In 1936, two French archaeologists, Lebeuf and Griaule, led an expedition to Chad in North Central Africa. As they crossed the plains they saw some areas covered with small mounds. They also found large numbers of these mounds around Fort Lamy and Goulfeil. Deciding to investigate, they dug up several egg-shaped funeral jars that contained the remains of a gigantic race, along with pieces of their jewelry and their works of art.1 These giants, according to the natives, were called the Saos.
Scholars who traced their history say they came from Kheiber, located north of Mecca, to Bilma, which is situated about three hundred miles north of Lake Chad. A people with a “well-developed religion and culture,” they grew in numbers and founded communities at Fort Lamy, Mahaya, Midigue, and Goulfeil. They lived in peace in their new land until the close of the ninth century when the Moslems made wars against them, intending to force their accep-tance of the Islamic faith. The Saos giants who converted to the faith lived to become servants of the Arabs. But those who steadfastly refused to convert were eventually wiped out. By the end of the sixteenth century not many Saos remained. (See Jericho’s Giants; also see Curigueres; Ifrikish ibn Kais; Sudan’s Giants; Watusi Giants; Zanzibar’s Giants)
At Agadir in Morocco, reports Peter Kolosimo, the French captain Lafanechere “discovered a complete arsenal of hunting weapons including five hundred double-edged axes weighing seventeen and a half pounds, i.e. twenty times as heavy as would be convenient for modern man. Apart from the question of weight, to handle the axe at all one would need to have hands of a size appropriate to a giant with a stature of at least 13 feet.”2 (See Australian Giants; La Tene; South American Giants)
Polo, Marco (See Zanzibar’s Giants)
Saos Giants (See Chad’s Giants)
A tribe of giants survives in the Sudan, but apparently little has been written about them. In his Inside Africa, John Gunther de-scribes them as a Nilotic peoples who “have spread their virile blood far afield, as witness the Masai in Kenya and the giant Watutsi3 in Ruanda-Urundi, who are cousins to the Hamitic Sudanese.”4 An example of their gigantic but very slender stature may be seen in Manute Bol, the seven-foot-seven-inch pro basketball giant, who hails from this region. Slim as he still looks, Bol has put on quite a bit of weight since his rookie year in the NBA. One sports writer jokingly wrote that he has now “added enough poundage to require at least two pinstripes on his pajamas.”
Bol and his tall Sudanese kin may have the height of giants, but with such extremely slender builds they could hardly be reckoned among our other mighty men. (See Kreen Akrores; Watusi Giants; also see Chad’s Giants; Curigueres; Ifrikish ibn Kais; Zanzibar’s Giants)
Practically everyone has seen on film or at least heard about the very tall Watusi, who are famous for their dancing. For those who may never have seen them, Glenn D. Kittler offers the following superbly drawn word-picture: “For the most colorful and exciting dancing, you must go to Ruanda-Urundi… east of the Congo. Here the ruling tribe is the Watusi, the tallest people in the world. It has been said that these giants are born six feet tall, and when you walk among them you can believe it. Men towering seven or eight feet are a common sight. Women gain height by having their heads bound into conical shape in infancy, then training their thick hair to grow straight up to add a few inches. Beholding these lean, dignified, soft-spoken giants is quite overwhelming–and they know it.
“When they start dancing,” continues Kittler, “the Watusi discard their usual reserve and become frenzied…. Twisting, bending, squirming, they leap into the air, breaking high-jump records with-out missing a beat. They carry spears, and when one jumper soars especially high the others throw down their spears in defeat. But the dance goes on. Ankle bracelets heavy with bells match the earth-trembling thunder of twenty royal drummers. First ten men dance, then fifty, then two hundred, their speed increasing with their number as they fly through intricate routines with thrilling precision and flair.”5
The Watusi are black, but they are not Negroes. The spectacularly tall, slender, and statuesque tribesmen are a proud Hamitic or Nilotic people who migrated to Ruanda-Urundi country over four centuries ago. Many grow to heights of seven feet or more. John Gunther, who spent some time in Ruanda gathering material for his book, Inside Africa, found many things about the country fascinating, but what makes it the most distinctive, he writes, is the Watutsi6 giants, who, because of their size, rule over the medium-size Bantu people and the Pygmies. “Outside the hotel in Astrida, next to a woman cupping a child’s head to her naked breast,” he recalls, “we ran into the tallest man I have seen except in a circus. He made the American playwright Robert E. Sherwood, who is six foot seven, look like a dwarf. He must have been at least seven and a half feet tall.”7
Anthropologists are at a loss to explain the Watusi’s tallness. One possible explanation is that they are offspring of the giants who fled before Joshua’s legions and escaped to Africa (see Jericho’s Giants), but, after many centuries of interbreeding with the aborigines, have been greatly reduced in bulk and might. “They do not look strong,” adds Gunther, “and give the impression of being much inbred. They have small heads for their height, slim wrists, and delicate long thin arms.”8
True, because of their great height, the Watusi can accomplish certain feats, like clearing a bar in the running high jump at more then eight feet, or rearing back and throwing a spear to an unbelievable distance. But they exhibit nowhere near enough strength to be reckoned among the other mighty men in this book. (See Kreen Akrores; Sudan’s Giants; also see Chad’s Giants; Curigueres; Ifrikish ibn Kais; Zanzibar’s Giants)
In recounting his travels, Marco Polo tells of running into a gigantic people in Zanzibar. Concerning them, he wrote:
“Zanzibar is situated off the coast of Tanganyika. Nearly 53 miles long and 24 miles wide, it is the largest coral island on the African coast…. Numerous bays, reefs, and islets are found along the western coast, while the eastern side is much more regular.
“Zanzibar is a very large and important island. It has a 2,000-mile coastline. All the people are idolaters, they have a king and a language of their own and pay tribute to no one. The men are large and fat, although they are not tall in proportion to their bulk. They are strong limbed and as hefty as giants. They are so strong that they can carry as many as four ordinary men. This is not altogether surprising because while they can carry as many as four men, they eat enough for five. They are quite black and go about completely naked but for a loincloth. Their hair is so curly that they can only comb it when it is wet. They have wide mouths and turned-up noses. . . .
“The natives live on dates, rice, meat and milk. They have grape wine but they also make an excellent wine from rice, sugar and spices. There is a great deal of trade on the island and ships arrive laden with every kind of cargo to be sold. The merchants take away other goods, in particular ivory from the elephant tusks. Because of the whales there is a lot of ambergris.
“The men on the island are excellent fighters and very courageous in battle. They are not afraid of death. Because there are no horses they use camels and elephants in war. They build little turrets on the elephants’ backs which they cover carefully with the skin of wild animals. Between sixteen and twenty men get into these turrets from which they fight with lances, swords and pikes. Very bloody battles are fought on elephants. The only arms are leather shields, lances and swords, but the men can be cruelly killed. When the elephants have to charge, they are given as much wine and other drink as they want which makes them more aggressive and therefore more courageous in battle.