The 2,800 secret files that nobody knew about the death of John F Kennedy

The US government has released 2,800 previously classified files related to the assassination of President John F Kennedy in November 1963. As readers, historians and journalists comb through the thousands of pages of documents, here is what we have found - Read more

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

UFOs & Mind-Altering Drugs: A Connection?

In a recent article at his UFO Conjectures blog, Rich Reynolds addressed the matter of UFOs and LSD. The article is titled “LSD, Hallucinations, and UFOs.” You can find it here. Rich says: “Most of you know about the notorious CIA program, MK-Ultra, that, in 1959, experimented with LSD on military personnel and volunteers.” He adds: “I’ve always thought (and written) that the Pascagoula encounter (Hickson/Parker) and Travis Walton’s ‘abduction’ may have been drug induced.”

Having known Rich for far more than a few years, I should note that he has a deep interest in the possibility that at least some significant UFO incidents may have had a hallucinogen of some kind at their core. We’re not, however, talking here about using LSD for recreational purposes. Instead, we’re talking about situations which may have been utilized – by military and intelligence services – to, in essence, fake a UFO event. The reason? Maybe to try and gauge the extent to which the human mind can be manipulated? To fake alien encounters as a means to make us believe we have extraterrestrials among us when, perhaps, we don’t? To determine how easy it might be to create a bogus extraterrestrial event? The controversial questions are many. The answers are far less so. What we can say, though, is that there are a surprising number of cases on record that just might fall into one or more of the above categories. I’ll share with you three of many.

We’ll start with a man named Orfeo Angelucci. He was one of that controversial band of people who claimed – largely in the 1950s – encounters with very human-like ETs. They were known as the Space Brothers. As for the eyewitnesses like Angelucci, they were titled the Contactees. Angelucci’s aliens were here to save us from self-destruction – as were most of the Space Brothers of that era. It was when Angelucci started talking about the Space-Brothers (and Sisters too) being Communists, and also claiming meetings with mysterious human characters wh0 wanted Angelucci to insert the Communist angle into his lectures, that things got very strange. It was then that Angelucci got a weird visitor. And a weird experience, too.

Angelucci claimed that on one particular evening in December 1954, he traveled out to a diner in Twentynine Palms, California. The reason was to meet with an odd, enigmatic character called Adam, who wanted to discuss his, Angelucci’s, experiences. Although Adam appeared human, Angelucci wasn’t at all sure that was the case. Things got weird when, as they sat and chatted, Adam asked Angelucci to take a pill, which he passed to him. Incredibly, Angelucci did exactly that: he put it in his mouth and knocked it back with a mysterious drink provided by Adam.

It wasan’t long before Angelucci felt decidedly spaced-out. He began to hallucinate: nothing less than a little woman (and I do mean little, as in just inches tall) danced in his drink. Reality had gone right out of the window. And, on top of that, Angelucci was aware of two men in military uniforms sitting close by. They were intently watching every move that Angelucci made, and they seemed to note his every word spoken to Adam. Something caused Angelucci to spill the beans on his connections to the Space Brothers, the matter of communism, and more. Maybe someone in government wanted to find out what Angelucci really knew about communist aliens. Or, maybe, it was a case of concerns that Angelucci was being used – wittingly or not – to promote communism via the UFO subject. Whatever the answer, it seems very likely that Angelucci had been drugged by something that caused him to tell all that he knew and, in the process, fall into a deeply drugged state.

Then, there is the matter of Antonio Villas Boas. He was a Brazilian man who claimed, in late 1957, to have had wild sex with an equally wild babe from the stars, after having been kidnapped onto a UFO. An early alien abduction? Yep. Or maybe not. In the late-1970s, the aforementioned Rich Reynolds had contact with a very controversial – and by all accounts unlikable – figure named Bosco Nedelcovic, who had links to the world of intelligence, and who claimed that the Villas Boas affair was not what it appeared to be. He told Rich that, in reality, Villas Boas was the unwitting player in a new and novel experiment. According to Nedelcovic, the UFO that Villas Boas saw over his family’s property was really a helicopter. Not only that, Villas Boas was supposedly hit by some kind of mind-altering aerosol spray that quickly placed him into an altered state, after the pilot of the helicopter flew right over him. As for the girl from the stars, she was said to have really been a hooker, a girl hired to take Villas Boas on the closest encounter of all. But, it was all a ruse: a mind-bending event designed to fabricate a UFO incident.

Like it or not, but the fact is that Villas Boas’ own words suggest strongly that he was indeed taken on-board a helicopter. Read Villas Boas’ words carefully. The craft, he said, was “like an elongated egg.” On the top of the craft there was, “something which was revolving at great speed  and also giving off a powerful fluorescent reddish light” (rotor-blades? Probably, yes). As the craft took to the skies, it made a loud noise, “a sort of beat” (which is a perfect description of the noise associated with a helicopter). Put all those factors together and it sounds very much like a helicopter. Moving on…

In his article, Rich mentioned the famous October 1973 alien abduction of Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker at Pascagoula, Mississippi. The case has become a classic in alien abduction circles. It’s a little-known fact, though, that just a few miles from where Parker and Hickson were taken is a stretch of land called Horn Island. In the latter stages of the Second World War, the military used Horn Island as a place where biological-warfare research was undertaken. Matters were brought to an end when the Second World War was over. The official line is that research in the area was cancelled. There are, however, local tales of covert operations and experiments into mind-manipulation as late as the early 1970s, and only around ten-to-twenty miles away, within newer facilities. In terms of what may have specifically been used in these operations, fingers point in the direction of BZ. Or, to give it its correct name: 3-quinuclidinyl benzilate. It’s most well-known name is “Buzz.” It can provoke significant hallucinations.

Is it possible that some classic UFO events were actually nothing of the sort, but that were – in a very strange way – even weirder…?


Ufologist’s Computer Was Mysteriously Wiped Clean After His Death

On July 16, 2016, British ufologist and conspiracy theorist Max Spiers died in Poland days before he was to speak at a conspiracy theory conference and just after allegedly vomiting two liters of a mysterious black liquid. Before he left England, Spiers sent his mother a text message: “Your boy’s in trouble. If anything happens to me, investigate.” That investigation is ongoing and Spiers’ death has still not been solved. Now, a new twist emerges. During a pre-inquest review last week, lawyers for Spiers’ mother revealed that her son’s laptop computer had data on it at the time of his death but had been wiped clean when it was returned to her. Apparently, the SIM card from his phone was also either erased or removed. Who is behind this and will it be resolved before the inquest in Poland in January 2019?

The pre-inquest review was held at Guildhall in Sandwich, Kent, on August 10, 2018. The attorney for Spiers’ mother, Vanessa Bates, requested that the members of the Polish emergency services to appear as witnesses at the inquest, most likely to explain how such a strange death could have been ruled to be due to “natural causes.” He also wants to know if disciplinary actions were taken against any of the police officers involved with the case. However, no request caused as much mayhem as the questions about the missing computer data and phone SIM card.

“The way in which they were returned and what was done to them is clearly one of the big mysteries. The family has no knowledge whatsoever of what the results of that analysis were. The issue is the Sim card and what was on it. Without sight of the report, the family has no answer to these questions.”

Neither does anyone else. The attorney asked that Spiers’ girlfriend at the time of his death, Monika Duval, be in attendance at the inquest. Spiers was found dead on Duval’s couch and she was considered to be a suspect by those who thought he was murdered, as was Spiers’ fiancé back in England.

“He was very fit and healthy when I said goodbye to him. Everything that we have in terms of health records before he went were that he was in great health. This was an enormous blow. I miss him dreadfully.”

Vanessa Bates and others were shocked by Spiers’ sudden death and the inquest is supposed to focus on how and why the investigation into Spiers’ death and his autopsy were so mishandled by Polish officials. With the questions about the computer data and the phone SIM card, there will obviously be questions about the conspiracy theories that Spiers was probing into the practice of “black magic” by well-known figures in politics, business and entertainment, or that this lifelong ufologist was actually a “supersoldier selected at birth by aliens.”

Coroner Christopher Sutton Mattocks said the four-day inquest will be heard starting on January 7, 2019, at the Archbishops Palace in Maidstone. He said:

“It is extremely important that when we start everybody is completely ready for this and we have all the information available.”

Will they be completely ready? Will the missing data be found or explained? Will they clear up the mysterious death of ufologist Max Spiers? Or will the mystery deepen?


A Scary Demonic Possession in South Africa

One strange phenomena that seems to go back well into the recesses of the shadows of time is that of demonic possession, the idea that mysterious entities from beyond our reality can jump forth to take over our bodies like a hand in a puppet. There are countless such accounts throughout history, to various levels of veracity, and the idea of such possessions has been explained away as anything from mental illness, to delusions, to outright lies. Yet, every once in awhile a case will come along that seems to be beyond rational explanation, and shows that there may be more to it than just hoaxes and misunderstandings.

Back in the early 1900s, a girl by the name of Clara Germana Cele was attending school at a place called St. Michael’s Mission, in Natal, South Africa. By all accounts the young, 16-year-old girl, an orphan, was a fairly normal, even quiet girl, and she was just as devout and religious as any of her peers. There would have been nothing at the time to indicate that anything was amiss with her, or that dark forces were gathering about her like storm clouds rolling in on a clear day, and there certainly would have been no indication that this sweet young girl was to go on to become one of the scariest demonic possession cases on record.

Most of what is known of the case has been gleaned from journals and diaries written by nuns and priests at the mission, and although it is unclear just when the incident started, it seems likely that it began with a confession Clara made one day. She allegedly told her confessor, a Father Hörner Erasmus, that she had reached out to the Devil for the purpose of forming a dark pact, although she did not give any details on why she had done this. However, soon after this confession there would be a series of strange phenomena that would steadily orbit the girl.

The most glaringly weird anomaly at first was that Clara, who knew no foreign languages, began to speak in Polish, German, French, Latin, and others, which started off as just a few words here and there but steadily graduated to fluent sentences and even ranting. She had never demonstrated even the slightest ability, nor even any interest in these languages, leaving everyone perplexed and not a little spooked that she should now know them to any degree. Even Clara claimed to not know how she was able to speak these languages. This was witnessed by numerous people at the mission, and it was also said that these episodes of speaking foreign languages often happened after Clara fell into sort of a daze or trance, and that she would sometimes not even remember what she had said or what had happened her during these spells.

Soon after this, Clara graduated to spontaneously spitting out the deepest, darkest secrets of those around here, even people she had never met before, including bad things they had done and impure thoughts they had had. In particular, she would revel in the most vulgar sexual fantasies she claimed the people of the cloth around her had, many of which were confirmed in diary entries by spooked nuns who felt that Clara could reach in to read their minds. She seemed to know all of their fears and various other pieces of information she had no business knowing, and at around this point it was dawning on everyone that something truly strange was going on.

In the following days Clara began to demonstrate an aversion to religious imagery, which must have been tough considering she was in a Christian mission. She would take roundabout paths around these objects and could not bear to be in the same room with them. If somehow she was to come into contact with such a relic she would allegedly unleash a savage, horribly unearthly wail that one nun would describe thus:

No animal had ever made such sounds. Neither the lions of East Africa nor the angry bulls. At times, it sounded like a veritable herd of wild beasts orchestrated by Satan had formed a hellish choir.”

During these tantrums it was claimed that Clara would become possessed of extraordinary strength, that she would throw nuns across the room, and that she could barely held down even by four people. This coincided with a general tendency for Clara to gradually transform from a once quiet and even meek teenager to an increasingly aggressive, powerful, and very confrontational personality. She would sometimes hiss, snarl, and growl at people around her, most often completely unprovoked, and the increasingly frightened nuns turned to help in order to perform an exorcism on what they were now convinced was a demon possessed child.

Two Roman Catholic priests by the name of Rev. Mansueti and Rev. Erasmus went about performing an exorcism on Clara, and it would prove to be a rather harrowing experience to say the least. One of the first things the girl did when confronted with the duo was leap onto Rev. Mansueti, knock away his bible, and begin strangling him with his own stole, and she would have been successful too if a group of nuns and the other priest hadn’t pried her off of him. After this she began hurling things about, and at one point purportedly levitated a full 5 feet of the floor, prompting those present to have her tied down.

For two days the priests confronted whatever supernatural evil was residing within Clara, and through it all she showed many traits that convinced all who were present that this was not simply a mentally ill child or lunatic. In addition to the levitation and the speaking of tongues, she also seemed to know when she was being sprayed with holy water. In order to test this, the priests even switched between holy water and regular water without Clara’s knowledge, but whereas normal water had no effect, holy water would send her into an absolute rage. However, the holy water was apparently the key, and was what eventually cast the demon out.

The case is rather obscure and not very well-documented, but it is certainly a curious one that was witnessed by numerous people.  If the reports are to be believed various witnesses saw this teenager display classical signs of demonic possession, including speaking in languages they have no business knowing, and aversion to religious paraphernalia, superhuman strength, uncharacteristic violent behavior, and levitation 5 goddam feet up in the air. They could all be lying, but why would they do that? If it was mental illness, then how does one explain these phenomena? There is no way of knowing if there is any truth to demonic possession in the literal sense, but the case of Clara Germana Cele certainly ranks up there with some of the most potentially genuine accounts out there.


Not “Nessiesarily” Photos of a Monster

The biggest development in the story of the Loch Ness Monster – post-1933, that is, when the “modern era” of sightings began – occurred in 1972. That was when a couple of astonishing photographs surfaced that added much weight to the theories of those who believed the Nessies to be plesiosaurs (marine reptiles that became extinct millions of years ago). It was all thanks to Dr. Robert Rines, who died in 2009, and who was the President of the Academy of Applied Science, Boston, Massachusetts. He was also a skilled musician and composer, and someone who worked in the field of law. He had a Bachelor of Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a PhD from National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan,

In a quest for the truth of the Nessies it all began in the waters off Urquhart Castle on August 7, 1972 and continued into the early hours of August 8. Rines and his colleagues were on-board a boat and recorded something remarkable on their Raytheon sonar equipment. The sonar was anchored at around 35-36 feet and some object, or creature, was perhaps ten feet below it. As for its size, the sonar readings suggested something in the order of twenty to thirty feet in length. On top of that, a large numbers of fish seemingly fled the area in question, right at the time the sonar recorded the presence of the large, whatever-it-was. The device was rigged to take photos every fifteen seconds, and which was most fortuitous, since the camera seemingly caught nothing less than the near-pristine image of a large, plesiosaur-like flipper and a portion of the body to which it was attached.

The Legend of Nessie website reveals, more specifically: “The picture obtained, although indistinct due to the murkiness of the water, show the offside hind quarter, flipper and part of the tail of a large animal with a rough textured skin of a greeny-brown color.” Too good to be true? Unfortunately, yes.

Darren Naish is a respected paleontologist, and someone with a deep interest in cryptozoology. Naish is someone who not only doubts the veracity of the Rines photos, but who is very vocal in his belief that they are fakes. Naish’s words are not without foundation. In fact, he is right on target. It’s now known that, at the absolute very least, the images were – and to put it diplomatically – manipulated and enhanced. It’s important to note that Naish is no debunker. Rather, he is someone who has an open-mind on the matter of cryptids and their possible existence, but who has studied the Rines pictures carefully and who concludes they are sorely lacking in credibility.

Dick Raynor was one of the people aboard the boat on the night of August 7/8, 1972. Raynor says something that, in a fashion which leaves no room for interpretation, contradicts the story that so many have heard and so dearly want to believe: “The enhanced ‘flipper’ photographs show incongruous shadow features which I cannot explain other than as deliberate artistic improvement, i.e. ‘retouching.’”

Those who faithfully adhere to the notion that the Nessies are flesh and blood animals, and possibly plesiosaurs, should take careful note of the words of Raynor. He was, after all, one of the key players in the story, on-site and on-board at the time, and someone with no motivation whatsoever to denounce the imagery without a good reason. His words offer a solid, fact-based explanation for why the pictures do not, and cannot, show what they appear to show: a flesh and blood animal of the plesiosaur variety.

It’s interesting to note that Sir Peter Scott and Robert Rines used these photos as the basis for a new name for the Nessies: Nessiteras rhombopteryx, which just happens to be an anagram of “Monster hoax by Sir Peter S.” That could, however, be nothing more than an extraordinary coincidence, since Nessiteras rhombopteryx also translates as “Yes, both pix are monsters, R.”

Rines caused an equally big stir in 1975 when he secured even more fantastic and controversial images, one of which seemed to show a gargoyle-like head, and the other the head, neck, body, and limbs of what does look very much like a plesiosaur. It has been suggested, however, that the head is either a tree-stump or the head of the model Nessie that was used in Billy Wilder’s 1970 movie, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. What is unknown to even many Nessie enthusiasts, is the fact that during the filming of the movie, the life-sized model head and neck of the monster unfortunately sank beneath the waves and were never recovered – something which some monster-hunters have suggested makes it not at all implausible that an occasional underwater photo of an assumed Nessie head might actually be a photo of the carefully crafted creation of special-effects experts. As for the plesiosaur-like imagery secured by Rines in 1975, Darren Naish suggests that pareidolia – the brain’s attempt to interpret and transform random imagery into something more – was the culprit.

The Rines photos led many to conclude that the Loch Ness Monsters were real, flesh and blood, breathing animals. But, with a certain amount of “retouching” having been applied, we should discard the photos as evidence of unidentified animals in Loch Ness.


Another Sphinx Discovered in Egypt

There are plenty of giant pyramids in Egypt, but there’s only one Great Sphinx of Giza … or anywhere else for that matter. While there have been rumors of a second Sphinx buried near the Great One, possibly facing in the traditional opposite direction as seen in statues or depictions of smaller sphinxes, none have ever been found to match the size of the original. Now, the Ministry of Antiquities has announced that a second giant sphinx was accidentally discovered by workers digging a road and, while it hasn’t been removed from the ground, there’s enough showing to confirm its existence and potential greatness.

While the discovery was heralded by Egypt Today and other media sites and Minister of Antiquities Khaled al-Anani is encouraging tourists to come and see it, not much is known about this sphinx and few pictures seem to be available. As with the recent giant sarcophagus filled with sewage water discovery, Egypt seems to be catering to tourism over archeology.

Would the Ministry be disappointed if the new sphinx looked like this one?

What we do know is that the sphinx was discovered on Al Kabbash Road by workers on the Al Kabbash Project, whose goal is to connect the Luxor Temple with the Karnak Temple by the end of 2018, allowing tourists easier and quicker access to both while facilitating electricity and water for both visitors and residents. The site is just six miles from the Valley of the Kings burial site, home of the tomb of King Tut among others. Perhaps the most exciting and unusual part of the discovery is that this sphinx is of the “classic” style like the Giant Sphinx – the head is of a lion rather than a ram or something else.

Despite the uniqueness of this sphinx and the excitement of Minister of Antiquities Khaled al-Anani and local plastic sphinx vendors, director-general of Antiquities Muhammad Abdul Aziz is slowing things down. He has stopped all road construction and is urging archeologists to proceed cautiously out of fears that the statue will crumble when exposed to new above-ground climate conditions … does anyone remember seeing the nose on the Great Sphinx?

Before you get too excited and plunk down your hard-earned cash on a trip to see the next big sphinx, keep in mind that the same Ministry of Antiquities which is promoting it as a tourist attraction also prohibited any photos being taken. That may be a sign this new sphinx is not the same as the old Sphinx and may not be 240 feet long, 66 feet high and date back to 2500 BCE. Sure, it could be bigger and older, but it’s probably not. There’s also a big road project being held up by its discovery – a project that’s nearly complete and can’t easily be diverted … although a roundabout with a sphinx in the middle might be an even greater tourist attraction that the Great One.

Perhaps it’s time to turn the entire country into a tourist attraction – nothing else seems to put an end to Egypt’s many other problems.


Dig Deeper: Paradigm Shifts and the Changing Face of North American Archaeology

The year was 1876, and Charles Conrad Abbott was not only well-known among his colleagues in the anthropological community: he also believed he was poised to initiate a paradigm shift, as far as our ideas about the first people to arrive in North America.

Abbott, a naturalist and career surgeon from New Jersey, was one of the first anthropologists to engage in well-documented archaeological fieldwork anywhere in the Delaware Valley. He had been inspired by the controversial discoveries in France’s Somme Valley, where artifacts found in a gravel pit suggested an earlier arrival of humans in Europe than once thought; at least by several thousands of years. Abbott himself had found stone artifacts that were similar to these, produced from a gravel bed he had worked near Trenton, New Jersey. Although the insinuation here hadn’t necessarily been that there were connections to Europe, he nonetheless believed that the artifacts he had discovered might be evidence of humans in North America before the end of the last ice age.

Abbott, as depicted in Popular Science Monthly, circa 1887 (public domain).

It was not a popular idea at the time, and while the anthropological community didn’t overlook Abbott’s claims entirely, they were readily dismissed. Leading the charge against Abbot were famed geologist William Henry Holmes and John Wesley Powell, the director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Bureau of Ethnology. Aleš Hrdlička, who later became curator of physical anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, eventually joined his colleagues in their criticism, based on three well-thought criteria he proposed at the time.

First, Hrdlička argued, Abbot’s discoveries failed to provide indisputable evidence of human remains, or human-made artifacts (Holmes had suggested that Abbot’s “artifacts” were actually natural formations instead). Hrdlička further argued that no stratigraphic sequence was discernible at the place of Abbot’s discovery, which reliably told their age. Finally, as with the discoveries at the Somme Valley, plant or animal remains must be found alongside any proposed artifacts to help indicate the era from which they hailed; Abbot’s discoveries met none of these criteria.

At the time they were proposed by Hrdlička, they weren’t bad rules for anthropologists to follow. All of these things helped provide important information about the temporal and spatial relationships between any proposed artifacts, the people who made them, and the era in which they were created. So it wasn’t unreasonable for Hrdlička and his colleagues to offer critiques of discoveries by the likes of Abbot. The lacking evidence for claims of “Glacial Man” in the Americas had further fueled the notion at that time that Humans had not existed on the North American continent much longer than 3000 years.

As time has shown, the problem had been that the status quo that these men upheld had been right in principle, based on the criteria they had established, but factually wrong based on information they simply hadn’t managed to find yet. While Abbot’s discoveries may not have been reliable proof for the idea he espoused, better examples that would challenge the existing archaeological paradigms would soon follow.

Enter Folsom, New Mexico, and the discoveries made there by an African American cowboy named George McJunkin in 1908. McJunkin found not only whitewashed bones of megafaunal bison protruding from a bank near Wild Horse Arroyo, but also flint clippings that were consistent with ancient human stone tool manufacture. It wasn’t until 1926 that these discoveries came to the attention Jesse Figgins at the Museum of Natural History, but the ensuing excavations at Folsom clearly established the presence of humans that hunted megafauna in North America at least 9000 years ago, possibly even earlier.

It wasn’t long before similar discoveries made by James Whiteman, a boy of Native American heritage attending college and studying archaeology in New Mexico, found what he called “Warheads” at Black Water Draw near Clovis. Like Folsom had done just a few years beforehand, discoveries at Clovis pushed back the timescales on human occupation of the Americas even further, to as much as 13,000 years.

During the early part of the Twentieth Century, archaeology was still fairly new in North America, and the lack of both resources and manpower often slowed the pace of what otherwise might have been a continuing boom in such archaeological discoveries. More Clovis sites would turn up over the ensuing decades, and on occasion, certain archaeological sites would also produce curiosities: things which didn’t seem to fit the known “paradigm,” and could possibly suggest even earlier heritage for America’s first inhabitants.

Such ideas were no more popular by the 1970s than they had been for men like Charles Abbot a century earlier, and were met with the same customary resistance that past generations of American antiquarians had once seen. Even when reliable radiocarbon dating at sites like Monte Verde, Chile, and Meadowcroft Rockshelter in Pennsylvania began to shatter the widely accepted “Clovis First” paradigm, many in American archaeology were still resistant to the idea of change.

Meadowcroft Rockshelter in Washington County, Pennsylvannia (photo by the author)

With the arrival of the new millennium, the evidence for “Pre-Clovis” was nearly impossible to ignore, and now it is widely accepted that people were indeed here earlier than 13,000 years ago. Recent discoveries at locales like the Gault site in Texas have continued to push the existing timescales back to arrivals in North America by people at least 16,000 years ago, although there are cultural remains that are now turning up in reliably-dated strata as old as 21,000 years.

The aforementioned dates that were determined in relation to artifacts from the Gault site would have seemed impossible only a few years ago. However, the accumulation of evidence is now showing us that people were in the Americas much earlier than previously thought, and seemingly by several thousands of years. Nonetheless, as with many similar “paradigm shifts” that have occurred over the last century or so, today there appear to be limitations to how far modern archaeologists are willing to go with their reconsiderations about the past.

The Topper site in Allendale County, South Carolina is one such site which, despite reliable archaeology that has been done there over the years, has been treated cautiously by the archaeological community. In the video below, my own visit to the Topper site in early 2018 is documented; in it, my colleagues and I were joined by Dr. Albert Goodyear, who led the excavations there over several seasons that produced discoveries that, in our opinion, are truly remarkable in the context of modern archaeology: possible evidence for people in North America between 25,000 and 50,000 years ago.

These discoveries may seem dubious, if not impossible in the context of modern archaeology… perhaps even when giving consideration to the recent discoveries at Gault (at least for the most skeptical among us). Granted, less than a century ago it would also have seemed unlikely that humans were in North America before the end of the last ice age, and only in the last two decades has the broader archaeological community finally warmed up to the reality that there were people here before Clovis. Now, sites like Gault in Texas are showing us that digging deeper often does reveal evidence of much earlier habitation than once believed.

Perhaps it’s time we acknowledge that having a mindset to “dig deeper” would have yielded such results much sooner, had people been doing like Albert Goodyear was already doing as far back as the 1990s. As I noted in 2016 about media coverage of the Topper Site, archaeologist Michael Collins with the University of Texas at Austin told CNN in 2004 that, “[Goodyear] has a very old geologic formation, but I can’t agree with his interpretation of those stones being man-made.” Collins is now a Research Professor at Texas State University in San Marcos and Chairman of the Gault School of Archaeological Research and co-authored the recent paper in Science Advances which detailed the 16,000 to 21,000-year-old discoveries in Texas.

Obviously, there would have to be an eventual boundary beyond which any similar “paradigm shifting” discoveries could be made in American archaeology. However, history has already shown that the tendency to place caps on the earliest arrivals in the Ancient Americas has been premature in every instance. Every attempt to set boundaries for how far back we can push the timetables on early human occupations has been met with new, even earlier discoveries, which challenge our attitudes about who was here, and how long ago they arrived.

Until we can reliably establish when the very earliest arrivals in the New World occurred, it might be best for the anthropological community to adopt a new, and resoundingly simple mantra for future field work: Dig Deeper! 


Scientists Claim Homo Erectus Went Extinct Because of Laziness

Homo erectus was too lazy to survive.

Laziness: it’s one of life’s little pleasures. Sometimes there’s just no better feeling in the world than shirking all responsibilities and watching the same bad episode of the same bad TV show for the thousandth time while the world outside carries on without you. You have to be careful though, because a little too much laziness not only wrecks your wallet and your respectability among your peers, but it also, apparently, ends entire human species. Scientists are now claiming that our ancient cousins Homo erectusa hominid species in the early stone age that lived throughout Africa and Eurasia—went extinct some 140,000 years ago due to laziness and a “lack of wonder,” which ultimately lead to their inability to adapt to a changing environment and the end of their species.

According to a recent paper detailing an archaeological survey of Homo erectus settlements on the Arabian peninsula in 2014, Homo erectus displayed “least-effort” strategies in their tool crafting and showed a lack of industriousness, ambition, and wonder. That sounds harsh. Lead researcher Dr Ceri Shipton makes it sound even harsher:

“They really don’t seem to have been pushing themselves. I don’t get the sense they were explorers looking over the horizon. They didn’t have that same sense of wonder that we have.”

Skull of homo erectus

Homo erectus skull.

It sounds pretty unfair to pidgeon hole an entire species as just terminally boring, but the evidence suggests that it’s pretty accurate. It’s a bit different than, say, shouting at a black rhino “why don’t you grow some thumbs and make something of yourself?”  Homo erectus wasn’t incapable. They harnessed fire and they made tools. They just made really bad tools, out of really low quality stone. But wait, you might be asking, what if that’s all they had? Can you really blame them for not having access to quality materials? Of course not, but here’s the thing: they had access to fine quality stone, they were just too lazy. Dr Shipton explains:

‘To make their stone tools they would use whatever rocks they could find lying around their camp, which were mostly of comparatively low quality to what later stone tool makers used. At the site we looked at there was a big rocky outcrop of quality stone just a short distance away up a small hill. But rather than walk up the hill they would just use whatever bits had rolled down and were lying at the bottom.

They knew it was there, but because they had enough adequate resources they seem to have thought, ‘why bother?'”

This is in contrast to Homo sapiens and Neanderthals who would travel across huge distances, climb mountains, and put just a little bit of effort into finding good stone. Homo erectus, as a species, didn’t want to walk up a hill.

Stone tools.

Drawing of early stone tools.

This, combined with a cultural conservatism that resisted any change or adaptation, resulted in Homo erectus being woefully unprepared to deal with the drying out of the Arabian peninsula. As their environment dried out, they kept doing the same exact things with their tools. Once again, they went from not using fire and not having tools to inventing tools and harnessing the power of fire, so they were certainly physically capable of progress. They just said “ah, good enough.”

Maybe it still isn’t fair to rag on an entire species like this, they’re not here to defend themselves, after all. Because they couldn’t be bothered to survive. So, the next time you see someone shirking their responsibilities and putting in the least effort possible just tell them that they’re a walking, talking, extinction level event.


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