of Cibola did exist, if only as a Zuni village in the American Southwest.  These are but a few of the examples of the type of historical quality contained in myths, but they illustrate that myths have been proven to be records of the past.

          The subject of the Nephilim is a daunting one, both to the scholar and the layman.  Herein lies the reason for this little tome in the first place, which is essentially twofold.  First, in my own work on the religions of the Mount Hermon region in Israel, I have taken several detours in order to work out certain historical problems.  Many of these have led me to material on the Watchers and the Nephilim.  Therefore, what follows is a collection of ethnohistorical sketches, which I have stitched together along a topical line.  I have both sought to satiate my own scholarly curiosity as well as provide some new methodological direction to the study of giants.  Second, my hope is that this work can serve as an introduction to the subject of the Nephilim for those who are unfamiliar with so mysterious a topic.  This work is arranged so that readers may utilize the essays as entry points into broader study.  In fact, I encourage you to pursue the sources in the bibliography, which constitute relevant work on the subject by antique and modern authors.

          The residue of the giants is the cultural legacy which they have left behind.  In some respects, one might view this heritage as civilization itself, given that many of the legends recount giants as instruments of society-building.  It’s information worth the search, especially given the close ties that giants have with humanity.  Indeed, in many cases, they are the cousins we wish we didn’t have, because of their brutalization of mankind in most of the accounts.  However, the disappearance of the lost race of giants poses questions about our own nature, and about the culture of the giants.  To attain such a boon, we must conduct interviews with the giants of the past, harrowing as that may be.


[i]  Branislaw Malinowski, Magic, Science, and Religion and other Essays (New York:  Doubleday, 1954):  97.

[ii]  Joe Taylor, “Story Behind the Giant Human Femur Sculpture,” http:// TourGiantArticle.htm

[iii]  Cyrus Thomas, “Report on the Mound Explorations of the Bureau of Ethnology,” 3-730; see also John Wesely Powell, “Twelfth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution , 1890-1891.”

[iv]  Henry H. Howorth, The Mammoth and the Flood (London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, and Rivington, 1887):21.

[v]  Ibid.

[vi]  Anthropological Society of London, “Summary of the Evidence of the Antiquity of Man,” The Anthropological Review 1 (1863):67.

[vii]  David Hatcher Childress, Lost Cities of North and Central America (Kempton, Illinois:  Adventures Unlimited, 1992):509.

[viii]  Brad Olsen, Sacred Places North America (San Francisco:  Consortium of Collective Consciousness, 2008): 60.

[ix]  Charles DeLoach, Giants  A Reference Guide from History, the Bible, and Recorded Legend (Lanham, Maryland:  Scarecrow Press, 1995 ):147.

[x]  Andrew Collins, From the Ashes of Angels:  The Forbidden Legacy of a Fallen Race (Rochester, Vermont:  Bear and Company, 2001); Collins’ methods deserve some praise, as he uses a sort of ethnohistory, taking into account oral and written traditions, however he too often conflates the Watchers and the Nephilim where the Hebrew texts make no such combination.  Hence he falls into the same trap as do researchers such as Zechariah Sitchin and William Henry.



"Biblical Anthropology: A Summary of the Discipline"
The Bible, as with other great sources of religious literatures, is a direct reflection of the cultures that produced it. As such, it contains a wealth of cultural data on these societies, and more specifically, data on their interaction with God. Anthropology can shed a great deal of light on the cultural history of the Bible by using the text as an ethnographic resource. By utilizing the tools of anthropology, a scholar may glean from the pages of the Bible information that allows—to some degree—the reconstruction of certain socio-cultural elements.

     What, then, is Biblical anthropology, and how does one use it?These queries are best answered by looking more closely at the application of anthropology’s subdisciplines to Biblical questions. The field itself is therefore (or should be) an outgrowth of these methodologies. Anthropology is composed of four specialized fields: cultural anthropology, linguistics, archaeology, and physical anthropology.

     Cultural anthropology, or ethnology, is the study of human culture. All of the aspects of human social behavior, such as politics, kinship, religion, economy, gender, art, ethnicity, and identity, are all central to the field. It does not take long to see how valuable such an approach can be to the study of the Biblical world. Normally, the anthropologist has the luxury of interviewing subjects, but scholars may utilize the text in much the way an anthropologist would a transcript. Scholars such as Moses Finlay and W. Warde Fowler have already demonstrated to great degree how anthropologically valuable Homeric and Roman literature respectively can be. The Bible has proven equally substantial in reconstructing culture. Consider the wealth of data on social laws and taboos contained in the Torah, and what they say about the Hebrews during the Patriarchal Period (c. 2000-1500 BC).

     Linguistics may be paired with the ethnological study of the Bible, and often is. In fact, some foreknowledge of a Biblical language or languages is often necessary to conduct valid work. In particular ethnolinguistics and historical linguistics, concerned with identity and change respectively, are of particular use in discerning important cultural artifacts. Languages which aid the Biblical Anthropologist include Semitic tongues like ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, Akkadian, Phoenician, Moabite, Edomite, Egyptian, and related languages. For the Interbiblical Period, New Testament times, and early Christianity, a familiarity with Greek and Latin are necessary as well. The rationale for proficiency in languages is that language is the medium of culture, it is the vehicle which carries culture (as culture itself is abstract). As a secondary consideration of the linguistic study of the Bible, historical analysis and all of its pertinent methodologies is a natural epiphenomenon of linguistic Biblical anthropology, as the scholar is working with texts from and related to the Bible, which are rendered in ancient languages.

     Archaeology is, without doubt, the most popular aspect of Biblical anthropology. By a host of media, magazines, and scholarly journals, the public keeps tabs on the discoveries of the material remains of the Biblical world. It certainly has a romanticism all its own, although the realities of fieldwork can (and often are) quite different from stories about adventuring, spade-wielding treasure hunters. Archaeology and cultural anthropology have the same goals in the end: the reconstruction of culture histories from relevant data. Biblical archaeology, of course, is concerned with the recovery of material remains from ancient sites of Biblical significance. These sites are in Israel and other lands associated with the Biblical narrative such as Mesopotamia (Iraq), Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Greece, Italy, and other locales in the Mediterranean Basin (particularly in dealing with early Christianity). Temples, churches, dwellings, palaces, and other features harbor all manner of artifacts, which, when discovered and analyzed by the processes of archaeology, can yield considerable information about ancient behavior and institutions.

     Finally, physical anthropology is beneficial to the study of the Bible. Physical anthropology is concerned with the biological history and makeup of humanity. In the context of Biblical studies, it is often done in conjunction with archaeology, under whose auspices remains are likely to be found. This subfield can be helpful in determining such things as the health of populations, lifespan, diet, and lifestyle.

     Biblical anthropology is ultimately concerned with humanity’s relationship with God, and how that relationship affected culture. It is varied, broad and interdisciplinary in its approach, and specific in its orientation. By looking at the Bible through the lens of anthropology, one can obtain a greater appreciation for its cultures and for the nuances of lifeways. While I have repeatedly emphasized the need for certain scholastic tools in the anthropological analysis of the Biblical world, I do not by any means wish to dissuade the layperson from his or her study of Biblical anthropology. Many peripheral texts exist in translation, making it possible to study Biblical cultures. Furthermore, a myriad study aids, commentaries, and reports exist to supplement your textual studies. By better understanding the societies of the Biblical world, we have a firmer grasp on the Bible itself. This, I think, is good for the scholar and the layperson alike.

"The Idea of the Grigori and Nephilim in Early Christianity," Podium Presentations, Texas Medieval Asociation Conference, University of Houston, Houston, Texas, October 2012

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