Ancient Astronauts

How did the Easter Island Statues Get There? They Might Have Walked!

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While doing research for my Remote Sensing project I happily stumbled across an entry in the book, Satellite Remote Sensing for Archaeology by Sarah H. Parcak, that I just had to look up. Once I got into it, I knew I had to share, since more than a few have asked about this very topic. Specifically,  how the Easter Island Statues were moved. Well researchers Dr. Carl Lipo and Dr. Terry Hunt might have an answer, using Remote Sensing!

Moai set in the hillside at Rano Raraku

First, What are the Easter Island Statues? Officially called the Moai, they are stone monoliths depicting giant human figures with extremely large heads. The stone they are carved from is called  Tuff, which is an easily carved,  compressed volcanic ash [Radford 2012]. The tuff quarries are located in an extinct volcano called Rano Raraku on the northeastern part of the island [Radford 2012]. Experts, and locals, attribute them to depictions of ancestors and great leaders. Others, attribute them to, yes, Aliens and the like.

Before we get into what they found let’s look over some of the alternative theories out there.

The site called The Hidden Records is kinda typical of the kind of ideas Ancient Alien Theorists get. I like this one, mainly because it’s written by a guy named Wayne, who likes to refer to himself in the first person. This amused the Archy, so the Archy decided to peruse the Wayne’s entry on the Moai.

I’m not going to lie, I skimmed this site. It took a while for Wayne to get to the point, which was that the Moai are somehow connected to an ancient global cult who worshiped bird-headed spacemen, as shown by the dubious claim that the statues are aligned with the “Sol-Star”. Also, carved onto the bodies are both the symbol ‘O’ and ‘M’ which, other than being two of the most simplest symbols to form, also connect the statues to the global Space-BirdMan cult.

Wayne did throw a few questions out there, and a couple really caught my attention, mainly because they were so easily answered. Not that this will impress the Wayne, he’s sure to point out, he’s never heard a satisfactory explanation for the correlations he sees, but that’s a true believer for you. These questions are pretty common among any conspiracy/true believer I’ve encountered.

“How strange is that just for starters? The first expedition unearthed them and documented the breaking discovery pictographic[sic] evidence, didn’t make it public in a big way at all, then for unknown reasons, buried them again! This is insane! What could have been so shocking for them to have been completely covered up again?”

This comment comes after a ramble about the excavation of a few of the Moai statues. They were indeed excavated, and they do possess detailed bodies beneath the ground, but this comment shows Wayne’s lack of understanding of how archaeology works. It also makes several assumptions that are not validated.

Firstly, Wayne assumes the statues were originally buried. What Wayne doesn’t seem to understand is that really heavy objects sink over time, especial when they are sat on bare ground. We see this a lot with headstones in cemeteries. The weight of the stone forces itself to sink into the ground over the years, especially in regions where there is rainy weather that softens the ground seasonally.

Secondly, it’s not so shocking that the archaeologists would have reburied the statue, it’s actually a very common practice that helps to preserve a site or object. Nearly everyone does it, especially when we’re looking at things that we are not intending to remove or if a dig takes more than one season. For some reason Wayne thinks that all archaeologists do is dig things up, rip them from the ground, and then scamper off to a museum. Lots of things get left in-situ for prosperity and because the point was to examine them, not abscond with another culture’s artifacts.

Third, Wayne assumes, as many alternative theorists do, that there is some great academic conspiracy that every “mainstream” researcher is in on. Therefore the researchers who worked on the Moai dig kept their findings quiet and then tried to hide the evidence because it’s so shocking. The reality is that there is a lot of academic research on the Moai and it’s very accessible to the public. Including the site the Easter Island Statue Project which is a great resource for those with questions about the Island and it’s ancient culture. They have links to their expeditions,  excavations, and artifact logs. Dr. Hunt also makes his research accessible to the public via his personal  page.

Moai facing inland at Ahu Tongariki, restored by Chilean archaeologist Claudio Cristino in the 1990s

But Wayne goes on. This time about how he can’t possibly figure out how two civilizations develop independently of each other.

“By chance having two individual civilisations[sic] on opposite sides of the planet, one located in the middle of an ocean, having the same obsession with massive stone carvings and showing the same symbols, story, style and entity appearance is absolutely mind blowing!”

This is actually called Convergent evolution and applies easily to cultures as well as species. What I don’t understand is why people don’t get that we are all humans and each of us just as capable as the other. So why is it so hard to grasp that two different cultures can come up with the same idea? Especially when they live on the same planet, encounter the same natural forces, look up at the same sky, and share the same biological needs? Wayne seems to be amazed that multiple cultures could look up at the starry sky at night and come up with constellations completely independent of one another. That idea confuses him, but a global Space-Bird Cult is completely reasonable.

It’s also a very sad statement how intellectually poor Wayne, and most that think along these lines, think our ancestors were. Apparently, our ancestors were so intellectually deficient that they couldn’t possibly figure out how to carve stone, make symbols into words, and have their own cultures without Spaceman helping them out. It’s terrifically insulting to ancient cultures, and vaguely racist. As usual, these claimants are very white, and well, the Rapa Nui (who are the descendants of the Moai culture) are kinda brown-ish. It’s more of a micro-aggression then full-blown racism, but it’s a common thread in these “ancient people were visited by aliens” theories, and people need to be aware of it.

Anyway, I could spend all day breaking down the Wayne’s arguments, but I think we all get the idea. There are people out there who think the Moai were either built by aliens or for aliens.

So how did these huge Stone statues get from their quarries to where they are now? Well, they walked. According to the History Channel’s excellent mockery of a documentary called Ancient Aliens, when the Spacemen came down and had the statures carved to fit their egos, then they animated the statues so that they would walk to locations they would be found at.

The “Walking” Moai, via NBCNews.com

But the History Channel may not be as wrong as they usually are. This time there is a bit of meat to this idea. Hunt and Lipo reproduced the “walking” of the statues by having three teams maneuver the statue using ropes [Boyle 2010]. It’s more fun if you watch this video:

[Boyle 2012]

But honestly, that’s not the coolest part for me. The coolest part is that Hunt and Lipo also have used infrared-satellight images to identify the very roads that the statures were probably walked down. These roads have been set upon by the natural processes that occur over time, but that’s whats so damn cool about using remote sensing, you can see the scars left behind by ancient peoples on the landscape!

“Figure 1. A panchromatic 70cm resolution QuickBird satellite image showing an ancient road section leading west-south-west from the Rano Raraku statue quarry (A). Statues that surround the quarry are easily visible in this image (B) as is the modern parking lot (C). The ancient road (D) is visible primarily as a horse trail and as a line of vegetation that runs from the north-east to the south-west corner of the image. This feature likely reflects sediment compaction with greater water retention and subsequent vegetation growth. Multiple large statues (moai) line this road near the quarry (E). The satellite image was provided by RADARSAT, Inc and DigitalGlobe, Inc.” [Lipo and Hunt 2005]

That’s pretty darn cool to me. You should be able to click through the image to get to the full paper. The picture is much nicer in the pdf version.

I was really excited when I saw this little tidbit, and I really wanted to share it with you. The more I learn about remote sensing the more I am stoked about learning to use it to aid in archaeology. Especially since I know this paper was used to help Lipo and Hunt from their “Walking Statue”  hypothesis  which led to the testing of it, which aids in the debunking of sites like The Wayne’s.

Dr.s Lipo and Hunt [Boyle 2012]

I want to leave you with one last quote from the Cosmic Log article because this really drives home the damage that racism of the Ancient Alien theorists cause:

“So did the statues rock, or roll? The debate over the two scenarios surrounding Easter Island’s past could well continue for generations. But it’s clear which scenario is preferred by the islanders themselves.

“The young people … they’re celebrating. I don’t think there’s any other word for it,” Hunt said. “One came up to me and said, ‘It’s so important for my generation to know we’re not failures.’ That brought tears to my eyes.” [Boyle 2012]

Resources:

Boyle, Alan

2012  How Easter Island’s Statues Walked. Cosmic Log, NBCNews.COM. http://cosmiclog.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/06/19/12302614-how-easter-islands-statues-walked?lite. Retrieved Nov. 8 2012

Lipo, Carl P. and Terry L. Hunt

2005   Mapping prehistoric statue roads on Easter Island. Antiquity vol 79: 158-168. http://www.anthropology.hawaii.edu/people/faculty/Hunt/pdfs/lipo&hunt%202005.pdf. Retrieved Nov. 8 2012

Radford, Ben

2012   Did Aliens Visit Eater Island? Discovery News. http://news.discovery.com/history/tv-show-aliens-visited-easter-island-120915.html. Retrieved Nov. 8 2012

Van Tilburg, Jo Anne and Cristián Arévalo Pakarati

2012  The Easter Island Statue Project. http://www.eisp.org.  Retrieved Nov. 8 2012

Categories: Ancient Astronauts, GIS and Remote Sensing, Weird Archaeology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Between the Nazca Lines: What are the Nazca Lines?

Let’s continue with our re-look at the Nazca Lines!

Photo care of Don Proulx’s Website

Let me tell you, there is a lot of crap out there about the Nazca Lines, and I do mean crap. Everything from linking them to 2012 to, of course, Aliens. Surprisingly, Aliens are not the #1 explanation for the lines, it seems, from the sites I’ve seen, that the general consensus is that they are spiritual in nature. The Spiritual-ness is so broad and varied that I’m not going to even try to tackle it here.

The nitty-gritty of what the lines are made of is that the lines are glyphs that were “etched” into the southern Peruvian desert floor by the removal of the darker, oxidized brown rocks, revealing the whiter rocks below. The contrast of the lighter rocks against the darker rocks is what creates the lines, which form everything from animal glyphs (boimorphs) to geometric shapes [Proulx 2000]. Though the majority of geoglyps are dated to the Nazca Culture, some are even older [Isla 2007, Proulx 2000].

Maria Reiche

Perhaps the popularity of the lines came in the 1920s when commercial flights between Lima and Arequipa, Peru become available [Hall 2010]. Other than speculation, no real research was apparently done on the lines until a German-born teacher named Maria Reiche made the first formal surveys of the lines and figures [Hall 2010]. This was sometime after World War II and Reiche continued her surveys and conservation until her death in 1998 [Hall 2010].

Of course Reiche had a hypothesis on what the geoglyphs represented, and in her surveys seemed to find evidence supporting it. Reiche hypothesized that the geoglyphs represented settings on an astronomical calendar [Hall 2010]. This particular and perhaps first formal hypothesis is still one of the most popular, despite being mostly discredited by modern survey and research [Hall 2010].

One such modern survey was called The Nazca Lines Project. In which Dr. Donald A. Proulx, a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts, participated from 1996-2000. The project was dreamed up by one David Jonson, who believed he had found a strong spatial correlation between the location of puquios (an old system of aqueducts native to the area), wells, and the geoglyphs [Proulx 2000].

Photo Care of Don Proulx’s Website.

He present the hypothesis that :

“…trapezoids lay directly over what he calls veins, but which more accurately are zones of higher permeability materials consisting of coarser gravels associated with distributary[sic] channels in the alluvial material. Johnson claims that the width of the trapezoids defined the width of the zone capable of transmitting ground water. A zigzag pattern located along the boundary of a trapezoid indicated there was no water and defined the boundary of the water flow. Triangular geoglyphs pointed to sources of water. The last correlation that he noted was that there were always archaeological sites affiliated with geological features, puquios and wells.” [Proulx 2000]

In what was to become Johnson’s hypothesis, he and Dr. Proulx further refined it.

“These observations led to a new working hypothesis for the function of the Nazca lines that was different from any previous idea: geological faults and alluvial gravels provide pathways for ground water flow, and they transmit water as a zone of concentrated flow into the valleys. These geological features collect water in one part of the drainage and conduct it across and down the valleys to locations where it can be reached by digging puquios or wells, or to locations where the water table is high enough for springs or seepage to be present on the surface. The ancient people realized they could find a reliable source of fresh water at these locations and that is where they established their habitation sites. Johnson claims the ancient Nazca marked the flow of subterranean water with geoglyphs. He argued that there are five factors that are consistently found together: geological faults and/or higher permeability sands and gravels with the alluvial fans, archaeological sites, an aquifer, a source of fresh water (spring, seep, puquio, or well), and the geoglyphs that mark their location. Where one or more of these features are found there is a high probability the others are present.” [Proulx 2000]

In the end, after thorough investigation and evaluation of the data, there were some favorable association with particular glyphs, but no concrete association overall.

It’s important to note here that this doesn’t completely invalidate Johnson’s hypothesis, but it does show that the original needs to be reworked in light of the new evidence.

Still, even with this extensive piece of research and survey, that I recommend people read over and follow associated links, the Alien proponents still hang on. Without conclusive evidence to the contrary (and even with), those who want to believe will, as Von Daniken shows us over and over. Even with the most recent and most comprehensive research into the lines done by Johny Isla, who Von Daniken mentions by name in his newest book, and Dr. Markus Reindel.

From what I can tell, Von Daniken seems upset because Isla led a team that has produced the most concrete explanation for the lines with some very in-depth insights.

Johny Isla is the director of the Andean Institute of Archaeological Studies. Published several times and is co-director of the Nazca -Palpa Project, with Dr. Markus Reindel of the Dutch Institute of Archaeology.

Dr. Markus Reindel’s focus on the project was photogrammetric mapping of the sites using photogrammetric reconstruction. Basically, they take a whole lot of high res pictures along with GPS points and then merge the data together to produce very detailed, practically 3D images. He published his teams work in “New Technologies for Archaeology, Multidisciplinary Investigations in Palpa and Nazca, Peru” in 2009.

So, back to the Project…

Archaeologists are using high-resolution digital images to create detailed maps of the lines, shown here in orange, made by the Nazca and Paracas cultures. (Photo: Courtesy Prof. Dr. Armin Gruen, ETH Zurich, Institute of Geodesy and Photogrammetry)

The Nazca-Palpa Project: Photogrammetric Reconstruction of the Geoglyphs of Nazca and Palpa, was extremely extensive, rather than list all participants I’ll just link you to the projects paper. It’s a bit of a read, with lots of good stuff, but the best is in the results, where they not only show you the awesome pictures they produced, but their written conclusions.

First they were able to date the geoglyphs, all of them. From their data, glyph making started in the Late Paracas times at about 400 BC [Isla 2007]. At this time motifs normally engraved on rocks and boulders (petroglyphs) were transferred to the desert surface and the hillsides surrounding the valleys. These earliest figures were much smaller but still observable from far away and consisted of human shapes [Isla 2007].

The geoglyphs continued until the end of the Nazca era (after AD 600) when the neighboring Wari empire from the eastern highlands extended its influence down the south coast. The deposition of pottery on the geoglyphs continued for a 200 years more and then ceased all together [Isla 2007].

The project concludes that the Geoglyph complexes were probably related to kin groups who shared land rights [Isla 2007]. Members would gather on different occasions to create new geoglyphs, or remodel existing ones. During ceremony they may have walked along the geoglyphs depositing ceremonial goods like ceramic vessels containing food or beverages, field crops, textiles, Spondylus shells etc. All these goods were in some way or another related to the concepts of water and fertility which were critical to the worldview of the ancient inhabitants of Nazca [Isla 2007].

Oyster (Spondylus) shells were crafted into ornaments and left as sacrifices in Nazca water rituals. (Photo: Andrew Curry)

In this way the geoglyphs become part of the cultural landscape of the valley, creating massive gathering points for kin groups for ceremony or possibly just show. They helped establish group identity and status [Isla 2007].

The project results concludes:

“It is important to note in this context that in a common effort vast stretches of the desert were marked at large-scale and thereby integrated into the cultural domain of the valley-based society. Thus, like never before or later, the hostile desert was converted into dynamic and vibrant cultural space. However, the geoglyphs bear not only integrative, but also competitive elements. Visibility studies clearly show that intervisibility was an important aspect in geoglyph placement and order. Though the geoglyphs themselves were usually not easily discernable from neighboring sites, posts erected on them and people moving around them certainly were. Geoglyph sites therefore assumed a stage-like function, and group activity upon them raised awareness of group identity among members as well as outsiders. Thus, geoglyphs played an important role in defining group status. At the same time, geoglyph-related activity was somehow independent of changing societal circumstances down in the valleys. Distribution patterns of geoglyph sites proved to be much more stable than that of settlements, cemeteries and other cultural features. All in all, geoglyphs can literally be understood as common ground for all members of Nazca society.” [Isla 2007]

I highly recommend people reading over this report. I’m not sure what Von Daniken found fault in beside his paranoid ramblings about how he wasn’t allowed to walk all over the sites whenever he wanted. Besides, the technology they used to photography the areas is pretty cool.

So in my own conclusion, though you’ll never find a scientist willing to say that the Nazca lines are without a doubt simply cultural and ceremonial in nature, the research speaks for itself. Even the original hypothesis by Reiche merely suggested the glyphs were aligned with seasonal constellations and celestial activity, she never went as far as to suggest more than simple utility.

There is no need to make these lines more than what they were. They were tools, maps, and group markers made by humans to aid humans in their everyday lives. They are still amazing in their size and scope. They speak to human ingenuity and group co-ordination. Let’s not make less of our ancestors, let’s admire them more.

Resources:

Hall, Stephen S
2010 Spirits in the Sand: The ancient Nazca lines of Peru shed their secrets. March 2010 http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/print/2010/03/nasca/hall-text

Proulx, Donald A.
2000 The Nazca Lines Project (1996-2000) http://www-unix.oit.umass.edu/~proulx/Nasca_Lines_Project.html

Isla, Johny
2007 Nazca-Palpa Project: Photogrammetric Reconstruction of the Geoglyphs of Nasca and Palpa January 2007 http://www.photogrammetry.ethz.ch/research/peru/index.html (link appears to be broken)

http://www.dainst.org/medien/de/nasca_reindel-gruen-final.pdf (This link send you to a copy of the paper produced from this project.)

Curry, Andrew

2009 Rituals of the Nazca Lines. Archaeological Institute of America. Volume 62 Number 3, May/June 2009www.archaeology.org/0905/abstracts/nasca.html Retrieved September 18 2012.

Categories: Ancient Astronauts, Between the Nazca Lines | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The 10 Most Not-So-Puzzling Ancient Artifacts: Ancient Model Aircraft, Plus a Rant!

This appears to be more of a category than an individual artifact, it seems to cover a couple of different artifacts that share the common thread of vaguely looking like flying objects. Or at lest that’s what you’re supposed to think. Two major items stand out in this category, The Saqqara Bird and the Tolima Artifacts, though it can also be said that flying carpets, winged chariots, and dragons also belong here (more on this later).

Let’s start with the Saqqara Bird.

The Bird in Question

The Saqqara Bird is an actual artifact kept in an actual museum, it was uncovered by actual archaeologists and studied by same. The Bird’s existence is not in question and not disputed. It’s the Bird’s function that people want to debate, and by people I mean the Fringe.

The Bird was discovered in 1898 by Dr. Khalil Messiha during an  excavation of the Pa-di-Imen tomb in Saqqara, Egypt (Fitzpatrick-Matthews 2010). It is made out of sycamore wood and appears to have a falcon shaped head, complete with Horace like eyes. It’s exact function is unknown but it is mostly accepted that the Bird was part of a mast-head used on sacred boats like those used during the Opt Festival, of which we have documentation (Fitzpatrick-Matthews 2010, Orcutt 2001].

Please note bird images on the masts of the ships.

Now, some will have you think that the Bird is a scaled down replica of a glider. There are several issues with this, mainly that, if you faithfully replicate the Bird to a larger scale, it will not fly. I know most of us have seen the Ancient Aliens episode where they make a model, and then fly it, but they also make several modifications to it, none of which have any evidence of existing. To be a final nail in the glider coffin, others have tried to replicate the models and have found them to be lacking. Larry Orcutt points out in his article “Model Airplane?” talking about the Bird:

“The requirements for a Free Flight model glider to be automatically stable in flight are that it should:

  1.  Balance somewhere between 25% and 60% of the wing chord back from the leading edge. The wing chord is the average width of the wing, measured from front to back. A glance at the bird shows that the body is made from a single piece of wood whose proportions are such that the balance point is at or behind the trailing edge of the wing. The bird’s head region has clearly never had a weight attached to it or buried within it. Such a weight would be needed to bring the balance point forward into the range given above.
  2. Have a horizontal tail surface of around 20 – 25% of the wing area. Despite some claims to the contrary, no such tail surface currently exists and there are no traces of a tail plane’s attachment point on the bird’s fin or rear body. The fin is the vertical tail surface that forms the rear of the bird’s body.
  3.  Be shaped to provide spiral stability. The presence of a large fin at the rear of the body must be balanced by a dihedralled wing if the bird is to glide without tipping over sideways into an terminal spiral dive. A dihedralled wing is one with the tips raised above the center of the wing like virtually all passenger planes and model aircraft. The bird has the opposite wing arrangement. Its wing tips are drooped to give anhedral, which would only serve to increase the bird’s spiral instability.

 As can be easily seen, the bird meets none of these requirements for flight, so it is quite unlikely that it ever flew or that accurate replicas could fly. [Orcutt 2001]”

He also shows several examples of the mast mounted birds that look very much like the Bird, and has a link though to a report on the replication and attempted flight of the Bird.

Next, let’s look at the Tolima Artifacts.

One of several small animal totems.

Again, these are another set of real artifacts recovered in real digs and displayed in real museums. It’s the interpretation of said artifacts that is disputed. Not by anyone who knows anything about them, or the Tolima people, but by Ancient Alien theorists and such. These little gold charms are so low-key you’ll be hard pressed to find anything academic on them. However, you can go see them in several museums around America, including the Smithsonian in DC and The Field Museum in Chicago. To the Ancient Alien people though, these small gold artifacts are hard evidence of ancient Jet fighters.

I really can’t even begin to tear this one apart because it’s just so ridiculous to me. Where the Fringe sees an airplane, I see fish and moths. Maybe it’s because I understand that ancient peoples took liberties and stylized their interpretations of their world, especially when it came to ritual items. Maybe it’s because these things don’t look a damn thing like airplanes or jets. IDK.

Da Plane Boss, Da Plane!

But honestly, let’s look at the larger issue with this whole ancient airplane thing, Where are the remains of these planes? Where are the parts, the broken bits, the actual plane themselves? Where is all the stuff associated with flying planes? Where are the airports, the air towers, the luggage claim racks…

If man was making them, where are the production sites? If Aliens flew them down, why is there no physical evidence? What did these things run on? Jet fuel is an expensive, complicated, explosive mix. How did our ancestors make it and not kill themselves?

This brings us to the more imaginative part of this entry, the whole idea that flying carpets, dragons and winged chariots were really ancient man’s way of interpreting ancient flying machines. In order for these ideas to work we have to make several assumptions that no one should be comfortable making.

First, we have to assumes that the mythologies of ALL ancient peoples are accurate and true.

Second, we have to assume that whenever the ancients said “God or Gods” they were really  talking about aliens, they just didn’t know it.

Third, we have to assume that our ancestors were too ignorant of the natural world to understand a non-natural object, and instead of faithfully representing the actual object in story and art, they took artistic liberties to create winged chariots, flying carpets, and yes, Dragons.

Fourth, we have to ignore that our first assumption and our fourth assumption are in opposition.

Fifth, we have to never ask what happened to all the physical evidence advanced machinery would have left behind, or where these “Alien Gods” went to, or why they came or left in the first place.

In order for the Saqqara Bird and the Tolima Artifacts to be real, all these questions and assumptions need to be addressed. Evidence needs to be produced, and reality itself has to shift. I’ve yet to hear anything resembling a reasonable answer to the logical objections to the idea of ancient airplanes. If one could be provided, it would be the first.

Reinterpreting the Known World.

Another thing sticks out here that is of  some interest, and that is the reinterpreting of actual artifacts. It’s something I’ve noticed the Ancient Alien theorists do often. They take known discoveries and try to make them fit the Alien narrative. They reject documented and researched interpretations by experts and substitute their own, that are often based on nothing more than observing a photograph. I’m often left wondering why? What makes a non-professional individual reject the accepted opinion of a professional and supplement a much less informed opinion instead? Why do they think these two opinions are equal in validity?

This has nothing to do with intelligence, I want that to be clear. It has everything to do with experience and education. All three of those things are separate and are not actually dependent on each other, so none of this “they’re stupid” talk. Irrational? Perhaps. Uniformed? definitely. But not stupid.

Whatever the answer to those questions might be, we in the “Mainstream” will continue to be plagued by weird reinterpreting by the “Fringe”. Which leads to the other problem I have with this kind of thing, misinformation.

Regardless if the misinformation is being distributed knowingly or unknowingly, the biggest problem is that they can put that bad information out there faster than most people can fact-check. Which creates confusion in a normal, rational, individual. What can be done about that?

Critical articles like these, critical arguments, critical thinking, and access to open, honest facts, are the only way to combat this barrage of misinformation. People need access to factual information so that it can be used to counter the bad information. People also need to be taught how to think both skeptically and critically, something a lot of people think they are doing, but in reality are not. I feel that these goals are being met to some degree. Open Access is a huge thing among scientists today, and I think it will only continue to become the norm. That thought gives me hope.


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Comment below or send an email to ArchyFantasies@gmail.com
If you want more on this topic, got to: 10 Most Not So Puzzling Ancient Artifacts.

 

Resources:

Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Keith

2010 “Egyptian ‘aeroplane’ models?.” Bad Archaeology. http://www.badarchaeology.com/?s=Saqqara+Bird&search=Search Accessed July 9th 2012.

Orcutt, Larry

2001 “Modle Airplane?” Catchpenny’s Mystries of Nacent Egypt Explained. http://www.catchpenny.org/model.html. Accessed July 9th 2012.

“The 10 Most Puzzling Ancient Artifacts.”http://www.ancientx.com/nm/anmviewer.asp?a=75. Accessed April 2 2012.

Categories: 10 Most Puzzling Ancient Artifacts, Ancient Astronauts, History Channel, Rants, Weird Archaeology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

The 10 Most Not-So-Puzzling Ancient Artifacts: The Coso Artifact

The next item on the 10 Most Puzzling Ancient Artifacts list is the Coso Artifact…or as it should be more correctly named; The 1920’s era Spark Plug that got confused for a Geode. Which if you know anything about how metal corrodes, debunks this entirely. It also takes all the fun out of writing a big’ol blog post about this, so let’s start at the beginning shall we?

Radiograph of the Coso Artifact

In February of 1961, Wallace Lane, Virginia Maxey and Mike Mikesell, who were looking for minerals to sell in their shop in Olancha, California discovered a specimen that looked rather different than their normal fair. The outer layer of the specimen was encrusted with fossil shells and their fragments. In addition to shells, the discoverers noticed two nonmagnetic metallic objects in the crust, resembling a nail and a washer.

The next day, in his workshop at their store, Mike Mikesell claims to have ruined a nearly new diamond saw blade while cutting the specimen in half. Inside Mikesell discovered a perfectly circular section of very hard, white material that appeared to be porcelain. In the center of the porcelain cylinder was a 2-millimeter shaft of bright metal which responded to a magnet. There are the only hard facts we have on the origin of the Artifact. Beyond this, things start to get hazy, and red flags begin to pop up.

We don’t know what all was done to examine the Artifact early on. We know that Virginia Maxey claims that she took the “geode” to a geologist who dated the artifact to be about 500,000  years old. We don’t know who this geologist is, what he did to examine the Artifact, what his real conclusions were, or if he really existed.  Whoever he is, I question his expertise, because this is object is obviously not a geode.

You can see the concretions growth around the spark-plug.

Remember the Klerksdorp Spheres that I went over in an earlier post? This is the same kind of thing. Only instead of making a sand candle, this is more like growing salt crystals. Think back to when you were a kid and for a science project you made a supersaturated liquid, added a string, and watched crystals grow.

Ok, never did that one? Go to you kitchen, boil about a cup of water, take a spoon and quickly start adding either salt or sugar, stirring slowly so you don’t over cool the water, until the salt/sugar refuse to dissolve completely anymore. This might take a bit, and it will take a good deal of salt/sugar. Next take a thin fibrous string, soak it in the liquid and then hang it up so that one end is still in the liquid. Now wait, for a while, like a day or better. You’ll notice that crystals start forming on the string as the liquid evaporates, the more you were able to dissolve into the liquid, the bigger your crystals will grow.

Click through for better directions

Now, this isn’t a perfect analogy, but it is pretty much what happens when you leave ferric (iron) metals in damp ground for long periods of time. The water begins to oxidize the metal, the oxidation acts like glue sticking things too it (like the sand in the sand candle), and the larger the bit of metal, the bigger the concretion will grow. Just like in the example, you need something for the concretions to adhere to, like the string, only here it’s our ferric object which also causes the oxidation.

This is a common occurrence, especially in historic archaeology, where we find nails, hinges, door knobs, handles, files, etc by the bucket full. The first time you see one, you think it’s some kind of rusty potato, but it’s obviously metal of some kind. It’s hard to identify these objects, and you basically learn from experience to tell what they are, when you can. This concretion is also common in underwater archaeology, but underwater archaeologists have sophisticated ways of removing the buildup without damaging the artifact underneath. You can go watch the process in action at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum right now as they clean a cannon recovered from a sunken ship.

Quick recap.

So far we have an unidentified metal and porcelain artifact recovered by some rock-hounds. They don’t know what it is so they take it to a mysterious, unnamed geologist who somehow dates it to being 500,000 years old, despite the oxidation that the geologist should have noticed.

To add to this, the Coso Artifact possesses no characteristics that would classify it as a geode [Stromberg 2000]. Geodes consists of a thin outer shell, composed of dense chalcedonic silica, and are filled with a layer of quartz crystals [Stromberg 2000]. The Coso Artifact not only has neither of these characteristics, but its outer shell is softer than a Geode [Stromberg 2000]. These are glaring differences that a geologist would have noticed.

Cut and Polished Geode

Identifying the artifact was actually a pretty simple feat and the story about it is rather funny…to me anyway, so instead of typing the whole thing out, I will simply quote form the article,  “The Coso Artifact: Mystery From the Depths of Time?”  by Pierre Stromberg and Paul Heinrich:

“To help us to learn more about spark-plug technology of a century ago, we enlisted the help of the Spark Plug Collectors of America (SPCA). We sent letters to four different spark plug collectors describing the Coso Artifact, including Calais’s X-rays of the object in question. We expected the SPCA to provide some vague hints or no information at all about the artifact. The actual answers were stunning.

On September 9, 1999, Chad Windham, President of the SPCA, called Pierre Stromberg. Windham initially suspected that Stromberg was a fellow spark plug collector, writing incognito, with the motive of hoaxing him. His fears were compounded by the fact that there is an actual line of spark plugs named “Stromberg”. Though Stromberg repeatedly assured Windham that his intentions were purely for research, he was puzzled why Windham was so suspicious and asked him to explain. Windham replied that it was so obvious to him that the artifact was a contemporary spark plug, the letter had to be a hoax. “I knew what it was the moment I saw the X-rays,” Windham wrote.

Stromberg asked Windham if he could identify the particular make of the spark plug. Windham replied he was certain that it was a 1920s-era Champion spark plug. Later, Windham sent 2 identical spark plugs for comparison. Ten days after Windham’s telephone call, Bill Bond, founder of the SPCA and curator of a private museum of spark plugs containing more than 2000 specimens, called Stromberg. Bond said he thought he knew the identity of the Coso Artifact: “A 1920s Champion spark plug.” Spark plug collectors Mike Healy and Jeff Bartheld (Vice President of the SPCA) also concurred with Bond’s and Windham’s assessment about the spark plug. To date, there has been no dissent among the spark plug collectors as to the identity of the Coso Artifact. “

So, a definitive ID, and no decent among experts on the subject. We know the Coso Artifact wasn’t a Geode and that it is a 1920’s spark plug. Now what?

Now we have to deal with those who ignore facts in order to pursue their own belief. Included in this group of people are, of course, the Ancient Alien folks, who claim that the Artifact is evidence of early contact with aliens who’s space craft apparently broke down and then left spare parts behind. Also in this group are the Young Earth Creationists who seem to think the Artifact somehow proves a young earth…by being dated at 500,000 years old, and ignoring the fact that simple math once again eludes them.

And so there you have it folks, The Coso Artifact aka The 1920’s era Spark Plug that got confused for a Geode. I won’t lie, I was a little disappointed with this one, but hey, they can’t all be winners right?


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Resources:

“The Coso Artifact.” Bad Archaeology. http://www.badarchaeology.com/?page_id=223 Accessed July 9th 2012.

Stromberg, Pierre

2000. The Coso Artifact : Mystery from the Depths of Time. The Talk Origins Archives. http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/coso.html Accessed July 9th 2012.

Stromberg, Pierre and Paul V Heinrich

2004 “The Coso Artifact: Mystery From the Depths of Time?” Reports of the National Center for Science Education. March–April 2004. Vol 24 Issue 2. http://ncse.com/rncse/24/2/coso-artifact Accessed July 9th 2012.

Categories: 10 Most Puzzling Ancient Artifacts, Ancient Astronauts, Creation Science and Intelligent Design, Weird Archaeology | Tags: , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Between the Nasca Lines pt 1: What is a Cargo Cult?

*** Looking over my old blog, I realized there are several posts that I wanted to move over to this blog. So here is the start of my first series, Between the Nazca Lines. Enjoy the blast from the past!***

In preparing my series on Ancient Astronauts, I encountered a few problems I hadn’t anticipated, though maybe I should have looking back now. Mainly the problem is a lack of understanding of the terms being and ideas being used. Things like why a myth is a myth, or why Archaeologists except certain views over others. If you’re not well versed in these reasons, it can seem a little biased and possibly lead to confusion, like in what the term “quantum” means. So, when I saw Von Daniken and his ilk using the term “Cargo Cult” to describe the Nazca lines, I realized many people may not understand what he’s saying.

In order to give the fullest amount of information possible, I need to back up a little. I want to start with a new set of nearly basic terms. This time I want to introduce to you what Cargo Cults are.

So briefly, what is a Cargo Cult?

It is a phenomenon when less advanced cultures encounter more advanced cultures and 1) regard the advanced peoples as supernatural beings whose purpose is to deliver goods (cargo) and 2) use mimicry or pantomime to create ritual in hopes of resumed delivery of such goods.

Probably the most famous Cargo Cult is the Cult of John Frum, worshiped in the South Pacific by the Vanuatu tribe. As many origin stories do this one has many versions, but the jest of it goes; John Frum was a U.S. Sailor that come to the islands during WWII. He brought with him cargo ships and gave freely to the people there. When it was time for him to leave, he told the people he would return and bring with him more cargo, and so the people wait for him to do so.

Devotees raise old glory on John Frum Day.

Unsurprisingly, the John Frum myth has evolved to fit into to it the problems of the modern Vanuatu. In an article by the BBC News,

“Villagers believe the spirit of John Frum sent the US military to their South Pacific home to help them.

Devotees say that an apparition of John Frum first appeared before tribal elders in the 1930s.

He urged them to rebel against the aggressive teachings of Christian missionaries and instead said they should put their faith in their own customs.” [1]

With the invasion of Christian missionaries and the loss of the WWII cargo the Vanuatu have turned John Frum into a strange hybrid of a rebellion leader with a love of tradition. So what started as a desire to have their golden age back has turned to a rallying cry to return to traditional ways, with a twist. Probably the best quote for this cult is given by Chief Isaac one of the top leaders in the cult. In a Smithsonian article by Paul Raffaele, Raffaele asks Chief Isaac why they still wait for John Furm’s return,

An altar celebrates Frum’s native land, with blackboards bearing instructions to the faithful.

“Chief Isaac shoots me an amused look. “You Christians have been waiting 2,000 years for Jesus to return to earth,” he says, “and you haven’t given up hope.”[2]

Brian Dunning does an excellent job of delving deeper into the causes of the John Furm cult, and the complicated circumstances that led to the formation of the cult. I highly recommend reading his article. [3]

So the argument that is being made by Ancient Astronauts is that primitive peoples after encountering the Aliens in some way, became so enamored by their cosmic cargo that when the Aliens left, the peoples started cargo cuts in the hopes that the Aliens would return. Citing the return of Jesus and other similar deities as evidence. For something a little more physical as proof, they point to the Nazca lines saying that these are certainly primitive attempts at landing strips.

At first blush this might seem logical. If you knew nothing more about the lines then that they are carved out of the red rock in Nazca in long lines, then it might seem reasonable. When you began to look at the curves and pictures the lines take on then you hopefully began to doubt this.

There have been many, many suggestions as to what the lines really are, from giant astrological maps to markers of underground waterways. [4] All of these have more evidence supporting them than the idea of Aliens ever will. In the next part of this we’ll go over the past research on the lines and new accepted purpose of the lines.

Bibliography

Brian Dunning
2010 Skeptoid #199. March 30, 2010. http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4199. Accessed December 5th 2010.

Carr, Tarini
N.d. The Nazca Lines: A Mystery on the Plains. Archaeology Online.
http://www.archaeologyonline.net/artifacts/nazca-lines.html. Accessed December 5th 2010.

Mercer, Phil.
2007 Vanuatu cargo cult marks 50 years. BBC News, Tanna, Thursday, 15 February 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6363843.stm. Accessed December 5th 2010.

Raffaele, Paul
2006      In John They Trust. Smithsonian magazine, February 2006. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/john.html. Accessed December 5th 2010.

Categories: Ancient Astronauts, Between the Nazca Lines, Weird Archaeology | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The 10 Most Not-So-Puzzling Ancient Artifacts: The Antikythera Mechanism

Before we can fully appreciate the Antikythera Mechanism, I first have to point out that clockwork and steam powered mechanisms were well known and in use in Ancient Greece, Egypt, India, and China. Things such as mechanical clocks, Automa, and various forms of calendars were in use.  Two and a half millennia before the Mechanism, India used gears to drive doors and lift water (Dunning 2009).

One of the most well known developers of steam and clockwork devices in ancient Greece was Hero of Alexandria, aka Heron. His writings on hydraulics, pneumatics and mechanics were translated into Latin in the sixteenth century and later were reconstructed (Handworx). His designs produced a variety of machines including an aeolipile, a rocket-like reaction engine and the first recorded steam engine (Handworx).

An Illustration of an Aeolipile

China also enjoyed clockwork devices that did a variety of things including keeping track of directions and counting the distance traveled.  The South Pointing Chariot  dates back to 2600 BC and is considered one of the most complex devices of it’s time (Handworx). The chariot sported a figure that always pointed south and drums that kept track of the revolution of the wheels, allowing users to measure distance (Handworx).

A Reconstruction of the South Pointing Chariot

Which brings us to the Antikythera Mechanism, so called because it was found by sponge divers at the bottom of the sea near the island of Antikythera near Crete (Antikythera).

This is a first for this series, because this artifact is actually real.

Now if you read the blurb about it in The 10 Most Puzzling Ancient Artifacts, you’re led to believe that the ancient world had no clue how to make these kinds of devices, and that nothing with gears ever existed until 1575!  Please re-read the previous paragraphs, then let’s move on.

The Antikythera Mechanism is real, and we do know what it was used for, though the fine details are still up for debate. The Mechanism itself dates from around the end of the 1st century B.C.E. and is one of the most sophisticated mechanisms of it’s time (Antikythera, Dunning 2009). However, close examination of the device shows that every piece is exact and hasn’t been modified after manufacture (Antikythera). Meaning, this was the end product of a great deal of trial and error, like any great invention. Those working on the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project (AMRP) speculate that there may have been as many as ten prototypes leading up to the Mechanism (Antikythera).

The Mechanism is understood to be a complex astrological calendar keeping track of astronomical phenomena (Freeth 2006). It calculated celestial information and displayed cycles of the phases of the moon and lunar/solar calendar (Freeth 2006). It also could predict lunar and solar eclipses on the basis of Babylonian arithmetic-progression cycles (Freeth 2006), which are calculations that are older than most civilizations, ’cause the Babylonians kinda rocked.

The Mechanism is currently on display at  the National Archaeological Museum of Athens. The three main fragments of the Antikythera Mechanism are in the Bronze Collection and are watched over by Mary Zafeiropoulou, who also works with AMRP to study the Mechanism (Antikythera).

There are about 82 surviving fragments and through the AMRP’s efforts, those pieces have been scanned, digitized and 3D-afied (Antikythera). The AMRP also made all of their research available to the public, and you can read where they are with their research at the Overview page for the project. They also have a You Tube channel with some cool short vids. They’ve reported their finding to the journal Nature as well, talking about their use of surface imaging and high-resolution X-ray tomography of the surviving fragments (Freeth 2006). Using these methods they have managed to reconstruct the gear function and double the number of deciphered inscriptions on the fragments (Freeth 2006). Which, among other things, leads to really cool pictures.

These claims that the ancient world was without the knowledge to produce such devices are completely unfounded and can only come from a lack of knowledge about ancient times. Also, to say that we humans needed alien intervention to create something as complex as the Antikythera Mechanism is insulting. Our ancient ancestors are the same as modern humans. If we could figure it out today, which we have, then our ancestors could have figured it out too. Given resources and time, humans have proven they can do almost anything they put their minds to, for good or evil. We have no need for Aliens, Atlantians, or even Gods to aid us, and I think that is what this device shows best.

The Mechanism is a testament to human ability as much as any great earthwork or monument. Let’s not cheapen it.

Resources:

The Antikythera Mechanism Research Project.

http://www.antikythera-mechanism.gr/ Accessed May 25 2012.

Dunning, Brian.

2009. The Antikythera Mechanism. Skeptoid. December 15, 2009
href=”http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4184″>http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4184. Accessed May 25 2012.

Freeth, T. et al.

2006  Antikythera Mechanism. Nature. Vol 444: 587-591. 30 November 2006. Received 10 August 2006; Accepted 17 October 2006. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v444/n7119/abs/nature05357. Accessed May 25 2012.

Handworx. Gearworx History. http://www.handworx.com.au/gearworx/history/ancient.html Accessed May 25 2012.

Categories: 10 Most Puzzling Ancient Artifacts, Ancient Astronauts | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

The 10 Most Not-So-Puzzling Ancient Artifacts: The Ica Stones

As we move on down the line of the 10 most not-so-puzzling ancient artifacts, we come to the Ica Stones. These are perhaps the most perplexing to me, since I don’t understand how anyone can look at these and think they are real.

A bad day for Fred Flintstone

These little gems range in size from cobbles to boulders, and depict a wide variety of images from humans co-existing with dinosaurs, to advanced surgery, and spaceships with advanced technology.

Apparently, this one is a modern hoax starting in 1966 when one, Dr. Javier Cabrera Darquea, a Peruvian physician, received a small carved rock as a gift for his birthday. The stone apparently came from a small town in Peru called Ica.  Dr. Cabrera seems to have had a great interest in prehistoric extinct fish, because when he saw the carved rock he recognized as such (Polidoro 2002, Carroll 2002, Feder 2010).

The Fish That Started it All.

Never mind that Dr. Cabrera never identified the fish, or mentions how he knows the fish is an accurate depiction of said unidentified species (Carroll 2002).

Dr. Cabrera became so fascinated with the little stone that he went looking for more. Lucky for him the locals were more than happy to provide them to him. Basilio Uschuya, a local farmer, began to provide more of the black volcanic stones to him. Uschuya claimed that he was finding them in a cave not far away. Uschuya never made known the location of the cave and Cabrera never appears to have gone looking for it. Still, Cabrera did become so engrossed with the stones and their apparent message that he built them a museum, left his physician career, and dedicated the rest of his life to buying all the stones he could get from the locals (Polidoro 2002). The Ica Stones are currently displayed in the Ica Stones Museum in Ica, Peru, which houses approximately 11,000 of the estimated 15,000 or more stones that are said to exist (Ross 2007, Feder 2010).

Dr. Cabrera and His Collection

So, as always we must ask, What are the Ica Stones really?

The stones themselves are varying sized pieces of Andesite, which is a type of hard volcanic rock. Various images have been engraved on the surface of these rocks depicting, as I said earlier, all sorts of crazy stuff. They also seem to all have a certain type of patina on them seemingly verifying their age. Cabrera has claimed that andesite is too hard to carve using stone tools (Carroll 2002), so for him it’s a sign that the stones were carved using advanced technology, like so many of the stones depict. The reality is that the stones are graved, as in a surface layer of oxidation has been scratched away, not carved (Carroll 2002). The difference is in the shallowness of the images on the surface of the stones.

Then there is that pesky patina, which many supporters claim is evidence of the carvings great age. Again, the reality is that the patina can be faked, as any antiquities expert will tell you.

Added to this is the admission of Basilio Uschuya to both the Erik Van Danikin and Peruvian authorities that he forged the stones, going as far to explain how he did it and producing one on the spot to prove his innocence (Ross 2007, Carroll 2002). Apparently, a dentist drill will carve anything, and the patina can be faked by either baking the stones in cow dung, or leaving them for a time in the Chicken coup (Ica N.d.). He chose his subjects from illustrations in comic books, school books, and magazines (Carroll 2002, Polidoro 2002, Ross 2007, Feder 2010). He also said that he had not made all the stones, and continued to sell similar stones to tourists as trinkets after the inquiry by the Peruvian government (Ica N.d., Feder 2010).

That’s pretty cut and dry for me, but for others, there is more to the stones then a simple hoax.

What I do like about these stones is how they manage to cross all the common conspiracy groups at the same time. See, the stones simultaneously supposedly validate the claims of the Ancient Astronauts Theorists, the Creationists, and the Atlantis folks all at once. They seem to have a little something for everyone.

Man Hunting the Tasty Sharp-toothed Brontosaurus.

For the Creationist folks there is the images of Dinos and Man living together. Sometimes they are hunting each other, sometimes Man is domesticating the Dinos. Whatever image that stones depict, all the Creationists see is evidence of a young earth and their particular slant on prehistory, despite the 60 million years that separates living dinosaurs from our earliest human ancestors.

The Nazca Lines, therefore Aliens.

For the Ancient Alien folks, there appear to be several stones that depict celestial bodies, things that might be space ships, and of course the Nazca Lines. All those things add up to Aliens visiting and teaching humans advanced technology, and leaving the newly advanced humans species with no other way to record such a visit, then to carve the events primitively onto stones.

Floating Heart Surgery.

For the Atlantis folks there are images of advanced technology and surgery. Stuff far to advanced for primitive brown people, so obviously the erudite Atlanteans brought their knowledge to these people, and again, had no better way to record all of this then to carve it into stone.

Where do we go with all of this?

No matter how you cut it, all three groups are claiming a very advanced, yet somehow lost and forgotten culture. So to all three groups one has to ask, why  has no one has ever found any other remnants of this great culture? Where are the encampments, the trash, the burials, the kilns, the tools, the grave goods, the monuments, the trade goods, the descendants of the people? Why if this culture is so advanced that they could perform modern surgery and take down animals hundreds of times their size, could they not find a better way to preserver their history then shallowly scratched stones? Why is it that no dinosaur’s fossils can be dated to an age contemporary with man (Polidoro 2002)?

Collection of Various Stones.

Dating the stones presents it own set of duh moments. Stones without organic mater can’t be carbon dated, so we rely on the strata in which they are found. Removing the stones without documenting where they were found pretty much renders the stones undatable, and basically useless to the archaeological record.

Sound Familiar? Yah, I’ve harped on this point before: let’s assume for a brief moment the Ica stones are real. Since they have never been properly recorded, and the cave they were supposedly found in has never been located, they are completely out of context, and nothing of significance can be learned from them. It also makes it impossible to date them or assigned them to a cultural group. Which is the fancy way of saying, they are completely useless.

Add to that the numerous debunking of the stones starting in 1977 during the BBC documentary “Pathway to the Gods”, Uschuya produced a “genuine” Ica stone with a dentist’s drill and claimed to have produced the patina by baking the stone in cow dung (Ica N.d.).

Then again in 1998, after four years of investigation, Spanish investigator Vicente Paris declared the stones a hoax (Ica N.d.). He stated that the stones showed traces of modern paints and abrasives. The strongest evidence he presented was the crispness of the shallow engravings; stones of great age should have substantial erosion of the surfaces (Ica N.d.).

Finally, a recent examination of the stones, done in Barcelona by José Antonio Lamich, founder of the Spanish “Hipergea” research group, revealed signs of sandpaper and recent carvings, backing up Paris’ investigations (Polidoro 2002, Feder 2010).

So with all of this stacked against the Ica Stones, not to mention the clearly ridiculous images depicted on the stones, how can anyone believe these are anything other than a hoax?

Here There Be Dragons!

 


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Resources:

Carroll,Robert T.

2002.  Ica Stones. Skeptics Dictioary. http://www.skepdic.com/icastones.html Accessed 5/3/2012

Feder, Kennith.

2010.Encyclopedia of Dubious Archaeology: From Atlantis to the Walam Olum. Greenwood

Polidoro, Massimo.

2002. Ica Stones: Yabba-Dabba-Do! Skeptical Inquier. Volume 26.5, September / October 2002
http://www.csicop.org/si/show/ica_stones_yabba-dabba-do/ Accessed 5/3/2012

Ross, Sara.

2007. The Ica Stones and Dr. Javier Cabrera. PARA Web Bibliography B-03. http://pseudoarchaeology.org/b03-ross.html Accessed 5/3/2012

The Ica Stones of Peru

N.d. http://www.crystalinks.com/icastones.html Accessed 5/3/2012

Categories: 10 Most Puzzling Ancient Artifacts, Ancient Astronauts, Creation Science and Intelligent Design, Weird Archaeology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 33 Comments

The 10 Most Not-So-Puzzling Ancient Artifacts: The Dropa Stones

The Dropa Stones are puzzling artifact #2 on the 10 Most Puzzling Ancient Artifacts list.

Dropa Stones

These are “The” Dropa Stone images.

What are the Dropa Stones?

The Story of how the stones were found is kinda up in the air. The major story states that a Chinese archaeologist named Chu Pu Tei, found the stones in 1938/37 while he was looking at some caves. Inside the caves he found a series of graves that each contained a skeleton measuring a little over a meter in height (about 3 feet for the non-metric speaking). Buried with these tiny people were mysterious grooved stones, that became known as the Dropa Stones.

Now, the stones made their way from Chu Pu Tei’s possession to that of another researcher by the name of Professor Tsum Um Nui, of the Beijing Academy for Ancient Studies. He was able to translate them, and he found out that the little people were indeed aliens and they had been hunted to near extinction by the local humans, because they were short and ugly. Apparently, the humans and  the aliens were able to solve their differences, because the aliens are also the supposed ancestors of the Dropa tribe, which is still around today.

Somewhere in there the stones traveled to Russia, and were photographed, then lost, and pretty much everyone associated with them vanished as well. So now all we have are a few grainy pictures that look a lot like Bi discs, and no-one with first hand knowledge. Completely believable, Right? Right?

To break this story down will take a bit. Let’s look at all the Red Flags:

Red Flag #1 –  The story appears on several web sites, most of which looked copied and pasted, there is no author mentioned, and no citation.

I went over why this is a red flag in the first post in this series on the Grooved Spheres.  There are a few occasions where no citations are ok, such as the above story where there is no real citation to give. Another time would be first hand or original research. The stories on these websites don’t fall into either category.

Red Flag #2 – None of the names of any of the researchers appear to be real, and there is no record of  the Beijing Academy for Ancient Studies.

This one is probably the most damning. None of the named participants in this hoax have any record of existing. On top of that, Professor Tsum Um Nui’s name isn’t even Chinese. It appears to be a badly adapted Japanese name.

Of even more interest is the fictitious Beijing Academy for Ancient Studies. There is no such place in record, ever. Yet this is where Professor Tsum Um Nui  supposedly translated the stones in only 24 years, which could be considered Red Flag #2.5.

Red Flag #3  – The remains of the ‘aliens’ as well as the Dropa Stones have all managed to vanish, as well as anyone who might have ever seen the stones.

Supposed Dropa Alien

There is so much wrong with this picture, not the least of which is the incredibly bad quality.

There is no real way to verify if this picture is authentic, even the site where I found it is quick to point that out. Be that as it may, this tiny skeleton and the disks pictures at the beginning of the post are nowhere to be found. As a matter of fact, there is no mention of the remains recovered from the caves that Chu Pu Tei discovered, or of any other grave good recovered from those burials. There are no mentions of lost documentation, only a slight mention here and there that Chu Pu Tei might have written a report that was suppressed by the Chinese Government.  The only recovered items from the cave graves appear to be the stones, and those are lost within a few decades of discovery. So basically, there is no physical evidence, or any kind of written documentation, of the stones or the graves.

Red Flag #4 – The few pictures we have the Dropa Stones are identical to what are called Bi Discs, which are known artifacts that are part of the Chinese culture.

This one is pretty plain, but the Bi Discs got to be very elaborate in their decorations.

The Bi Discs are flat disks made of jade with a hole in the center of the disk. Thousand’s have been recovered from Neolithic burials all over China[2]. They appear to be indicative of social status and rank [2], and were recently used in the Beijing Olympic Medals which were designed to look like bi discs on the back [3]. They also seem to be tied to the concept of Heaven (sky), and were very important in the day-to-day lives of ancient Chinese [2].

These were gold, silver, and bronze medals with circles of jade inlaid into them.

Red Flag #5 – The actual Dropa people.

I spent a fair amount of time looking for these people in some kind of link I could give you. Pretty much the only one I can find that doesn’t mention these people as some kind of Alien-Human hybrid is Bad Archaeology. I’m not saying these people don’t exist somewhere in China, I’m just saying that I can’t find any academic sources to back up their existence in the first place. I’m also not saying that Bad Archaeology is not a good site, its exactly the opposite, I am saying that I would be much more comfortable talking about a group of people if I could find some anthropology sites or reports on them.

So, you can clearly see the massive issues with this particular ancient artifact. Most of the UFO sites that I came across discounted the stones as a Hoax, going as far as to blame Von Daniken for really pushing the story. As far as anyone can tell the first mention of this story was in a German Vegetarian Magazine, and then the same story was translated and reprinted in a Russian yellow-rag two years later [4]. The story was never taken seriously and almost faded away till Von Daniken got hold of it, wrote two books about it,  and then another book named Sungods in Exile got published by an unnamed author under a nom-de-plume of David Agamon, who later came out and said the whole story was fiction [4]. Von Daniken hasn’t yet recanted.

So, not only is the origin of the story of the Dropa Stones dubious, but the story itself is as well. There is no evidence of anything related to the stones, and no one to back up any of the claims made by the story. It’s even difficult to prove that the real Dropa tribe exists. All that can be said is somewhere, someone put pen to paper and wrote a story of a Chinese archaeologist finding something cool. That’s all you can prove, and that’s all these stones are, a really long-lived story.


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References:

[1] “The 10 Most Puzzling Ancient Artifacts.” http://www.ancientx.com/nm/anmviewer.asp?a=75. Accessed April 2 2012.

[2] National Gallery of Art. The Golden Age of Chines Archaeology. http://www.nga.gov/education/chinatp_sl03.shtm. Accessed 4/14/2012.

[3] http://en.beijing2008.cn/spirit/beijing2008/graphic/n214070893.shtml

[4] Bad Archaeology. “The Dropa (or Dzopa) stones.” http://www.badarchaeology.com/?page_id=360 Accessed 4/14/2012

Categories: 10 Most Puzzling Ancient Artifacts, Ancient Astronauts, Weird Archaeology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Between the Nazca Lines: Evidence vs. “I Wanna Believe”

Well, we now know what a Cargo Cult is, and we are now up to date on the recent research into the Nasca Lines. What I haven’t brought you completely up to date on is the actual Ancient Alien Theory explanation of the Nazca lines. The History Channel sums it up pretty succinctly:

Great Images being deliberately misinterpreted by the History Channel.

“The Nazca Lines
 

Etched into a high plateau in Peru’s Nazca Desert, a series of ancient designs stretching more than 50 miles has baffled archaeologists for decades. Along with simple lines and geometric shapes, they include drawings of animals, birds and humans, some measuring more than 600 feet across. Because of their colossal size, the figures can only be appreciated from way up in the air—and there is no evidence that the Nazca people, who inhabited the area between 300 B.C. and 800 A.D., invented flying machines. According to ancient alien theorists, the figures were used to guide spaceships as they came in for a landing, and the lines served as runways.”[History 2011]

Never mind the screamingly obvious problems with the description, it does do a good job of summing up what most people think of the Nazca lines, inaccuracies and all.

(Trapezoid Line)

This idea that the lines were used as landing strips seems to come from the presence of the long trapezoidal geoglyphs and the supposed evidence of a leveled mountain top. Von Daniken mentions this in his books, but I haven’t found reference to it, or concern about it, in any of the research. Still, these ideas persist.So, the theory goes that the lines were laid either by man or alien in order to direct and provide a location for space ship landings. Tying this into the Cargo Cult connection; after the Aliens stopped coming to earth with their cargo, we humans began to build a religion around them, attempting to bring our alien saviors back to earth with misinterpreted ritual.

Websites abound on the Internet and even the History Channel, which has produced two seasons of a show called Ancient Aliens, tout belief in and even evidence of aliens. You can find lots of people who are ready to explain the Ancient Alien Theory and tell you all about the evidence supporting it. Not too surprising the Nazca lines fall into this category of evidence.

Even after the modern research mentioned in my last post, these sites still claim that the lines cannot be explained, that scientist still search for an explanation to the cause of the lines, even though this is not true. The reality is that we do have both really good explanations and building methods that require little more than a stick and some string.

(The actual Condor geoglyph)

Well known Skeptic, Joe Nickell, was able to reconstruct the geoglyphs in a remarkably short time using basic, simply reproduced, and most certainly available instruments for the time. Nickell’s, his two cousins, a friend, his 11-year old nephew, and father reproduced the 440 foot long Condor in just over a day and a half (baring time off due to rain) [Nickell1983]. They used merely a knotted rope, stakes, and a T-square they constructed from two pieces of wood. I really recommend the article; it’s a pretty good example of how the Nazca and their ancestors could have produced the geoglyphs without alien help.

(This is the Condor re-produced by Nickell et al. [Nickell1983])

So, now we know how the glyphs were probably made, we have a pretty solid theory onwhy the glyphs were made, we even know a fair bit about the culture of the Nazca (though I haven’t touched on that here). We’ve got the How, the Why, the When, and even the Where. At every point we know humans did this, and not once is an outside force required to accomplish any of it.

Nickell also makes a point about the whole “They can ONLY be seen from the SKY” statement:

“It is frequently asserted that the Nazca drawings are recognizable only from the air. That is not quite true, certainly not of the smaller figures, such as the effigy of a fish, which is only 80 feet long (Reiche 1976). Neither is it true of some drawings — attributed to the Nazcas’ predecessors — that are found on hill slopes (McIntyre 1975; Isbell 1978, 1980). Here, seemingly, is a clue to how the Nazcas could have been confident of the accuracy of their method of enlargement. Once a technique was found to be successful for producing large drawings on slopes, where they could actually be viewed from the ground, the same technique could be expected to consistently yield good results — wherever figures were drawn and whatever their size.” [Nickell1983]

This point was also made by The Nazca-Palpa Project in 2007 [Isla 2007], where they not only dated the geoglyphs and gave sequence order to the deposition, they remarked that the smaller glyphs could be seen from a short distance, like from a slope [Isla 2007].

I would hope at this point that I’ve provided enough evidence to remove aliens from the picture. I can show that the geoglyphs were most probably a cultural tool used to create a sense of community and possibly served ritual purposes dating from about 400 BC till sometime after 600 AD [Isla 2007]. I have shown that they could have been created using nothing more than a sketch, knotted rope, and T-square [Nickell1983], all of which was available in that time period. There is also the well known C-14 dates of the pottery sherds and burials associated with the lines, which help us put the lines into context [Isla 2007, Nickell1983]. There is no need to add aliens to the mix, they are unnecessary. They create a complication that is not needed since everything has a simple, human explanation.

As I say in all my presentations, if you are a True Believer, there isn’t a damn thing I can provide to change your mind. All the evidence in the world will be wasted on you, but if you came to this looking to have a few questions answered, I can help you there.

References:

The History Channel
2011 Evidence of Ancient Aliens? The History Channel website.http://www.history.com/shows/ancient-aliens/articles/evidence-of-ancient-aliens.Accessed Jan 25, 2011.

Nickell, Joe
1983  The Nazca Drawings Revisited: Creation of a Full-Sized Condor. Skeptical Inquirer MagazineVolume 7.3, Spring 1983.http://www.csicop.org/si/show/nazca_drawings_revisited/Accessed Jan 25, 2011.

Isla, Johny
2007 Nazca-Palpa Project: Photogrammetric Reconstruction of the Geoglyphs of Nazca and Palpa. January 2007 http://www.photogrammetry.ethz.ch/research/peru/index.html Accessed Jan 09, 2011.

Categories: Ancient Astronauts, Between the Nazca Lines, Cult Science, History Channel, Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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