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Forbidden Archeology (review)

The hidden history of the human race, unpublished historical and scientific information about our past

Forbidden Archeology (review)
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Manitoulin Island (Lake Hurona, North America), 1950s. During an excavation campaign led by Thomas E. Lee, of the National Museum of Canada, "sophisticated stone tools" are found in the glacial deposits of Sheguiandah. Analysis of the material, will lead geologist John Sanford, of Wayne State University, to hypothesize for the finds an age of 65,000 to 125,000 years1. An extraordinary dating, such, if confirmed, as to call into question the principles of official archaeology! As Michael Cremo points out, commenting on the case in question in the introduction to the volume written together with Richard L. Thompson2, according to official theories, humans would have first appeared in North America - reaching the continent from Siberia - only 12 thousand years ago! In practice, this would involve "tweaking" official dates by as much as 100,000 years!

While the implications associated with such a scenario are well imaginable, Sheguiandah's is but one of a great many "unbelievable," and certainly not the most sensational, cases of which Cremo and Thompson's book offers an impressive collection, the result of eight years of research. It is a long review of "impossible" discoveries, unexplained findings that have come to light from the 19th century to the present, which not only pose serious questions about orthodox dating, but with respect to which precisely the very foundations of archaeology, as well as, for example, of paleontology, come to falter.

Above all, as a thread running through the entire work, there emerges a denunciation of the partiality and dogmatism of official science, which is said to have built its certainties by ignoring every discovery that contradicts the approved hypotheses and by denigrating and isolating every researcher who promotes alternative theories or is only "guilty" of being willing to examine "embarrassing" data.

It seemed interesting to us to propose Sheguiandah's case from the very first lines of this review-which, being all the more proposed by one who can boast no expertise on the subject, is intended to have as its sole objective to invite the reading of a book that is certainly "uncomfortable"-because it appears emblematic for the background and the very "ending" of the story. For which, the following excerpts from the text deserve to be quoted in full:

"The discoverer of the settlement was kicked out of his position in the Civil Service and for a long time was refused any work; the channels of literary publication were cut off; and the evidence was distorted by several famous writers.... ; the tons of artifacts vanished in the bins used as storage for the National Museum of Canada; for refusing to fire the discoverer, the director of the National Museum himself, who had proposed to have a monograph on the artifacts published, was fired by the government; the prestige and power of official officials were extensively used to get possession of the six Sheguiandah artifacts that were not intended for the Museum, and the site of the settlement was turned into a tourist resort..."

"Sheguiandah"-these are the eloquent concluding words-"would force the Brahmins to rewrite almost every book on the market. It had to be eliminated. And it was destroyed."

The review of "unexplained" cases, for many of which, moreover, all evidence has been permanently erased, is impressive. And if on the evaluation of finds such as footprints or bones and their dating there can indeed be discordant assessments, if different and opposing opinions have clashed for so many individual cases, certainly one is bewildered at the news of the discovery - which took place in the mines of South Africa - of hundreds of metal spheres in a Precambrian mineral deposit dated 2.8 million years old, or of clay figurines found in Idaho or Europe in deposits millions of years old! Among the "impossible" finds, we find the brick wall found in a mine during coal mining dating back to the Carboniferous (1928, Texas), metal pipes in Cretaceous chalk formations (1968, France), an inscription in a marble block mined at a depth of twenty meters (1830, Philadelphia). "Certainly"-the authors write about such episodes-"these are very bizarre, accompanied by very little evidence. But these are stories that are circulating, and we wonder how many are circulating, and whether any might be true."

Instead, ample attention is devoted to an extensive casuistry, the documentation of which also includes the opinions of eminent scientists and papers published in prestigious journals or presented at official conferences. A first section is devoted to findings involving unnaturally engraved or broken bones dating from the Pliocene, Miocene and even earlier periods. Cases of finds of "stone objects of unusually ancient manufacture," and those involving the remains of "anomalous" human skeletons are then examined.

Of course, given the complexity of the arguments, we limit ourselves here only to mentioning some of the most interesting cases described (among them some that came to light in Italy), referring for any further reading to the book. The one available in Italian, however, is an abridged edition: a choice made by the authors in order not to burden the reader with geological analyses and specialized studies, reported instead in the unabridged English edition (rich in over nine hundred pages).

The work of recovering the "buried evidence" starts in St. Prest (northwestern France), where in 1863 Jules Desnoyers, of the French National Museum, noticed marks engraved on a rhinoceros tibia fragment that could not be attributed to natural agents. Desnoyers would discover that fossils exhibited at the Chartres Museum and at the Paris Mining School also showed the same engravings, which could only be explained, as various paleontologists would also argue, by the voluntary action of a human being. A hypothesis that would perhaps have seemed obvious, were it not for the fact that the site of the St. Prest excavations belongs to the late Pliocene, a time when for official archaeology, it is explained, "the presence of beings capable of making sophisticated use of stone objects would be almost impossible"! The discovery will not fail to provoke heated controversy-Desnoyers' hypothesis, as indeed is honestly reported, will be challenged by various archaeologists-and eventually such a find will eventually fall into oblivion. Yet to date no conclusive evidence to rule out the action of humans would have been presented, and for the authors "there are insufficient grounds to categorically reject these bones as evidence of human presence in the Pliocene." Why, they ask in commenting on Desnoyers' discovery, are such finds not mentioned in archaeology textbooks? For the answer to this question, the words of Armand de Quatrefages, a member of the French Academy of Science and professor at the Museum of Natural History in Paris, are quoted for whom "the objections raised against the existence of humans in the Pliocene and Miocene seem usually related to theoretical considerations rather than direct observation"3.

The same conclusions will be reached for many other "anomalous" discoveries that occurred in England, Greece and Italy, which do not necessarily take us back to the nineteenth or early twentieth century. A recent case, this is 1970, has North America as its setting: bones of deer, which for discoverer Richard E. Morlan, of the Canadian Institute of Archaeological Research and the Canadian National Museum of Man, would show clear signs of intentional human intervention prior to the fossilization process, were found in a geological stratum datable up to eighty thousand years old. Yet another challenge, then, to official theories on the origin of man on the American continent....

Even more extensive is the section on stone tools and weapons. Such finds, often accompanied by a great deal of evidence, were numerous in the decades following the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species and, it is pointed out, for decades were the subject of discussion at scientific conferences until "whole categories of data disappeared from the scene."

Findings conflicting with official theories of human evolution would also have been made in recent decades in Pakistan, Siberia, India, the U.S., and Mexico. But the script would always seem to be the same: discoveries capable of challenging the dominant theories of evolution would still be systematically suppressed today. This would be especially the case with findings of "anomalous" human skeletons, i.e., found in incredibly ancient geological contexts, also all but rare even in the 20th century. "Although these human bones initially attracted considerable interest" - it is noted - "they are virtually unknown. Most of the current literature gives the general impression that, after the discovery of the first Neanderthal in the 1850s decade, no significant skeletal discoveries occurred until the discovery of Java Man following the 1890s decade."

In the review concerning the remains of human skeletons, they range from the "Trenton femur" (New Jersey), found in a stratum dating back to the interglacial period (one hundred thousand years), to the skeleton found at Gallery Hill (near London) in a deposit dating back more than three hundred thousand years. Especially the latter case will give rise to discordant opinions (most archaeologists will argue that the skeleton was buried recently). But as is noted, the evidence provided in this case, as in many others, is not sufficient to resolve doubts. Among the anomalous finds, whose nature would instead appear much less questionable, we find skulls, footprints, vertebrae, while the authors make only a hint of what are called "extreme anomalies."

"It is indeed rather curious"-this is Cremo and Thompson's comment-"that so many nineteenth- and early twentieth-century scientific researchers have independently and repeatedly reported on marks on Miocene, Pliocene, and early Pleistocene bones and shells that indicate signs of human intervention. [...] Were all these scientists wrong? Perhaps. But cut marks on fossil bones are a very strange object to be wrong about, a subject of little romance or inspiration." If, then, there is no further news of such discoveries, it is explained, it will not be because similar incidents have not occurred again, but simply because no scientist will venture to speak of "anomalous" finds anymore: "If one accepts the existence of such evidence in the past, one wonders why more is not found nowadays. The answer, a very good answer, is that no one is looking for them. [...] If a paleoanthropologist is convinced that in the middle Pliocene there could have been no humans capable of making tools, he is very unlikely to reflect on the exact nature of the marks that appear on fossil bones from that period."

The questions become even more disturbing when the authors, in the second part of the volume, move on to analyze the "evidence" on which archaeology has instead based its theoretical framework and in particular the official evolutionary theory. A theory that for Cremo and Thompson would present many shadows, also due to lack of definitive evidence, and which is judged inadequate to explain too many aspects and questions, which would still remain unanswered.

In this regard, some considerations nevertheless seem appropriate. Around evolutionism, the debate today is as open as ever, not least because of the spread that creationist theories are registering in recent times. Certainly until a few years ago it would have been unthinkable to hear the news, greeted with understandable clamor in the press, that one of the United States has gone so far as to ban the teaching of Evolutionism in schools. In short, we are well aware of how difficult it is to delve into such terrain. But in recent times even within the scientific world many scientists have posed the need to question if only some aspects of evolutionary theory. If until recently in academic circles it was impossible to even hint at questioning some minor assumptions, today the climate seems to have changed. Proof of this is the publication of a long series of volumes, where they go so far as to propose the overcoming of some salient points of Darwinism. And it is precisely with reference to the internal debate within evolutionism that Cremo and Thompson's book is perhaps all the more timely. Both because of the forcefully reiterated need for free and all-out debate and discussion. And also because with respect to "uncompromising" positions (the creationist critique), the authors, while making no secret of the fact that they identify with a specific religious view - the Vedic view - for which man's existence is much older than claimed by official science4, merely put forward the hypothesis that "human beings and ape-like beings have existed simultaneously for a long time," not delving into the specific problem of origins.

Such a perspective, at least in part, is not incompatible with some of the new orientations emerging within evolutionary currents that, rejecting the monogenetic and linear theory of evolution, advocate instead the hypothesis of a non-unique evolutionary line, a perspective that does not exclude the coexistence of multiple species at the same time5.

In this work, however, Cremo and Thompson do not pretend to formulate a complete alternative theory, a goal that, as is explained, will be the subject of a second work, and it should be acknowledged that the authors' beliefs have not conditioned the exposition of the many cases presented in the book. And as E. Johnson (author of Trial of Darwin), "in the end, what matters is not why the researchers were motivated to look for one kind of evidence, but whether they found anything worth reporting and worth the serious consideration of the scientific community."

An analysis of the evidence and scientific reports would show how in many cases the conclusions arrived at by many orthodox archaeologists would have been drawn in a decidedly questionable way, based on inadequate analysis or forced interpretation of the data. In the aftermath of the publication of The Origin of Species, the goal had been to provide evidence at any cost to support Darwin's theory, and especially capable of discrediting other positions. Indeed, Cremo and Thompson explain how in the late 19th century Darwin's was not the only theory of evolution, but how different conceptions existed. In particular, many archaeologists accepted the idea that modern humans had made their appearance much earlier than official archaeology now supports. Anthropologist Frank Spencer writes for example:

"from the evidence accumulated in the form of skeletons, it appears that the human skeletal type can be traced far back in time, an obvious fact that has led many researchers to abandon or modify their views on human evolution. One of these apostates was Alfred Russel Wallace. "6

However, the very position of Wallace, who, as is pointed out, shared with Darwin the development of the theory of evolution through natural selection, represented for Darwin himself the worst of heresies. The greatest criticism of Darwinism, was the lack of fossil evidence for human evolution, but here in the last decade of the nineteenth century, the long-awaited discovery of the missing link was announced, the species evidence that testified to the transition from man to ape: the Java man, christened by the discoverer, Eugene Dubois, "Pithecanthropus" (a name formed from the Greek words meaning "ape" and "man"). This discovery will contribute to the affirmation of Darwin's theory, but more importantly to the loss of ground to the others, starting with Wallace's. But from the outset it was judged to be groundless by many scholars, for whom there could be no certainty that the remains found in Java could suggest the existence of a being having partly ape-like and partly human characteristics. In the course of the excavations Dubois had in particular found a skullcap remnant, at first attributed to an anthropomorphic ape, and a fossilized human-like femur. In the official report Dubois, among other things changing his own opinion, would speculate that the two remains belonged to the same being, which he called Pithecanthropus. But there would be no evidence that the two fragments belonged to the same being and not instead to two separate beings. Especially since the femur had been found thirteen meters from the rest of the skullcap! Dubois himself would later reconsider and many anthropologists would disavow this hypothesis. In any case, finally, the result would be achieved: for the whole world the missing link, the long-awaited proof, had been found.

The history of official archaeology is also not lacking in glaring forgeries, as the story of Piltdown shows. In the early twentieth century a startling discovery was announced by Charles Dawson, a member of the Geological Society: the discovery at Piltdown (Sussex) of a human skull with a monkey jaw. The news will understandably arouse great excitement. But from the start it was viewed with suspicion by numerous archaeologists. It would soon be discovered that the skull was the result of manipulation. In this matter we are faced not with unintentional errors, but with outright fraud. The more general problem, it is pointed out, is the many episodes in which the questionable or erroneous conclusions arrived at by archaeologists are not the result of bad faith, but are produced by their beliefs. Strong influences, to say of another aspect analyzed in the book, may also be exerted by the foundations themselves that fund research: those conducted in China by Davidson Black on the Beijiling Man, would have taken place "within the much broader scenario of the Rockefeller Foundation's explicitly stated purpose, which reflected the implicit purpose of big science: the control of human behavior by scientists."

Vayson de Pradenne's analysis from Fraudes Archéologiques (1925) is also interesting: "One often finds men of science possessed by preconceived ideas who, while not committing actual frauds, do not hesitate to present observed facts in such a way as to channel the attention of others in the direction that agrees with their theories." Thus for de Pradenne we are not infrequently confronted with "a veritable fraud in the stratigraphic presentation of the findings, a fraud caused by his preconceived ideas, but executed more or less consciously by a man in good faith whom no one would call a fraud. It is a case that has occurred often."

According to Cremo and Thompson, misinterpreted artifacts would be found in museums around the world: "Although, considered separately, these instances of knowledge filtering seem unimportant, the cumulative effect is overwhelming and succeeds in radically distorting and obscuring the picture of human origins and antiquity."

"Fortifications" in fossil analysis aside, the evolutionary theory proposed by official science would stand up primarily through a systematic elimination of "inconvenient" data. "This gratuitous elimination of evidence, evidence supported by research as sound and valid as that which supports all currently accepted findings, represents a scam perpetrated by scientists wishing to promote a specific point of view. This digression from the truth does not appear to be the result of a deliberately organized conspiracy [...] but rather the inevitable result of the social mechanisms of knowledge filtering that are in place within the scientific community."

It is a fact, as Phillip E. Johnson well explains, that Cremo and Thompson show how we are faced with a "double criterion of evaluation" of finds by official archaeology: "Finds of human beings or their tools are accepted and recognized if they fall within the orthodox models of human evolution, while equally valid finds, which, however, do not fall within the preconceived model, are ignored or even destroyed."

"Such discoveries," Johnson further points out, "soon disappear from the press and within a few generations become invisible. As a result, it is virtually impossible for alternative theories about the history of early humans to gain any recognition. The very evidence that might support them can no longer be found or evaluated."

While this was true for decades past, today new findings would be challenging the entire official theoretical framework. The book unsurprisingly concludes with an overview of the latest discoveries on the African continent, which are moreover the subject of heated disputes. In recent years archaeology has recorded even resounding stances, through which archaeologists and paleontologists have called into question what until recently were inviolable taboos. Wide resonance has been had, for example, in the media by the hypothesis that tends to exclude Neanderthals from the evolutionary line of man7.

According to Forbidden Archaeology, far more certainties would come crashing down, so much so that the legitimacy of the inclusion of even Astrolopithecus and Homo Habilis itself in the evolutionary lineage would be challenged.

Certainly these are hypotheses before which an attitude of skepticism if not disbelief is understandable. But from the arguments set forth in the critique of the conduct of research and the "questionable" methods by which science has come to define so many principles, it emerges how a good deal of caution can justifiably be had even with respect to results taken for certain in textbooks and schoolbooks. Reinforcing the need for a more problematic attitude are then the comments of official archaeologists themselves. Pat Shipman's judgment with respect to the "confusing relationship between descendant species" is emblematic:

"We could claim that we have absolutely no evidence for the origin of Homo and thus remove all members of the genus Australopithecus from the hominid family.... I feel such a visceral aversion to this idea that I suspect I am unable to evaluate it rationally. I was brought up on the notion that Australopithecus is a hominid."

"Here"-this is the authors' comment-"is one of the most honest statements we have ever heard from an 'official' scientist involved in paleoanthropological research."

One of the most puzzling "anomalies" that has come to light in Africa is the footprints imprinted on a 3.8-million-year-old layer of volcanic ash discovered in 1979 in Laetoli (Northern Tanzania). Footprints that would clearly appear to have been produced by hominids. These finds were analyzed in an article published by National Geographic in which the author, Mary Leakey, reports the words of Luise Robbins, a footprint expert at the University of North Carolina: "they look too human, too modern, to have been found in such ancient tuff." "We were nonetheless surprised to encounter such an obvious anomaly"-is the authors' comment to this case-"in the unsuspected realm of the most recent annals of official paleoanthropological research. What really puzzled us was to see that world-renowned scientists, the best in their profession, were able to observe these footprints, describe their human characteristics, and ignore the possibility that the creatures that left them might have been human like us. Evidently their mental current influences in the normal preconstituted channels."

But while more and more scientists are realizing the need to reopen the discussion of the many inconsistencies and contradictions that exist, the attitude chosen even today by official science is unchanged: "inconvenient" data are ignored or the evidence is suppressed. Cremo emphasizes that when he speaks of suppression of evidence, he is certainly not referring to the action of a group of "conspiring scientists" but, as we have seen, more simply to a "normal social procedure of filtering knowledge."

Forbidden Archaeology is first and foremost a denunciation of the existence of a procedure that, "seemingly harmless," ends up having a "remarkable cumulative effect" in the long run. Beyond the content expressed, one of the book's greatest merits is precisely that it makes us reflect on the existence of such a mechanism, which appears even more relevant if we start from an awareness. And that is that the assumptions and certainties on which archaeology, and in particular Darwinism, is based, more than is the case with other disciplines, constitute the foundations of the theoretical framework of the entire science and the current worldview.

In an article published in Le Scienze8 - in which one reflected on which thought, more than any other, has come to condition the worldview that man carries with him into the third millennium - it was well pointed out precisely how, "on Darwin (rather than Einstein, Marx, Freud ed.) the modern worldview depends to a large extent."

One understands then how much the defense of orthodoxy in this field takes on an importance that transcends the boundaries of the discipline itself, and how accepting to question even a few aspects can be a far more destabilizing fact than one can apparently imagine. And while an attitude of closure may be understandable when one is faced with fanciful theories that are anything but based on solid assumptions, the refusal to discuss and confront documented findings or evidence, perhaps even with the sole intention of refuting interpretations that are considered baseless, is not acceptable. And the questions posed by Cremo and Thompson, "why do we refuse to consider certain findings?"; "why are they not discussed?", seem to us to be more than legitimate questions.


  1. The site will be analyzed by four geologists. For three of them, the finds dated to the last interglacial period and thus could be between 75 thousand and 125 thousand years old. In the joint statement all four will agree on a minimum age of 30 thousand years. To defeat this conclusion, the hypothesis of a mudslide will be put forward, which is, however, considered not very credible.
  2. Original title: The Hidden History of the Human Race, Bhaktivedanta Book Trust-International, 1996.
  3. Fossiles et Hommes Sauvages, 1884.
  4. Michael Cremo and Richard Thompson, as they explain in the introduction, belong to the International Association for Krishna Consciousness, which is concerned with the relationship between modern science and the worldview emerging from Vedic literature, and it is from this perspective that they began their research.
  5. In The Mistake of Darwin by Hans-Joachim Zillmer (Piemme, Casale Monferrato, 2000) the hypothesis is even advanced that humans and dinosaurs coexisted together*.
  6. Alan R. Liss, The Origin of Modern Humans: A World Survey of the Fossil Evidence, New York.
  7. La Repubblica, Thursday, March 30, 2000, "Neanderthal is not our ancestor - Glasgow, Dna analysis reveals: there was no sexual interbreeding with Sapiens," article by Claudia Di Giorgio.
  8. The Sciences, September 2000. The article, titled "Darwin's influence on modern thought," is by Ernst Mayr**.

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