Colossal Prank

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Science  28 May 2004:
Vol. 304, Issue 5675, pp. 1239
DOI: 10.1126/science.304.5675.1239b

Photo hoaxes can be amusing. But it's rare they get the legs this one did. Last month, it was circulating around the Arab world after being picked up by a Bangladesh newspaper—accompanied by a story relating how an Aramco oil exploration team in the Empty Quarter of the Saudi Arabia desert discovered the buried skeleton of a giant. The item raised a flurry on many Listservs devoted to ancient mysteries, as well as speculation that this could be the remains of Adam, who in some Muslim accounts was 60 cubits (27.5 meters) tall.

The original source of the picture is a photo of a recent Cornell University mastodon dig near Hyde Park in New York. The creator, who submitted it to an archaeological photo hoax contest (, says he'd rather stay anonymous because the situation has gotten politically touchy—the pic and story were put together by an anti-Muslim group to dupe Muslim newspapers. “Ironic, out of the hundreds of digital manipulation projects I've created, the one that gets international notoriety is the one that I'm too nervous to take credit for,” he says.

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