In 1520, Fernando de Magallanes made time in his marine agenda around the world to stop in what is now Patagonia, where he met a giant on a shore. This is a well-documented case of Giants in Patagonia.
Magellan ordered one of his men to make contact with him (the emissary’s reaction would have to be seen but sadly it has been lost in history), and thus be sure that exchanging dances and songs would lead to a demonstration of friendship.(Giants in Patagonia)
It worked. The man was able to take the giant to a small island off the coast, where the great captain was waiting. The scene was described by a scholar during the day, Antonio Pigafetta, who kept the travel diary that later became Magellan’s Journey: the first trip around the world.
“When he was before us, he began to marvel and be afraid, and raised a finger up, in the belief that we came from heaven. He was so tall that the tallest of us only reached his waist, ”and he had a deep and resonant voice.
The illustration above demonstrates Patagonia was once inhabited by giants that dwarfed the celestial Europeans who came to conquer them.
Ok, maybe that is not a perfect test. But it could be that the people who found Magellan, the Tehuelches, were truly enormous, and that, therefore, this myth has some realistic basis.
On that small island, Magellan made his men give food and drink to the giant, and then made the mistake of showing him a mirror.
“The moment the giant could see himself, he was terrified,” Pigafetta wrote, “jumped back, throwing four of our men to the ground.”
But once things had calmed down, the explorers proceeded to make contact with the rest of the tribe, hunted with them and even built a house to store their supplies while they were still on the coast.
After several weeks with the tribe, Magellan came up with a plan: he had to kidnap two of them and take them back to Spain to test these giants he had discovered.
“But this must be crafted cleverly, otherwise the giants would have put our men in trouble.” Magellan offered them all kinds of metal products to waste their time, such as mirrors, scissors and bells, so that they would not mind putting handcuffs and chains on their legs.
“With which these giants were pleased to see these chains, not knowing where they had to put them.” Magellan, however, lost his evidence during the long journey back to Spain. The giants did not survive.
But what Magellan and Pigafetta brought back was that story and the new name of the land of the giants, Patagonia, its etymology is not yet clear at all. Some argue that it means “Land of the big feet,” because of “leg.”
Although most likely, Magellan took the name of a popular novel at that time, Primaleón was called and narrated about a race of wild people called the Patagonians. (Giants in Patagonia)
Although they let the British throw a jug of cold water on the whole thing, Sir Francis Drake managed to get in touch with the same Patagonians, according to his nephew in The World Encompassed in 1628:
«Magellan was not completely deceived by naming these giants, in general, they differ both in stature, greatness and body strength, and also in the ugliness of their voices, but neither were they as monstrous and giant as they were represented, there are some Englishmen as tall as the tallest we could see, but by chance the Spaniards do not think that any English would come here to reprove them and that makes them bolder to lie.
For scholars that was like an open sore, and quite rightly. According to William C. Sturtevant in his essay, Patagonian Giants and Baroness Hyde of Neuville’s Iroquois Drawings, the Tehuelches were only a town of, particularly sculptural people.
While Magellan’s subsequent trips measured Patagonia up to 3 meters high, others put them more in the 1.82 meter range.
“Popular interest in the giants of Patagonia vanished when scientific reports began to appear,” writes Sturtevant. “Some estimates of the nineteenth century or measurements of some individuals remain high”, more than 2 meters.
But better measures of the Tehuelche men were around 1.80 meters high, perfectly reasonable for a human being, but totally unpresentable for a giant.
“If we accept the lowest (and least documented) of these media based on the modern measurements of men,” he adds, “the Tehuelches are, however, among the highest known populations worldwide.”
In contrast, male Europeans, such as Magellan, in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries would have measured in a low range of 1.5 meters. His imagination, however, seems to have exceeded his small stature.
But why was there such a difference in stature between Europeans and these natives of the “end of the world”? Animals, including humans, have a tendency to grow more in cold climates and less in hot climates.
This is known as Bergmann’s rule: With a large body, less heat is lost, and therefore it is better suited to survive temperatures below zero.
So it is no coincidence that the world’s largest terrestrial predators, such as the polar bear, live in the far north, while tropical creatures, which lose heat faster, adapt better to the suffocating jungles.
And with evolutionary time, environments can exert the same pressure on human beings. Thus, glacial Patagonia natives would have grown – in theory – more than their European counterparts.
In a weak attempt to explain something without really investigating the issue, skeptics claim that gigantism is probably the cause of many of the reports of giants in the Americas, however, they have never presented evidence for such an assertion.
Gigantism is extremely rare, so rare that there are no incident statistics for this hormonal disease. In the history of the United States, there are less than 100 cases of gigantism registered.
In fact, today the overwhelming majority of tall people – who reach or approach 2 meters – have no gigantic disorder. On the other hand, the percentage of modern humans that reach 2 meters high is 0.000007%.
So how do you explain that, for example, the Smithsonian has by chance 17 skeletons over 2 meters high found in ancient burial mounds in a relatively small region of North America?