Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Three Odd Collections: Two Duds and a Maybe, part two.
This is a picture of Charles Hapgood on his visit to Waldemar Julsrud's home in 1955 to look at the Acambaro figurines. Some of the falling-all-over-one-another chaos of the collection can be seen. This is the same chaos that Ivan encountered when he showed up at the house in 1959. As quoted at the end of part one of this posting, despite the chaos, Ivan was struck by "complete awe", seeing the vastness and the artistic designs of the pieces. This awe was replaced quickly by a feeling of hopelessness to the task of actually doing anything scientific and comprehensive with this disorganized array. But try he would.
One thing about "living in" the mind of a person through their collected writings and files, is that you get some affection for the person, while losing any fantasy image about how fabulous or perfect they were. I have come to really like Ivan Sanderson, and would have been happy to have had him as a colleague. I have also come to realize that he was apparently a FAR "looser thinker" than I would have preferred, and on the scale of "romanticism" I am not anywhere in his league. Picking up his report on his study of these figurines, therefore, I wasn't expecting much. Ivan surprised me again. His report was quite good; his approach was smart and doggedly exhaustive; and I believe that he did as well as anyone could do. Bravo!! Ivan!
There is A LOT in these pages. I can't unravel them in perfect intellectual order anymore than Ivan was able to perfectly unravel the collection. Like him, I'm going to try to give you a roughly organized description of what he did and found, punctuated by significant but not always tightly tied together observations that he was making on the fly. To make this make some kind of sense, hopefully, I'll not follow a strict sequence of what Ivan did first then second then etc.... With luck we'll survive the chaos with some comprehension of the whole.
To begin, it did not take Ivan long to realize that certain approaches to cataloging this mass of things would not work. He discarded the idea of trying to group things by apparent cultural grouping, or by apparent date of production, etc. He fell back on the only way to get started --- a sort of Baconian, almost-mindless sorting of the things into groups based on what substances the things were made of. As it turned out, this wasn't a bad start afterall, and allowed some interesting conclusions.
Ivan decided that the collection could be broken down into seven types of objects.
1]. small, solid pieces of ceramics, yellowish colored and "semi-baked" --- he called these "The Crude";
2]. small to large fully baked pieces with yellow-to-brown or reddish exteriors and gray interiors; sometimes made by separate parts joined--- he called these the Julsrud collection;
3]. unfinished pieces gray throughout with rough surfaces and solid --- called "Grey-blacks";
4]. fine finished pieces, black in color and turning horn-colored at extremities; hollow and highly polished, but not glazed --- called "Horny-black";
5]. finest productions of the collection, beautiful designs, highly polished blue-black color --- called "Blue-black";
6]. Reddish-brown clay glazed ware, typically ancient Greek looking material with golden to red ochre finish --- called "Samian-types";
7]. massive items of dark gray, worked to simulate stone, and having Mayan type designs --- called "Imitation stone".
These were the categories Ivan felt encompassed everything and which were for him very distinctive.
Julsrud's own lists for acquiring this collection has 31,512 items between 1944-1952, when he says his supplier left the area for Mexico City. Ivan's own estimates agree that this seems a minimum.
Julsrud himself broke down the collection into some sort of "cultural" categories ["Chinese", "Mongolian", "Indian" and "Germanic"], in which Ivan could see no sense in at all, and bore no resemblance to the ceramic-type categories which seemed clear to him.
Having no reasonable simple/obvious guide to proceed, Ivan went to his strength, Zoology, and selected out all objects seeming to portray animals [or humans/humanoids]. This was smart as it not only placed him in a position of authority, but also covered the main controversy of the collection, the alleged "dinosaurs". Ivan found that approximately two-thirds of the collection [of all subjects] was in category #2, which he termed "The Julsrud collection" as stated above. Of these, about three-quarters or more were presenting animals or humans or both. You can do the rough math, but this means about 15,000 of such figurines.
Ivan seems to have looked at them all. He then says to us in the future: NOT ONE OF THESE JULSRUD TYPE FIGURINES [The type #2s] REPRESENTS ANY KNOWN OR ANY EXTINCT ANIMAL!!!
What's he saying? These are NOT dinosaurs. These are artistic chimaeras of [in his eye] very good art and craft, formed out of pieces of animals or past animals perhaps. Many of the figures project impossible physical characteristics [ex. necks far out of the range supportable by known bone strength] and mixes of significantly divergent species [ex. reptilian forms with mammalian feet]. Because the craft is so good, Ivan cannot wave off these biological gaffs as poor artistic eye or just bad detail work. He is emphatic that these figurines do not represent dinosaurs of any type.
But if not, then what?? Some of the parts of these dream-animals are quite like dinosaur pieces. How did the artists come to dream them up?? This, for Ivan, is the conundrum. It is a conundrum of major proportions, he believes, if the pieces are old [ at least say pre-1850 or so ]. If that, then Ivan thinks that no normal/mundane theory explains how the craftsmen knew these physical features. If the figurines are recent, however, Ivan feels that a good artist, knowing of dinosaurs, could well have created these fantasy forms. The issue is: how old??
Some of the answers given to this question are apparently bogus. One museum curator suggested that the artifacts weren't old because "they didn't look right". Well, that level of analytical brilliance deserves no respect, so onwards. Another so-called expert said that the artifacts couldn't be from any sort of dig because it was suspicious that none of them was broken. Ivan must have been scratching his head in confusion about that as he searched through more than seven full drawers of broken objects harvesting specimens for testing back in the states. Another "expert" said that they were bogus because they were all perfectly clean having no in situ "matrix" [of surrounding soil etc] clinging in cracks et al, and that any crack in the surfaces was new. Ivan had gotten to the point of exasperation at this point in his report and said:
"He was either unversed in his work, most unobservant, or lied". Ivan then went on to explain that none of the "observations" by the archaeologist were true even with the most casual of study. Some of the statuary even had feet caked with clay.
This means to me that there is no reason to believe anything that these early assessors of the collection said. So what else do we have??
Well we might try science. Hapgood had written to Sanderson telling him about a new method of dating pottery. [This method turned out to be Thermoluminescence]. This is why Ivan was scraping around in the seven drawers-full of broken images to find examples of interesting category types which Julsrud would cooperatively give him to take back to the US for testing. And so he did that. Ivan would of course not know anything of results until many months later, but we know them.
Hapgood's and Sanderson's new-found colleague in this adventure, Arthur Young, had enough cachet to get the samples brought by Sanderson tested by the University of Pennsylvania ["of whom there is no whomer" in the field of archaeology]. Not knowing the "drama" associated with the pieces, they tested out a date range for different specimens of between 6300 and 2900 years old. Well, THAT would have blown Ivan's mind for sure. The story then goes that the University found that their dates were being used to support "obviously fraudulent" ideas about humans and dinosaurs in the Americas, and went about producing a whole new document explaining why the initial readings were so terribly wrong.
The explanation, which could be correct for all I know, is that thermoluminescence doesn't work if the pottery objects were initially fired in a relatively low-temperature kiln. I am perfectly willing to believe that, while at the same time severely doubting the lab's competence therefore on the first results, and one should wonder what-in-the-heck else they must have completely screwed up in their lab on other requests? But the Penn people, desperately anxious to save face, then invented an ad hoc algorithm which fudged the "real" date to just around the 1939-1940s, just right for the needed recent production dates to debunk the whole show. I am sorry. Pennsylvania's behavior here makes it impossible for me to take anything they say seriously on this, especially some strained fudging around the data producing a convenient and dismissive answer.
So my on-site archaeologists stink, my august thermoluminescence lab stinks, do I have anything but dearly beloved Ivan at all? I have apparently some radiocarbon results.
This aspect of this messed up affair is as mysterious to me as anything in it. Somehow, someone got some radiocarbon dating done. This time Young and Hapgood took the samples to an establishment named Isotopes Inc. in New Jersey. The results on three different samples read: c. 3500 years old, 6300 years old, and 3000 years old. The fact that these three dates are different should pose no dilemma in that Ivan purposely selected different broken figurine types for tests. [In fact I'm surprised that we don't have more than three types of readings].
OK. more out-of-the-question data readouts. Now what?? Now, apparently, nothing. I'm not hearing anything more about this. Apparently everyone is talking about the thermoluminescent dates, but I get nothing more about the C-14 tests. DUHHHHH...What? Obviously, I am missing some key resources.
But how could ANY advocate of the anomalousness of these things not be making a big deal out of these results? Thrashing about for at least a speculative answer, I decided that "Isotopes Inc of New Jersey" must be a tinpot amateur outfit, which no one takes seriously. UH, that's a great big NO to that one.
I found some records of testing that they had done in essentially the same time period. Who were their clients? US Geological Service, National Parks Survey, USNavy, National Geographic Society, Geological Survey of Canada, American Museum of Natural History, Princeton, McGill, Columbia, Colorado, Indiana, Williams, UWashington, Arizona, Freer Gallery of Art --- this really can go on for quite a bit longer. You get the idea: EVERYBODY trusts them!! Well, then, how can...pbpbpbpbpbpbpop pop pop pop.....crash----------------------------- [sound of brain collapsing].
Ivan says and continued to assert that no item in the category three "Julsrud" category represented anything but a melange of fancifully merged together animal parts. But one figurine from a different group did, and this truly puzzled him. This was a very well-formed object of the Horny-black set of figures, which seemed to depict some representative of the Brontosaur/Diplodocus group of dinosaurs. This is four inches long and three inches tall and for Ivan was too good to dismiss [though not at all like the famous and universally-pictured Julsrud types.] The item pictured above is touted widely [particularly in Creationist sites] as the "dinosaur" Ivan was talking about--- it is NOT it. The thing above is one of Sanderson's Julsrud Chimaeras. Sanderson thought that the real item was extremely important, and convinced Julsrud to put it away in safety. None of the other photographers from outside may have ever seen the real deal. [Ivan MUST have taken and kept photos of this one, and they may well be somewhere in the SITU collection. I can only tell you that they weren't here with the report. If/When I find them, I'll post them and you and I will be in on the secret].
Note, however, the continued dilemma --- the "brontosaurus" will NOT have been tested by science. Even if it's the most brontosaury brontosaur ever, we still don't know when IT was made.
So what do we have? I don't know what YOU have, but I've got a lot of irritation. I'm irritated with the University of Pennsylvania; I'm irritated with quack archaeologists; I'm irritated with Hapgood and Young for not getting more testing done; I'm irritated with Julsrud for losing his collection and slamming the Truth Door, I'm irritated with Creationists who use these things with disregard for the facts that we CAN know [and therefore polarizing the discussion] --- I guess I'm just an irritable dude.
The one entity that I'm NOT irritated with is Ivan. Bless him. Without him I don't think that I'd know anything about this mess at all.
This is not to say that Ivan didn't spin some pretty Out Proctor ideas to try to cope with this. He fixed his attention precisely on the nub of the matter: the figurines are not modeled as real animals, but their PARTS are. So how did the artist[s] know about these accurately figured parts?? Ivan had one mundane hypothesis [the figurines were indeed modern, and the artists did what the artists did for Cabrera and Fr. Crespi --- made neat stuff up]. BUT. He also struggled with the "what if they're old?" possibility. Here he said the following amazing paragraph:
"We then have to ask ourselves whether a]. men were contemporary with many now extinct animals mainly reptilian, b]. some people developed palaeontological research beyond the point we have today, long ago, c].whether some outside intelligences supplied the models to men in the neolithic or prehistorical, non-literate ages, and were extramundane, d]. or whether there is truly a Buddhistic "universal soul" that prompts men's imaginations to come up with the same solutions that an overall Power has devised through what we call nature."
Well, old friend, I think you just threw a curveball right by me on that one.... but I like you.
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