In this week’s Ancient Aliens (S04E06), noted ancient astronaut theorist and user of fake evidence David Childress introduced us to the Fuente Magna libation bowl, an allegedly pre-Columbian artifact from Bolivia bearing (depending on who is doing the talking) Sumerian, proto-Sumerian, Hebraic, Semitic, or proto-Saharan writing. This bowl has a highly problematic provenance (no one can say just when or where it was found), and all indications are that it is a hoax, like the Ica Stones, the Pedro Crespi collection, and Erich von Däniken’s cave of alien gold in Ecuador—all attempts to fabricate a fantasy prehistory for South America that minimizes the role of the native peoples of the continent.
The Fuente Magna bowl is often spoken of in the same context as the Pokotia Monolith (or Monument), a stone statue standing 1.3 m (4 ft. 3 in.) tall and closely resembling the otherworldly, stylized, and heavily-eroded sculptures of nearby Tiwanaku (Tiahuanaco). According to alternative archaeologists and ancient astronaut theorists, this statue is covered in Sumerian writing, just like the Fuente Magna bowl.
Despite frequent claims that the monolith was excavated Dr. Bernardo Biados in 2001, it was actually photographed by him in 2001 at its current location, the Museum of Metals in La Paz, Bolivia, as part of a search for "anomalous" artifacts with E. F. Legner, an emeritus biologist at the University of California who began promoting alternative beliefs about prehistory after his retirement. Biados is a primary or secondary school (colegio) teacher at the Colegio Internacional del Sur in La Paz and the director of the "Center for Precolumbian History and Writing" at the Universidad de San Francisco de Asís in La Paz, though I am unable to find information about him at either school, or even a record of this Center existing outside alternative archaeology websites.
His photographs revealed a pattern of incised lines on the back of the statue. Explanations for these lines differ, but one of the more interesting is that they record constellations and possibly the appearance of a supernova over Bolivia circa 1000 CE.
It is important to emphasize that the monument’s artistic style and archaeological context clearly place it contemporary with Tiwanaku in the Middle Horizon to the beginning of the Late Intermediate period, i.e. circa 1000 CE. Alternative scholars, however, came to very different conclusions after viewing the incised lines.
Dr. Clyde Winters declared the lines Sumerian but written in “non-ligature Proto-Sumerian symbols.” The image at left from Biados' website is the reverse of the Pokotia Monument, and the image at right is an example of proto-cuneiform writing from the Cuneiform Digital Library. There is no “proto-Sumerian” writing, since Sumerian is a language and cuneiform is the script used to write it, just as English is written in the Roman alphabet. The only sources that refer to the script as “proto-Sumerian” instead of “proto-cuneiform” are those uncritically dependent on Winters. Proto-cuneiform was used circa 3000 BCE, some 4,000 years before the Pokotia monolith.
As should be obvious, the two sets of images bear only the most superficial resemblance.
Nevertheless, Winters proceeded to correlate the monument’s “script” with cuneiform symbols to produce a translation that revealed the monument as an oracle, and he implies that he is working closely with Dr. Biados, despite wrongly asserting that Biados “discovered” the monument in 2002, doubly untrue since the statue had been unearthed years earlier and Biados had photographed it in 2001.
But this is where the story gets weird. Winters concludes his discussion of the monument and the “translation” of its inscription by claiming that it supports ancient astronaut theorist Zecharia Sitchin, who is Winters’ source for the appearance of writing in South America prior to Columbus! Winters then claims that not only Sumerian but the Olmec and Indus Valley scripts can be understood with reference to something called the Vai writing system, which he takes to use identical syllable-sound pairings to these other tongues. (Winters, apparently the world’s most talented linguist, also claims to have deciphered Berber, Meroitic, Olmec and the Indus Valley writing.)
The Vai writing system is a syllabary devised by Momolu Duwalu Bukele of Jondu (now Liberia) in the 1830s and later modified in the 1960s. It can have no possible relationship to the Sumerians, Olmec, or Indus Valley peoples 3,000 years earlier.
Except in one way.
Dr. Clyde Ahmad Winters is an Afrocentrist theorist.
He believes that Black Africans were responsible for the achievements of the following ancient peoples: Egyptians, Greeks, Chinese, Olmec, and Peruvians. This is because, he claims, Black Africans were the inhabitants of Atlantis, which was in modern Libya, and spread its culture and people around the world, bequeathing Black civilization to all the other continents. This is why he feels all the ancient world languages are merely versions of Black Atlantean language.
Afrocentrism is a false pseudoscience that shares much in common with the ancient astronaut theory. Both propose a single explanation for ancient history (African dominance or space aliens) and both use almost identical evidence to support the notion that the cultural achievements of native peoples elsewhere in the world should be ascribed to the direct intervention or influence of African migrants or space aliens. As seen with Dr. Winters, as well as the Nuwabian movement, some Afrocentrists also cross over into ancient alien theorizing as a way of justifying the special nature of African peoples.
So, the alleged Sumerian writing on the Pokotia Monolith is little more than the wish-fulfillment projection of an Afrocentrist who saw what he wanted to see in ambiguous markings because of a pre-determined theory that itself rested on no firm evidence.
Naturally this is good enough proof for alien enthusiast websites and David Childress, who wrote an article about the monolith last year. As the old saying goes, consider the source.
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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