This episode I take to the airwaves myself to tell you all what I think of H.P. Lovecraft and his Cthulhu mythos, the impact that it is had on society as a whole, and how the elder gods are going to devour us all.
But seriously, let’s talk Lovecraft and his unintentional impact on pseudoarchaeology, is far reaching into the world of ancient aliens, and his use of archaeology in his writing to create horror.
Hi! I’m an archaeologist who likes games, video games, gaming, horror, the supernatural, and debunking pseudoarchaeology. Check out my vids for more on the above topics, and toss us a coin if you like what I do.
So I was scrolling on Twitter, as I do, and some fun tweets came across my feed.
As anyone who reads this blog knows, we are always rallying against the idea that aliens are the progenitors of all things prehistoric. A user name Renfamous put up a tweet pointing out the inherent racism in the show Ancient Aliens and also pointing out that ancient peoples had imaginations and were capable of re-creating what their imaginations came up with through art and other forms. I shared the tweet and enjoyed the conversation that sprouted from the thread.
Isn’t it kinda racist when Ancient Aliens is all “this ancient African/Pre-Columbian/Chinese civilization’s art was clearly influenced by actual alien visitors they met” like it’s just assumed these people weren’t capable of creating fantasy/folklore they knew wasn’t “real”?
WE FOUND A WEIRD LOOKING STATUE FROM PREHISTORIC JAPAN THAT DOESN’T LOOK LIKE A REAL PERSON SO THEY MUST HAVE MET WEIRD LOOKING ALIENS nah what if that guy just imagined something cool and made it? what if ppl in ancient Japan were capable of imagining things not found in nature?
After consideration I’m open to the idea that Ancient Aliens just thinks everyone born before 1900 was a helpless idiot and humanity as a whole would still be shitting in holes and eating rocks if not for alien intervention.
One comment, however, started its own thread, and I found it to be very poignant. The user KtO pointed out that, of course, it’s racist, suggesting that it was the result of removing art history from the classroom. They went on to argue some other things as well as creating a dichotomy between art and science that I don’t agree with, but their initial statement is something worth thinking about.
Of course it is racist. But, this is mostly the result of removing Art History education from core curriculums. Especially when it comes to pre-history. Science based or focused educations result in conclusions based on projecting modern understandings onto ancient humans. https://t.co/cIRHY3qVfo
Initially, I was going to write a whole defense about how anthropology and archaeology do acknowledge art and are very aware of art history. But that wasn’t the point, the point was that children aren’t being taught this. They’re not being taught how to look at artwork critically and to think about art, so when they are finally exposed to things like rock art, they make the “looks-a-like-is-a-like” fallacy.
I’m trying to remember if I had any art history classes when I was in grade school and high school. I think there was something art history like offered at one of the high schools I attended, but as far as grade school, I can’t recall ever having more than an hour of art class a week. My generation was the beginning of the culling of “nonessential” classes like art and music and humanities. And look where that’s gotten us…
Which has me agreeing with KtO on this. People don’t seem to understand that art history is more than just looking at pretty pictures throughout history. It is the critical connection of art with the viewer. Of trying to understand the mind of the artist who created the piece, what they were trying to communicate, and understanding the time an environment that the piece was created in. Sure there’s art out there where it’s simply just what it appears to be; sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar. But, many times artists are trying to create a deeper connection and meaning with their art through symbolism. This can be something as simple as having a small image in the painting somewhere to show a connection between the painting and the object, or it can be as complicated as the color scheme and choice of line weight.
I am not an art historian. I know what I know because I spend a good deal of time in art museums, and have had a brief introduction to art history because of my archaeology and anthropology degrees. I’m sure like any field, there is a great deal of back and forth, and theory, and all that good stuff. But in the end, art history really is another form of critical thinking, as are most humanities classes, and thus their loss from the classroom is a reduction in teaching critical thinking to our children.
And where does that get us?
Well, it gets us things like Ancient Aliens. Where ancient alien theorists go out and find random bits of ancient culture and then decide that it couldn’t possibly be what the archaeologists and historians have decided it is, it must be rocket ships, and airplanes, and alien people. Why else would things look the way they do?
“It looks like a man operating sophisticated spaceship dials to me, not the depiction of the man’s soul leaving his body,” to paraphrase Von Daniken’s arguments. Is he a Mayan specialist? Does he know much about the Mayan culture? Has he spent years, if not decades studying the artistic representation of the Mayas and their complicated image-based language? That would be a no on all accounts. Von Daniken simply looked at a picture one day and decided that it looked like a guy in a spaceship to him, and never thought any more critically about it after that. And yes, I feel comfortable calling Von Daniken out on this.
Art history is critical thinking, and this is an argument I’m comfortable making. Many things that on the surface appear frivolous are actually there to make us think about things at a deeper level. Why do we do philosophy and logic, so that we learn how to break down arguments and understand the difference between evidence and feelings. Why do we do math, so that we can understand procedure and the logical flow of one thing to another. Why do we study music, because it’s a useful way of learning how to interpret our surroundings and allows us to be critical both socially and politically. And again with art, why must we learn about art? Because our eyes cannot be relied on to give us the truth at all times, we must learn to engage critically with things that we see and hear and experience to understand what is real and possible versus what is fanciful.
So maybe next time you hear a great school talking about removing another humanities class from the roster to make room for teaching to the test, even if you don’t have kids, maybe weigh-in and ask them not to remove it. Yes, you can take these sorts of classes as adults, retrain your brain, technology, or weaknesses in critical thinking and strive to build that muscle much like a bodybuilder. But wouldn’t it just be easier if we taught this from the beginning? Isn’t that what school is supposed to be doing anyway? Shouldn’t they be teaching us to think and to engage, to be critical of the world around us, to make logical arguments and be able to actually have an argument that doesn’t result in name-calling and personal attacks?
So yes I think KtO is correct, a loss in art history and art education, in general, has contributed to the popularity of Ancient Aliens, and the spread of their frankly racist message. Will art history as adults fix this problem? As adults, we have to make a conscious effort to recognize there is a problem and then work towards correcting it. So it really comes to a person by person basis for identifying a shortcoming and choosing to overcome it. I suppose the answer to this question then comes to how strong is your faith in humanity? And also we should put our education back in the schools.
Hi! I’m an archaeologist who likes games, video games, gaming, horror, the supernatural, and debunking pseudoarchaeology. Check out my vids for more on the above topics, and toss us a coin if you like what I do.
So there’s a few unifying threads when it comes to certain pseudoarchaeology ideas — one of which being the concept of the Transoceanic Traveler. I recently finished reading a book called The Path of the Spiritual Sun. It’s a guidebook for a new religion that a gentleman named Beelzebub is trying to hype.
The central premise of Beelzebub’s argument in his book is that all religions stem from an ancient race of sun worshipers who existed before the biblical flood. That premises alone is a bit of a bag of worms to unpack, but then we start looking deeper into this mysterious vanished race, and what we find is not surprising at all. I did a podcast recently talking about my thoughts and feelings over the book itself. What I wanted to concentrate on here is the idea of the great white race of ancient ancestors who come bearing culture from across the oceans.
Now sometimes you see this theme, and it’s small scale-wise. It’s usually just one culture supplanting another. An example I can think of is the Lost Tribes of Israel coming to the Americas. (this did not actually happen.) Clearly, the Lost Tribes of Israel were not some great global master race, but according to some fringe theorists, they were the ones that brought civilization to the Americans. (again, this did not actually happen.)
A lot of times, you also see this concept of the Transoceanic Traveler echoed in ancient astronauts or ancient alien theories. If you have followed the Ancient Aliens’ TV series for the past ten years, you will probably know that one of the major linchpins of the ancient alien theory is that all Gods across all cultures are actually aliens. Prehistoric man assigned them the role of God because they were unable to conceive of anything else. I think the Ancient Aliens’ theory is probably the most extreme version of the Transoceanic Traveler simply because those culture bringers had to come across the vast sea of space.
Beelzebub brings this Transoceanic Traveler idea back to its ideological roots. That idea that prehistoric humans were incapable of creating their own culture and so required outside influence. Now, like most proponents of the Transoceanic Traveler idea, we don’t know where the original father race of people came from. Perhaps they grew out of the ground organically? Perhaps they are actually Gods? Who knows, no one ever bothers to provide too much of the back story for the fictional Transoceanic Traveler. What we do know is that these father races are almost always without exception a white race of men. I say of men because you very rarely see any mention of women when it comes to these theories.
Anytime women are mentioned in a Transoceanic Traveler story, it’s almost always as merely a vessel for the next generation. They’re simply there for the white man to have sex with and then bear sons to. On the very rare occasion, you will see some goddess relegated to the ranks of the enlightened father race, but it’s very rare.
So I’m sure at this point we can clearly see a few of the major issues with the Transoceanic Traveler idea. It is inherently racist in that it completely erases prehistoric cultures’ abilities to have agency over their own religion and culture and history. It also usually only applies to cultural groups that are perceived as being non-Caucasian, or more specifically non-Aryan (a term used verbatim in Beelzebub’s book). Now, unless you’re talking about a certain brand of wool, using the term Aryan is usually a red flag.
The Transoceanic Traveler it is also inherently sexist because it doesn’t include women at all unless they are a sexualized object, or merely a vessel of reproduction. This makes women nothing more than objects of the past, puts them in a position of being nonhuman. This seems to be a difficult idea for certain people to understand, that relegating women to a mear function is inherently sexist and dehumanizing. Not sure why that’s a hard concept for some, but apparently it is.
Also, by insisting that all of the great minds throughout history are direct descendants of these white male Transoceanic Travelers also erases any contribution of anyone who does not fall into that category. We see this with Ancient Aliens fairly frequently. Their claim that the great men throughout history are either the hybrid byproducts of male-alien / human-female interbreeding or the direct result of alien genetic manipulation.
It erases cultural achievement, cultural agency, and cultural independence, and pushes the narrative that male is best.
The truly insidious part of all of this is, however, that most people, I believe, who promote this idea of a Transoceanic Traveler culture bringing father race, are not themselves actively racist and sexist. I believe they just lack the tools to see the issues in this fanciful idea. For whatever reason, the Transoceanic Traveler story holds a lot of power over some. Perhaps it is the idea of mystery, the idea of a suppressed past, the Everyman myth where the average guy outsmarts the educated elite. Maybe it’s a small combination of all these things. But when you look past the romanticized adventure of the idea of travelers from another world, and you start seeing the inherent issues with an idea like this, and the problems that arise trying to make a statement like that true, you have a hard time being able to accept Transoceanic Travelers at face value.
Putting aside the fact that there is absolutely no archaeological evidence to support Transoceanic Travelers at the level of culture bringing father races. Yes, there is evidence that there was trade among many different ancient cultures going further back than written records were kept. Again this should not be something surprising, if two groups share a cultural border that is easily crossed, they’re going to cross it. But to see one culture completely supplant another, especially over a distance such as the oceans during a time where vessels were not built to go that far, that’s never been seen in the archaeological record. I could make the argument that historically it doesn’t hold up either outside of myths and legends, but I’m not that familiar with every historical text ever.
I call Transoceanic Travelers an idea over a hypothesis because it is not built in the formal way of a hypothesis, and therefore can be neither a hypothesis nor theory. It’s merely an idea that some choose to cling to in the absence of evidence and in the presence of problematic issues like sexism and racism. One must choose to accept Transoceanic Travelers. There is no evidence to compel us to accept it as fact. And I think once people understand that better, and examine within themselves why they need the transoceanic traveler idea to be true, I hope many will abandon the idea, and perhaps look at what archaeology actually tells us about the rich histories of the variety of human cultures around the globe.
I wasn’t around whenIn Search Of was on the air, but my dad loved this show. He liked it so much he watched the reruns when I was a kid, and that got me hooked. To be fair, it didn’t take much to get me hooked on something sci-fi and fantasy-ish. I like to tell people I’m a second generation gamer, my parents teaching me how to play DnD at a very early age, and I was fed a steady diet of 80’s and 90’s SF/Fantasy movies, TV, books, and comics. I regret nothing.
Oddly enough though, my dad didn’t buy into anything he watched in these shows. I’m pretty sure he believed alien life was out there, somewhere, but here on earth? Nope.
I also remember wanting to own a whole set of those Time-Life Book seriesThe Enchanted World andMysteries of the Unknown. I still love this stuff (and still want a full set of both) but I don’t believe any of it. I think that’s a gift of my early exposure to role-play and my parent’s critical love of SF/F (and horror, thanks mom).
Today, I have the delightful hobby of still watching shows that build off the success of In Search Of, and tearing them apart like a rabid raccoon.
It’s usually pretty entertaining to me, and as I’ve grown with it over the years, I moved from simply making fun of the things that “clearly don’t make sense, dude,” to wondering why people believe in the things they do and how I can tap that to try and change things. It’s a mental shift and I suspect one tied to gradual maturity.
Thomas Jefferson supposedly said, “Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions.” But what makes AccentAliens unintelligible to me, and so damn believable to others? Why are so many people, oft of a certain demographic, so desperate for White Europeans to be the first to the Americas? Why do people believe the original Shakespeare manuscripts are buried on Oak Island?
More importantly, can they articulate their reasons for their beliefs, or are they amorphous, out of focus, beyond their own understanding? If that’s true, is it fair for me to simply boil it down to Racism, Colonialism, and Ignorance? Ugly words for ugly concepts, but does that make me wrong? How can I explain this to people, about their beliefs, getting them to think about it and without offending them?
I don’t know, which is why I enjoy this. It’s mental exercise for me, keeps me honest, makes me question myself, my own beliefs and the world around me. Also, there’s a not-so-small part of me that just loves the ridiculousness of it all, and well, it’s funny in a laugh-or-you’ll-cry way. I swear….
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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!
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.
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.
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:
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!
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.
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]
Let’s continue with our re-look at the Nazca Lines!
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].
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].
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…
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].
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.
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 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].
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:
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.
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.
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.
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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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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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.
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.
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.