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On the day in Patagonia when Magellan “discovered” 3-meter giants

During his extensive maritime travels in 1520, Ferdinand Magellan took time for a halt in what is now Patagonia, where he came upon giants.

To ensure that exchanging dances and songs would result in an expression of friendliness, Magellan sent orders for one of his men to approach the giant (the emissary’s response would have to be witnessed, but unhappily has been lost in history).

It succeeded. The monster was successfully transported by the guy to the great captain who was waiting on a little island off the shore. Antonio Pigafetta, a scholar by day who recorded the journey journal that eventually became Magellan’s Voyage: First Voyage Around the World, described the sight.

“When he saw us, he started to marvel and be afraid, and he lifted a finger aloft, thinking that we were angels. The tallest among us could barely reach his waist because of his height, and he had a rich, deep voice.

Patagonia was previously home to giants that dwarfed the heavenly Europeans who came to conquer them, as shown in the picture above.

Okay, so perhaps it wasn’t the best test. However, it’s possible that the Tehuelches, who Magellan met, were truly enormous, giving this fable some truth.

Magellan had his men feed and water the monster on that little island before making the error of showing him a mirror.

Pigafetta claimed that when the monster realized who he was, he became afraid and sprang back, knocking four of our guys to the ground.

However, when things had calmed down, the explorers made contact with the rest of the tribe, joined them on hunting expeditions, and even constructed a hut to house their supplies while they remained on the coast.

After spending many weeks with the tribe, Magellan devised a plan to test the giants he had discovered: he would capture two of them and bring them back to Spain.

But this had to be cleverly planned, otherwise the giants would have caused difficulty for our soldiers. Magellan provided them with a variety of metal items to occupy their time, including mirrors, scissors, and bells, so they wouldn’t mind having their legs bound with chains and handcuffs.

When the giants saw the chains, they were happy to see them but had no idea where to put them. Magellan, however, misplaced his physical remains on the protracted voyage back to Spain. The gigantic creatures perished.

The tale and Patagonia, the new name for the country of the giants, whose derivation is still unclear, were all that Magellan and Pigafetta brought back, though. Some claim that because of the word “leg,” it means “Land of the Big Feet.”

Primaleón was named, and he wrote about a race of untamed people known as the Patagonians. Despite the fact that Magellan likely derived his name from a novel popular at the time, Primaleón.

Sir Francis Drake was able to interact with the Patagonians, despite their willingness to let the British put a damper on the whole thing, as his nephew noted in The World Encompassed in 1628:

There are some English that are as tall as the tallest we could see, but by chance the Spaniards do not think that any English would come here to fail them and that makes them more audacious to lie, so Magellan was not entirely deceived in naming these giants. In general they differ so much in stature, greatness and bodily strength, as well as in the ugliness of their voices, but neither were they as monstrous and giant as they were represented.

That was an open sore for academics, and with good reason. The Tehuelches were just an exceptionally statuesque tribe, according to William C. Sturtevant in his article Patagonian Giants and Baroness Hyde de Neuville’s Iroquois Drawings.

Magellan’s subsequent expeditions estimated Patagonians to be up to 3 meters tall, although other sources placed their height closer to 1.82 meters.

When the scientific findings started to emerge, “public interest in the giants of Patagonia diminished,” Sturtevant says. More over 2 meters, according to certain estimations from the 19th century or from measurements taken by some people.

However, the Tehuelche men’s best estimates put their height at around 1.80 meters, which is perfectly normal for a human but completely unattractive for a giant.

The Tehuelches are nonetheless one of the highest known populations in the world, he continues, “if we accept the lowest (and least documented) of these values based on current measurements of males.”

Of comparison, masculine Europeans in the 16th through 18th centuries, like Magellan, would have had heights in the low 1.5 meter range. But his imagination seemed to have outstripped his little size.

However, why were these “end of the world” inhabitants so much shorter than Europeans? Humans and other animals tend to develop more quickly in colder regions than they do in warmer ones.

Bergmann’s rule states that bigger bodies lose less heat, making them more adapted to enduring subzero cold.

Therefore, it is not a coincidence that the greatest terrestrial predators in the world, like the polar bear, are found in the extreme north, but tropical animals, which lose heat more quickly, are better adapted to hot jungles.

Environments can also exert the same pressure on people during the course of evolution. Therefore, in principle, Patagonian natives would have grown bigger than their European counterparts.

Skeptics assert that gigantism is likely the cause of numerous accounts of giants in the Americas in a poor attempt to explain things without properly examining the subject, but they have never shown any proof for such a claim.

Gigantism is so uncommon that no incidence data for this hormonal disorder exists. Less than 100 gigantism instances have been documented throughout American history.

In actuality, the vast majority of today’s tall people—those who are 2 meters or taller—do not suffer from gigantism condition. On the other side, just 0.000007% of contemporary humans are taller over 2 meters.

So how is it that, for instance, the Smithsonian has 17 skeletons over 7 feet tall that were discovered in prehistoric burial mounds in a very limited area of North America?

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Jackson White

Thank you for coming to The Ancientzen. My name is Jackon White, and I'm glad to have you here with us today. It's a dream come true for me to be able to research and write about history all day long.

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