Today I have a special treat to share. Archaeologist Ken Feder, the author of the Encyclopedia of Dubious Archaeology, has just returned from a trip to New Mexico and has generously given me permission to share some of his photographs from his trip. He visited the Los Lunas Decalogue Stone, and the photos he took make a strong case that the supposedly ancient Hebrew inscription is actually much more recent.
I discussed the Los Lunas stone last year, and you can read that here. The short form is that the supposedly ancient copy of the Ten Commandments written on a piece of stone in New Mexico cannot be shown to have existed prior to 1933, though later reports claim that it was first discovered in the 1880s. A local tradition holds that two anthropology students from the University of New Mexico hoaxed the stone in 1930.
Feder took photographs of the area around the Los Lunas Decalogue as well as the stone itself. Take a look at the following two photographs.
According to Feder, these photographs offer strong evidence that the Decalogue is a recent hoax:
The first image is of a genuine petroglyph that is only about 20 feet away from the Decalogue. It exhibits far more weathering than does the Decalogue. Notice in the Decalogue stone that the basalt exhibits exfoliation but that the inscription did not break off but was made into the exposed surface of the basalt, a pretty good indicator that the inscription post-dates the exfoliation. There’s no evidence whatsoever for any subsequent repatination of the exposed basalt.
This next photograph looks even more closely at the inscription.
Also notice in the close shot that the middle line of the letter that looks like a backwards E, instead of running parallel to the upper and lower elements of the letter, as it does in other examples on the stone, instead follows the exfoliation break. I suspect that this is because it was easier to draw it that way rather than run it across the break. Another indication that the inscription is more recent that the exfoliation which, itself, does not appear to be very old.
Feder also visited Roswell to make a stop at the city’s famous UFO museum. I had no idea that the International UFO Museum Research Center at 114 North Main Street in Roswell features ancient astronauts among its other UFO-themed exhibits. According to Feder, the museum has a display of Native American petroglyphs which are identified as depictions of space beings. The museum also has a wooden replica of Lord Pacal’s coffin lid from the Mayan city of Palenque, which it informs visitors is a depiction of “an astronaut sitting at the controls of his spaceship.” Although the replica was supposed to be on loan to the museum for six weeks in 1996, it is still there today (or back again?).
A photocopied 1996 handout, still given to visitors, states that researchers speculate that Lord Pacal may have been an extraterrestrial himself because he was 10 inches taller than the “average Mayan.” The handout further claims that the Mayans “were performing successful brain surgeries,” by which it apparently refers to the ancient practice of trepanation but which it seems to want us to read as neurosurgery.
It probably goes without saying that the “Palenque astronaut” claim dates back to the middle twentieth century when classic-recipe ancient astronaut books offered the idea, particularly Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods, where he describes it thus:
There sits a human being, with the upper part of his body bent forward like a racing motorcyclist; today any child would identify his vehicle as a rocket. It is pointed at the front, then changes to strangely grooved indentations like inlet ports, widens out and terminates at the tail in a darting flame. The crouching being himself is manipulating a number of undefinable controls and has the heel of his left foot on a kind of pedal. His clothing is appropriate: short trousers with a broad belt, a jacket with a modern Japanese opening at the neck and closely fitting bands at arms and legs. With our knowledge of similar pictures, we should be surprised if the complicated headgear were missing. And there it is with the usual indentations and tubes, and something like antennae on top. Our space traveller—he is clearly depicted as one—is not only bent forward tensely, he is also looking intently at an apparatus hanging in front of his face. The astronaut's front seat is separated by struts from the rear portion of the vehicle, in which symmetrically arranged boxes, circles, points and spirals can be seen.
He repeated the claim many times afterward, including in Von Däniken’s Proof and The Gods Were Astronauts.
The odd thing is that belief in Pacal as an astronaut waxes and wanes with the popularity of the ancient astronaut theory. In the wake of von Däniken’s success, other writers adopted his ideas, particularly Alan Landsburg, influential in his own right for bringing Chariots of the Gods to the peak of its popularity with its 1973 NBC-TV adaptation, In Search of Ancient Astronauts. But when von Däniken’s popularity waned, so too did the number of people claiming Pacal as an astronaut. Consider David Hatcher Childress. In 1992’s Lost Cities of North and Central America, he was openly contemptuous of von Däniken’s interpretation of the coffin lid:
I stared at the sarcophagus lid for a while, it was indeed fascinating. It was a bizarre scene, though von Däniken’s explanation didn’t quite make sense to me. The man was barefoot and wore no shirt, a typical dress for the Maya, but is this how one dresses when one is in one’s space ship? … it is unlikely that any sort of rocket power was ever used in the past or will ever be used in the future by visiting astronauts …
Similarly, Graham Hancock in Fingerprints of the Gods (1995) refused to identify Pacal as an astronaut, though he did feel it could represent a “technological device” from a lost civilization, perhaps depicting a piece of construction equipment.
Fast-forward to the era of Ancient Aliens, and suddenly everything old is new again. There is no better example than David Childress, who in 2012 completely abandoned his mild skepticism and decided to give the audience what they wanted to hear. Speaking on Ancient Aliens (S04E01), he said “Lord Pacal’s sarcophagus was his spaceship. He’s the original rocket man.”
And if you visit the Roswell UFO museum, you won’t hear any different.
6/27/2014 07:07:55 am
Let's have Scott Wolter look at the Decalogue Stone. I'm sure once he determines "It looks old", the case will be closed.
6/27/2014 08:21:35 am
How has Wolter not covered it yet? He just needs to ignore the weathering of the petroglyphs next to it, which I don't think will be a problem.
6/29/2014 08:50:27 am
Permit me to offer a qualified defense of Scott Wolter. I don't think he ignores geological evidence that raises serious doubts about a relic's veracity. I can cite two examples: One, he called the rock wall in Rockwall, Texas a natural phenomenon. Second, he conducted a test of the so-called Stone of Destiny that was supposedly carried to America ultimately from ancient Israel by comparing feldspar taken from Israel with feldspar in the alleged relic and finding that they did not match (proving, at least, that it was not from whatever part of Israel he took the comparison sample).
6/30/2014 11:33:48 pm
Re: Scott Wolter
6/27/2014 09:06:24 am
I don't know... that's an awful lot of vaguely-hookish Xs on the close-up. We might need a concrete expert. Archaeologists are just so unreliable and tainted by the Smithsonian world view.
Jason, have you written anything on the bland imagination of AA theorists? By that I mean they propose outlandish speculation and to prove it to us, they provide comparison examples of today's technology. Am I too assume the all knowing ETs from the past where only as advanced as 21st century humans?
6/29/2014 11:48:20 pm
The classic example of your thinking, of course, is that the (few) UFO sightings before the advent of powered flight had all the aliens in balloons. Their technology seems to move at the same rate ours does. Curious, eh?
7/1/2014 05:45:44 am
They also clearly ignore the so-called "Star Trek effect," wherein when shown items, mankind surges technologically to attempt to create them as fast as possible. For instance, our current cell phones have functionality well in excess of the Star Trek Original Series communicator; we have tablets that completely replicate the Original Series record-keeping tablets; several medical devices closely mimic ones from the various Star Trek serieses, etc. That's been in only about 50 years. If we actually had real examples of real devices waved in our faces in antiquity, we should be by now far more technologically advanced than we are, because of the me-WANTS factor.
6/27/2014 10:23:10 am
Evan Hadingham, Senior Science Editor, NOVA/WGBH (USA)
6/27/2014 12:47:10 pm
Jason, I saw some of the stuff Ken sent. I visited the UFOMRC in 2002, and I don't remember any of it. If the Pacal thing had been on display, I definitely would have photographed it. Other exhibits have also been updated apparently (the aliens are much less cartoonish than the one they had there 12 years ago). Now granted, I was there during the festival, so maybe some things were put away to make room, but I doubt it.
6/27/2014 12:52:54 pm
Interesting. Maybe it's back again to capitalize on the popularity Ancient Aliens. I should probably call them and ask, but I can't quite work up the energy to care that much about it!
6/27/2014 01:02:22 pm
Copy of the Palenque carving at Roswell Museum, New Mexico
6/27/2014 01:05:35 pm
6/27/2014 05:11:07 pm
I don't recall the Pacal replica being in the musuem when I was there in 1998 and 2004. It was there in 2012 during my last visit. But then I only went there on the first two trips to break up the monotony of the car drive to Carlsbad Caverns for the kids and I may not have paid a lot of attention.
6/27/2014 02:09:58 pm
This is OT for the post of today, still I think it is a valid point.
6/27/2014 03:15:32 pm
Like all autocratic cults, the Church of Ancient Astronautics can't very well sustain itself if all its members have that radical social phenomenon called "freedom of opinion"!
6/27/2014 07:55:54 pm
6/27/2014 06:18:41 pm
I think we can lay much of that blame on Zecharia Sitchin. His "translation" of the Sumerian word "shem" into "firey rockets" needing landing pads rather locked the Annunaki into a strange technological level where they have just enough to build rockets to fly from planet to planet within the solar system, yet also demonstrate enough sophistication on the ground to say... genetically enhance and elevate entire species to sentience and make up new forms of gold. If the High Priest Zecharia says something is true then everyone else must tailor their expectations to fit his.
6/27/2014 07:53:50 pm
>>>nobody offers a competing theory<<<
6/27/2014 03:44:19 pm
Cafe-press is now selling "Im with Scott Wolter" Sigg Water Bottles! Great bottles, Ive had one for 10+ years but with "World renown forensic geologist" SW on it!
6/27/2014 04:16:30 pm
i spent today happily looking at a PBS repeat airing of a classic
6/30/2014 03:06:38 pm
That's because the Romans were obsessive record keepers and wrote all their stuff down. Makes it harder to make stuff up, thought the "theorists" have tried a time or two.
6/28/2014 02:31:52 am
Just ran across this gem, the Narragansett Runestone was carved in 1964 by Evert Brown when he was 13: http://www.independentri.com/independents/north_east/article_fe598e73-8b9f-548f-9130-9cce4460a356.html
6/28/2014 03:08:07 am
6/28/2014 07:07:08 am
This makes me ashamed to be from Rhode Island. The damn stone is a hoax. Period.
6/28/2014 03:59:32 pm
Perhaps I am missing something, but it seems to me the more logical explanation for period-correct carvings (if you should choose to believe in aliens) would be the natives were simply inserting their known beliefs into what they saw portrayed by the aliens. For example, if one of our space shuttles were to travel in time or to a planet whose population were not as developed, the locals would insert their leader into our technology. If an alien race piloted a spacecraft to say the Colonial American time, them we might see a a paper with a man depicted in a tri-cornered hat wearing britches and a powdered wig piloting a spacecraft.
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I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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