The intro episode where we discussed what exactly pseudoarchaeology is and how Cult Science influences the average archaeology enthusiasts. We talk about how the media is out for ratings and not so much to inform, and how that is actually making it more difficult to correct misconceptions about archaeology.
Ken gets introduced to one of the more popular pseudoarchaeology topics on the internet right now in the form of the Genetic Disk. We discuss how pseudoarchaeologists try to lend validity to a fraudulent artifact by attempting to use actual scientists by quoting them way out of context. We show what happens when those same scientists find out their being misquoted, and we go over Ken’s check-list for how to spot pseudoarchaeology.
We delve a little deeper into the fringe and start to explore the world of Giants. There’s been a lot of talk about them lately so we thought we’d examine why they are so popular, and why there is exactly no evidence supporting their existence.
We examine the recent revival of the Mound Builder Myth. Ken walks us through the origins of the myth and how Cyrus Thomas proved the mounds were built by Native Americans. We discuss why there is a modern revival of the myth and what’s contributing to it. We also encourage everyone to take a mound to lunch and go visit your local mound parks.
We start to wade into the murky waters of the Creationism by tackling the global flood myth and the story of Noah’s Ark. We explain what kinds of geological and archaeological evidence we would expect to see if the global myth was true, and how we see exactly the opposite.
We’ve got a lot of great content coming up, including interviews with a variety of experts and researchers. With two episodes a month coming out on Mondays, there’s a lot to hear and learn. Get caught up now before you get too far behind. There’s not much more I can say except, Go listen and comment!
And so we have made it to the final entry in the 10 Most Puzzling Ancient Artifacts list. We finish with the second of our two catch-all categories, the first being where we learned about OOParts. In this final entry we are looking at Impossible Fossils, which pretty much live up to their name.
We’ve been over this before in an earlier post on the Paluxy “Man Tracks”. Where a known artifact is being reinterpreted in hopes of supporting an idea that has no support for it. In the Man Tracks case, we have the fossilized imprints of dinosaur metatarsals made by bipedal dinosaurs that can look a little weird, until you understand how bipedal dinosaurs walked [Kuban 2010]. The Man Tracks are also nice cases of fraud in action since more than a few of them were actually carved to look like human feet, and then sold to the unwary [Kuban 2010]. Thankfully the man tracks have mostly been put to rest by through scientific debunking, however there appear to be plenty of Impossible Fossils waiting to take their place.
The particular fossil that the 10 most hits on is a supposed hand print. It’s described by a Creation Science website as:
“This photo shows a human handprint(sic) found in Cretaceous rock in the same layer with the Glen Rose dinosaur footprints. The fossil handprint(sic) is so specific that it displays impressions of the thumbnail, impressions of the tissue webbing between the thumb and index finger, and the impression left by penetration of the middle finger into the mud [Baugh 2006].”
A Texas-based website named “Pastor Art and Sister Sue” appear to be the first to mention the “hand print on stone” claiming that it was discovered in 1995 formed in Cretaceous rock in the city of Weatherford, Texas [Kuban 2010]. As with “discoveries” like this, the usual red flags spring up:
Red Flag #1: for starts, the article is uncited. I’ve ranted about this before, you must cite your sources!
Red Flag #2: There is not indication who found the fossil in the first place, or who studied it, or where, etc.
Red Flag #3: There is no record of if it was found in-situ, and after last post, we all know why it’s important to find and document things where they are found.
Pastor Art and Sister Sue have quite a few other impossible fossils on their site as well, things like sandal impressions along with trilobite fossils Again, I am going to go back over this and make a series out of it.
Thus we reach the end of our journey through the 10 Most Not-So-Puzzling Ancient Artifacts. I’ve had a good time with this and I actually learned a few things that surprised me. I’ve shown not only why and how most of these are frauds and not that puzzling, but I’ve explained several ways to identify other dubious claims.
I send you all out now into the wacky world of weird Archaeology to use this new-found knowledge to debunk on your own. Send me a link when you do, I’m always up for new “mysteries”.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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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.
This argument has been used on me several times now : “Since the ancient spider looks just like modern spiders, evolution is completely debunked, and God did it all.”This claim is usually started with, “I’m not a scientist or anything, but…”
Well, firstly, let me point out that you don’t need to be a scientist to do simple math.
One of the fundamental claims of Young Earth Creationism is that the earth itself is not more than 6,000 years old. They’ve come by this number by basically counting all the ‘begots’ and ‘begats’ from the bible and adding their lifespans together, all the way back to Adam and Eve. So, if you’re telling me that the earth is only 6,000 years old, and then for evidence of this argument use a 165 million year old spider fossil, my first issue is the math.
We can both agree that the ancient spider looks very similar to modern spiders, one could even say they are identical in some ways. One can’t claim that the age of the spider proves a young earth. One also can’t claim that “God did it”, since one has no proof of that either (but that’s an entirely different argument).
Another individual wanted to use the T.Rex soft tissue that was found and written about in 2005 by Dr. Mary Higby Schweitzer, et. al. Dr. Schweitzer and her team discovered a T.Rex long bone that still contained soft tissue resembling bone marrow. This was a huge discovery because until this discovery, it was thought that marrow wouldn’t survive past a million years. With this new discovery, Dr. Schweitzer and her team began re-examining other older fossils to find out if soft tissue survived in them as well. I encourage you to read the paper she produced and look at the evidence found, but I’ll break it down for you very briefly. In her study she found three other fossils that were as old as the T.Rex long bone, that still contained soft tissue. That’s not counting the other fossils that were older and younger, and the experiments the team did to explain the preservation of soft tissue.
Again, math is the obvious flaw here. With a planet that is only supposed to be 6,000 years old, how would anything over that age support that claim?
I’m just using basic math here, I’m not even pointing out the obvious flaws in these arguments. It boggles my mind how someone can sit across from me and argue that these two multi-million year old fossils prove A) Young Earth Creationism and B) that God did it.
But, I’m new at this, and I haven’t heard all the arguments just yet. I’m sure I’ll get told something else that will simply blow my mind eventually. When that time comes, I will fall back on what has always gotten me through, Facts and Evidence.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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)?
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?
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Every year the local creationists hold an expo here in Indiana. I have always ignored it before, but this year, Louise (@Spa_yediMonster), asked me to go and sweated the deal with an archaeologist who likes to show archaeological evidence to prove creationism is real. Sold!
I suppose I should disclose here that I had no clue what creationism taught before going to this. I was interested to see what they offered as evidence, and I brought along some of my past research in anticipation of what I thought would be the evidence. Man was I wrong.
So after getting lost trying to find the place, I found a seat beside Louise (who wrote her own account here) and Nathan. They had sat through most of the opening sermon by a gentleman I later found out was one of the founders of the Creationist movement, Dr. John Whitcomb.
Dr. Whitcomb was a decent speaker, I won’t begrudge him that. He knew his bible, but it was more like sitting in church again then being at a conference or expo. All I really took away from this was the group’s desperate need to be special and important and to be rewarded with fame, glory, and riches in life and in death (things he said). The big thing that I noticed when he talked was that he jumped around the whole bible, picking and choosing single lines and re-weaving them together to make points. Everything was way out of context.
After the sermon, because I refuse to call it anything else, there was a few rousing hymnals and then the speaker I had come to see, Dr. Willie Dye Ph.D, Ph.D, Ph.D, Ph.D, Ph.D, Th.D, M.D, D.D, D.D. (no really, that’s how his name is on his business card). I admit I was pleasantly surprised to see that he was black, mainly because African Americans are massively underrepresented in the field of archaeology. I can count on one hand the number of African Americans I have worked with, and it’s always been a sore point to me. Also, I mention this because it is relevant later on.
The title of his lecture was “Separation of the Nations as Understood Through Biblical Archaeology”. I have no idea what that means. Dr. Dye opened with a bible verse and then began to talk about how the whole world was going to hell because America took the teaching of the bible out of schools in 1963. To back that up, he showed a series of slides with astronomical figures on them. Things like violence was up 995% since 1963, teen sex is up 1000%, unmarried couples living together up 530%, SAT scores have dropped 80 points, Teen pregnancy up anywhere from 300% to 553% depending on the age bracket. None of this is cite sourced, and when pressed later he couldn’t really provide any. He basically admitted to making them up, and then tried to claim they were listed on a website somewhere.
Next, he bemoaned the loss of new converts to the church. Basically, his argument broke down to “Since we can’t preach to children in school, they learn to think critically, and then they don’t believe in god.” He also made this weird blanket claim that all single parents are by nature godless, and so in order to save their children, men need to convert. I’m not really sure what this has to do with archaeology, but I don’t have a string of letters after my name either.
Finally he seemed to segway and mentioned a man named F. A. Filby who did some research and found that at some point, every continent had been underwater. This caught me a bit off guard because it was the first true thing he’d said but it seemed out of place. Fortunately, he didn’t give me long to wonder because he told us that this was evidence that the world had experienced a global flood.
First, Dr. Dye is correct, every land mass in the world has been under water at some point. Also, given enough time, every land mass in the world will be underwater again, with or without our help. This does not mean that they were all under water simultaneously, nor does the geological record support that. I’m not sure who F.A. Filby is, but he apparently has no clue how tectonic plates work or stratigraphy for that matter. Still, this was enough for Dr. Dye.
Next he went on about giant fossilized cockroaches and dragonflies with wingspans like football fields. Oh, and he was involved in digging them up. Then he talked about this idea about an Ice canopy that once surrounded the earth and when God used the heat from the Thermonuclear core of the earth to melt it, that caused the great flood, killed all the bad people, and created an atmosphere for Noah and his descendants to live in. Cause before that everything was giant, except maybe humans, and apparently didn’t need air to breath. I have a great video by the Creationist Debunker Thunderf00t to show you here that is much better at explaining why this is crazy.
Then he rambled for a bit and I really didn’t follow much of it, but he did touch on “kinds” and that AIDS came from men having sex with monkeys. He also drug up a unique form of Afrocentrism where he managed to link black people to Noah’s cursed son Ham, and that all our great thinkers are white, and all black people are good for is athletics and music. This is apparently what he was talking about with the whole “Division of Labor” thing. He kind of broke down around here, and it became a tad overwhelming.
What I did manage to get was that until the Tower of Babel fell, the world was one super continent known as Pangaea (which is a real thing, just not like this). Pangaea was the land that got flooded, it was the same land that was settled by eight individuals, and those eight individuals went forth, had litters of babies, and repopulated the world and created all the cultures on it.
So to be clear, every complex culture that ever existed on the planet was well established BEFORE Pangaea broke up. Then man built the Tower of Babel, and the act of destroying the tower is what caused the tectonic plates to separate and shift into their current states. I really can’t begin to explain why this is crazy! However, here is a handy link to show you how the whole Pangaea thing really works and how though tectonic drift, our planet had several series of continents before the set we have now. I’m not even going to go into the impossible genetics of getting 6+ billion individuals out of 8.
When his lecture was over there was time for Q&A and Louise asked him for the sources of his statistics, and kind of not really got an answer from him. I asked him to confirm for me that he said complex culture and society existed before Pangaea broke up. I got a mini-sermon on God and man and good and evil, but no real answer. I’m not sure if he’s not sure, or if he didn’t understand me, or if he knew I had caught his lie and was challenging him with it. I really think it was the second, I don’t think this ‘Archaeologist’ knew what the terms ‘complex culture and society’ meant.
Before going to this, I had in my head all these great debates and “gotcha” moments I was going to have, but the more Dr. Dye spoke, the more it became clear to me that it didn’t matter. I could sit there all day and point out how what he is saying is not only wrong, but impossible, and it wouldn’t change a damn thing. It was depressing, and frankly scary. It made me want to reach more people with my blog and channel. I can’t help Dr. Dye. Ph.D, Ph.D, Ph.D, Ph.D, Ph.D, Th.D, M.D, D.D, D.D. But I might be able to reach one of the 40 people that came to hear him talk. Here’s to trying.