Before he had his own series on The History Channel, Jim Vieira was a relatively unknown researcher studying ancient mounds and burial sites in the Americas.
A stonemason by trade, Vieira has been studying ancient sites for over 20 years and back in 2012, he delivered a TEDx talk for Shelburne Falls discussing his research and what he had found. Vieira spends the last half of his talk on one of the more interesting pieces of his research: reports and documents indicating frequent discoveries of giant human remains in ancient burial sites and mounds. It was this topic that became the focus of 2014 series, Search for The Lost Giants, on the History Channel. What’s spectacular about Vieira’s TEDx talk is that shortly after it was published, TED pulled the video stating that it was based on a ‘debunked popular hoax from the early 1900s and promotes a well-known and widely discredited fringe theory’. The statement then made several pinpoints at certain marks in the video where Vieira made statements which were considered to be ‘unsubstantiated claims’. The full statement and letter sent to him can be found here. It’s rare for TED to pull a previously published talk and although you can still find it in other places on the Internet, the TED official YouTube channel has marked the original video as private effectively making it inaccessible. You can watch the full talk below:
Now before I go any further, it’s important to clarify that I am not sold on the theory that a race of giant humanoids once lived in the Americas before or alongside the native Americans that we’re historically familiar with. I feel it’s much more likely that gigantism could simply have been more common in the peoples of ancient America and those born with the condition likely would have been highly revered by the people of the time. This would explain burial mounds & tombs giant skeletons reportedly were found in. Even in modern times, people of unusual stature tend to be revered in some way. In India people who have gigantism to this very day are practically worshipped as if they have been divinely touched. That being said, considering that every few years archaeologists and anthropologists discover yet another previously unknown humanoid species from our evolutionary family tree, I’m open to the idea that nothing is out of the realm of possibility. My real focus in this post is about the decision by TED to remove Vieira’s presentation and how it ultimately affects their credibility and his.
Pulling the Talk May Have Actually Made it More Believable
One of Vieira’s key claims is that the general scientific community along with museums, specifically The Smithsonian Institute, have worked to keep the existence of giants in ancient America out of the history books. He cites scientific status quo, religious conflicts, and political reasons as driving factors behind a conspiracy to keep this information hidden from the public. Though conspiracy theories are generally weak at best, there are plenty of examples in human history where these types of cover ups have happened. Scientific discoveries haven’t always been welcomed with open arms especially when they challenge the accepted ideas of the day. In the 16th-19th centuries, native Americans were branded as savages in an attempt to dehumanize them and justify the expansion of settlement and murder of native peoples. If the public knew how deep and rich the native American culture had been, they would have been less likely to support their own government’s slaughter and theft of their lands. Given that one of Vieira’s key claims is that evidence of giants having existed has been and remains actively suppressed, TEDs action of removing the talk plays right into the theory. As an organization that frequently hosts talks based on science and history (among other topics), it’s conceivable that TED has a close relationship with museums like The Smithsonian Institute and could be possibly influenced by them. If there was a grain of truth to the idea that The Smithsonian Institute has fought to keep this information secret, then there’s no reason to think that once they got wind of a TEDx talk like this one they would have demanded it be taken down and discredited. The talk being pulled is exactly one would expect to happen if there was a conspiracy, which lends credibility to Vieira.
TEDs Official Reasons for Pulling The Talk Are Poor At Best & Easily Refutable
In the letter sent to Jim Vieira by Stacy Kontrabecki (Curator, TEDxShelburneFalls), she explains her reasons for removing his talk from the TED YouTube channel. I’ve read this letter a few times and have come to the conclusion that much of it is a matter of stated opinions without facts or evidence to back them up – the very same claim made by TED about Vieira’s theories that justify its removal. The following quotes are taken directly from the letter:
TED’s fact check found that your talk is based on a debunked popular hoax from the early 1900s and promotes a well-known and widely discredited fringe theory…
This is akin to saying, “everybody already knows that’s not true” and then ignoring any evidence to the contrary simply because it goes against popular opinion. Everybody used to know that the world was flat. Everybody used to know that the sun rotated around the earth. Everybody used to know that eating eggs was good for you, then in the late 60’s everybody knew eggs were bad for you, and now today everybody knows they’re good for you again. The truth doesn’t care what other people think, so this argument from Ms. Kontrabecki falls flat – and it’s at the top of the letter, it’s the main foundation for which all other critiques stem from.
TED/TEDx is not a platform that allows unsubstantiated claims to be put forward as science.
First of all, Vieira doesn’t claim his research to be science as much as he claims it to be archaeology. He’s digging up old stuff about people and civilizations and I’m pretty sure that qualifies as archaeology. Second, the idea that TED doesn’t allow unsubstantiated claims is ludicrous. I’ve seen dozens of TED talks and they’re wrought with unsubstantiated claims, opinions, and ideas. Jane Goodall did a TED talk on the superhumanity of primates which was basically a 100% opinion piece. Jason Fried did a talk on why work doesn’t get done at the office which presented a business philosophy with zero backing evidence. In fact, you can find unsubstantiated claims in almost every single TED talk in existence.
In 2007 I was a visiting scientist at the Smithsonian Museum Support Center […] there is no conspiracy to cover up or hide Native American giant skeletons or artifacts.
If there is/was a conspiracy at the Smithsonian, it’s unlikely that a visiting scientist would be let in on the party. For Ms. Kontrabecki to expect that she would be shown every single thing at the Smithsonian is quite pompous actually. At its core, this statement shows part of what might be the mindset of Kontrabecki and others like her at TED: Jim Vieiri, with his stonemason background and no schooling, is not a real archaeologist or scientist or researcher – he is beneath them and therefore cannot be taken seriously regardless of the evidence he puts forward.
The rest of the letter outlines specific things that Vieira says during his talk which are all said to be false while providing zero proof that his statements are false or refuting them with an unrelated statement. Many of the statements highlighted were figures of speech, or aside comments that weren’t relevant to the material and theory being presented. A few of those are:
At 2:03 – You claim: “These structures are so staggering that people don’t even think they exist still.” In fact, there is a general archeological consensus about the impressive civilization demonstrated by the mound builders in Cahokia and similar sites.
At 4:03 – You claim: “The moundbuilders who built all kinds of structures.” All evidence for the moundbuilders’ architecture suggests that they built with sod packets and wood.
At 9:15 – You share newspaper clippings from the 19th century, including quotes from Abraham Lincoln, and claim they are evidence of giants. In fact, as one of our experts writes, “Skeletal hoaxes were common in the 19th century. […] If the 8-foot skeleton is real, it could be a case of medical gigantism, but it is more likely a case of exaggeration.”
The first 2 are clearly just figures of speech that he was using which Ms. Kontrabecki didn’t understand. Vieira is not an academic and as a result, isn’t the most eloquent speaker on stage. The 3rd example in this list is another attempt at discrediting Vieira’s real evidence without providing evidence of the discrediting argument. If the newspaper articles are a hoax, explain how the ones he showed were proven to be a hoax at some point in the past. Just because there’s another explanation doesn’t automatically make him wrong. It’s also important to note that Vieira has catalogued over 1000 historical published documents supporting the discoveries of giant skeletons by many different authorities. To assume they were all in on the hoax is more of a conspiracy theory than thinking that the Smithsonian was trying to keep the information hidden. The point to be made here is that if TED went through Jim Vieira’s talk and this was all they could come up with for reasons to pull and censor it, doesn’t it kinda look like just maybe they were forced to do this and were grasping at straws to justify it to the public who undoubtedly was extremely interested in learning more about the topic? As one Redditor put it, “Really, all you’re doing is making the video much more famous and in demand while impugning your own credibility”.
So Were There Really Giants in North America?
As I mentioned earlier, while being open-minded, I’m not sold on the idea. I believe it could be possible; there are mentions in ancient texts and stories of giant humans going back as far as writing itself. The Bible mentions large humanoids called Nephalim and ancient Greeks wrote of the Titans. If tomorrow archaeologists found a 15-foot tall humanoid skeleton someone in North America, I wouldn’t be surprised one bit.