Posts Tagged With: Hoax

The Genetic Disk (Updated)

NOTE: In an earlier version of this post I mentioned that I had been unsuccessful at contacting Dr. Vera M. F. Hammer to get her comments on the Genetic Disk. After this post was published, and through the wonders of twitter, I was able to get in contact with her and she gave me some great insights into her involvement with the disk. Also, I’ve learned a bit about mineralogy and the differences between chert and schits and so have changed parts of the post due to this new information. I will note the areas that have been changed with an UPDATED tag. Thanks again to Dr. Hammer and to Edward Habsburg (@EdwardHabsburg)  who connected us. 

The red flags on this one just fly through the air. Just about nothing about this “artifact” makes sense. Honestly, it’s a little hard to know where to start here with this one.  I guess a description is in order.

The disk is said to be made out of lydite and measures 22 cm in diameter and weighs 2 Kg.  It’s apparently solid black in color and shaped like a Bi Disk. It’s carved on both faces, and has random images carved on it depicting what some are calling “the cycle of life.”

I can’t find any official origin story for the disk. What I can cobble together from the websites that focus on the disk is only that it was found somewhere in Columbia by a gentleman named Jaime Gutierrez-Lega, who  is a well known industrial designer in Columbia. At some point after it was found it was taken to the Museum of Natural Sciences of Vienna, Austria, and reportedly studied by Dr. Vera M. F. Hammer. She somehow managed to date the stone and apparently assigned it to the Pre-Columbian Muisca-culture.

Now, lets really begin to break this one down, because I’m rather surprised this one fools anyone once you really start to look at it.

First, There is no account or record of the Genetic Disk ever being discovered. This is kind of unusual because even fake artifacts have origin stories usually listing time(s) and place(s), often giving details of how the artifacts were found and by who. This time all we have is “The Disk was found in Columbia by Jaime Gutierrez-Lega.” This doesn’t tell us anything, and it’s sure  doesn’t help create confidence in authenticity.  Columbia is a big place, where in Columbia was it found? How did Gutierrez-Lega discover it? Was he digging with a group or did he just stub his toe on it? Why is there no record of it being discovered? Are there any other witnesses to the discovery? What did he do to preserve it? Where did he take it? Who else saw this artifact? Does Mr. Gutierrez-Lega even know he’s associated with the Disk or is he a convenient target for the conspiratorial minded?

What I have been able to cobble together about the Genetic Disk I’ve found on a variety of personal blogs, that I will list in the resources below. However, other than repeating the same shoddy details, they mainly just marvel over how cool the carvings are on the Disk and how they clearly show “the process of life” including two naked individuals, images of sperm, fertilized eggs, embryos, and some other random squiggles.  I mean, these are cool images, very sleek and modern looking, but they are not evidence of anything by themselves.

(UPDATE) Second. The claim here is that lydite is as hard as granite and is also delicate and flaky, making it too hard for prehistoric people to carve and too delicate for them to carve in such detail anyway. The first problem is that the way people are trying to support these claims is comparing the MOHS scale reading of lydite to that of granite. Never-minding that lydite and granite are two completely different types of rock (Hammer 2013), the MOHS scale  does not apply to rock, so the hardness of the rock used to carve the disk is not relevant (Hammer 2013)

As to not being able to carve something like this mysterious delicate and flaky rock, I’d like to point out that prehistoric peoples were incredibly gifted at carving shell and thin sheets of Mica into gorgets and other forms of jewelry. They were just as capable at carving delicate materials as they were crafting stone tools.

Now, that’s not saying I believe that the Genetic Disk is made out of any of these materials. There is nothing supporting the descriptions of the Disk. It is my opinion that the stone the Disk is made of is not lydite at all. Dr. Hammer gave a good deal of information on the actual  composition of the material of the disk, and I am leaving that for the section below.

(UPDATED) Third. Lets begin to look at the people involved with the disk.

The supposed finder of the Genetic Disk is Jaime Gutierrez-Lega, who  is an Industrial Designer known for his modern and sleek designs in his artwork. We know Gutierrez-Lega is a real person, but I have no idea what, if anything, he has to do with archaeology. I can’t really say more than that with any certainty. I have not been able to find a way to contact him. However, if this story is remotely true, I find it very suspicious that an modern artist found an artifact out of the blue, that looks very sleek and very modern in design. I’m not saying Mr. Gutierrez-Lega has done anything, it’s my guess he’s probably not involved, or if he is, he’s been horribly taken out of context and his goodwill taken advantage of.

Which brings us to the next participant. As I stated at the beginning of this post, Dr. Vera M.F. Hammer recently contacted me to answer my questions about her involvement with the disk. She was very kind to do so, and it was very exciting to talk to someone living who is involved in something like this. I have reproduced  Dr. Hammer’s account here.

Dr. Hammer is a Mineralogist, not a Geologist as some sites (myself included, sorry.) have said.  Since 1992 she has worked as a curator for the Natural History Museum in Vienna, Department of Mineralogy and Petrography.  According to Dr. Hammer she first encountered the disk in 2001 through Mr. Klaus Dona, an individual I didn’t touch on last time, but will get to this time. But first, Dr. Hammer’s account:

“I was asked in the year 2001 by Mr. Klaus Dona, who curated the exhibition “Unsolved Mysteries” in the same year in Vienna, to make XRD analyses of some of the exhibited objects. Most of the objects include new materials and I told him that this were fakes, but this is not what he wants to hear… Even other scientists from our Museum told the owners of the objects, and Mr. Klaus Dona, that all that stuff is not what they believed. Some of the exhibited objects were curiosities by the nature, others man made new stuff which you can buy in any touristic shop in that areas. But anyway, our comment about the so called „genetic disc“ was only that it consists of feldspar, quartz and mica, which was proved by XRD measurement.

My former director who was petrologist said, that this rock could be lydite (a grey to black fine grained schist) or an artificial product made of this minerals. I never classified the disk or any other of these objects to a special cultural period or give any statement of age, which in fact are not part of my competence. So, this was the only information we gave, not more! All interpretation of symbols and signs, age or anything else arise in the head of the owner and/or the curator of the exhibition! There was no author given in the catalogue about “Unsolved Mysteries”, so in fact, I don’t know who writes all that nonsense!”

Dr. Hammer’s statement pretty much concludes this whole thing. The one and only official researcher who is mentioned as having studied the Disk tells us it is a fake.

So let’s take that closer look at Mr. Klaus Dona.

Mr. Dona appears to be based out of Austria and calls himself a Spiritual Archaeologist. I’m not sure what that means, but I’m pretty skeptical it’s a real sub-field of archaeology. Mr. Dona’s website is Unsolved Mysteries, where he sells some books, has some more extensive explanations of the Genetic Disk and other artifacts. In his explanation for the Disk he says “Geologists at the University of Bogotá date it to a prehistoric epoch. The most recent examinations were unable to find evidence of faking.” Except for the researchers at Natural History Museum in Vienna telling him they were fakes and also the fact that Geologists aren’t going to be able to date an artifact, also I notice he’s stopped giving the names of his researchers.

Mr. Dona also has a hard time keeping his own facts straight. In a video on YouTube titled “Klaus Dona – The Hidden History of the Human Race – Must Watch” at about 25:50 he begins to talk about the Disk. He says there is no way to identify the culture that produced the artifacts and that the way the artifacts were dated was by guessing the artifacts were older than any known civilization in the area, therefore they must be 6,000 years old. Very scientific. He doesn’t mention how any of these things were found, where exactly they were found, why they are considered older than all other civilizations in the area, or who the researchers were that helped date and identify and interpret the Disk et al. He gives no evidence whatsoever to back up any of his claims.

Fourth. It is really hard to date rock, and assuming you could get a date, you would literally be dating the rock itself, not the artifact that was made out of the rock. There is often no organic material on rock to date to get an age for the artifact, and so, often the age of rock artifacts is reliant on the context of the area it was found in, or, as in the case of stone tools, the style in which the artifact was made.  So how they got a date for the Disk is beyond me. Unless people are trying to say that the age of the rock is concurrent with the age of the Muisca-culture, in that case, there is no evidence to support this. Though according the Mr. Dona, they are basically just making it up. 

Fifth and lastly. I don’t see any similarities between the artwork on the Disk and the artwork left behind by the Muisca-culture. The few Muisca items I’ve seen don’t look anything like the Disk. Which I guess is the point, but if this was a culture that lived along side of the Muisca, why is there no other evidence of their presence? If this was a more advanced people, visiting their vast knowledge on an ancient peoples, why is there no further evidence for their presence? If this was the work of aliens, then why is there no further evidence….well you get the point.

(Updated) My Observations.

The Genetic Disk is just so bizarre to me because, if you ask any questions at all about it, the whole story begins to fall apart. The one named researcher who supposedly helped date and decode the disk clearly did not. Not only that, she clearly told Mr. Dona that the Disk and it’s related artifacts were fakes. The museum where the Disk was supposedly studied is a fake place. There is no documentation, fake or otherwise, to support where and how the disk was found. The material of the disk could probably be man-made, meaning that the Disk could have been (probably is) a cast. Mr. Dona, being informed of this, continues to change his story about the Disk, evolving it to meet his needs. I mean, the only thing I am convinced of is that somewhere there is an object that looks like the picture above.  There is absolutely nothing supporting the validity or reality of the disk.


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Comment below or send an email to ArchyFantasies@gmail.com

Resources:

Hammer, Vera M. F.

2013    Personal Correspondence via Email. December 17, 2013.

N.d    Personal reference page – http://www.nhm-wien.ac.at/en/research/mineralogy__petrography/staff/vera_m_f_hammer. Accessed 12/11/2013

Hurst, K. Kris.

N.d.   Musica Culture. About.com http://archaeology.about.com/cs/glossary/g/muisca.htm”>http://archaeology.about.com/cs/glossary/g/muisca.htm. Accessed 12/11/2013

Questionable Resources:

Above Top Secret. The Awesome Mystery of the Pre Columbian “Genetic Disc”. Astonishing Knowledge!  http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread770144/pg1.  Accessed 12/11/2013

Klaus Dona, Spiritual Archaeologist. http://projectcamelot.org/klaus_dona.html. Accessed 12/11/2013

Onovus: Ancient Mysteries and Present Discoveries. Genetic Disc | Advanced Biological Knowledge in Ancient Times. https://onovus.wordpress.com/tag/genetic-disk/. Accessed 12/11/2013

Unsolved Mysteries: The Genetic Disc. http://unsolved-mysteries.info/english/objects/e01_01c.htm. Accessed 12/11/2013

Categories: Weird Archaeology | Tags: , , , , , | 59 Comments

Where the Vikings Weren’t – Beardmore Relics

This week we have another puzzler, unlike the Wisconsin Viking Horse Skull, we know these artifacts are real. The question becomes, how did they get here?

beardmore relics

The Beardmore Relics. Image via Currelly 1939

In 1930 or 1931, a gold prospector named James Edward Dodd was prospecting just south of the Blackwater River (Elliott 1941a:254.) Dodd says while prospecting he blew up an old tree stump and a small clump of trees. When the smoke cleared he went to shovel the remains away and in the debris he says he found several iron objects (Currelly 1939:4, Elliott 1941a:254.)

According to Dodd, these objects were initially of no interest to him, so he left them there on the side of the ditch for a while. At some point he decided to go back for them, apparently in an attempt to see if anyone would buy them (Currelly 1939:4.)

As Dodd tells it, no one really showed in any interest for almost 10 years. He eventually took them to Port Arthur, Ontario and showed them to an Aaron Lougheed who then mentioned them to a John Jacob who went to Dodd’s home to see the bits of iron (Currelly 1939:4.) Lougheed and Jacob were so impressed by Dodd’s artifacts that they went to the local public library and through their own research they decided the artifacts were indeed Viking in origin (Currelly 1939:4.)

Armed with this conclusion, Jacob decided to contact C. T. Currelly at the Royal Ontario Museum of Archaeology. Apparently, nothing came of this call, and Dodd decided to again either throw away the iron bits or sell them to whoever would buy (Currelly 1939:5.) This time Dodd reached out to an Ontario geologist named E.M. Burwash, who again tried to contact C. T. Currelly, but again, this apparently went nowhere (Currelly 1939:5.)

Dodd couldn’t catch a break until one O.C. Elliott then at the Collegiate Institute in Kingston, Ontario saw the things Dodd was trying to hock, recognized them for what they were, and then sent a drawing of the items to Currelly personally (Currelly 1939:5.) At last Currelly got the message. He took one look at the picture, realized that they were indeed Viking weapons, and immediately had Dodd bring the artifacts in (Currelly 1939:5.)

Currelly judged the weapons to be a set, describing two bits of a sword, an ax head, and what could be shield grip (some say this is rattle). He concluded that the artifacts were made around 1000 A.D. and speculated that the weapons were part of a Viking burial. So impressed, Currelly purchased the artifacts for the Royal Ontario Museum (Currelly 1939:5), who still own them today.

This is where the story of the artifacts themselves ends. The Beardmore relics are real; they are over 1,000 years old; and the Royal Ontario Museum had them on display for about 20 years before they were removed due to controversy (Feder 2010:40.) However, the story of the Beardmore relics continues on in a massive “He said – He said” debacle.

From the beginning there were issues with Dodd’s story. Currelly’s peers began their own investigations and holes in Dodd’s story began to appear (Elliott 1941a & 1941b, Carpenter 1957, Godfrey 1955.) There were a number of discrepancies in the timing of Dodd’s discovery. Though he did have a few friends saying they saw the relics in Dodd’s possession after the discovery, many of these accounts can’t seem to get their dates to match up (Elliott 1941b, Carpenter 1957, Godfrey 1955.)

Also there were the signed affidavits of Eli Ragotte, J.M. Hansen and the Widdow of Jens Bloch stating that the relics really belonged to Hanson as collateral due to a loan he’d given to Bloch (Elliott 1941b: 278, Godfrey 1955:42, Carpenter 1957:877, Feder 2010:40.) Bloch came into possession of the artifacts by way of his deceased father, who had a collection when the Bloch’s lived in Norway. Bloch reportedly brought some of this collection to America with him, against Norwegian law (Elliott 1941b: 278.) Apparently, Bloch passed away before recovering the items, and Dodd, who rented Hansen’s house, helped himself to the relics.

Also in question was Dodd’s own character. Apparently, the man was quite the hoaxster and his knack for storytelling was well known in Port Arthur, Ontario. He was known at the local bar as “Liar Dodd” (Carpenter 1957:876) and would often ‘borrow’ high grade gold ore from his friends and then try to pass if off as ore he had found on his claims (Carpenter 1957:876.)  He was also frequently accused of “salting” his claim (Carpenter 1957:876.)

The most damming evidence turned out to be a sworn statement from Walter Dodd, the stepson of Dodd, stating that he had seen his father plant the artifacts before “discovering” them later (Feder 2010:40.) Walter had been present, according to Dodd’s statements, when Dodd discovered the items (Currelly 1939:4.) This final statement on the matter caused the Royal Ontario Museum to pull the artifacts from display (Feder 2010:40.)

But really all the evidence we have up to this point is really just one person’s word against another. Dodd is a dubious character, but that doesn’t mean that he couldn’t have really found these items. Still, sworn statements carry legal weight, and they shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. But what can the relics themselves tell us?

Let’s consider the type and condition of the relics here. T.L. Tanton of the Dominion Geological Survey, was familiar with the soil and geology of the Beardmore area and gave his professional opinion that iron relics, like the Beardmore relics, should not have survived 900 years buried in the ground beneath a clump of trees in that area (Elliott 1941a:261.) Arguments were made at the time, that there were lots of iron artifacts all over the world that survived long term burial. However, Tanton’s opinion here should hold some weight because soil acidity, salt content, and moisture content change from area to area, so it really all depends on where the artifacts are buried. Tanton, being familiar with the area around Beardmore would know better than anyone if iron could survive the soil there.

The sword in particular is of great interest. The design is that of an eastern Norwegian style that didn’t travel much outside of its origin area (Elliott 1941b.) Also, the sword apparently predates the rest of the relics by about a century, bringing into question the weapons being a set (Elliott 1941b, Carpenter 1957.)

The overall conditions of the relics at the time that the Royal Ontario Museum purchased them were pretty bad. Currelly (1939) mentions immediacy putting them through a preservation technique to prevent further erosion. Elliott (1941b) calls this fragile condition into question in light of Dodd’s apparent rough handling of them. Could they have really survived being blown up, shoveled aside, being left to the elements, and handled bare-handed by several individuals? Elliott didn’t think so, neither do I.

The Royal Ontario Museum tired to salvage their loss, changing the plaque next to the relics to a more ambiguous statement before giving up and putting them into storage in the 1920’s (Currelly 1941, Feder 2010:40.) Still, Walter Dodd’s statement was too much in the end. However, the Relics were given new life in the 1990’s.

In the 90’s the Royal Ontario Museum pulled the Relic’s out of storage and put them back on display, this time  not as evidence of Vikings in America, but evidence of an unfortunate hoax that the museum had unwittingly fell for (Feder 2010:40.)

In the end the story of the Beardmore relics was deemed fake, despite the relics themselves being authentic. An interesting twist in  the saga of where the Vikings weren’t.

Go to  Columbus was Second-ish: Who Discovered America Anyway? or Where the Vikings Weren’t for more on this series.

Resources:

Carpenter, Edmund

1957    Further Evidence on the Beardmore Relics. American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 59, No. 5 (Oct., 1957), pp. 875-878. Accessed: 05/11/2013

Currelly, C.T.

1939   Viking Wepons Found Near Beardmore, Ontario. Canadian Historical Review Vol. 20 No. 1 (March. 1939). Pp. 4-7. Accessed: 9/18/2013

1941    Further Comments Regarding the Beardmore Find. Canadian Historical Review Vol. 22 No. 3 (Sept. 1941). Pp. 271-275. Accessed: 9/18/2013

Elliott, O.C.

1941a    The Case of the Beardmore Relics. Canadian Historical Review Vol. 22 No. 3 (Sept. 1941). Pp. 254 – 271

1941b    Further Comments Regarding the Beardmore Find. Canadian Historical Review Vol. 22 No. 3 (Sept. 1941). Pp. 275-279. Accessed: 9/18/2013

Feder,  Kenneth L.

2010    Encyclopedias of Dubious Archaeology: From Atlantis to the Walam Olum. Santa Barbara, CA. Greenwood.

Godfrey, William S.

1955    Vikings in America: Theories and Evidence. American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 57, No. 1, Part 1 (Feb., 1955), pp. 35-43. 05/11/2013

Categories: Columbus was Second-ish: Who Discovered America Anyway, Where the Vikings Weren't | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Where the Vikings Weren’t – Wisconsin Viking Horse Skull

So here is an interesting puzzle for us to consider. Not because there is any evidence that the artifact was left by Vikings, but because of the controversy over if the artifact is the real fake one or not.

A little background is required here:

Back in 1935 and 1936, Ralph Linton and W.C. McKern, from the University of Wisconsin, led summer excavations at Spencer Lake Mound (Hirst). Their team of college students those years was a who’s-who of soon-to-be well recognized Archaeologists of the 1940’s. From all accounts they used good recovery and recording procedures of the time and published their findings in peer reviewed journals (McKern 1942, 1964, P. 1964, Ritzenthaler 1964).

During the excavation they encountered several burials and recovered several artifacts, one of which was a horse skull missing its lower jaw (McKern 1964:120). The skull was removed, noted, and later identified by the Milwaukee Public Museum’s Mammologist as being a Western Mustang, a breed of horse introduced to the Wisconsin area in the early 20th century (Ritzenthaler 1964:121). McKern mentions the skull in his article in the Wisconsin Magazine of History in 1942 along with the other artifacts found, suggesting the skull as evidence of western influence during the time the mounds were built (McKern 1942:157). He further supports his idea of western influence with a piece of charred wood, apparently found along with the skull, demonstrated evidence of being cut by a steel ax (McKern 1942:157).

Now, at no point did anyone ever think the skull was evidence of anyone other than Native Americans, specifically the Chippewa (McKern 1942:157), and 20th century Europeans were involved in this situation. There is no suggestion or evidence that anyone other than the above mentioned groups were involved.

But let’s beat this dead horse anyway shall we?

Despite being debunked over a hundred years ago by Cyrus Thomas in 1894, and fifty years before McKern’s excavation at Spencer Lake Mound, some individuals still want to believe that the mounds, found all over the American Midwest, were not built by Native Americans. Some claim Ancient Hebrews, some go with white Europeans, others use the old fallback of Ancient Astronauts. In this case we’re asked to believe that these specific mounds were built by early Vikings, because of the horse skull.

For starts, the horse skull was identified as that of a Western Mustang. If it had been a horse of a Viking explorer we would be expecting it to be more like the Norwegian Fjord Horse. According to the Norwegian Fjord Horse Registry, this is one of the oldest breeds in the world, selectively bred for 2000 years, and found in Norse burial sites in Europe.

I’m guessing the similarity between the European Norse burials found with horse skulls and this one found in an old burial mound is the link needed to make this a Viking burial. Otherwise I can’t figure out why there is a link here. There are no other artifacts that were recovered that might lead one to believe this was Nordic in origin. The recovered remains were not identified as anything other than Native American. There isn’t even a random runestone to puzzle over. As far as I can see there is no reason to think this was Viking in nature.

The real controversy over the horse skull was whether or not it was planted there as a hoax.

See, in 1942 as McKern was preparing to publish a paper on the Spencer Lake Mound excavation, along with his thoughts on the horse skull, a mysterious gentleman came forwards and claimed to have planted the skull in the mound (McKern 1964, P. 1964, Ritzenthaler 1964).

The gentlemen requested to be known only as Mr. P., and came to McKern’s office to tell him an interesting story about his childhood spent pot-hunting with a friend.

“The boys dug a sizeable hole, consuming the better part of a hot afternoon, without encountering any kind of a recognizable feature. They were about to backfill the opening when one of them suggested that they bury a horse’s skull that lay along the edge of a nearby field a short distance away. This seemed like a brilliant suggestion to the undisciplined minds of the boys, so the skull was retrieved and carefully laid in an oriented position at the bottom of the excavation before backfilling commenced. Anticipation of the probable results of this piece of mischief somehow eased the monotony of the backfilling, and the miscreants mutually agreed that in about two hundred years some archaeologist would dig up the skull and conclude that he had found something really worthwhile (Mr. P. 1964:120).”

McKern’s 1936 publication in American Antiquity mentioned the skull as an important find, but he puzzled over its presence in the absence of any other western trade goods;

“The most important discovery in this mound was the complete skull of a horse found associated with one of the burials. This was clearly an inclusive feature, and dictates a proto-historic or early historic date for the erection of the tumulus. However, the absence of any trade objects of European provenience, or any other indication of contact with white traders, renders it difficult to ascribe to the mound an age under two hundred years. It is highly improbable that the horse could have been introduced into Wisconsin from the northern Plains earlier than two hundred fifty years ago. The time limitations so defined point definitely to the Dakota Sioux as the author of these relatively large northwestern Wisconsin mounds (McKern 1936 via Baerreis 1964:104).”

However, when McKern published “The Clam River Focus” in 1963 he left out the skull (Baerreis 1964:104). This caught the attention of reviewer David Baerreis, who apparently aked McKern why he’d left it out.

In a series of letters in the 1964 issue of Wisconsion Archaeologist Vol. 45 number 2, Baerreis, McKern, Mr. P., and Robert Ritzenthaler discuss the validity of the horse skull as an artifact and of the validity of Mr. P’s confession.

In brief, McKern did hear Mr. P’s confession, but in light of the plank found along with the skull, and the fact that there didn’t appear to be any evidence of previous digging in the Spencer Lake Mound, McKern didn’t think the skull was the same skull Mr. P buried (McKern 1964:118). Also, McKern felt that Mr. P’s description of the mound in which he buried the skull didn’t fit the description of Spencer Lake Mound (McKern 1964:119). McKern did believe that Mr. P had buried a skull as a childhood prank, he just didn’t think it was the same one he found (McKern 1964:118).

To back up McKern’s idea was the assurance of the rest of the excavation crew that there was no evidence that the ground around the burial with the horse skull had been disturbed (McKern 1964:118). The ground was described as hard packed, and the skull, along with the rest of the remains, had to be removed with smaller feature tools because the ground was packed into the skull (McKern 1964:118).

McKern did note that a previously dug pit fitting the description of Mr. P’s was located on the Clam Lake Mound not much further away, but it was quickly identified and was empty upon re-excavation (McKern 1964:119). McKern suggested that Mr. P was confused as to which mound he had dug in as a child, and that after he and his friends backfilled their hole, someone else came along and re-dug the hole hoping to find something (McKern 1964:119). (Apparently this is a common occurrence.)

A few things to point out here.

  • 1) It’s really easy to identify previously dug/disturbed soils in excavations, especially when they are less then 30-ish years old. So, it’s easy to believe McKern when he says he has no reason to suspect the skull was planted. Still, Ritzenthaler suggests that the youth’s may have dug the pit from the side of the mound and then wedged the skull into it (Ritzenthaler 1964:116). I’m not sure how convinced I am at this one, there still would have been evidence of disturbance, and McKern states the ground was packed into the skull making removal difficult. This wouldn’t be the case if this skull had just been placed there.
  • 2) There is the wood plank that had been chopped with a steel ax. Also, McKern and Baerreis both suggest the Spencer Lake Mound was younger than the Clam Lake Mounds, which would allow for the possibility that the mound could have been built in 1700’s which would allow for both western contact and the presence of horses (Baerreis 1964:104).
  • 3) Mr. P’s story suggests that the boy’s didn’t find anything interesting in their pot-hunting dig, there was clearly a burial with many other artifacts associated with it. Now it’s possible they stopped digging right before they hit pay dirt, but it’s been my experience that you see burials a while before you find them, in the form of darker soils, feature shapes, and the occasional artifact.
  • 4) Mr. P’s story also says that the mound they dug into was the ‘longest’ of a series of mounds, and the Spencer Lake Mound apparently is a solitary mound and is tall, but not long. However, the cluster of Clam Lake Mounds fits the description of Mr. P’s mystery mound, as do several other mound complexes in the area (McKern 1964:118).
  • 5) Ritzenthaler points out that after the skull was examined that there were noticeable chewing marks left behind from rodents gnawing on the skull (Ritzenthaler 1964:116). It’s very common to find rodent gnaw makers on bones, especially when they are left on the surface and exposed to the elements, which is what Ritzenthaler suggests (1964). Rodents will burrow and chew on things, but according to Ritzenthaler, for this to have happened there would have needed to be a maze of rodent tunnels all around the skull, which seems highly unlikely, and wasn’t mentioned by McKern.
  • 6) What are the chances of there being two horse skulls; one burred for real and the other a prank? I’m a good skeptic, I understand chance is greater than one might think, and from the two stories here, I’m beginning to think that’s just what happened.
  • 7) Neither McKern or Mr. P have any reason to be lying here, which makes it even harder to decide. There doesn’t seem to be any motive to either make up a fake hoax or to deny McKern’s account of the skull’s in-situ condition.

From what I can peace together, McKern probably left the horse skull out of his 1963 publication because it was just easier to do so. He still had the wood plank and other bits of dated evidence to base his hypothesis on, he didn’t need the horse skull. Still, it does seem that McKern may have been correct about Mr. P’s story. Since there is no reason to deny that Mr. P did plant a horse skull in some mound during his youth, and there is no reason to deny McKern’s account of discovery and excavation of his horse skull, there seems to be a good chance that there really were two skulls, one planted and lost, and one buried and found.

 

Go to  Columbus was Second-ish: Who Discovered America Anyway? or Where the Vikings Weren’t for more on this series.
———-
Resources:

Griffin, James B.
1964 Review of The Clam River Focus. Wisconsin Archeologist (old series) 45(2):104-111. http://www.ebooksread.com/authors-eng/wisconsin-natural-history-society-archeological-s/the-wisconsin-archeologist-volume-44-46-hci/page-25-the-wisconsin-archeologist-volume-44-46-hci.shtml. Retrieved July 25 2013.

Hirst, K. Kris.
N.d. There Were No Ancient Vikings in Wisconsin? Prank at Spencer Lake Mounds. About.com. http://archaeology.about.com/od/frauds/a/spencer_lake.htm. Retrieved July 25 2013.

Johnson, Annie
2012 Spencer Lake Horse Skull. http://prezi.com/77nbasbxlerv/spencer-lake-horse-skull/ Retrieved July 25 2013.

McKern, W. C.
1964 The Spencer Lake horse skull, Response to Mr. P.’s letter of June 28, 1963. Wisconsin Archeologist 45(2):118-120 http://www.ebooksread.com/authors-eng/wisconsin-natural-history-society-archeological-s/the-wisconsin-archeologist-volume-44-46-hci/page-25-the-wisconsin-archeologist-volume-44-46-hci.shtml. Retrieved July 25 2013.

1942 The first settlers of Wisconsin. Wisconsin Magazine of History 26(2):153-169 http://content.wisconsinhistory.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/wmh/id/29076/rec/19 Retrieved July 25 2013.

Mr. P.
1964 A Burnett County hoax. Wisconsin Archeologist 45(2):120-121 http://www.ebooksread.com/authors-eng/wisconsin-natural-history-society-archeological-s/the-wisconsin-archeologist-volume-44-46-hci/page-25-the-wisconsin-archeologist-volume-44-46-hci.shtml. Retrieved July 25 2013.

Ritzenthaler, Robert
1964 The riddle of the Spencer Lake horse skull. Wisconsin Archeologist 45(2):115-117 http://www.ebooksread.com/authors-eng/wisconsin-natural-history-society-archeological-s/the-wisconsin-archeologist-volume-44-46-hci/page-25-the-wisconsin-archeologist-volume-44-46-hci.shtml. Retrieved July 25 2013.

The Viking Rune.
Top Ten Viking Hoaxes. The Viking Rune: All Things Scandinavian. http://www.vikingrune.com/2009/05/top-ten-viking-hoaxes/ Retrieved July 25 2013.

Categories: Columbus was Second-ish: Who Discovered America Anyway, Those Mysterious Mound Builders, Where the Vikings Weren't | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 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

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