Giant Skeleton Hoaxes and Mis-Identifications

I’ve blogged several times about the pictures of giant human skeletons on the web that aren’t what they seem to be. They fall into two categories: hoaxes and mis-identification of the remains of either dinosaurs or (more often) mastodons or mammoths.

I recently came across this site, which conveniently displays several of the most widely circulated phony giant photos. If you go there, please click on the link mentioned in the article that is the source of most of these hoaxed photos: Worth1000.com. The site runs contests for image fakery. Here is the archaeology archive where you’ll find most of the fake giant photos out there on the web.

I also recently came across a good scholarly article on the other category — mis-identification. It’s by James Howard and entitled, “Fossil Proboscidians and Myths of Giant Men.” It can be downloaded for free.

On the term “proboscidian” (in the context of this post, an animal with a large trunk), here is the entry from dictionary.com:

pro·bos·cid·e·an

1. pertaining to or resembling a proboscis.

2. having a proboscis.
3. belonging or pertaining to the mammals of the order Proboscidea, characterized by a flexible trunk formed of the nostrils and upper lip, large tusks, a massive body, and columnar legs, comprising the elephant and the now-extinct mammoth and mastodon.

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Los Lunas Lunacy

At times I am asked about the evidence for ancient (Jewish) visitation to the Americas. Part of what prompts the question is inscriptional “evidence” like the Los Lunas stone. (Other parts are British Israelite and Mormon apologetic leanings). While I’m not one who rules out an ancient sea crossing by someone before Europeans, the Los Lunas stone can be safely assigned to forgery. No modern epigrapher of ancient Hebrew alive today would defend the authenticity of the inscription.

Here’s a recent (Feb 2013) lengthy article on the stone that tries hard to be even-handed. But even this essay contains damning evidence of the stone’s fabricated nature. For instance, when commenting on the thoughts of David Atlee Phillips, curator of Archeology at the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology and professor of anthropology at the University of New Mexico, the author of the piece notes:

loslunascaret

“The smoking gun for Phillips is the “caret,” symbolizing a correction, a modern symbol. “I infer that the person who inscribed the words was not fluent in the language, but was working off a photograph or drawing and temporarily overlooked part of the inscription.”1 Furthermore, Phillips writes, “when you stand and look at the inscription, a glance downward will show the possible signature of the creators. There in the bedrock is inscribed ‘Eva and Hobe 3-13-30.’ There is an oral tradition at UNM that Eva and Hobe were anthropology majors who prepared the inscription as a hoax, and who were found out. They were told that if they ever did something like that again, their careers in the field would be over.”

Professor Phillips is quoted elsewhere in the article as confirming something I’ve already learned many times over about people who want to believe in things like the Los Lunas stone:

“As every con man knows, the essence of a good fraud is allowing the victim to believe what that victim wishes to believe. The ‘true believers’ I have encountered vis a vis the Los Lunas inscription fall into two categories. First, individuals for whom an ancient Old World inscription in the New World would validate their particular religious beliefs. Second, individuals who are looking to make the Next Great Scientific Discovery. Some humans are able to resist the temptation of the more self-serving path, but others are not—and once they are on that path, they use their certainty to determine which potential facts are correct and which are not. In my experience, once people have started down that path, they are quite impervious to whatever information I provide them.”

Impervious is the right word for it. Just read through the comments to posts on this blog and you’ll understand.

At any rate, for those who want to become familiar with the Los Lunas inscription, this article is a very good place to start.

  1. A better explanation for this may be that the forgers were looking at a transcription or hand drawing of some Old World material and copied the caret straight out of the transcription, not realizing it wasn’t part of the inscription, but an item placed there by the transcriber. -MSH.

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Exposing the Burrows Cave Myth

Here’s a welcome post on the (in)famous Burrows cave from the Ohio Archaeology blog (HT: Jason Colavito on Twitter). I’ve gotten a number of inquiries over the years about its “ancient inscriptions” and other items that allegedly prove the Phoenicians (or Lost Tribes of Israel) came to America in antiquity.

The author of the post is Brad Lepper, the curator of archaeology at the Ohio Historical Society. Lepper links from this post to another article of his in the Columbus Dispatch for good measure. Check out both if Burrows is new to you or you’ve heard about it before and had only one side of the story presented.

The post ends with links to learn more about the Burrows’ Cave chicanery.

Falling Into Burrows Cave

Burrows Cave: a modern hoax

2009 Burrows Cave Update

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Poof! The Magic Creationist Dragon Disappears

Readers know I have no axe to grind against the idea of a creator. I know two many scientists with PhDs teaching at research universities to think that the idea of a creator is impossible for a modern scientist to embrace. And I’ve read enough good evolutionary theory to know that evolutionists needlessly caricature creationism as an idea, painting it with a broad brush as the sort of hackneyed creationism discussed below. Creationists promoting this sort of thing should be ashamed — both of their intent and their inept science, whichever applies.

Paleobabble readers will enjoy the recent lengthy and meticulous exposure of pseudo-paleontology: the case of this “dragon” skeleton. As the item at the link notes, a “dragon” skeleton (cast as a “late living pterosaur” to promote the idea of recent creation) displayed in Rome is nothing of the sort. It’s a good read, but the real pummeling is to be found in the electronic paleontology journal that published the expose.

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December 21: We’re All Still Here

I never got to the *real* debunking of the 2012 nonsense last night on Coast to Coast AM. All that “galactic alignment” and “Planet X” stuff is utter hogwash, as everyone now knows (and anyone thinking clearly new long ago).  But in any event, here’s a short set of links to recommended astronomical sites for debunking the craziness:

Exposing Pseudo-Astronomy podcast:

2012 Hoax.org site

Bad Astronomy

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Jordan Lead Codices Fakery Update

The BBC recently aired a short segment on the lead codices from Jordan on its Inside Out program (thanks to J. Davila, J. McGrath, and Dan McClellan for the initial heads-up on the special). The codices are allegedly early Christian texts.

I’ve blogged about the lead codices several times, as have other biblical and ancient Judaism scholars. The overwhelming consensus is that they are fakes — for lots of cogent reasons (see this video as well). The BBC investigated the claims and, most immediately, the person behind them, David Elkington.

Here is the BBC video (13 minutes or so) about the codices.

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The “Wife of Jesus” Fragment Forgery: How It Was Done

Mark Goodacre has posted links to Andrew Bernhard’s research on the fragment in regard to how the fraud was accomplished. One is a complete analysis and is well worth a look.

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Update on the Lead Codices from Jordan

I’m guessing the of the lead codices is off the radar of most readers by now. Jim Davila posted this notice on his PaleoJudaica blog today that provides some updating and commentary. I’m with Davila; I think they are fakes for very good reasons (as he sketches here — and see the links he provides). The annual scholarly conferences are fast approaching (mid November) and so I’ll be keeping an eye and ear open for any items related to this piece of Paleobabble (and others for sure).

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Divorcing Jesus’ Wife

This figures to be my last update on this, at least until after November’s academic conferences. I’m bored with it.

Here’s some item updates on the alleged (but now suspected by many to be fake) fragment that has Jesus referring to his wife. (In case you’re late to this party, here’s a good overview post from New Testament textual critic Dan Wallace). Of particular note is the last one, by Christian Askeland, a Coptologist I happen to know through email due to my day job. It’s an interesting video demonstration (for the non-specialist) of the fragments odd features that has led to suspicion of fakery.

My disappointment with The Guardian (from Mark Goodacre’s blog; deals with the archeo-witless media)

The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife Latest (also from Goodacre’s NT blog; updates of the issue)

Christian Askeland on the “Wife of Jesus” fragment

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Noah’s Ark Fraud Report

Dr. Amy Beam was kind enough to email me her report entitled, “The Kurdish Guides and the Noah’s Ark Discovery Fraud.”  Please have a look. It’s a first-hand accounting (from Beam’s perspective, naturally) of certain individuals involved in the hoax.

And for those of you who will reflexively conclude that such exposure of the fraud is about insulting faith, it isn’t.  So please take a breath. From the concluding pages:

A Facebook group was started in September 2011 to investigate the NAMI/MEDIA discovery and demand an audit and accounting from the NAMI/MEDIA leadership. Many church leaders and members worldwide have posted reminders that religious belief is based on faith. It is not necessary to find Noah’s Ark as proof of one’s faith or morality.

There are several film-makers backed by TV stations making documentaries in 2012 of the search for Noah’s Ark and the hoax. Hopefully, some guides will speak publicly so that finally, all of the guides who were innocent victims in this fraud may be relieved of the burden of silence and secrecy.

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