Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bad Archaeology and Raelism

Last year in August, the Raelian Movement published an article and press release titled "Chinese pyramids confirm that an advanced civilization existed on Earth more than 10,000 years ago". There, they make many wide claims based on "anonymous sources" and other questionable information found on the Internet linking several archaeological structures to "advanced civilizations" and UFOs.

Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor
First they claim that the Chinese government and their scientists are keeping anything to do with "Chinese pyramids" under wraps. This claim is categorically untrue as many of the sites are open to tourism such as the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor which incidentally is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site (the site is famous for the discovery of the Terracotta Warriors). The picture used in the Raelianews article is from a map displayed at the popular historical cite. These structures known popularly in the West as the Chinese pyramids are actually ancient mausoleums and burial mounds built to house the remains of several early emperors of China and their imperial relatives. About 38 of them are located around 25 kilometres (16 mi) - 35 kilometres (22 mi) north-west of Xi'an, on the Qin Chuan Plains in Shaanxi Province. Here's a scan of a map outlining the locations of these imperial tombs in Xi'an.

The alleged "Great White Pyramid"
The Raelians claim there are 100 white pyramids in China. The mention one of them being white comes from the very first popularized report in the mid-1900s in which U.S. Army Air Corps pilot James Gaussman is said to have seen a white jewel-topped pyramid during a flight between India and China during World War II. Later, Colonel Maurice Sheahan, Far Eastern director of Trans World Airlines, told an eyewitness account of his encounter with a pyramid in the March 28, 1947 edition of The New York Times. A photo of Sheahan's pyramid appeared in The New York Sunday News on March 30, 1947. This photograph later became attributed to James Gaussman. The first published paper concerning Chinese burial mounds was back in 1915. Many articles found on the Internet claim approximately 100 of these structures. In fact, a more recent survey by independent Russian researcher Maxim Yakovenko states that there are more than 400 of these structures across China. Yakovenko's site has more up-to-date information regarding these "pyramids".

Pyramids around the World
The next claim the Raelians make is that "According to the few archaeologists who have approached the site, these Chinese pyramids are located at the same latitude as the pyramids of Egypt." A quick Google search reveals that this is not the case. The pyramids on the Giza plateau are located on latitude 29°N while the pyramids in Xi'an are on latitude 34°N. In fact, pyramids are found all over the world and they are certainly not aligned on the same latitude. 

The Raelian article provides no evidence for their claims that these Chinese pyramids were built around 10,000 BCE and that they "share a common origin with the world-famous pyramids of Egypt and Central America” let alone theiclaim that "everyone admits that they can hardly be duplicated with today's modern technology" implying that it was only possible through advanced ET technology (check out the links at the bottom that debunks this notion). The Chinese pyramids were built with mere clay and are not bigger than the Great Pyramid of Giza (which is about 150 meters tall and made of quarried stone blocks)... but, the Raelian article claims an exaggerated 500-meter tall Chinese pyramid! German UFOlogist Hartwig Hausdorf (and Belgian fringe science radio-host Philip Coppens) reported that the Chinese pyramids date back at least 5,000 years ago. Hausdorf reported that Chinese archaeologist Professor Wang Shiping believes the pyramids have an astronomic alignment and could be dated to only 1,500-500 BCE. The most number of Chinese imperial tombs are found in Xi'an and are attributed to the Western Han dynasty which dates back to only 206 BCE – 220 CE.

On the topic of pyramids, it should be noted that there is no mention in Rael's books of the Elohim building any pyramids whatsoever. There is mention of the Elohim initially having "bases" up in the mountains and later under the sea. There's mention of "traces of great civilizations" in Peru and the Himalayas, but with no further elaboration (Intelligent Design, p. 84 and 232). While the former did host ancient peoples such as the Incas, the Himalayas are yet to reveal any besides the notion of a fictional paradise known as Shangri-La popularized in the West just before Rael was born. It is claimed how the "Raelian scriptures describe [the presence in antiquity of a highly advanced civilization] very well". Let us not forget that Rael's books are largely based on the Biblical narrative of human history with an ET twist, which limits its story to the Israelites in the middle-East and not around the world.

As for Elohim "bases" under the sea, recently there has been some fascination in Raelian circles surrounding some natural underwater formations off the coast of Japan near Taiwan called the Yoneguni Monument. Rael has been living in Okinawa, Japan since the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in early 2011. Here's an excellent debunking of this by Brian Dunning: Yonaguni Monument: The Japanese Atlantis

The article ends with some other examples of "precision-engineered, ancient megalithic structures [that] exist all over the planet" such as Puma Punku, Baalbek and the Great Pyramid (King's Chamber). There's very good chance that the Raelians are basing all their claims on the History Channel's dubious Ancient Aliens series (they used to link to it at rael.org as evidence for their Elohim). And so, not surprisingly, here's Mike Heiser's informed debunking of those claims: Puma Punku, Baalbek and the Great Pyramid.