This week, I thought I’d take a look at some of the shorter pieces produced by alternative authors and the weird claims contained therein. Our first selection is “An Ancient Warning, A Global Message, from the End of the Last Ice Age” by Robert M. Schoch from New Dawn magazine’s July-August 2010 issue.
For those of you who may not remember him, Schoch is a geologist at the non-degree-granting 2-year division of Boston University who became famous in alternative archaeology circles when he proposed a radical re-dating of the Great Sphinx at Giza based on his contention that the Sphinx and its enclosure showed signs of precipitation-induced weathering rather than the more conventional desert environment erosion most geologists favored. Based on this revisionist geology, Schoch proposed a worldwide pyramid-building culture operating somewhere around the end of the last Ice Age.
In “An Ancient Warning,” Schoch introduced his newest alternative theory, about “plasma.” Written around the time in 2010 when there was a brief flurry of concern about coronal mass ejections from the sun (as there was again this year), Schoch jumped on the bandwagon and suggested that these eruptions from the sun caused elaborate light shows in the prehistoric skies around the time that such solar eruptions allegedly caused the end of the last Ice Age. These light shows so impressed our ancestors, cowering from solar-flare-induced climate change, that they recorded them for all time by using the random patterns in the sky as the basis for the characters in the first writing system, which has mysteriously survived in the rongorongo script of Easter Island without leaving a trace anywhere else on earth, except for the Nazca lines.
Well, that isn’t entirely fair. Schoch, citing the research of others, claims that the coronal mass ejections would have the characteristic shapes of “snakes,” “birds,” “humanoids,” and “circles”—“all shapes found in countless ancient petroglyphs,” as he put it on his website. Such shapes are also found in, let’s say, the everyday natural world, too.
Oh, and just for fun: He also thinks that the “plasma event” light show at the end of the ice age (c. 9700 BCE) is also the “original basis for the Atlantis legends” because it matches Plato’s account. Of course, there is only one Atlantis story, and it wasn’t a legend. It was Plato’s allegory about Athens. Schoch believes that the rongorongo tablets—the few that survived missionary zeal of the nineteenth century—are the oldest surviving writings in the world, faithfully recording the “plasma event” of 9700 BCE!
He thinks we need to work on deciphering these texts to learn about the plasma event before it recurs, conveniently just about now. The actual Easter Islanders of historic times told visitors that the rongorongo tablets recorded religious liturgies for chanting, annals of the kings of the island, lists of war dead, and lists of fugitives. We are supposed to ignore this in favor of Schoch’s radical thesis about perfectly preserved records of 12,000-year-old space lights.
Just think about the sheer impossibility of Schoch’s claim. At the end of the Ice Age, around 10,000 BCE, primitive humans saw certain shapes in the sky. They then scribbled them down on tree bark or cave walls or something, and kept the memory of them preserved, almost without change, for 11,000 years. This would have involved the ancestors of the Polynesians taking this with them as they were gradually pushed out of Southeast Asia and across the Pacific, arriving at Easter Island no earlier than 300 CE and possibly as late as 1200 CE (scholarly opinion varies, with a date around 500 CE the most commonly cited).
But Schoch apparently favors the untenable hypothesis of Thor Hyerdahl in which the South Americans colonized Easter Island from the east, leaving behind no physical trace of their presence among people who are genetically, culturally, and linguistically traceable to Southeast Asia. But even this leads to problems: South America has no indigenous writing system. Where did rongorongo originate, and how did it hide for 10,000 years in South America without leaving any evidence of its existence?
According to Schoch, the Nazca lines are evidence of the script in the Americas. By choosing just four from the dozens of rongorongo symbols (actually, three rongorongo glyphs and one petroglyph since he couldn't find four rongorongo matches), Schoch correlates them to four of the Nazca lines. Never mind, of course, that there are many, many more Nazca lines and rongorongo glyphs that do not match.
Here is Schoch’s comparison:
Note that in the lower left box Schoch combines two separate glyphs (discussed below) to produce one correlation to the Nazca monkey. Schoch is not a linguist and did not, apparently, do any research into the rongorongo script before mixing and matching elements to his imaginary sky writing.
Here’s the thing: the rongorongo glyphs are an indigenous development of Easter Island, and these glyphs are clearly stylized examples of plants and animals found on Easter Island at the time of the writing system’s development (prior to 1650 CE). Here’s a chart. (Question marks are used because the identifications are tentative since the writing is undeciphered.)
Note that "seated man eating" is the right half of the combined symbol Schoch misreads as a monkey in the lower right box of his comparison.
Schoch doesn’t tell you about all that because it undermines his fantasy about 10,000-year-old space writing.
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.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter, The Skeptical Xenoarchaeologist, for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities, and subscribe to Culture & Curiosities, my Substack newsletter.
Terms & Conditions
Please read all applicable terms and conditions before posting a comment on this blog. Posting a comment constitutes your agreement to abide by the terms and conditions linked herein.