After writing that piece, it was pointed out to me by Micah Ewers that the reported skull measurements (which I called “normal-sized” in my post) actually suggested a fairly large skull. He is right, I think, but the problem of course is that the skull was also fragmentary and those reported measurements were based on a reconstruction that we have no way of assessing at this point.
There was some discussion in the comments to the last post about Frederick Larkin’s role in the excavations. Other than finding and skimming parts of “Ancient Man in America” (1880), I knew nothing much else about Larkin. Or Cheney for that matter. Micah also mentioned that Brad Lockwood had done some work on Cheney and Larkin and this very case. I found Lockwood’s video about this case - here are links:
On Giants, Chapter 4: “Doc” Cheney (part 1)
On Giants, Chapter 4: “Doc” Cheney (part 2)
On Giants, Chapter 4: “Doc” Cheney (part 3)
These videos were produced in 2010. They contain interesting details related to the story that I was not aware of and are well worth watching if you're interested in this sort of thing or this case in particular.
Lockwood was not aware of the key point of my piece: that the excavation took place in 1859 rather than 1876. I’m not sure exactly what is going on, but for some reason Lockwood states that “Ancient Monuments in Western New York” contains only illustrations with no text. The version I found contains text as well as illustrations. I’m wondering if a “stand-alone” version of the publication (perhaps for wide distribution) consisted solely of drawings, while the version incorporated into the Thirteenth Annual Report of the Regents of the University also included the text? If so that might explain some of the confusion about when the actual excavation took place.
Lockwood’s video tries to piece together what happened on the assumption that the excavation took place in 1876. I wonder if the story might be easier to figure out knowing that the excavation actually took place in 1859 and the materials were reportedly donated to “The Historical and Antiquarian collections in the State Cabinet of Natural History.”