The largest burial mound in West Virginia is the Grave Creek Mound in Moundsville, just south of Wheeling. The mound, at 69 feet tall and 295 feet in diameter, is one of the largest conical-type burial mounds in the United States.
When the Grave Creek Mound was opened in 1838, several skeletons were found. Each skeleton was surrounded by beads; one was covered with thin strips of mica. A stone tablet was allegedly found as well; it was said to have been engraved with characters resembling hieroglyphs.5
Figure 4: Replica of the Grave Creek Tablet on display in the museum at the Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex. Photo taken by author.
An article written in the Charleston Daily Mail on October 22, 1922 had this to say about the Grave Creek Mound:
Archaeologists investigating the mound some years ago dug out a skeleton said to be that of a female because of the formation of the bones. The skeleton was seven feet four inches tall and the jawbone would easily fit over the face of a man weighing 160 pounds. That the women of that ancient day were not unlike the women of today in their liking for finery was evidenced by the articles that were found beside the skeleton of what centuries ago was a “flapper.” Seventeen hundred ivory beads, 500 seashells of an involute species and five copper bracelets were found in the vault. The beads and shells were about the neck and breast of the skeleton while the bracelets were about the arms (emphasis added).
Not far from the Grave Creek Mound, laborers on a road by the river uncovered a skeleton “of a very large person” thought to be the remains of a Mound Builder.6
The second largest mound in West Virginia is located in South Charleston. This mound is 175 feet in diameter and 35 feet tall. In 1883, scientists from the Smithsonian Institute excavated the mound. Inside of a vault in the center of the mound, a large skeleton was found with other skeletons laid out around it. The central skeleton was over 7 feet tall.7
The 7-foot skeleton from the Charleston mound is certainly an impressive size. This is not a fluke or an outlier—skeletons well over 8 feet tall have been found in burial mounds throughout the Kanawha Valley.8
Colossal skeletons have been discovered along the Cheat River as well. In 1774, Jack Parsons was walking along the river, which had recently flooded, and saw bones protruding from the ground. He pulled a femur from the ground and when he compared it to his own, it was seven inches longer. He removed the remaining bones and laid them out—the person would have stood at 8 feet when alive! Moreover, the jawbone fit completely over Parsons’ face.9
Similarly, in Hardy County, a jaw bone was discovered that belonged to a giant. The lower jaw, with 16 perfectly preserved teeth, easily fit over top of a person’s face.10
Large skeletal finds have prompted many to believe than an ancient race of giants inhabited North America centuries ago. In 1930, Professor Ernest Sutton of Salem College excavated two mounds in Doddridge County. Sutton uncovered four skeletons during the excavation. The smallest was 7 feet long; the largest—9 feet! The best specimen measured 7’6. Professor Sutton believed the remains belonged to a group he referred to as the Siouan Indians.11
Across the river, in Ohio, large skeletons have also been found. The Ohio Science Annual reported in their 1898 issue that a skeleton measuring 8’7 was recovered in Morgan County.
Martin’s Ferry, just across the river from Wheeling, was the site of a mound that was demolished in 1893. The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer reported on April 6, 1893, that a skull was recovered in the mound that was at least twice the size of a normal human skull. According to the paper, the massive skull was put on display in the window of the post office news stand.