I have three brief news stories to share today, all of which are interesting in their own right but none of which was long enough for me to turn into a full blog post on its own.
Our first story comes to us from Science magazine, which reports that DNA results indicate that human females were unable to mate with Neanderthal males because of problems with the Neanderthals’ Y-chromosomes. This implies that any cross breeding occurred with human males impregnating Neanderthal females. This is interesting on its own, but it also serves to refute a common claim among creationists and fringe historians that the Neanderthals were the Nephilim of the Bible. For example, John Denton wrote that “the scientific facts verify that the Neanderthal were in fact one and the same as the ancient warrior race the Nephilim.” Similar claims occur across the creationist web and in creationist books that attempt to make Genesis seem like science. The trouble is that if the new findings are true, then the Genesis account turns creationists into liars, since Genesis 6:4 specifically states that male sons of God impregnated human females, and the new findings say this wouldn’t be the case if we’re talking about Neanderthals. In fact, it would make the Neanderthals the real humans and us the evil Nephilim! Oops!
Our second story comes to us from the Daily Mail and involves the self-described “Bosnian Indiana Jones” Semir Osmanagic, the promoter of the alleged Bosnian pyramids, which even fringe geologists like Robert Schoch recognize as natural formations. Osmanagic has what he is claiming to be a new “discovery” in Bosnia, this time a giant stone sphere that he alleges is the heaviest stone sphere ever carved by humankind. Osmanagic claims that local myth says that hundreds of stone spheres once existed in Bosnia but were destroyed in search of gold. (I was able to find a Bosnian legend that gold was buried under a large stone in Greece, but I couldn’t find one about gold in large stones.) You’d think that after the first couple of hundred they’d get the idea that there was nothing inside, but whatever.
“It is once again further proof that there was an advanced civilization here with a high level of technology about which we know very little,” Osmanagic told the Daily Mail.
Geologists told the Mail that the sphere is almost certainly a natural formation. What a surprise.
It’s worth noting that Osmanagic is a bit cagey with his claims about the stone, which he presented as a unique and singular discovery just made. As Brad Olsen’s Sacred Places Europe: 108 Destinations reported in 2007, similar spheres are found across central Bosnia. The largest of them, located in Zavidovici, is allegedly bigger that Osmanagic’s sphere. His has a radius of 1.5 meters, which gives a circumference of 4.7 meters, while the Zavidovici sphere has a circumference of 5.3 meters. Unless, of course, they are actually the same sphere. The current sphere is located—where else?—but in Zavidovici. And who discovered the 2007 sphere? Right: Osmangic. Here’s Robert Schoch debunking the claim in 2007.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has been a problematic territory for thousands of years, a place where empires and cultures clashed over what it meant to be European. In 1878, the Congress of Berlin gave the Habsburgs the right to occupy what was then a Turkish province, and in 1908 they annexed it. This, in turn, helped lead to a pan-Slavic uprising that brought down Austria-Hungary and all of Europe with it. As part of Yugoslavia, it sat on the fault line between fascism, communism, socialism, and democracy. In the 1990s, the civil war between Muslims, Croats, and Serbs devastated the newly born Yugoslav successor state. Now, the Bosnian government seems like it is trying to repair some of the damage by emphasizing Bosnia’s European heritage. To that end, during his time in office former prime minister Nedžad Branković gave official funding and sanction to Osmanagic, and declared the Bosnian pyramids to be a “positive” discovery that would improve the local economy. Not coincidentally, it would also, if true, make Bosnia the most European country of all, the home to the oldest high civilization on the continent.
Finally, I received an interesting email about an article in Archaeology magazine that claims Ancient Aliens did some accidental good. Regular readers will remember that Ancient Aliens and its spinoff series In Search of Aliens both did segments about the so-called Band of Holes (Monte Sierpe) in Peru, a long line of ancient shallow pits whose purpose is unknown. Archaeologists Charles Stanish and Henry Tantaleán said that they decided to investigate the site after they began to receive emails from viewers of Ancient Aliens and In Search of Aliens asking after the site, which they said they had not heard of before the program aired, even though they worked just 15 km from the site. After visiting the site, the pair concluded that the holes were easy to make and the entire site could have been completed in less than a year. They believe it was likely an accounting system for Inca taxation, used to separate agricultural produce into groupings for various destinations. Their report, from Backdirt, is online here.
This situation is not unprecedented; Erich von Däniken’s claims about the supposed gold-filled alien cave in Ecuador led Neil Armstrong and a team of scholars to conduct a research trip in search of it. But it is a rarity that anything good comes out of Ancient Aliens. The sad thing is that millions more people will hear the cockamamie speculation on that show than will ever know about what real archaeologists have done at the site.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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