The Errors of "Forbidden Archaeology"

Michael Cremo, joint author of "Forbidden Archaeology", which claims to highlight evidence of high civilizations hundreds of thousands and even millions of years ago.

Since the early 1990s Michael Cremo and Richard Thompson have authored a series of books claiming that the human race is much older than stated in mainstream publications and that, in addition, advanced civilizations dating back hundreds of thousands and even millions of years once existed on Earth. Cremo and Thompson’s first book, Forbidden Archaeology (1993), set the tone of future efforts, and their work has been hugely popular and influential amongst the large and growing “alternative history” public.

There can be no doubt that Forbidden Archaeology is an interesting and even fascinating read, and that it brings into the light of day a large body of anomalous discoveries that are invariably ignored in mainstream publications. As with most challenges to mainstream theories, the response of the academic establishment has generally been to ignore it completely, using what the Germans term todschweigentaktik - “death by silence tactic”. Those establishment gatekeepers whose task it is to “warn off” the public with regards to forbidden thinking, generally dismiss Cremo and Thompson with the usual ad hominem criticisms - ie. they’re not trained archaeologists, so what they say can’t be of any value. Rarely is any of the evidence brought forward by the two men addressed and answered.

In the absence of serious counter argument, it is little wonder that Forbidden Archaeology has achieved almost cult status in an age in which a large and increasing body of the public no longer trust the “experts” and who have bought into the theory - popularised at least since the time of Ignatius Donnelly - that a great and advanced civilization existed long before the end of the Ice Age (an event normally dated around ten thousand B.C.) Yet Cremo’s and Thompson’s work does contain major errors, errors which need to be pointed out.

First and foremost, it needs to be stated that the great majority of the discoveries highlighted by Cremo and Thompson occurred in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. This by itself does not invalidate them. There were as many honest and competent people around in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as there are now - maybe more. Nonetheless, there were also, like now, an abundance of charlatans and hoaxers. The early twentieth century, it cannot be forgotten, gave us the notorious Piltdown and Peking Man forgeries. The nineteenth century, the century that gave birth to the very idea of archaeology, was one blighted by a plethora of forgeries and fake discoveries. Some of the most astonishing finds cited by Cremo and Thompson were made by miners and quarrymen. And indeed men of those professions do make startling discoveries. Yet I cannot help but recall the two nineteenth century quarrymen who claimed to have found, encased in a rock in the Alps, the complete body of a pterodactyl, which then, upon being exposed to the air, revived and flew off.

Quite naturally, Cremo and Thompson claim that the discoveries of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries which they catalogue were effaced from the textbooks not because they were of questionable provenance and reliability, but because of the tendency of the mainstream to ignore evidence which cannot be fitted into the prevailing paradigm. There is no question, of course, that this is a real and pernicious feature of all areas of academic life and research. I am only too aware of this in regard to the volumes of evidence routinely ignored in establishment circles regarding the true chronological position of the ancient civilizations of the Near East. However, most of the evidence quoted by Cremo and Thompson relates to much earlier epochs of the Earth’s history and is not in the same category. The claim, for example, that certain technologically advanced-looking artefacts came from strata contemporary with the dinosaurs presupposes the existence not only of human beings at that time but also of an advanced civilization with all its accompanying infrastructure. If such a civilization had existed then - or indeed in more recent epochs - its markers would be found everywhere. The relics of such a society would be unearthed far more regularly than the fossilized bones of the dinosaurs. Proof of its existence would be uncovered in almost every spadeful of clay or rock brought up from mines and quarries and would not be evidenced solely by the extremely rare artefacts mentioned in Forbidden Archaeology.

The second factor overlooked by Cremo and Thompson is that the history of our planet was catastrophic and not uniformitarian. Cremo and Thompson unquestioningly accept the mainstream view that our planet is several billions of years old and that cosmic catastrophes had little or no impact on the more recent history of the Earth. Neither of these propositions can stand critical examination. Cosmic catastrophes did happen, and they changed the Earth’s topography much more rapidly than the slow action of wind, rain, and frost imagined in mainstream publications. It follows therefore that strata which mainstream scholars might date as hundreds of thousands or millions of years old, may in reality be no more than several thousand or at most several tens of thousands of years old.

The third factor is related to the second. Owing to the fact that the processes which produced rock formations and strata are not properly understood, errors have occurred in assigning specific geological formations. Thus for example various strata which were originally termed Miocene were later reassigned to the Pliocene and strata originally termed Pliocene have often been reassigned to the Miocene or the Pleistocene. Some commentators have gone further, and would like to recategorize the Pliocene as little more than the tropical zone facade of the Pleistocene (See for example D. S. Allen and J. B. Delair, Cataclysm: Compelling Evidence of a Cosmic Catastrophe in 9500 B.C.). So, when Cremo and Thompson produce human artefacts uncovered a hundred or more years ago from strata then defined as Miocene or Pliocene, artefacts which would otherwise be assigned to the Upper Palaeolithic (Late Pleistocene), we have to remember the often very flimsy foundations upon which the original designation was made. A similar problem exists in the archaeology of the ancient Near Eastern where, for example, the cultures destroyed by a “Great Conflagration” in Syria are dated Early Bronze II (around 2200 B.C.), whereas those destroyed by a “Great Flood” in Mesopotamia are designated Chalcolithic (around 3200 B.C.) - even though the pre-catastrophe cultures in both regions were designated ‘Ubaid, and in both regions the post-catastrophe cultures, namely Khirbet-Kerak and Jamdat Nasr, displayed strong affinities. This thousand-year discrepancy in the terminologies used for Syria on the one hand and Mesopotamia on the other was highlighted by field archaeologist Jacob Kaplan in the 1980s, but not even his intervention has been able to uproot the established system.

All in all then the evidence would suggest that Cremo and Thompson are very much mistaken in their belief that highly advanced cultures existed on Earth in remote antiquity. On the plus side, their research has highlighted numerous and embarrassing anomalies in the accepted archaeological framework, and they have shown, for example, that many of the hominid species regularly trumpeted as ancestors of modern man were nothing of the sort; they were merely extinct apes which coexisted with early homo sapiens.