Scott Wolter Calls for Congressional Investigation of the Smithsonian; Brien Foerster Discusses Alien DNA
And here I was ready to discuss Brien Foerster’s bizarre alien DNA study. Instead, I received dozens of emails this morning alerting me to an angry blog post Scott Wolter made calling for a congressional investigation into the Smithsonian’s suppression of pre-Columbian Old World contact with North America. We’ll get to that in a moment, but first I would like to say a few words about Foerster and alien DNA.
Bigfoot, Star Children, and Ancient Astronauts
Most of you know that head-binding to create elongated skulls is a widespread human practice found in many places around the world. Hippocrates described the process in his Of Air, Water, and Situation thousands of years ago: “As soon as the Child was born, they immediately fashion’d the soft and tender Head of it with their Hands, and, by the use of bandages and proper arts, forc’d it to grow lengthwise; by which means the sphærical figure of the Head was perverted, and the length increas’d” (trans. Francis Clifton). This explanation, repeatedly confirmed by anthropological investigation and observation, isn’t enough for so-called “Star Child” researchers, ancient astronaut theorists, or the so-called Nephilim research community, all of whom see these skulls as evidence of otherworldly beings.
So Foerster obtained DNA samples from elongated skulls found in Paracas, Peru in the 1920s and preserved at a museum near the site. It is unclear whether he had proper export permits for this work since ancient remains are not typically allowed out of the country without permits, and Foerster recently started a fundraising campaign where he explicitly said he had smuggled artifacts out of Bolivia via Peru. Human remains are specifically on the International Council of Museums’ Red List of prohibited Peruvian antiquities. (I raised this issue when he exported the teeth back in 2012.)
Anyway, Doubtful News has much more to say on the nuts and bolts of why Foerster’s claim that the skull contains anomalous DNA shouldn’t be trusted. What shocked me is that Foerster entrusted the DNA analysis to Dr. Melba Ketchum, the woman who self-published a paper last year claiming to have proved via alleged Sasquatch DNA that Bigfoot was an ape-human hybrid. Ketchum has further ties to Genesis Quest, a company working to “prove” the existence of the Nephilim and to sell their investigation as a reality series to the Discovery Channel. Ketchum once claimed Bigfoot was a Nephilim Bible giant.
Now since Foerster is a coauthor of a book about elongated skulls with David Childress, who is a close colleague of Giorgio Tsoukalos, who argued that Bigfoot was an extraterrestrial hybrid sent here by UFO pilots, the entire alternative/fringe history ecosphere is beginning to collapse in on itself toward a bizarre singularity where ancient astronauts, Bigfoot studies, and the Nephilim all come together in a chorus of hosannas uniting New Agers and Biblical fundamentalists in praise of God, or the aliens they take for gods.
Scott Wolter Calls for Congressional Hearings
Last month the Smithsonian Institution returned the Bat Creek Stone to the Eastern Band of the Cherokee, in part due to agitation from Scott Wolter, who has pushed the Cherokee to demand its return since at least 2010. In turning over the artifact, the Smithsonian issued a statement reiterating that the stone is “an obvious fraud” that had been retained for the past 120 as one of many such examples of archaeological hoaxes. As a result, Cherokee elder Don Rose requested that the tribe avoid spending money to display a hoax and place the object in storage.
[Update 2/10/14: Scott Wolter is, once again, wrong. According to archaeologist Brad Lepper, who spoke with Bruce D. Smith of the Smithsonian this past weekend, the stone remains Smithsonian property and was only loaned to the Cherokee for a temporary exhibit. To repeat: Wolter is wrong and the Bat Creek Stone remains U.S. government property.]
Scott Wolter became outraged at this statement, which was no different than any other Smithsonian statement on the artifact over the past half-century. He issued a response, though he does not say how (I can find no record of its publication), in which he asserted that the Smithsonian’s curator of North American archaeology, Dr. Bruce D. Smith, were “willfully ignoring” Wolter’s “scientific data” in order “to continue to preserve an historical paradigm of the Smithsonian Institution’s choosing.” He said this “reeks of an agenda” and asserted that his finding demonstrated that the stone was “consistent with a circa-1500 year old date.”
He neglected to note that, by his own admission (Ancient American magazine, 2010; America Unearthed S02E10, 2014), his relative dating technique proved only that the stone’s inscription had been carve sometime between the early centuries CE and c. 1960, when later scratches were first seen on the stone. The letters were older than the scratches, but exactly how old could not be determined because there was no control sample to give a terminus post quem. His results were “consistent” not just with a 500 CE date, but also with a date of 1889, when the hoax stone had been unearthed, or any time in between.
He also neglected to note that for 120 years, from 1894 to 2014, the Smithsonian has allowed fringe history researchers—including Scott Wolter, twice—access to the object for study and has taken no steps to “suppress” any of their findings. This is an “agenda”?
Wolter then states:
The seriousness of this situation, in my opinion, demands a Congressional investigation since the Smithsonian receives government funding. The tax-payers of this country, and indeed the world, deserve better given the Smithsonian’s perceived reputation of competency.
He promises to lobby for a congressional investigation. As regular readers are aware, this is somewhat ironic because America Unearthed received significant funding from taxpayers via Minnesota Film and Television, which distributed tens of thousands in state tax dollars to fund the pilot episode of the series, according to production documents I obtained from Minnesota Film and Television last year. This seems to suggest that according to Wolter, the Minnesota legislature ought to be investigating Wolter’s own competence for his promotion of conspiracy theories.
At any rate, Dr. Smith unwisely chose to prolong the situation by semi-seriously remarking that he looked forward to reading Wolter’s “scientific” findings in a peer-reviewed journal, taking a swipe at Wolter’s lack of credentials, notably his undergraduate degree in geology as his sole academic training. This, of course, caused Wolter to become apoplectic because he is extremely prickly about challenges to his self-image as an authority figure. A graduate degree is not required to do science, but following protocol, involving publishing the methodology and findings of investigations is required. To date, Wolter has not published in a peer-reviewed journal to share this information. Instead, Wolter demanded to know why he, as a “licensed professional” had professional accountability for his work in concrete stability studies, but a “tenured professor” lacked any accountability. He apparently has never dealt with university administration. He further rejects the idea of academic peer review, claiming his forensic work has been “peer reviewed” according to the ASTM and AASHTO standards. The first deals with forensic science and the second with traffic safety issues; neither has standards related to the dating of prehistoric artifacts.
But what I find interesting is that Wolter accuses the Smithsonian of defending a “centuries old paradigm” apparently in utter ignorance of the fact that the Smithsonian, in the 1840s, imposed a paradigm of a “lost white race” via the work of Squier and Davis, which in turn had been the official ideology of America since the days of Andrew Jackson. It was only in 1894 that the Smithsonian put the Mound Builder myth to rest. But even in doing this, they have not defended an isolationist paradigm; the Smithsonian published the work of Betty Meggers—a Smithsonian research associate—who had claimed that Ecuador’s Valdavia culture derived from the Jomon culture of Japan. More to the point: Tomorrow Wolter will profile the work of Dennis Stanford, the director of the Paleoindian program at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, and the leading advocate of the claim that the Solutrean people of Spain colonized America around 20,000 years ago.
There is hardly a paradigmatic suppression of Old World contact at the Smithsonian.
There are two other points worth making because they are serious accusations that speak to Wolter’s lack of rigor and conspiratorial mindset.
First, Wolter asks why Smithsonian research assistant John Emmert, who found the Bat Creek Stone in 1889, didn’t point out that the stone’s inscription was Paleo-Hebrew when Thomas mistook if for Creek in the 1890s. That one is simple: Emmert wasn’t trying to make a Hebrew inscription but rather something that could pass for Cherokee. He didn’t want it to be seen as Hebrew since that wasn’t what Thomas was looking for.
Second, he declares it “unethical” to accuse Emmert of planting the Bat Creek Stone because he cannot defend himself, being a century dead. This is a strange application of ethics, and if followed according to Wolter’s preferences it would eliminate nearly all historiography, source criticism, and indeed any evaluation of life before the present. Criticizing and evaluating the actions and claims of earlier observers is the very essence of doing the work of writing history. Therefore, Wolter also admits that he is engaging in “unethical” behavior when he accuses Cyrus Thomas and other nineteenth century Smithsonian officials of “suppressing” the truth.
Wolter wants us to read any disagreement with him as the result of a conspiracy to suppress the truth, not simply an independent evaluation of evidence that reached a different conclusion, or, worse, rejected his findings as incorrect. Ultimately, that may well be the real sin of the Smithsonian: telling Scott Wolter that he is wrong.
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.
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.