The year was 1830. The conspiracy was — in a word — ludicrous. Earthen mounds and artifacts had been discovered on the land of a white Ohioan named Thomas Worthington.
Dating revealed these artifacts were at least 1000 years old, and possibly older than the pyramids.
This was a major PR issue, since “the Indian Removal Act,” Andrew Johnson’s genocidal campaign against Native peoples and Indigenous ways of being hinged on the (well accepted) idea that Native Americans were uncultured savages with no real historical ties to the land.
In the face of evidence to the contrary, a new narrative was constructed: the artifacts found on Worthington’s estate were not from Native Americans, but from a secret race of white giants that the current Native populace eradicated.
“In the monuments and fortresses of an unknown people, spread over extensive regions of the west, we behold the memorials of a once powerful race, which was exterminated, or had disappeared, to make room for the existing savage tribes.” — Andrew Jackson, 1830
Caleb Atwater, a politician credited with being the first archeologist of Ohio, took the argument even further when more ruins were found on a neighboring farm three years later:
“It is time to consider the third, last, and most highly interesting class of antiquities, which comprehends those belonging to that people who erected our ancient forts and tumuli; those military works, whose walls and ditches cost so much labor in their structure; those numerous and sometimes lofty mounds, which owe their origin to a people far more civilized than our Indians, but far less so than Europeans… . Indian antiquities are always either on, or a very small distance below, the surface, unless buried in some grave; whilst articles, evidently belonging to that people who raised our mounds, are frequently found many feet below the surface, especially in river bottoms.” — Caleb Atwater, 1833
This new theory supported an even older myth propagated by historian Jerry Belknap in the late 1700’s about a ‘missing link’ race — not as smart and civilized as Europeans but still far superior to Natives — who many Europeans believed were the ‘true…