Posts Tagged With: transoceanic travelers

Teotihuacan’s Underground Electrical Mercury Pools.


The 6th article in the Lost History of Ancient America is titled “An Ancient American Mexican Pyramid’s Liquid Mercury” by Frank Joseph.

Like the other articles in the edited volume, this one is brief and short on citations or evidence. What evidence that is offered is re-interpreted to try and hold up Joseph’s buried argument that Europeans brought electricity to the Mesoamerica by teaching them how to use liquid mercury to conduct it. He offers no reason for why or how this happened, and you have to read the final two paragraphs to even understand that this is the overall argument of the article in the first place.

Joseph begins with the 2015 discovery of traces of liquid mercury under the Temple of Quetzalcoatl also known as the Feathered Serpent Pyramid in ancient Teotihuacan. This discovery, made by Julie Gazzola and Sergio Chavez Gomez, director of the Tlalocan Project (Villarreal N.d.), and a graduate student with Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History, was only part of the massive and interesting excavations of an underground tunnel that appears to run from the courtyard in front of the main facade of the temple, to well under the temple itself (Yuhas 2015, Zorich 2015). Gomez discovered the entrance to the tunnel in 2003, and has since discovered five underground chambers, each filled with artifacts, offerings, animal skeletons, and other items that show the importance of women in Teotihuacan society as well as the long reach of their trade (Vance 2014, Yuhas 2015, Zorich 2015). Gomez and his cohorts speculate that the mercury could represent water in the underworld for the Mesoamericans (Yuhas 2015). It could also mark the possible burial chamber of a monarch, or the presence of an important ritual chamber (Vance 2014, Yuhas 2015, Villarreal N.d.).

Joseph attempts to tie this discovery to the tomb of Qin Shi Huang Di (sic) or as it’s better known the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor, Qin Shi Huang (Unesco N.d). This is the same burial complex where the Terracotta soldiers were uncovered. The exposed burial complex, for it is truly a massive undertaking, mirrors the layout of the imperial city of Qin Shi Huang’s time (Unesco N.d). This mirroring reportedly includes using liquid mercury to mimic the lakes and rivers of the Qin’s China (Unesco N.d).

Now, there have been readings taken of the mound over the location of the burial mausoleum, and they do show incredibly high readings of mercury (Qingbo 2007, Moskowitz 2012). However, the ground entombing the mausoleum has not been breached (Moskowitz 2012), and at the time of this writing, we do not know exactly what is going on down there.

That said, this comparison between the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor and the Temple of Quetzalcoatl isn’t that far fetched. More importantly however, I don’t believe Joseph placed it in his article to really show a cultural connection. I think this was a setup for a statement that is made later in the article.

But we’re not done with the Temple of Quetzalcoatl yet. Joseph makes an interesting comment about Quetzalcoatl.

“The Feathered Serpent Pyramid is so called because of the exterior representation of an ‘overseas’ culture bearer, who arrived in the distant past from his Homeland across the Atlantic (Joseph 2017)”.

Joseph is speaking about the god Quetzalcoatl here, and I have never seen these attributes assigned to him. Quetzalcoatl is a god of knowledge, the priesthood, the giver of corn, the creator of books and the calendar, sometimes death and reincarnation, but nothing about being an overseas culture bearer. What’s more, Joseph offers no explanation of where he got his interpretation of the engravings around the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, so we don’t know what he means or who he got this apparently erroneous information from. (I’m willing to update this section if solid evidence comes to light to challenge this.)

So we move back from misinterpretation of god traits to the presence of liquid mercury. Joseph informs us that Rosemary Joyce of UC Berkeley says there are other sites in Mexico with liquid mercury in them (Joseph 2017). To this he is right. Dr. Joyce is a recognized expert in Mesoamerica Culture and the presence of mercury has been discovered at other location in the ancient Mesoamerican world. Joyce outlines several of them in her 2015 blog article Liquid Mercury Found Under Mexican Pyramid. What Joseph ignores from all of the articles he no doubt read in order to write his own, is why the mercury was there in the first place.

As we discussed above with Gazzola and Gomez’ discovery in Teotihuacan, mercury probably was used for its mirrors like properties and it’s apparent similarity to water. Both mirrors and water were sacred to Mesoamerica Culture and used in religious ceremonies. Mirrors were seen as being a portal to the underworld or spirit world, one you could look though, but not interact through (Healy and Blainey 2011). They were probably used for scrying and divination as well, and there are written accounts of bowls of water being used for the same purposes (Healy and Blainey 2011). (We simply don’t have the space to cover how important mirrors were, there are libraries full of research that you can read over about this topic, and a Wiki entry that seems to do a fair job of abbreviating it. I’ve even got a few links in the resources section following the blog.)

Mercury no doubt, also held a place of significance. Not only was the liquid form shinny like a mirror and fluid like water, the red ore it was extracted from, cinnabar, was ground up and used as a red paint on the dead and in art (Healy and Blainey 2011). All of this, the mercury, the cinnabar paint, even mirrors, had a logical place in Mesoamerica Culture that Joseph has to willfully ignore in order to push his argument forward.

But now we get to the formation of Joseph’s argument. After hinting at the presence of mercury at various Mesoamerican sites and probably at the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor, Joseph is points out that Europeans were manufacturing liquid mercury long before either the Chinese or Mesoamerica even discovered it (Joseph 2017). This is more subtle ground work. Keeping in mind the overall goal of the book this article is in, the implication here is that Europeans were the first to ‘discover’ mercury, and so were the source of this information. Thereby implying that any other culture that also has this information must have gotten it from the Europeans.

Joseph makes a leap of logic that is not supported in anything he’s presented so far. He introduces Larry Brian Radka, a retired broadcast engineer and author of books such as Historical Evidence for Unicorns (1995) and Astonomical(sic) revelations or 666 (1997) . The most recent title I can find for him is, The Electric Mirror on the Pharos(sic) Lighthouse and Other Ancient Lighting (2006) which sells for a mere $4,491.00 on Amazon.


Radka is a big believer in ancient electricity and mostly seems to reinterpret Egyptian hieroglyphs to be light bulbs and lamps.

Next Joseph uses a large quote from the Wikipedia entry on Mercury to try and bolster the argument that Mesoamerica mercury was used for electrical purposes. I want to be bothered by this, but I realize that the differences between linking to a Wiki article for reference and using a Wiki article as evidence might be lost on many, so I’m just going to let this one go.

Lastly, Joseph brings up the discovery of a chamber beneath the Temple of the Sun, also located in the Teotihuacan complex (2017). I’m guessing he’s referring to the 1971 discovery of what appeared to be a cave (Heyden 1975) and has been further explored and expanded on (Sugiyama et al. 2013). The tunnel and chambers beneath the Temple of the Sun appear to follow a similar layout like that under the Temple of Quetzalcoatl (Sugiyama et al. 2013). Joseph claims that there was a shelf full of micro thin wafers of Mica on it. If you know anything about mica, you know it basically peels apart in thin sheets, or flakes very easily like that. It’s almost impossible to keep thick sheets of it together. It’s also naturally shiny and was used by the Mesoamerica as (you guessed it) mirrors (Healy and Blainey 2011).

What I can’t place is Joseph’s claim of “wafer thin Mica that had been imported nearly 2,000 years before from Brazil 4,615 air miles away (Joseph 2017).” The only other place I can find this, besides other fringe sites that are quoting Joseph, is a USA Today fluff piece on Teotihuacan that has no references at all. I do know that mica occurs naturally almost everywhere, so I don’t think there would have been a need for the inhabitants at Teotihuacan to go 4,000 + miles out of their way to find any.

Joseph closes his article with the statement:

“Why would the Teotihuacanos have gone to the immense trouble of bringing such delicate materials from so far away only to conceal them deep underground where they would never be seen? Like liquid mercury, mica has important electrical properties. Perhaps both were employed in tandem to power the “place where Gods become men” (Joseph 2017).”

So much to unpack here, let’s keep it brief. There are two massive, unsupported assumptions here.

1) ‘Teotihuacanos’ were using mercury and mica to electrify Teotihuacan, and

2) That knowledge came from Europeans from across the ocean.

First, aside from the incredible lack of evidence for the use of electricity at Teotihuacan, or Joseph’s lack of an attempt to provide any, Joseph is completely ignoring the cultural significance of both mercury and mica to Mesoamerica culture. This is even more puzzling because the very sources he cites, namely Wikipedia, clearly have sections, with citations, that explain this. Even the 2015 Guardian article by Alan Yuhas, (that I think he used based on terms he mentions in this article) goes to great lengths to explain the cultural significance of mercury. As does Dr. Rosemary Joyce, who Joseph reference by name (but fails to cite), so I can safely assume he read her blog post, since he directly quotes it.

The second part of this is the re-occurring diffusion argument that unnamed Europeans were the fathers of all culture and invention and though transoceanic travel, disseminated it to everyone else. Again, there is a resounding lack of evidence for this, and this article does nothing to add to that.


The major argument that Joseph appears to be making here is that the Mesoamericans had the knowledge of electricity, and were using it at Teotihuacan, and that knowledge came from unarmed Europeans from across the ocean. Joseph offers no evidence to support any part of this claim beyond quoting a Wikipedia article about how mercury can be used to conduct electricity in the modern era. There is nothing at Teotihuacan that would suggest the mercury found beneath the Feathered Serpent Pyramid was being used for anything resembling electricity. There is however, ample evidence that both the mercury and the mica at the site fit with the known cultural aspects of Mesoamerican society, and Joseph has offered nothing to challenge that.

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Healy, Paul F. and Marc G. Blainey
2011 Ancient Maya Mosaic Mirrors: Function, Symbolism, and Meaning. Cambridge. Ancient-Mesoamerica, Volume 22, Issue 2
October 2011, pp. 229-244. Published online: 30 December 2011 DOI: Retrieved 3/2/17

Heyden, Doris
1975 An Interpretation of the Cave underneath the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan, Mexico. Retrieved 3/2/17

Holloway, April
2015 River of Mercury in Underworld of Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl may lead to Royal Tomb. Retrieved 3/2/17

Joyce, Rosemary
2015 “Liquid mercury found under Mexican pyramid”…Berkeley . Retrieved 3/2/17

Moskowitz, Clara
2012 The Secret Tomb of China’s 1st Emperor: Will We Ever See Inside? Live Science. Retrieved 3/2/17

Shaer, Matthew
2016 A Secret Tunnel Found in Mexico May Finally Solve the Mysteries of Teotihuacán. Smithsonian Magazine. June 2016. Retrieved 3/2/17

Sugiyama, Nawa, Saburo Sugiyama, and Alejandro Sarabia
2013 Inside the Sun Pyramid at Teotihuacan, Mexico: 2008-2011 Excavations and Preliminary Results. Latin American Antiquity. 24(4), 2013, pp. 403–432. the Society for American Archaeology. Retrieved 3/2/17

N.d. Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor. Unesco website. Retrieved 3/2/17

Vance, Erik
2014 New Artifact-Filled Chambers Revealed under Teotihuacan
Rooms beneath the mysterious city contain jade statues, jaguar remains and thousands of other objects. Scientific American. Retrieved 3/2/17

Villarreal, Jose
N.d Archaeologists Find Tunnel Below the Temple of the
Feathered Serpent in Teotihuacan. Art Retrieved 3/2/17

Yuhas, Alan
2015 Liquid mercury found under Mexican pyramid could lead to king’s tomb. Retrieved 3/2/17

Zorich, Zach
2015 Mythological Mercury Pool. Teotihuacan, Mexico. Archaeology magazine online. Retrieved 3/2/17

Categories: ArchyFantasy Reviews, The Lost History of Ancient America, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Transoceanic Mammoths Caught In Stone.


The fourth article in The Lost History of Ancient America is titled ‘Eyewitness Engraving of Ancient American Mammoths’ written by Frank Joseph.

It appears at first to be a puzzling article choice, as it seems to have nothing to do with transoceanic travelers or providing evidence of Europeans in America before Columbus. Joseph spends a good deal of the article filling it with ad hominem attacks, emotional appeals, and a strange Internet argument he had with a skeptic on Wikipedia.

The apparent main argument of the article is that woolly mammoths were either still alive at the time of Paleo-Indians, or later descendant tribes preserved ancestral memories of woolly mammoths and made carvings of them that have lasted to modern-day. The articles kinda flip-flops between these two arguments never really settling on either. It also doesn’t try to outright explain what this has to do with cultural diffusion or transoceanic travelers, the reader is expected to already understand the connection. Joseph does use some academic sources and footnotes to cite with, and it’s these sources that show how these ‘mammoth’ images link to transoceanic travelers.

For a bit of background, The woolly mammoth died out in the Americas roughly 13,000 years ago. This was roughly 1,000 years after the first appearance of humans on the continent. It also corresponds with the extinction of a lot of the megafauna in the Americas, as we’ve discussed before. Does this mean humans killed off the woolly mammoth, or was it climate change? We’re still not 100% sure, but I’m willing to bet it was a little of both.

That said, there is known overlap of humans and mammoths in the Americas. One major site demonstrating this is the very site Joseph opens with, the Old Vero Site. There, hundreds of human and megafauna bones, including mammoth bones, have been found in association to each other.

Joseph mentions one of the more accepted finds, made by fossil hunter James Kennedy sometime in 2007. He reportedly found a bone fragment that had an incised image of what appears to be a mammoth on it (Rawls 2009). This find has been tested by a variety of methods, and though none are completely conclusive, it is relatively accepted that the Vero Bone is both authentic and roughly about 13,000 years old. This puts it squarely inside a known time period of human and mammoth coexistence.

Joseph references an article written by Randolph E. Schmid, and spends the better part of his own article repeating everything Schmid wrote. This is a repeated tactic that is noticeable in the other articles in Lost History, where an entire entry in the volume is really just a book report of an article written somewhere else. Usually an internet source, or some small, unverified publication.

However, it’s in Schmid’s article from the Huffington Post (2011) that makes the link between Joseph’s article and the overall topic of this section.

“The newly found North American image is similar to some found in Europe, raising the question of whether this is merely coincidence or evidence of some connection between the two, the paper noted.

Stout said the suggestion that the similarities between this and ancient European art might imply some cultural contact or movement of people across the Atlantic very early is controversial. That idea has previously been proposed by Stanford and others, but has attracted a lot of criticism and skepticism from other archaeologists, he said.” (Schmid 2011)

So the implication here, that we really had to dig to find, is that since the mammoth images in America look like those in some European sites, that is evidence of transoceanic travel and cultural diffusion. This claim took some digging, and it’s part of a larger trend  from the book. There is a conversation going on among the fringe, and this book is like eavesdropping in random moments. There is a nuance that is lost on the causal observer when reading this book. Often the reader is expected to understand what is being said with no attempt to explain.

After presenting us with an actual artifact that already fits nicely into the understood archaeological timeline, Joseph tries to present us with further evidence. If his stated argument for this article is to convince us that humans and mammoths existed at the same time, he’s already done so. If his actual argument is to convince us that mammoth images are the result of transoceanic cultural diffusion, his examples leave a lot to desire.

Joseph presents us with five more examples of mammoth images, some more credible than others. First is the Holly Oak artifact.


Very briefly, the Holly Oak artifact follows along a familiar storyline that we here at this blog recognize as evidence of a non-artifact.

Hilborne T. Cresson, an archaeological assistant at Harvard’s Peabody Museum, presented what would become the Holly Oak artifact in 1889. He claimed to have found the engraved shell pendant some 25 years earlier while out for a walk with his then music teacher. Said music teacher was himself a student of archaeology who had studied directly under Eduard Lartet, the archaeologist credited with finding an engraved mammoth tusk at La Madeleine, France in 1864. The images on the tusk and the pendant were strongly reminiscent of each other, and due to this and the dubious discovery story, the pendant wasn’t widely accepted as an authentic artifact.

This would have been the end of it but for a revival of the artifact in 1976, when J.C. Kraft and R.A. Thomas published a paper in Science arguing that the pendant was genuine. This new announcement was quickly challenged (Meltzer and Sturtevant 1985, Lewin 1988, Griffen et al 1988) and more reasons for the artifact to be fraudulent were brought forward. A few reasons being that the orientation of the image on the pendant in relation to the boreholes was inconsistent with other known examples and the radiocarbon analysis of the shell placed it around 885 CE. much too late to be old enough to be authentic (Meltzer and Sturtevant 1985).

As it stands today, the Holly Oak artifact is not seen as an authentic artifact.

Joseph then offers up the Lenape Stone.


Ken Feder covers the Lenape stone, another gorget style pendant, fairly well in his 2011 book Encyclopedia of Dubious Archaeology: From Atlantis to the Walam Olum. He points out that Mammoths probably went extinct in North America about 10,000 years ago, while most gorgets, like the Lenape stone found in other sites are less than 2,000 years old. Beyond that, the discovery of the stone is suspect. There is no proper documentation, other artifact of a similar style were found on the site, the stone was supposedly cleaned harshly rendering any testing impossible, lastly is the carving on the stone itself (Feder 2011). The Lenape stone was discovered in two pieces, and these two pieces appear to have been carved separately and do not line up (Feder 2011). It’s most likely that the stone was carved after it was broken and was carved in a way as to mimic the other actual artifacts found in the area.

Joseph offers up a suggestion that the stone used to make the gorget might have been selected because of the mammoth carving already being on it (Joseph 2017). This suggestion ignores that the actual artifacts that present a similar style only date to 2,000 years ago or that the carving doesn’t line up.

Joseph tries to use the tired old trope of “A simple farm boy would not have been capable of perpetrating a hoax (Joseph 2017)”. It’s a paradox that the fringe sets up for themselves. The claim that no simple man could do such a fraud is counter to the unspoken fringe idea that the common man can do complicated archeology and analysis.

Needless to say, the Lenape stone is not an accepted authentic artifact.

Joseph then offers up the Jacob’s Cavern Bone.


Joseph offers up a 1952 article by Ludwell H. Johnson published in The Scientific Monthy called “Men and Elephants in America”. What little I can get of the article (it’s behind a paywall) seems to show Johnson in favor of the Jacob’s Cavern Bone being authentic. Joseph even uses a lengthy quote from Johnson’s paper, which taken out of context, appears to show that Johnson is arguing for the age of the deer bone to be around the age of 14,000 years (Joseph 2017). What can’t be clear at this point is if Johnson went on to argue that the bone and the carving are both related and authentic.

It’s important to note here, that even though the bone itself might be 14,000 years old, that has no bearing on the age of the carving. No explanation of the age of the carving is offered by Joseph either.

Michael Fuller, professor emeritus of anthropology, brings up this point as well (Fuller 2007), making a note that the image typically interpreted as a mastodon doesn’t fit known examples of such from other Paleo-Indian and Archaic sites in Missouri (Fuller 2007). Honestly, the carving looks like many things, the least of which is a mastodon or mammoth. I am inclined to agree with Fuller, and a great many others, that though the bone itself is old, the carving is not. The Jacob’s Cavern Bone is not a viable artifact.

Joseph then bring up the Moab Mammoth petroglyph, particularly one that does look a lot like some kind of long nosed beast.


This petroglyph is real, can be seen by anyone who hikes out to Utah, and isn’t disputed by anyone as being an authentic image. Whether or not it’s a Mammoth is another thing, probably it’s not. I say this because it’s a whimsical image, with an undefined body, long trunk, and four distinct toes on each foot, but Mammoth’s were not known to be in Utah.

This is image #2 that is authentic that Joseph has mentioned. Two out of six.

The final bit of evidence that Joseph offers up is the Lake Michigan Sunken Petroglyph, aka, Lake Michigan Stonehenge. It’s also referred to as a variety of other things, depending on who’s looking at it. Lake Michigan has been accused of hiding everything from sunken pyramids to Masonic symbols. Needless to say there is no actual evidence supporting any of these claims, and so this is not reliable.

Joseph makes an effort to use various Native American myths to support his idea of ancestral memory. This is a murky area to wander into at best. Oral histories can be filled with historical retellings, exaggerated facts, or just plain ‘ol entertaining stories. As an outsider, it’s difficult to impossible to discern one from the next. When anthropologists interact with a native culture and their oral traditions, we try not to interpret what we are told. We accept the information given to us and leave the interpretation to the culture that created it. Taking oral traditions out of context can create a slew of issues, much like removing an artifact from it’s context. Doing what Joseph does in his article is one such issue.

Joseph tries to reinterpret the various myths he has cherry picked to be proof of an ancestral memory of Mammoths. These cannot be convincing evidence as they are basically appropriation of native American oral traditions to try to prove a fringe theory.


Once we do a bit of digging we find the connection between this article and the theme of section one.

Joseph is making the argument that since the mammoth images in America look like those in some European sites, that is evidence of transoceanic travel and cultural diffusion. He does this by obfuscating it in the twin theories that man coexisted at the same time as Mammoths (we already known this to be true) and that younger images of Mammoths were made due to reverence of ancestral memory.

The article tries but falls short of proving either the major argument or the later theory because the evidence offered is made up mostly of fake artifacts. Of the six presented, two are accepted as real, the rest have either been debunked or are not accepted as authentic.

This article is the last in section one, and like the others, provides little reason to believe the argument that the Americas were visited by Pre-columbian transoceanic travelers.

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Feder, Kenneth L.
2011    Encyclopedia of Dubious Archaeology: From Atlantis to the Walam Olum. ABC-CLIO/Greenwood. p. 159.

Fuller, Michael
2007    Jacob’s Cavern , 23MD149. Webpage prepared by Professor Michael Fuller, 2 October 2007’scavern.html. Retrived 1/30/17

Griffin, James B. , David J. Meltzer, Bruce D. Smith and William C. Sturtevant.
1988    A Mammoth Fraud in Science. American Antiquity. Vol. 53, No. 3 (Jul., 1988), pp. 578-582 Published by: Society for American Archaeology DOI: 10.2307/281218. Stable URL: Retrived 1/30/17

Johnson, Ludwell H.
1952    Men and Elephants in America. The Scientific Monthly Vol. 75, No. 4 (Oct., 1952), pp. 215-221 Published by: American Association for the Advancement of Science Stable URL: Retrived 1/30/17

Kraft, J.C. & R.A. Thomas.
1976    “Early Man at Holly Oak, Delaware”. Science 192(4241): 756-761. (May 21, 1976). DOI: 10.1126/science.192.4241.756 Retrived 1/30/17

Lewin, R.
1988    “Mammoth Fraud Exposed”. Science vol 242(issue 4883): pg 1246. (Dec 2., 1988). DOI: 10.1126/science.242.4883.1246 Retrived 1/30/17

Meltzer, D.J. & W.C. Sturtevant.
1985    “The Holly Oak Pendant.” Science 227(4684): 242 + 244 + 246. (Jan 18, 1985). DOI: 10.1126/science.227.4684.242 Retrived 1/30/17

Schmid, Randolph E.
2011    13,000-Year-Old Bone With Mammoth Or Mastodon Carving May Be First In Western Hemisphere 06/22/2011 12:20 pm ET | Updated Aug 22, 2011 AP/The Huffington Post.  Retrived 1/30/17

Categories: ArchyFantasy Reviews, The Lost History of Ancient America, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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