Yesterday a producer for the American Heroes Channel’s Codes and Conspiracies contacted me about doing an interview for an upcoming episode on the ancient astronaut theory. The conversation involved some very interesting information that I wish I could share, but while I am still under active consideration for an interview on the show, I can’t say any more. The show wanted me to fly out to Los Angeles for a shoot, but my schedule doesn’t allow me to drop everything for an L.A. jaunt right now. My participation will therefore depend on whether the production team will be doing any shoots in the New York City area.
So on to today’s subject… You’ll recall that Brien Foerster has been pushing the Peruvian “alien skull” claim for a while now, building off of earlier work by the late Lloyd Pye, and still earlier claims dating back practically to the dawn of the ancient astronaut movement. You’ll probably also be familiar with the story of a small, unusual Peruvian mummy found in 2011 and claimed to be that of an alien-human hybrid.
Well, the first half of the Science Channel’s Unexplained Files this week was about the little skeleton in Peru. (The second half, unwatched by me, was about the round shape in the Baltic that was briefly considered an underwater UFO.) The first half follows anthropologist Theo Paredes’s efforts to explore whether the skeleton is an alien or a “subspecies” of “humanoid.” The show does not disclose that Paredes—who holds a doctorate in anthropology—is not a disinterested observer but rather an activist who believes in the magic power of Incan “energy” manipulation as well as sympathetic magic. Paredes claims that when he was struck by lightning he was called to be a shaman and that he has the power to commune with the Incan gods to effect magical healing, which he does at various New Age centers around the world, including in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Here is Paredes speaking about how he manipulates energy vibrations:
Cusco is a particular place for us, like a vortex of energy. You can take this from different angles. One of the main things is that the vortex of energy is where this particular kind of vibration is running for different purposes. Healing could be one; harmony, strength, whatever. So I think this is the right place for at least this period of time, where we can have this center for everyone who might want to come, who might want to share his own knowledge, his own experience.
The Science Channel chooses not to mention any of this. Anyway, at his insistence the skeleton is hauled out of its tiny museum case and brought to a laboratory for “confirmation” of its genuineness. A doctor concludes that the skeleton is that of a child less than two years of age.
Next, the show considers whether the skeleton suffered from hydrocephaly, and in a particularly poor choice of timing, the Science Channel ran a banner saying their website is the source for the “coolest science videos” and asking viewers to submit their own while pictures of suffering children in pain from their horrible conditions fill the screen. Dr. Erick Flores takes an x-ray and says that the skeleton did not suffer from hydrocephaly or any other deforming disease. He says that skeletal evidence suggests that the Inca bludgeoned the infant to death.
An archaeologist named Elisa Orellana explains that the infant’s skull likely underwent ritual cranial deformation—that is, elongation—and she explains how the process worked. The skeleton is subjected to yet another examination, this time to calculate its brain volume to see if it matches that of a normal skull. The volume, at 169 cm (presumably they mean cubic centimeters), is 50% larger than that of a normal two-year-old’s skull, and the doctor who performs this scan says there is no sign of intentional deformation and no other medical case similar to this. Since he did not compare results to those from other elongated skulls, I am not sure his results are particularly convincing.
Here the show decides that relying on archaeologists and doctors isn’t enough to make the subject interesting. They bring in Ancient Aliens guest Brien Foerster and identify him as an author and researcher who has examined “hundreds” of ancient skulls across Peru. Foerster says that 5% of elongated skulls are “natural, in that I believe they were born that way.” He is wearing a blue t-shirt with a picture of a man with an elongated skull drawn in white outline. He may think he is being on-message, but the fashion statement does not quite inspire confidence.
Foerster has been happy to go along with identifying elongated skulls as extraterrestrial or Nephilim depending on who is paying for his opinion, but today he has yet a third hypothesis. This time he asserts that the skeletons belong to a different human species! “I think we’re looking at an ancient subspecies of humanoid,” he says, “and that these are the remnants of those people, and a subspecies of humanoid that conventional science has not recognized at this time.” His attempt to use inflated verbiage and pseudoscientific language is cute, but “subspecies of humanoid” doesn’t make a lick of sense. Presumably he means a different species in the genus Homo, not a subspecies of Homo sapiens, but it isn’t clear. “Humanoid” after all could apply to anything that vaguely resembles Homo sapiens sapiens in some way.
After the break, Paredes suggests that he agrees that the skeleton represents “a different line in the human evolutionary process.” How that would work with it being only a few hundred years old, I can’t fathom. (Radiocarbon dates place it around 1300 CE.) Where are its non-human parents and ancestors? How is it that their bodies have never been found? How did they cross the oceans to reach the Americas? The narrator correctly notes that the carbon dates all but exclude a subspecies. DNA tests of mitochondrial DNA (inherited only from the mother) conclude that the child is human, “but they can’t determine what species fathers the child,” says the narrator, as though that would be different from any mitochondrial DNA test—which can only test for maternal relationships.
“What is surprising,” Paredes says, “is that there is only information on the maternal line and not on the paternal line.” Apparently the energy vibrations have knocked a few facts out of his head, and he doesn’t realize that mitochondrial DNA never contains paternal DNA since they are descended solely from the egg—the mother’s contribution—not the sperm. (A minute amount is present in sperm but does not contribute to the embryonic mitochondrial DNA.) They are not part of the nucleus of the cell, so their DNA line is separate. Paredes, proving that the vibrations have knocked a few screws loose, says the lack of information about paternal DNA “makes us think it’s a hybrid” with a species “not from our planet.” I invite him to try testing his own mitochondrial DNA and see what he finds.
The narrator fails to acknowledge how mitochondrial DNA works and instead directs us to a discussion of Inca mythology. A shaman tells the story of how during an eclipse a man with an elongated skull descended from a hole in the sky. He supposedly had flat ears and a flat nose, hence his name Orejones, or “Big Ears.” (The show doesn’t explain the meaning of the word because, presumably, it contradicts their sci-fi image of the alien.) I can’t find this myth in standard sources on Inca mythology, and it may well be of more recent vintage. I believe this may be an etiological myth related to the old Inca ruling class because the Inca rulers called themselves by a word given in Spanish as orejones. They elongated their skulls and put discs in their ears. The show asks us to believe that the story refers to an extraterrestrial with those characteristics. Paredes still thinks that the orejones are a separate species of human relatives, but I have no way of knowing what order the scenes were filmed to know if this claim came before or after the DNA results made him think of aliens.
Dante Rios, a journalist, claims that the mountain where tiny skeleton was found holds a giant geoglyph, which he says he sees in a Peruvian Air Force photo from 30 years ago. He and the narrator agree that it shows an alien’s face in profile, but I don’t see anything. It looks like a case of pareidolia. He’s seeing the alien from Alien in a pattern of light and shadow. But look for yourself. The yellow line was added by Unexplained Files.
Rios said that the design must have been intentionally carved to be seen by passing spacecraft. He then goes into UFO claims, and this takes us right out of ancient astronauts and into modern Peruvian ufology, which the show asks us to believe involves spacecraft by dint of interviewing Peruvian UFO believers.
As with all Unexplained Files, the show reaches no conclusion but simply gives Paredes the last word. He tells viewers that the Inca bludgeoned the unusual infant to death so that the alien hybrid could return in spirit to the planet from which it came. Although the show is somewhat balanced, framing the investigation around Paredes—without disclosing his background—and giving the first, most of the middle, and all the last words to alien believers clearly leaves the impression that the viewer should not only agree that the skeleton is an alien hybrid but that aliens have visited Peru for thousands of years and continue to do so today.
But the failure to disclose the limits of mitochondrial DNA analysis is unforgivable. It gives a false impression of hybridization and misleads viewers. It is irresponsible reporting and either outright dishonesty or (more likely) an admission that the producers are utterly ignorant of their own subject matter.
8/7/2014 06:37:02 am
"DNA tests of mitochondrial DNA (inherited only from the mother) conclude that the child is human, “but they can’t determine what species fathers the child,” says the narrator, as though that would be different from any mitochondrial DNA test—which can only test for maternal relationships."
8/7/2014 08:08:07 am
See Lloyd Pye's history with the starchild for similar behavior.
8/7/2014 08:09:24 am
Can I just take your word for it? :)
8/7/2014 09:18:42 am
8/7/2014 09:23:56 am
“He is the god of storm and frenzy, the unleasher of passions and the lust of battle; moreover he is a superlative magician and artist in illusion who is versed in all secrets of an occult nature… Wotan disappeared when his oaks fell and appeared again when the Christian God proved too weak to save Christendom from fratricidal slaughter. When the Holy Father at Rome could only impotently lament before God the fate of the grex segregatus, the one-eyed old hunter, on the edge of the German forest, laughed and saddled Sleipnir…”
8/7/2014 06:45:03 am
I don't know. I see a long head and an otherwise flat and featureless face in that yellow line. I can only conclude, therefore, that it was drawn to resemble StarCraft's Protoss.
8/7/2014 08:42:46 am
En'Taro Adun! MY LIFE FOR AIUR!
An Over-Educated Grunt
8/7/2014 07:14:41 am
I'm going to have to pull a Walt on this one. That last paragraph is pure hyperventilation, and it's not so much unforgivable as it is par for the course. Should par be higher? Absolutely. But these shows aren't intellectually honest to begin with, you're essentially watching a sales pitch for scientific illiteracy.
8/7/2014 07:29:05 am
By "unforgivable" I took Jason to mean something along the lines of "cannot be explained charitably". That's not even hypoventilation, it's just a statement of fact.
An Over-Educated Grunt
8/7/2014 07:52:32 am
"Unforgivable" implies a direct and personal sense of offense, that a measure might require forgiveness. If you're going to be directly and personally offended every time someone is an idiot, you get to spend all of your time in perpetual outrage. At a certain point, you have to accept that everything that comes from a particular source is tainted, and quit treating it as a personal offense. You're welcome to point out it's wrong as often as you like at that point, especially where (as here) it really is wrong, but a deep and personal level of outrage isn't sustainable.
8/7/2014 07:57:33 am
Where's the insult in what I said? :)
8/7/2014 08:07:09 am
I don't want to belabor this, especially since I really wasn't being confrontational, but among the many senses of "unforgivable" there are several that do not carry any emotive implications. Also, I don't understand why you think we should stop being offended by offensive things. It's not like anything Jason said suggests unhealthy emotional involvement or obsessiveness...
8/7/2014 08:47:40 am
8/7/2014 09:55:45 am
Not that you care Grunt, but I agree "unforgivable" implies one has personal and emotional feelings about a topic. I would've used "inexplicable" in that context, but I wouldn't have had expectations that needed forgiveness if they weren't met.
8/7/2014 10:23:45 am
It's an unforgivable journalistic sin to intentionally mislead viewers. It isn't a statement of outrage. The dictionary defines the word as "so bad as to be unable to be forgiven or excused." It is inexcusable. And I'm not sure why I'd be interested in forgiving them anyway, regardless of whether it made me angry.
8/7/2014 11:32:08 am
The thought that these were actual journalists with any sort of journalistic integrity never crossed my mind.
8/7/2014 11:39:39 am
I really don't understand what your problem is with Jason expressing his opinion. Is he saying something false? No. Is he writing for the sole benefit of those who already share your viewpoint? No.
8/7/2014 12:18:33 pm
EP, I don't have any idea how you interpreted my two harmless comments to this blog as me having a problem with Jason expressing his opinion. Grunt went after Jason, not me. I didn't read the blog since I've never seen the show. All I did was explain why I, and most likely Grunt, didn't read Jason's words as he had intended. We don't consider them journalists.
8/7/2014 12:56:11 pm
It was an indefinite "you", Walt. I don't know why you assumed it referred to you specifically. :)
8/7/2014 01:24:32 pm
I guess I just never imagined you'd reply a third time to Grunt, after having not received a reply to your first two replies to him.
8/7/2014 01:31:12 pm
Again, indefinite "you" - I wasn't specifically addressing Grunt either :)
8/7/2014 01:38:34 pm
Admitting you made a mistake isn't a bad thing, and it's certainly better than looking silly. I'll leave it at that.
8/7/2014 01:49:36 pm
Please tell me more about how anything I said is mistaken...
8/7/2014 07:46:00 am
thusly akin to Ken Ham's "flooded orchards" that
8/7/2014 07:49:04 am
if they use each show's budget as an excuse, they then
8/7/2014 08:57:06 am
In keeping with the "fundamentally dishonest" theme, I found it infuriating that they introduced such an obvious hoaxer, fringe-theorist and all-around asshat (i.e. not understanding libel, threatening frivolous lawsuits, apparently claiming to violate international law) as some kind of 'expert', but not mention that "oh, by the way, he also believes that this "human ancestor" is half alien, has received money to espouse such opinions, operates a business based on said unproven fringe theories, and has absolutely no qualifications to be making any of the judgements he pronounces upon the various human remains".
8/7/2014 09:09:39 am
At least he doesn't think it came from "an alien female who was inseminated by a human which resulted in an overwhelming pregnancy which simply exploded by killing both."
8/7/2014 09:36:46 am
*An alien The Female. ;)
8/7/2014 09:39:08 am
I don't get it...
8/7/2014 09:45:24 am
Combining the "explosive vagina" insanity with von Däniken's "the female". If we just say "an alien female", you might start to empathize with her!
8/7/2014 11:16:43 am
Sounds to me like he would enjoy Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes. It has Bigfoot (naturally) and "demonic" creatures appearing in our world through portals. Not only that, the creatures look similar to Bigfoot, only with horns, reptilian eyes and cloven hooves...which prey on Bigfoot...who, in turn, has some poorly defined role as a "protector", keeping the transdimensional creatures in check.
8/7/2014 11:46:10 am
Brien is playing the same old games clown man Lloyd Pye pulled when he was still around.Same old tap dancing excuses.
8/7/2014 01:12:26 pm
The mother is human because her mitochondrial DNA is human. The child is a human-alien hybrid because its mother's mitochondrial DNA is human. Sounds legit.
8/7/2014 01:29:05 pm
Regarding the mitochondrial DNA... part of me wonders if they just couldn't get their shit together enough even for their own inane claims. I recall at least one point Foerster proclaimed that the two skulls were "so similar as one could say they are related". Obviously that's both unscientific and about as racist as "well, you two are white... you're probably cousins, huh?"... but it would at least make *some* sense, then, to be looking at mitochondrial DNA (assuming they had gained access to a second sample).
8/7/2014 01:48:10 pm
8/7/2014 01:50:35 pm
Oh you :)
8/8/2014 04:37:52 am
"what exactly WOULD you (indef.) be looking for?"
8/8/2014 02:13:18 pm
8/8/2014 03:07:35 pm
"there's always wiggle-room for more, no matter how bright the light becomes."
8/8/2014 03:37:06 pm
8/8/2014 05:12:39 pm
8/9/2014 07:55:14 am
I don't have any sympathy for the straight-up hucksters. Here I don't mean random schmo having to write the copy for Time-Life's Mysteries of the Unknown. That's a job.
8/8/2014 12:17:39 pm
I stand partially corrected. In my criticism of mitochondrial DNA testing I implicitly ignored that apparently nuclear DNA decays much easier than mitochondrial DNA, so it is indeed often only possible to recover the latter.
3/28/2018 11:00:59 pm
Yeah, except the recent DNA tests have proven Brien Forester rignt.
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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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