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Forbidden Archaeology :
Antievolutionism Outside the Christian Arena
Wade Tarzia, Ph.D.
First published in Creation/Evolution 34:13-25,
1994 This version contains material that did not appear in
the original publication
Forbidden Archeology: The Hidden History
of the Human Race . Michael A. Cremo and Richard L.
Thompson. San Diego: Govardhan Hill, Inc. 1994. xxxvii + 914
Pages. Published by the Bhaktivedanta Institute, International
Society for Krishna Consciousness.
Forbidden Archeology holds that
anatomically modern humans have existed for millions of years,
which disproves the theory of human evolution; the authors make
no specific claims for other kinds of biotic evolution. The book
also claims that archaeologists have become a "knowledge
filter" (p. xxv ff.) since the 19th century, laboring under
a predisposition to ignore evidence for anatomically modern
humans having existed for millions of years. Sometimes the book
develops a dishonesty theory -- evidence is said to be
"carefully edited" (p. 150) by scientists so that
younger investigators do not see evidence that invalidates the
theory of human evolution.
To support their claims, the authors have worked
hard in collecting and quoting an enormous amount of material,
much of it from the 19th- and early 20th-century, certainly
interesting for its historical perspective. Their evidence is as
diverse as it is detailed, including, for example, eoliths
(crudely broken stones some have considered early tools),
"wildmen" (Big Foot, etc.), and even a fossilized shoe
sole from the Triassic period.
Despite all this hard work, I think the book falls
short of a scientific work primarily (but not entirely) because
(1) its arguments abandon the testing of simpler hypothesis
before the more complex and sensationalistic ones, and (2) the
use of so many outdated sources is inadequate for a book that
seeks to overturn the well-established paradigm of human
evolution -- scholars must not work in isolation, especially
today, when multi-disciplinary approaches are needed to remain on
the cutting edge of knowledge. However, for researchers studying
the growth, folklore, and rhetoric of pseudo-science, the book is
useful as ‘field’ data.
I confine my review to some basic
categories of flawed scientific argumentation. I show a couple of
examples in each category but by no means have exhausted the
pool. Throughout the book, examples of ‘loose’
science appear. I hesitate in judging the book to be utterly
worthless from a scientific standpoint -- various specialists
need to compare notes on the book -- but if worthy ideas exist in
Forbidden Archaeology , they are hidden under a mass of
undisciplined details, lack of critical contextual information,
leaps of logic, and special pleading. The authors would have done
better to devote their years of research to a smaller list of
topics to allow themselves space to consider and test all of the
implications of their hypotheses.
I have chosen to review this book in an extended
format -- a book-review/article -- because I think Forbidden
Archaeology is so expansive that it forms good ground on
which to explicate the style of pseudoscience writings,
especially on the topic of archaeology. It is an exhaustive
attack on the idea that humans have evolved. It is also a
well-written example of pseudoscience -- its looks like the real
thing, a phenomena discussed in Williams (1991, 15) -- and a
quick review of the book is not advised. Indeed, to remain open
to the possibility of new ideas we need to treat new entries into
the field seriously. Serious treatment of new ideas, however much
on the fringe they may be, is an appropriate venture in science.
"The idea is not to attempt to settle such ideas definitely,
but rather to illustrate the process of reasoned disputation, to
show how scientists approach a problem that does not lend itself
to crisp experimentation, or is unorthodox in its
interdisciplinary nature, or otherwise evokes strong
emotions" (Sagan 1979, 82).
Mass of Details
The mass of details with attached analyses would
require book-length responses from specialized reviewers to
confirm or critique. This style is a common diversionary tactic
in pseudoscience. Since the authors have not aired their
arguments previously through professional journals, as many
scholars do before writing such a huge synthesis of material, the
task of validation becomes a career itself. Such a style burdens
an analysis with long leaps between broad assumptions (i.e.,
scientific cover-up) to the detailed evidence (i.e., minutiae of
strata and dating from obscure sites) -- all on the same page.
In the process of amassing details, the book seems
to go to great lengths on minutiae, while more important data is
passed over. Example: in a discussion of a purportedly incised
bone (p. 38-40), discussion of the nature of the cuts and the
context of the bone in the site are given short shrift while the
discussion focuses on the fauna appearing in the stratum of the
site. Evidence from an electron microscope study is not yet
forthcoming; additionally, a reference central to the issue is a
personal communication, and other evidence in the form of
drawings or photographs is lacking. We are diverted from the
primary issue of whether this is an artifact at all. (Note that
the authors accuse others of using this same tactic [p. 377]). A
discerning reader simply needs more than this to credit unusual
claims for controversial artifacts. The problem with this
particular case occurs in other cases.
Use of Old Sources
Quotations of the 19th-/early 20th- century
material are copious -- comprising, I would guess, at least 25
percent of the book. A few examples: (1) a 1935 work of
Weidenreich is cited as opposition to a 1985 work of Binford and
Ho (p. 553); was there no current reference to refute Binford and
Ho, and if not, what does this mean? (2) a question is raised
about the geological time-scale, and the latest reference on the
matter cited is a lecture given by Spieker in 1956 (p. 16);
surely additional and more recent work is available on the topic
of such importance as this; (3) a 1910 work of Osborn is used
that mentions archaeological work done in 1863 and 1867, which
seems desperately searching for supportive evidence in old
reports; (4) experts are cited -- from ca. 1870 -- on the subject
of shark teeth to suggest that these Pliocene fossils were
drilled by humans (p. 49-51); this case is conspicuous in its
avoidance of modern sources on shark biology and paleontology,
sources that might better elucidate the work of tooth decay,
parasites, and fossilization at work on shark teeth.
I do not indict the sincerity and ground-breaking
of 19th century scholars. However, because knowledge seems to
accumulate and research techniques seem to improve, assuming a
blanket equivalency of research level between 19th and 20th
century science is just going too far. Forbidden
Archaeology does make such an argument, which I discuss
Assume Equivalency between Old and Recent
A foundation of the book’s arguments is
that the research of the 19th- and early-20th-century scientists
(esp. those presenting anomalous evidence for the antiquity of
modern-type humans) should be considered equivalently factual
relative to modern reports. (p. 22) The work further implies that
modern scientists tend to accept one "set" of reports
(modern ones) while rejecting another set (19th century ones);
"it would be especially wrong to accept one set as proof of
a given theory while suppressing the other set, and thus
rendering it inaccessible to future students."
Well, maybe. But if the authors, who are not
archaeologists, found these old reports, I hope archaeology
students might do just as well. More to the point, we can argue
whether scientists do reject early research -- which seems a
rather simple statement covering a complex situation. Reliance on
work of over a hundred years past is implicit in our accumulation
of knowledge and refinement in understanding. But we are
not belittling important groundbreaking when we do not a
priori make direct use of the conclusions drawn in the good
old days. Said another way: we should not make fools out of early
doctors struggling with the few resources they had, nor should we
rely on early medical texts or supply them to our doctors for
Rusting Occam’s Razor
A major flaw of Forbidden Archaeology is
its quick leaps toward sensational hypotheses (see in general
Williams 1991, 11-27). Sensational ideas are not intrinsically
bad -- plate tectonics was pretty astonishing at one point
(Williams 1991, 132), but also true. However, the cautious
investigator hopes that less sensational, or simpler, hypotheses
are first proposed and well tested before more complex or less
likely explanations are considered.
This jumping over possible explanations is what
Dincauze (1984, 294) calls avoidance of alternatives in
archaeological argumentation. Dincauze fairly draws her cases
from an array of archaeologists, some professional, others on the
fringe (see also Williams 1991, 127 for an example of scientific
fallibility). Her cases are drawn from the controversial claims
for preClovis (pre 12,000 BP), Paleoindian occupation in the
Americas, but her ideas perfectly suit this current review.
Critical tests must be applied to each and every
claim for great antiquity so long as there remains no supporting
context of ancient finds in which the claims can be readily
accepted. ...We have at hand an unprecedented number of powerful
analytic techniques. Because of the expanded base of theory,
data, and method, we should be able to define related series of
contrastive hypotheses around any question. Given multiple
hypotheses, we can proceed to exclude or disprove all of but a
few of them, leaving those that are not contradicted.
A typical example of this problem in Forbidden
Archaeology is a discussion of a Miocene fossil bone
purportedly incised with tools, which is supposed to indicate the
existence of tool-making humans in the Miocene age (p. 67) -- an
unusual idea. The authors call for further investigation into
this possibility and in doing so skip over various alternatives
to the ways a fossil could appear incised. For example,
the bone’s markings, as depicted in the simple drawing,
make me hypothesize that the bone was loaded lengthwise after the
animal died, inducing tensile stresses along the side opposite
the load, causing cracks around part of the bone’s
circumference. Can this happen to a bone? I do not know, but I
want to see simpler alternatives like this discussed, such as (1)
the decay process that bone may undergo before fossilization
(including the fracture mechanics of aging bone); (2) what can
happen to a bone after it is fossilized. Some fossils have indeed
suffered distortion during their tenure in the ground (for
examples, see Day 1986, 80, 130, 204, 227, 350, 378, esp. a
photograph of an ulna suffering both transverse and longitudinal
cracks, 243), so the topic of distortion is topical and must be
considered. Furthermore, such discussion must rely on modern
sources of knowledge, not the 19th-century reports.
In another case, a Paleolithic-type tool is said
to have been found in an extremely old deposit, allegedly
supporting the possibility for tool-using humans much earlier
than currently agreed (p. 90). This conclusion is a giant leap
over an easier explanation; the site, Red Crag in England, is a
river valley in which erosion could have exposed a Paleolithic
tool and permitted its transport to the find spot in older
gravels, since, over time, gravity ensures that materials wash
down slope. Yet, this possibility is not raised in the discussion
(despite the fact that the artifact was a surface find). However,
the finder responded to an inquiry asking if any stone tools had
been found in situ by inspecting "in and near the
post holes dug for a fence." The finder was successful:
"I found worked stones and thus recorded my first finds
in situ " (p. 98). Apparently those were the great days
of archaeology -- if you needed an artifact, then you simply went
out to find one in any local hole being dug! Of course, the
simpler hypothesis is not offered -- that an extremely charitable
definition of ‘stone artifact’ might be at the root
of such good luck.
Consider also Forbidden Archaeology
’s interpretation of the famous fossilized foot prints at
Laetoli, Africa, dated to about 3.6 million years BP. Most
scientists believe they are of early hominids. Since the
footprints are surprisingly familiar, the authors feel they are
direct evidence for 3.6-million-year-old modern humans (p. 742).
Yet, one can more easily see the footprints as a main point of
evolution theory -- if parts of an organism are well-adapted to
certain uses, they need not change very quickly. Thus human feet
may be relatively well-designed for walking and need not have
changed rapidly over a few million years. So far this seems to be
the simplest explanation. Forbidden Archaeology has not
offered an alternative that falsifies this concept nor proposes a
Reference to reports of living ape-people (or
"wildmen") caps my list of giant leaps. Forbidden
Archaeology uses this section to suggest the simultaneous
existence of hominids with modern-type humans (cf. 622), which
would supposedly disprove the notion of human evolution, ignoring
the possibility of shared common ancestry. The authors seem very
credulous of reports of wild-folk sightings. Here the easiest
explanation, in the absence of a caged abominable snowperson, is
that Yeti/Sasquatch/etc. are manifestations of folklore about
anthropomorphic creatures, which is spread world-wide and goes
back quite far; the human-eating monsters Grendel and his mother
in the 1,000+ year-old epic Beowulf are an example (see
Donaldson 1967). In fact, some of the reports cited in
Forbidden Archaeology remind me of Beowulf when the
theme of the report is an attack of an ape-man (examples on pp.
610, 611, 614, 618). In other ways the nature of some reports
reminds me of contemporary legends, in which the actual witness
of a strange event is removed from the informant by space and
time; one informant said, "Many years ago in India, my late
wife’s mother told me how her mother had actually seen what
might have been one of these creatures at Mussorie, in the
Himalayan foothills." (p. 607).
Discussing wildmen existing in folklore, the
authors cite a reference that says, in part, that wolves appear
in folktales because they are real; so if wildmen did not
show up in folktales, then their reality could be doubted (p.
617). Well -- dragons, giants, and vampires show up in folklore;
are we to believe they are real? But chipmunks seldom appear in
folktales, so perhaps they are mythical? Asking simple questions
such as these help us make a ‘reality check’ on
As a folklorist, I need to see the folklore
hypothesis first discussed and soundly falsified before I
consider that Yeti is real. And as a person interested in
science, I also need to see a sound ecological defense of their
lifestyle; as Williams says, "[T]here is a worldwide belief
in humanlike monsters, often lurking in the unknown woods.
...we’ve got them everywhere we want them--but conveniently
they don’t take up much space and eat very little"
(Williams 1991, 17).
While presenting a voluminous amount of detail,
sometimes Forbidden Archaeology has missed important
points. For example, the book discusses the Timlin site in New
York, where researchers reported finds of ancient eolithic tools
dated to 70,000 YBP (p. 354). Yet Forbidden Archaeology
does not mention the responses to these claims by several
professionals, which casts the nature of these finds in doubt
(Cole and Godfrey 1977; Cole, Funk, Godfrey, and Starna 1978;
Funk 1977, Starna 1977; a reply to the criticisms is in Raemsch
1978). I found it interesting that a student created similar
"eoliths" by rattling the same source material in a
garbage can (Funk 1977, 543); the simple experiment has much to
say about eoliths!
The authors have also missed Dincauze’s
(1984) work, which has much to say about the flaws in theorizing
about bones and artifacts from alleged early-human sites. The
flaws in logic, artifactual context, and hypothesis testing (or
lack of it) that she discusses are perfectly applicable to
arguments on eoliths and alleged incised bones; more important,
her discussions include some of the sites referred to in
Forbidden Archaeology and the problems associated with
In addition, the book appears to miss the point
that conclusions drawn from the paleoarchaeological record rely
heavily on the context of evidence found from a variety of sites.
When an artifact or fossil has a good context, it has been found
among other evidence of cultural activity and has been dated by
more than one method. The artifact might be found in
concentrations of other artifacts at a butcher site comprising
the bones of an animal. Such a context supports a claim that
simple tools, comprising rather crudely chipped cores and flakes,
were indeed tools. Similarly, the dating of the remains should
rely not only on a chemical method but also on other contexts,
such as datable fossil remains of other life (Dincauze [1984,
301-305] discusses these issues; see Mania and Vlcek 1981, 134
for an example in use: testing amino acid racemization,
geological strata, and faunal analysis).
Problems of missing context plague eolith
arguments. Thus, the authors state that crude eoliths are not
accepted as tools whereas allegedly similar-looking artifacts
(such as Olduwan and Acheulian industries) discovered by the
professional archaeologists are accepted as artifacts (p. xxvii).
But many Acheulian artifacts and quite a few Oldowan artifacts
are quite distinctively styled -- impossible to confuse with
randomly broken eoliths.
Furthermore, they think that Olduwan tools cannot
be accepted as tools because they were not found near hominid
fossils (p. 154). This chain of logic continues: if one rejects
eoliths as tools, then one must also reject Olduwan tools of the
same nature, which negates most of the tools from East Africa and
Zhoukoutien in China (p. 188); or -- take your choice! -- in the
absence of early hominid remains, Acheulian artifacts could be
attributed to Homo sapiens (p. 410).
In some cases the authors may be correct -- early
tool finds at Olduvai that have no supporting context may indeed
be shaky evidence of tool making. Beyond this, however,
Forbidden Archaeology builds a shaky correspondence between
the alleged evidence of eoliths and the accepted early hominid
and tool finds. First of all, archaeologists do not fail
to question their data, a fact that Forbidden Archaeology
conveniently fails to mention at strategic points. The most
cursory library search introduced me to Walker (1981, 198-201),
who notes that the dating, surface-find context, and sample sizes
of hominid finds present currently unsolved problems (although,
on the other hand, Walker emphasizes that surface finds, under
certain defined conditions of context, can offer reasonable
evidence [p. 200]). On the same stroll I found Rightmire (1984,
298) observing that Homo erectus probably made the early
Acheulian tools, but the association of the tools with these
hominids is not clear in the southern African sites.
However, these cases do not make sites with
better contexts disappear. Rightmire (1984, 298, 300) mentions
sites at which fossil hominids and tools are found in more solid
contexts. Mania and Vlcek (1981, 133-151) also report a hominid
site with associated hominid fossils, faunal remains, and tools.
The Koobi Fora site is undoubtedly a butcher site replete with
concentrations of stone tools; the only creature that could have
made tools in that region is of an early hominid species (Leakey
and Lewin 1978, 12). See Isaac (1984, 7-10) and Jones (19??) for
further evidence. And most would disagree with the authors about
Zhoukoutien; tool-using Homo erectus is most likely
represented at this site near Beijing (Harrold 1990, 6).
Archaeologists would love to find an early hominid
who choked to death on a classifiable bone of an extinct animal,
with an Olduwan utensil in hand, covered over by a layer of
hardened, datable volcanic ash preserving also the foot prints of
disappointed family and friends leaving the body. This
hasn’t happened. Yet, finds of tools in context with
butcher sites or living sites, with hominid remains existing in
the general region (near tools, in a few cases), are too strong
to disavow in the absence of any other fossil remain of an
intelligent creature that could produce tools and living floors.
This evidence cannot be compared with eolithic evidence found out
of context in the 19th century.
I close this section with one case where the
authors do worse than miss evidence -- by ignoring their own
objections. They feel the classic geological time-scale is
deficient but they do not evaluate it because "in this study
it would be impractical to delve into these matters in sufficient
detail to demonstrate the specific defects that may exist in this
geological and paleontological framework" (p. 23). The
reader might as well stop reading on the second paragraph of page
23, since Forbidden Archaeology will continually refer to
a time-scale that the authors believe is faulty.
Acceptance of Poor Evidence
My first example here concerns an alleged mortar
(The Pierce Mortar, p. 376) found in 1862 in a mining tunnel in
Table Mountain, California; the find spot was said to be in
Tertiary gravels. The mortar, for which we have only a vague
description, was of the same volcanic material (andesite) as the
strata that is above its find spot in the mine (p. 376).
Sinclair, a geologist, first criticized the claim and mentioned
that mine tunnels in the mountain could have let the artifact
enter. He also may have had another suspicion. The finder of the
mortar, Pierce, also claimed to have found a carved tablet in the
mine. Sinclair thought that the tablet had been recently etched
with a steel blade (p. 377). Perhaps he was wary of a hoax by
then. Surely the sensational happenings of the times would not
have convinced him otherwise, because the period of these finds
was a heyday in America for archaeological forgeries, especially
tablets. Williams (1991) devotes his chapter on "Archaeology
and Religion" to the subject, and Feder (1996) devotes his
3rd and 4th chapters to two particular archaeological
Cremo and Thompson use some interesting
explanations to rescue the mortar and tablet. They state
"who can say" that an andesitic boulder had not been in
the ancient gravels in which the mortar was found (p. 377), even
though, as I said, source material overlay the gravels of the
find spot. Further, Sinclair supposedly criticized the tablet to
distract from the issue of the mortar, a common tactic, say the
authors, used by people who wish to discredit anomalous evidence
(Ibid.). They say Sinclair gives no exact account of the features
of the so-called recent carving by a steel blade (although
Forbidden Archaeology gives no exact account of the nature of
the mortar beyond approximate measurements quoted from Sinclair),
so the carving might not have been made by a steel blade -- and
if it was etched with steel, this is evidence of use of steel
tools in the Tertiary period (Ibid.). Take your pick, you cannot
So besides using poor evidence, Cremo and Thompson
are selective in evaluating it. I wish the Triassic ‘shoe
sole’ (p. 807) were held to the same standard of
documentation, with its blurry photograph and no sign of the
stitching, etc., proving it to be a shoe fossil. The authors
criticize the Java Man and Zhoukoutien Cave finds even though the
techniques and documentation of these finds -- even
Dubois’s rather sloppy work -- cannot be compared to the
unconvincing, sworn testimonials of Pierce.
Similarly, when the book documents a claim for a
modern-type human skeleton (reported in a geology journal of
1862) in a coal deposit 90 feet deep, we learn the authors wrote
the Geological Survey to date the coal to about 286 million years
(p. 454). But we are not treated to a contextual discussion of
the bones -- how they were found, who found them, what was the
site like, and how these allegedly 286 million year old bones
came out of the earth with only a loose black coating that was
easily scraped away to reveal nice white bone, etc. The
impression left is that, if a tabloid reported Jimmy
Hoffa’s corpse was found in Triassic deposits, then the
authors would no doubt perform rigorous research to date those
deposits and then include the data in their next book. At any
rate, such credulity as does exist in the book strains reader
The best example of reliance on poor evidence is
an attempt to make negative evidence into support. The
introduction to the wildman chapter tries to use lack of
evidence for wildmen to support the existence of them. The
argument begins by questioning how -- for example -- we can
really trust that Johanson’s Ethiopian hominid finds were
discovered as reported in the literature; also, how do we know
that those same fossils are actually in the museum now? (p. 592)
This line of argument leads to the plea that, if (for example)
scientists believe Johanson’s words, his reports, and
assurances that the actual fossils are in the museum, then
scientists ought to believe in reports of ape-people, since these
scientific data are no more trustworthy than reports of
ape-people. Said simply -- ‘If you trust evidence from
professionals, which we believe to be doubtful, then please trust
our doubtful evidence.’
Too often, accepted evidence (mainstream theories)
is called into question by claiming the scientists are dishonest.
The idea is a venerable two-edged weapon, because if you accept
this view of science and of dishonorable or clumsy scientists,
then this book cannot be trusted, either. If the evidence of
Johanson’s (or others’) excavations can be so easily
lost, switched, lied about, then how much more could the
19th-century evidence be warped, the evidence on which this book
relies so heavily? And how can we trust the authors, who attempt
to use this evidently untrustworthy science-stuff?
Faulty View of Science
One of the most striking themes of Forbidden
Archaeology is the notion that scientists are slaves to
tradition, which slows down or stops the adoption of new ideas.
Yet, scientists have often overturned paradigms in the face of a
social tradition that penalized them for it. Galileo pushed his
‘wild’ views of a heliocentric solar system until
threatened by state-officiated torture. Modern cosmology is
another example, a branch of knowledge under such motion and
revision that I suspect astronomers are giants among coffee
drinkers. Similarly, paleoarchaeology is revised often in the
face of new evidence (see Tuttle 1988 for a feel for the
controversy). The "knowledge filter" would have to be
impossibly acrobatic to span all this change.
Forbidden Archaeology says that
19th-century scientists are to be trusted, however: they were
open-minded about the nature of the artifacts they found in early
strata, while today’s scientists automatically explain away
such finds (p. 90). The authors feel that the discovery of Java
Man (one of the earliest pieces evidence for human evolution) was
a turning point that made scientists so narrow-minded. After the
Java find, scientists became predisposed to the theory of
evolution. I am not sure how this process works. If scientists
ignore truth to be predisposed to tradition, then this paradigm
would have favored the idea of the extreme age of modern
human types because it is more easily worked into Biblical
tradition than is evolution. (Perhaps this is why the Cardiff
Giant hoax [ see Feder 1996, chapter 3, and Williams 1991] worked
so well on the public -- they were predisposed to believe in a
fossil ‘giant’ because they were imbued in a Biblical
tradition of antediluvian giants.) How could Java man change such
a tradition by itself unless scientists eventually become
disposed to consider new evidence? Dubois would have been given
cement overshoes, otherwise! Scientists were indeed open-minded
-- eventually the theory of evolution was adopted despite all the
penalties of challenging an entrenched social tradition of
A more specific complaint centers on the
exploitation of uncertainty in science. Some people may perceive
(perhaps envy) that scientists feel confident in the truth they
can deliver -- what else, from the people who enabled moon
landings and Tylenol? Of course, abundant mysteries exist to
continually remind scientists of their limitations. However, an
anti-science approach tries to turn this natural uncertainty into
proof that mainstream science cannot be expected to get it right.
For instance, Forbidden Archaeology opens its case in the
introduction by citing that the physical anthropologist Tuttle
saw a mystery in the fact that ape-like australopithecines
existed around the same time as the human-like footprints at
Laetoli. The citation ends there, and we don’t know exactly
what the mystery is that Tuttle sees (is it a mystery about two
distinct species of hominid living simultaneously or how the
curved big-toe of an ape-like creature could have left a
modern-seeming footprint?). Let us be happy that Tuttle was
mystified -- this is proof that the curious and honest scientist
in him is alive and kicking; but the authors have made a mystery
in science into a crack in scientific process. Mysteries are
everywhere, and when they disappear, so does science, because
science is only a method for understanding mysteries as reliably
It’s Anti-evolutionism, but Is It
I think so, as the title of this article
suggests. The authors state that they are followers of Vedic
philosophy and aim to explain the history of the human race
according to information preserved in Vedic texts and religion.
They inform the reader that their religious affiliation should
not matter if their ideas are solid (p. xxxvi), and I agree. Any
person’s work should be regarded on its merits. In fact,
many religious people have worked with good results in the fields
of science and technology (Noble 1997). Religion and other
cultural beliefs can bias an outlook, however, as the authors
themselves would agree. Consider the paleontologist Wolcott, for
instance, who seems to have missed the significance of the
Burgess Shale fossils because of religious leanings, among other
reasons (Gould 1989, ).
With this in mind, we can fairly ask if the
authors are trying to force data into a mold shaped by Vedic
religion. In his review of the book, Feder (1994) mentions that
the authors admit their religious affiliations but do not state
their theoretical outlook. He writes, "Like fundamentalist
Christian creationists, they [Cremo and Thompson] avoid talking
about the religious content of their perspective, so we can only
guess at it." Feder tells us of the concept of the Vedic
world cycle ( manvantara ) of 300,000,000 years in which
the world with its humans is created and then destroyed in
cycles. This concept is in keeping with Forbidden
Archaeology ’s thesis of modern-type humans existing
throughout antiquity. Feder says, "We all know what happens
when we mix a literal interpretation of the Judeo-Christian myth
with human paleontology; we get scientific creationism. It seems
that we now know what happens when we mix a literal
interpretation of the Hindu myth of creation with human
paleontology; we get the anti-evolutionary Krishna creationism of
Forbidden Archaeology , where human beings do not evolve
and where the fossil evidence for anatomically modern humans
dates as far back as the beginning of the current
manvantara ." To be specific, their evidence here
comprises a human skeleton (Illinois) and humanlike footprints
(Kentucky) that the authors think are dated to around 300 million
YBP (p. 816), as Feder points out. But they push their
artifactual evidence back farther, to the Precambrian, where
allegedly a grooved metallic sphere was found in South Africa and
a metal vase in Massachusetts (p. 815).
I add that the Sanskrit epic, Ramayana ,
includes intelligent monkeys and bears who side with the Vedic
gods against the demons. Has this narrative motif predisposed the
authors to believe in modern-type humans living alongside
intelligent animals (i.e., early hominids)? I can raise the
hypothesis but know of no method for supporting it beyond the
purely circumstantial evidence of the author’s stated
religious affiliations, their broad theory of modern-human
existence alongside hominids, and their belief in living
I have raised points that I think the authors
ought to have addressed if they want to test seriously their
hypotheses. I am disenchanted by these flaws in the basic steps
of investigation, and I am not encouraged to credit the
book’s more complex analyses in the more complex arenas
that decades and dozens of trained paleoarchaeologists have
The authors have posited a vast knowledge filter
and in many instances indicted the honesty and biases of
scientists. A fairer judgment is that scientists are human and
have human potentials for failings; in my mind, this means that
knowledge is accumulated at a slower rate than in a perfect
world, but accumulate it does. At the most cynical point, I could
posit that untruthful biases are uncovered because scientists
eventually criticize loose thinking if only to further their
careers. At their best, scientists -- indeed, all scholars and
artists -- love truth and are driven to know how the world is
made. Multiply these drives by the number of scholars living, and
it all adds up to a normally self-corrective tradition (cp. Sagan
1979, 82) that Cremo and Thompson reject with little basis.
Scientists have developed a rhetoric to report
and, perhaps, to think about their studies as objectively as
possible; however, this rhetoric can be used to further personal
agendas even when the science is solid (see for example Halloran
1984, 79) -- again, the human and the scientist are inseparable.
But instead of using Forbidden Archaeology , with its
poorly supported claims, people interested in the problems
associated with scientific reporting would do well to begin with
professional work on the subject (for example, Coletta 1992,
Fahnstock 1986, Gross 1990, Halloran 1984, Prelli 1989, Weimer
1977). Discussions of the history and nature of pseudoscience are
available in Cole 1980, Feder 1990, Harrold and Eve 1987,
Williams 1991. Many of their characterizations will be recognized
in Forbidden Archaeology . To these discussions, I suggest
that Cremo and Thompson have succumbed to a logical fallacy that
can plague both professional/amateur mainstream and marginal
archaeologists. Dincauze (1984, 292) writes about the trap of
The possibilist fallacy "consists in an
attempt to demonstrate that a factual statement is true or false
by establishing the possibility of its truth or falsity"
(Fischer 1970:53). ... The danger comes when possibilities are
confused with demonstration, when "it could be" is
followed by an unearned "therefore, it is." One cannot
falsify possibilities, and most skeptics wisely eschew the
effort. From the skeptics’ refusal to engage, proponents
charge either tacit agreement or refusal to face evidence. ...
The only appropriate engaged response to a possibilist argument
is a request for evidence, rather than assertion.
Dincauze reminds us that investigation must begin
with possibilist ideals, with the following caution:
"Possibilist arguments are only the first step toward
knowledge; they indicate a problem domain where the method of
multiple hypotheses might be applied" (1984, 310).
Possibilist ideals inherent in part of the
scientific approach are, perhaps, one reason why some people seem
to be excited about Forbidden Archaeology . The publisher
included a notice of ‘advanced praise’ along with the
review copy. Some selections: Dr. Virginia Steen-Macintyre, a
geologist, is quoted as saying, "What an eye opener! I
didn’t realize how many sites and how much data are out
there that don’t fit modern concepts of human evolution...
[publisher’s ellipsis] I predict the book will become an
underground classic." Fortean Times has said,
"Cremo and Thompson have launched a startling attack on our
whole picture of human origins and the way we have arrived at
that picture: not only is the evidence impugned, but also the
scientific method of handling it." Dr. Mikael Rothstein of
the Politiken Newspaper, Denmark, remarks, " Hidden
History is a detective novel as much as a scholarly tour
de force . But the murderer is not the butler. Neither is
the victim a rich old man with many heirs. The victim is Man
himself, and the role of the assassin is played by numerous
scientists." On the other hand, Richard Leakey replied to
their request for a book blurb with: "Your book is pure
humbug and does not deserve to be taken seriously by anyone but a
fool." In parentheses the publisher adds here:
"Representative of the scientific establishment’s
viewpoint." Perhaps -- but we do not know that yet.
This book, and other creationist texts that use
similar techniques, is most useful as ethnographic data in
studies of comparative religion, cult movements, popular
movements, anti-science, fantastic archaeology, rhetoric,
folklore -- the book can be studied in any of these fields. With
its emphasis on "secrets" and "hidden
history" and "cover-up," the book participates in
the popular genre of the conspiracy, akin to popular beliefs
about the Kennedy assassination and crashed alien spaceships kept
in guarded Air Force hangars (see Williams [1991, 153] about such
a charge made in the Atlantis topic). Sometimes the motifs of
these modern legends are mixed with traditional motifs, as in the
example of UFOs combined with traditional Irish fairy lore (Smith
1980, 402), and a "scientific" explanation of why
mermaids do not appear in Lake Michigan (Degh and Vazsonyi 1976,
109, 112-113). These instances mark the relatively recent
transition from agrarian to technological society, showing a need
to react against mainstream science -- or at least to dilute it
-- by adopting, re-inventing, or continuing traditional beliefs
in the supernatural. The need for people to fantasize about such
things is genuine; the behavior forms an aspect of Western,
industrialized culture (perhaps an aspect diagnostic of our
particular pressures) well worth interdisciplinary study.
This folklore connection is suggested in the
book’s constant looking-backward toward a ‘golden
age’ of open-minded scholars, which reminds me of the
function of myth, in which the past is formed in a mythological
story tradition to legitimize the present. I am also reminded of
the romance genre of literature: "Romance is the mythos of
literature concerned primarily with an idealized world in which
subtlety and complexity of characterization are not much favored
and narrative interest tends to center on a search for some kind
of golden age" (after Lee 1972, 227). Much of Forbidden
Archaeology does read like a romance.
In any event, I have no evidence that people were
or were not much more open-minded or golden a hundred years ago;
but in the present I see Forbidden Archaeology fantasizing
about a past open-mindedness to legitimize a vast restructuring
of our present understanding -- without good evidence.
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Copyright © 1998 Wade Tarzia. All rights