The Talk.Origins Archive: Exploring the Creation/Evolution Controversy

The Calaveras Skull Revisited
Copyright © 1996 by Paul Heinrich
[Last Update: June 3, 1996]

Mr. Chris Beetle wrote:

"As a reader of Forbidden Archeology, I wanted to say after pages of discussion of evidence on both sides of the Calaveras skull controversy, authors Michael Cremo and Richard Thompson stated: 'Can it really be said with certainty that the Calaveras skull was either genuine or a hoax?'"
[skull image] The answer is clearly "yes" according to the data presented by Taylor et al. (1992) and Dexter (1986) concerning the Calaveras skull, which includes a radiocarbon date of 1,000 B.P. from bones found with it. Boutwell (1911, pp. 55-54) interviewed people associated with the finding of the Calaveras skull and discovered that this skull was locally regarded as a hoax. One of the principal participants in the discovery of the skull even admitted that it was a hoax to him.

Michael Cremo and Richard Thompson further stated:

"The evidence is so contradictory and confusing that although the skull could have come from an Indian burial cave we might regard with suspicion anyone who comes forward with any kind of definite conclusion."
Forbidden Archaeology forgets that significantly confusing and contradictory evidence is characteristic of hoaxes when a group of people manufacture testimony and evidence to support their hoax, while another group continues to find flaws in the story and contradictions in the fabricated evidence. It significant that Forbidden Archaeology makes no attempts to rebut the arguments of Taylor et al. (1992), Dexter (1986), Sinclair (1908), and the radiocarbon date, but simply ignores them without any given reason. All this book can do is issue a blanket accusation that anybody who comes to a conclusion is "suspicious" as if they are probably the members of some sinister conspiracy to subvert science. [skull image]

The reluctance of Forbidden Archaeology to admit that the Calaveras skull was a hoax is clearly understandable. The presence of such a hoax involving "Tertiary archaeology" indicates that such hoaxes and practical jokes were being played upon geologists and their fellow miners by other miners within the gold fields of Tuolumne and Calaveras Counties. The prevalence of traditional mining-camp jokes is well illustrated by organization of miners such as the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus (Jackson 1941:351-352; Rather 1980:267-277).

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Boutwell, J. M., 1911, The Calaveras Skull. in W. Lindgrens, The Tertiary Gravels of the Sierra Nevada of California. U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper no. 73, pp. 54-55.

Jackson, J. H., 1941, Anyone's Gold, the Story of California Mining Towns. D-Apppleton-Century, New York.

Dexter, R. W., 1986, Historical aspects of the Calaveras skull controversy. American Antiquity. vol. 51, no. 2, pp. 365-369.

Rather, L., 1980, Men Will Be Boys: the Story of E. Clampus Vitus. Rather Press, Oakland.

Taylor, R. E., Louis A. Payen and Peter J. Slota, Jr., 1992, The age of the Calaveras skull: dating the "Piltdown man" of the New World. American Antiquity. vol. 57, pp. 261-269.

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