The Belief in South American Giants
The Age of Exploration and Discovery was marked by many a strange belief about the supposed wonders and marvels hidden in the newly discovered and unexplored (by Europeans) lands. One strange belief was that parts of South America were populated by giants. It began with the expedition of explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who set out to circumnavigate the globe in 1519. En route, the expedition dropped anchor off Patagonia – a sparsely populated region in what is now Argentina. There, the crews reportedly came across a naked giant singing and dancing on the shore.
Magellan directed a crewman to sing and dance in turn to demonstrate friendliness, and persuade the giant to come aboard ship. It worked, and a scribe who kept a diary that was later turned into a book account of the voyage wrote: “When he was before us, he began to marvel and to be afraid, and he raised one finger upward, believing that we came from heaven. And he was so tall that the tallest of us only came up to his waist“. As seen below, that sighting kicked off centuries of belief in the existence of Patagonian giants.