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Minister Discovers Ancient Race of Giants

August 9, 2009 |  4:00 am

Aug. 9, 1899, George L. Cole

Aug. 9, 1899: "With the trophies of his summer's explorations spread out about him, Dr. Cole has turned his parlor into an anthropological museum. One table is covered with water jugs and incense pipes, the sofa hidden under stone axes, mortars, pestles, weaving shuttles and pottery; another table is decked with a row of grinning skulls and huge crossbones; beneath it comfortably repose all the parts of a skeleton, from the toe bones to the shoulder blades, waiting to be wired together, and strewn about are bows and arrows, baskets, jugs of twisted twigs made water-tight by pitch; modern Indian pottery, photographs by the score, and a hundred-pound stump of petrified wood. The skulls are a particularly valued possession."

Cole Pottery Detail

A detail of some of the pottery found by the Rev. George L. Cole. The original picture is at USC's digital library.

The Rev. George L. Cole of Los Angeles tells amazing stories of a weird, ancient culture that flourished in the cliffs of New Mexico. A race of people 7 feet tall (this grew to 8 feet in later stories) with curious teeth who worshiped the sun and considered the turkey to be a sacred animal. They also played flutes made of pelican bones, Cole said. (Pelicans in New Mexico, eh? I wonder how that happened).

Here's another sample of Cole's scholarship: (Sept. 5, 1900): "One bit of pottery is supposed to have been a tear bottle, in which penitents collected their bewailings and buried them."

I'm horrified when I read old stories about these grave robbers with their crackpot theories about ancient people. What's worse is a later account that says:
"Dr. Cole thinks the government should protect the cliff dwellings. Five years ago there were a number of finely preserved prehistoric dwellings in the charcoal district. Every one has been destroyed by explorers."

A Sept. 5, 1900, story in The Times says Cole's human remains and artifacts were sent to Northwestern University. A Feb. 22, 1908, story says his collection of relics was to be put on display at Venice Pier.

Unfortunately, The Times evidently didn't carry an obituary on Cole, so it's unclear what became of him. His son, Fay C. Cole, was affiliated with the Field Museum in Chicago.