Before we begin today, I want to let everyone know that Aaron Adair, the author of The Star of Bethlehem: A Skeptical View, will be appearing on Paranormal Review radio tonight at 10 PM to talk about ancient astronauts. Many of you will know Aaron from his blog and from his occasional comments here on my blog. Be sure to check it out. I was asked to be on the show, too, but I can’t make the broadcast tonight. Aaron will undoubtedly do a great job!
Now on to more depressing news…
Richard Thornton, the Examiner.com writer who has parlayed his brief appearance on America Unearthed into supposed confirmation that the Mayans lived in Georgia, is promoting a new documentary that he says “will rock the world of anthropology to its roots.” Thornton begins his discussion with the false claim that anthropology and archaeology recognize no influence between Native groups across the Americas:
Euro-centric scholars have long viewed the indigenous peoples of the Americas as primitive societies that generally stayed in one place and that had little knowledge of what lay beyond the horizon. Architects and urban historians, in particular, have repeatedly pointed out the shared architectural traits of communities in several parts of the Americas, but were consistently ignored by anthropologists. No one within the anthropology profession of the United States could produce an explanation of how crops from South America and Mesoamerica ended up in North America, unless their seeds were carried by humans.
All of that is of course false, for many reasons. There is widespread acceptance of Mesoamerican influence on the southwestern United States, where Mesoamerican-style ball courts can be found. Similarly, a Mesoamerican blade was found at a Mississippian site in Spiro Mound in Oklahoma. Archaeologists have long suspected Mesoamerican influence on Mississippian iconography, though no direct evidence to support this has yet been found. But the transmission of ideas need not reflect the immigration of people. All it requires is for neighbors to share new things in a chain stretching from Mesoamerica on north. Maize, for example, could then spread up from Mexico, up the Mississippi and its tributaries, and into upstate New York without any given person going any farther than the neighboring village to share a few seeds.
Thornton next says that academics are in a conspiracy to suppress evidence of contact between Mesoamerican and Georgia. He cites the case of Arthur Kelly, who chaired the University of Georgia’s anthropology department until 1963. Thornton says he was sacked for advocating Mayan contact in Georgia, though it was a funny kind of sacking that left him a full professor until his retirement in 1969. I can’t find any evidence that, despite his peers’ rejection of his interpretation of Georgian material as Mesoamerican, he was in any way suppressed or sacked. After his death, several glowing tributes were published.
Thornton also says that Neo-Nazis and Satanists are using intimidation tactics to try to stop filmmaker Antara Brandner from reporting on the alleged Mayan connection to Georgia in her new documentary. Brandner’s previous film dealt with crop circles and environmentalism.
But rather than give any details about the documentary, Thornton instead recites his greatest hits, repeating claims he has been making nonstop for years. To this he has added a new one: He now claims to have found a connection to Peru and believes he has discovered large monumental Peruvian statues in Georgia:
Already, stone statues have been identified that are 16 feet and 28 feet tall. The shorter one is already out of the ground. It has not been decided how to move the larger statue safely out of a river gorge. They are the largest indigenous stone statues in the Americas.
Under Georgia law, it is legal to loot artifacts on private land, provided that the looter has written permission from the landowner and has notified the Georgia Department of Natural Resources in writing five days before the looting begins. Thornton did not indicate whether he met this minimal requirement, assuming that these statues are on private land. If they are on public land, it is simply illegal to touch them at all. It seems less likely that a river gorge would be private land, but without details there is no way to know.
But while Thornton is thrilled that a documentary is giving credence to his ideas, L. A. Marzulli, the Nephilim researcher and Christian fundamentalist, is deeply angry that another television documentary is making use of his ideas without giving him enough credit. Marzulli reports that another ancient mysteries researcher, whom he does not name (no, it’s not Scott Wolter), contacted him to discuss the hunt for lost “giant” skeletons without disclosing that he had a contract with a major television network to participate in what Marzulli calls a series of documentaries about the alleged giants.
Marzulli feels betrayed that his erstwhile colleague took advantage of research material he provided regarding a photograph of a supposed giant on Catalina Island without crediting Marzulli with the “discovery.” The researcher flew out to Catalina Island to view the original photograph after Marzulli described it to him. “While the picture that I discovered in the archives is not my property, the research and discovery of what turns out to be an 8.5 footer is.” In other words, Marzulli is claiming ownership over knowing that a photograph exists in an archive. Marzulli is upset that the documentary is scheduled to run in November and might lead people to believe that someone other than Marzulli was the first person to have seen the photograph in the archive in this current decade. (The archival material has been available to researchers for decades.) Honestly, I’m at a loss as to what exactly he’s mad about.
The crux of the argument relates to a photograph of Ralph Glidden, the showman and fraud who displayed Native American bones in a grisly tableaux of Catalina Island and claimed a lost race of white giants lived there. Glidden’s photograph shows himself standing before a skeleton, which Marzulli claims is eight and half feet tall, based on mathematical modeling. It’s also cute that Marzulli calls contacting three “technicians” to examine the photograph without telling them about one another a “triple blind study.” (Later, he amends this to a “quadruple blind study” with four experts.) Marzulli has no idea what “blinding” really means.
The trouble is that Glidden is known to have faked a lot of his material, purchasing bones from elsewhere and staging fake digs for publicity. Since this alleged giant skeleton does not appear in the records of Glidden’s museum (only the photograph does), nor is there a record of it being sold off with other parts of his collection, the burden of proof is on Marzulli to prove that the bones depicted in the picture are real and ancient human bones. The staging of the scene looks extremely fake, and I would be hesitant to assume anything in Glidden’s photos is what it appears to be. The measurements calculated by the technicians also assume that the skeleton is fully articulated and laid out in a natural position. The photograph, however, seems to show a partially disarticulated skeleton, and any attempted measurement has to account for the original anatomical position of the bones. Arms, for example, do not typically emerge from skulls.
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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