How Was This 7,000-Year-Old Mysterious Artifact Carved from Granite Without Metal Tools?

How Was This 7,000-Year-Old Mysterious Artifact Carved from Granite Without Metal Tools?

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A strange bird-like statuette from around 5,000 BC has puzzled Greek archaeologists, who can’t explain what it depicts or what its origin is. The "7,000-year-old enigma," as they have labeled it, is now on display at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, where it can be seen until the 26th of March.

Unique Neolithic Statue Carved from Granite

The bird-like piece of art was carved from granite, even though experts suggest that no metal tools were used for its creation, as it dates from the Final Neolithic period. Despite not being particularly tall, the 14-inch (36-centimeter) figurine is bigger than most Neolithic statues found to date. It has a pointed nose, a long neck leading to a markedly round belly, and cylindrical legs. "Regarding technique and size, it is among the rare and unique works of the Neolithic period in Greece," Katya Manteli, an archaeologist with the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, told Reuters .

A 7,000-Year-Old Enigma. ( art & life )

Mystery Surrounds the Strange Statuette

However, everything else about it remains a mystery. The puzzled archaeologists speculate that it is from the northern Greek regions of Thessaly or Macedonia, but even that is just a hypothesis for now. As Manteli told Reuters , "It could depict a human-like figure with a bird-like face, or a bird-like entity which has nothing to do with man but with the ideology and symbolism of the Neolithic society."

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Detail of the statuette’s head. ( National Archaeological Museum of Athens )

What perplexes things even more is the lack of clear indication of sex. Experts wonder if that happened because of possible technical sculpting problems or the sculptor intentionally created the statuette as an asexual figure, while some archaeologists speculate that the sculptor might not have had the appropriate tools to give the figurine a more specific form. "Yes, it could be a pregnant figure but there are no breasts, used in Neolithic times to depict the female body. On the other hand it lacks male organs so it is presented as an asexual figure,” Manteli said and added , "There are enigmatic aspects to it which make it charming."

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The piece is being exhibited as part of the Unseen Museum display, a temporary exhibition of some 200,000 antiquities held in the museum vaults and not on permanent show.

The enigmatic artifact will be on display at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens until March 26, 2017. ( Greek Reporter )

    Olmec Colossal Stone Heads

    The stone head sculptures of the Olmec civilization of the Gulf Coast of Mexico (1200 BCE - 400 BCE) are amongst the most mysterious and debated artefacts from the ancient world. The most agreed upon theory is that, because of their unique physical features and the difficulty and cost involved in their creation, they represent Olmec rulers.

    Seventeen heads have been discovered to date, 10 of which are from San Lorenzo and 4 from La Venta two of the most important Olmec centres. The heads were each carved from a single basalt boulder which in some cases were transported 100 km or more to their final destination, presumably using huge balsa river rafts wherever possible and log rollers on land. The principal source of this heavy stone was Cerro Cintepec in the Tuxtla Mountains. The heads can be nearly 3 m high, 4.5 metres (9.8 feet, 14.7 feet) in circumference and average around 8 tons in weight. The heads were sculpted using hard hand-held stones and it is likely that they were originally painted using bright colours. The fact that these giant sculptures depict only the head may be explained by the widely held belief in Mesoamerican culture that it was the head alone which contained the emotions, experience, and soul of an individual.


    Facial details were drilled into the stone (using reeds and wet sand) so that prominent features such as the eyes, mouth, and nostrils have real depth. Some also have deliberately drilled dimples on the cheeks, chin, and lips. The heads all display unique facial features - often in a very naturalistic and expressive manner - so that they may be considered portraits of actual rulers. The scholar M.E. Miller identifies Colossal Head 5, for example, as a second-millenium BCE ruler of San Lorenzo. Although the physionomy of the sculptures has given rise to unfounded speculation of contact with civilizations from Africa, in fact, the physical features common to the heads are still seen today in residents of the modern Mexican cities of Tabasco and Veracruz.

    The subject often wears a protective helmet which was worn by the Olmec in battle and during the Mesoamerican ballgame. These can vary in design and pattern and sometimes the subject also has jaguar paws hanging over the forehead, perhaps representing a jaguar pelt worn as a symbol of political and religious power, a common association in many Mesoamerican cultures. Colossal Head 1 from La Venta, instead, has huge talons carved on the front of the helmet.


    Some heads are also recarvings of other objects. For example, San Lorenzo Colossal Head 7 was originally a throne and has a deep indentation on one side and Altar 5 from La Venta seems to have been abandoned in the middle of such a conversion. Miller suggests that perhaps a specific ruler's throne was converted into a colossal portrait in an act of remembrance following that ruler's death.

    Many of the stones are difficult to place in their original context as they were not necessarily found in the positions the Olmecs had originally put them. Indeed, Almere Read (41) suggests that even the Olmecs themselves regularly moved the heads around for different ritual purposes. Another theory is that the heads were used as powerful markers of rulership and distributed to declare political dominance in various territories. Interestingly, the four heads from La Venta were perhaps originally positioned with such a purpose in mind so that they stood as guardians to the sacred precinct of the city. Three were positioned at the northern end of the complex and the other one stood at the southern end but all faced outwards as if protecting the precinct. These heads are very similar to the San Lorenzo heads but display a regional variance in that they are wider and more squat in appearance.

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    That the other heads might have been discovered out of their original setting is suggested by the fact that very often they show signs of deliberate vandalism and most were buried sometime before 900 BCE in what appears to have been a purposeful ritual distancing with the past. However, it has also been suggested that some of the heads were buried shortly after their production in a process of ancestor worship or that they were defaced and buried by subsequent rulers to legitimize their claim to power and exclude competing lineages. It could also be that they were even damaged in order to neutralize the dead ruler's power. Whatever the reason, the heads were buried and forgotten for nearly three thousand years until the first head was re-discovered, in 1871 CE, with the last being excavated as recently as 1994 CE.

    Top 10 unexplained ancient achievements

    Tiwanaku (Spanish: Tiahuanaco and Tiahuanacu) is an important Pre-Columbian archaeological site in western Bolivia, South America. Pumapunku also called “Puma Pumku” or “Puma Puncu”, is part of a large temple complex or monument group that is part of the Tiwanaku. Tiahuanaco is an example of engineering so monumental that it dwarfs even the work of the Aztecs. Stone blocks on the site weigh many tons. They bear no chisel marks, so the means by which they were shaped remains a mystery. The stone itself came from two different quarries. One supplied sandstone and was situated 10 miles away. It shows signs of having produced blocks weighing up to 400 tons. The other supplied andesite and was located 50 miles away, raising the question of how the enormous blocks were transported in an age before the horse was domesticated in South America. Close examination of the structures shows an unusual technique behind their building. The stone blocks were notched, then fitted together so that they interlocked in three dimensions. The result was buildings strong enough to withstand earthquakes.

    Gateway of the Sun, Tiahuanaco, Bolivia

    Puma Punku site has many finely cut stones – some weighing over 100 tonnes. The processes and technologies involved in the creation of these temples are still not fully understood by modern scholars. Raad More >>

    Monolithic stone blocks with precisely cut elements. Puma Punku, Bolivia

    Finca 6: Mystery of ancient Costa Rica stone spheres solved?

    FINCA 6, Puntarenas — Everything I had read about Costa Rica’s pre-Columbian stone spheres indicated that it was a total mystery why they were made.

    But when I visited the museum between Sierpe and Palmar Sur that houses the world’s largest collection of these orbs, I got the exact opposite impression. I came away surprised by how much we do know, not how much we don’t.

    Finca 6 is a fascinating place well worth a visit, with a medium-size museum, an informational video and history exhibits galore. The trails outside lead to scores of the actual spheres, many in their original location.

    Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

    I have a very simple theory for why pre-Columbian civilization sculpted these rounded beauties: because they could.

    As the displays here will tell you, these creations were a triumph of artisanship and organization, and to be able to produce them in large numbers demonstrated a chief’s power over his subjects and one village’s dominance over another. They were status symbols, indicators of power and wealth.

    Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

    I also suspect (strictly my theory) that it’s no coincidence the spheres are round like the sun and moon, heavenly bodies that were the object of worship throughout the ancient world. I think sculpting these orbs could have been seen as a way of reproducing the heavenly pantheon here on earth.

    Some 300 of these spheres have been found, ranging in diameter from a few centimeters to over 2 meters and weighing 16 tons. Most are made of the igneous rock gabbro, a type of basalt, though some are made of sedimentary rock, including limestone and sandstone.

    Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

    There’s a misconception that the sphericity of these esferas (also known as “Las Bolas”) is nearly perfect, although considerable variation exists in their roundness. The daunting challenges of sculpting and transporting these giant orbs has led some to claim they were made by extraterrestrials.

    But the most plausible explanations are much more down-to-earth.

    How were they made?

    Most of the stone used to sculpt the spheres was found in the foothills of the coastal mountains, far away from where they ended up.

    Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

    “Producing the spheres involved shaping large blocks of igneous rock, such as gabbro, granodiorite and andesite, or sedimentary rocks such as limestone or sandstone,” says an exhibit at Finca 6 labeled “Production.”

    “The process involved chipping away at the surface with stone tools it was possible to loosen layers of rocks with heat, while wooden elements were used to control the sphericity. The surface was treated with abrasives, such as sand, in order to make it even, and the largest spheres were also polished to give them luster or sheen.”

    A website called says: “This process, which was similar to that used for making polished stone axes, elaborate carved metates, and stone statues, was accomplished without the help of metal tools, laser beams, or alien life forms.”

    Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

    Museum exhibits say the initial work on the stones was probably done in their original location, then they were transported to their destination and finished in place. How the stones were transported is unknown the wheel did not exist in the Americas until the Spanish arrived, nor were there beasts of burden.

    Even more intriguing, a few of the spheres were somehow shipped as far as Isla del Caño, 17km off the coast. So maybe the aliens helped with that. But I bet even for aliens it would have been a bitch to ship a 16-ton stone in a flying saucer.

    Why were they made?

    On this question, the archaeologists of Finca 6 speak with far greater certainty.

    Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

    “The spheres were used as symbols of rank, introduced by powerful individuals on special occasions or to represent their elevated social and political status,” says one exhibit at Finca 6. “The larger and more perfect the sphere, and the greater their number, the greater the prestige and importance of the village and its inhabitants.

    “Upon occasion, the spheres were placed to form alignments, following patterns which could have been related to the movement of the sun and other heavenly bodies, indicating significant times of the year related to agricultural cycles and rituals. …

    “By means of these objects, the leaders demonstrated their power and consolidated their prestige and position among the others, giving them an important means for controlling transcendental events in the social and religious life of the community.”

    Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

    Although current law prohibits the moving of any sphere from its original location, a great many have been moved to another place since they were rediscovered in the 1930s. They became popular as lawn ornaments, they adorn the town parks of Palmar Sur and Sierpe, and several are housed in the National Museum in San José. There is one at the National Geographic Society Museum in Washington and another in a museum at Harvard.

    So if these stones are so coveted today, wouldn’t they have been even more prized by indigenous cultures that hadn’t even invented the wheel?

    Wouldn’t you want one on your lawn, if you could get one?

    Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

    I see no real mystery in the “purpose” of these spheres. They are spectacular works of artisanship, beautiful in their simplicity. And in ancient times it would have been impossible to possess one, much less a dozen, without having access to the manpower to craft and transport them.

    So if you had stone spheres, you were a big shot. And if your village had 30 and the next village had three, it’s a safe guess which community was dominant.

    How were they placed?

    The inhabitants of the ancient village at Finca 6 built two major mounds with walls made of boulders and trapezoidal access ramps. On top of these mounds, presumably, lived the most important leaders here, the cacique (chieftain) and the shaman(s).

    Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

    One mound faces the alignment of spheres inside the village, while the other faces outward and has two stone spheres at its entrance.

    “The direction of these structures suggests that part of their purpose was to impress visitors, to serve as reminders of their place within the social order, and to project a message of power,” an exhibit says.

    If you visit Guayabo National Monument, Costa Rica’s premier archaeological site, you’ll see the village there was also laid out to impress or intimidate visitors, who had to approach the home of the chief by walking up a long, stone road with steps, flanked by guard posts, as if climbing a stairway to heaven.

    Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

    One informational display at Finca 6 explains that the settlement here was the largest community in the Diquís Delta plain, where conditions were favorable for agriculture, construction and consolidation of power. Peripheral villages closer to the coastal mountain range, the Cordillera Costeña, were of lesser rank and were subordinated to the people on the plain.

    “One element utilized to show the hierarchy of the villages and their inhabitants was the possession of stone spheres,” it says. “The spheres could be sent (as a gift or an exchange) from the Delta plain to subordinated or allied communities in order to create a territory under ideological, economic, and military control.”

    When were they made?

    An informative timeline on the history of this region traces settlement here from 10,000 B.C. through the development of agriculture through the rise of chiefdoms led by caciques in the Aguas Buenas Period (300 B.C.-A.D. 800), when specialists like chiefs, shamans, warriors and artists arose, and the first stone spheres were made.

    Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

    The Chiriquí Period (A.D. 800-1500) saw these populations grow in size and complexity, with hierarchical societies that exercised power over extensive territories, and with conflicts among chiefdoms. This period was the height of the sphere-making.

    Early in the 16 th century, contact occurred with the Spanish, who built their first capital at Cartago in 1563. With the Spanish conquest, the original inhabitants of the Diquís Delta soon vanished.

    Karl Kahler/The Tico Times

    But they left us a legacy that led UNESCO to declare “the Pre-Columbian Chiefdom Settlements with Stone Spheres of the Diquís” a World Heritage Site in 2014.

    So these spheres are not just a national treasure, they are a world treasure.

    How Was This 7,000-Year-Old Mysterious Artifact Carved from Granite Without Metal Tools? - History

    Native Americans used sandstone ledges and caves for shelter, and carefully selected different types of rock to make tools
    Source: National Park Service, Russell Cave National Monument

    The First Virginians did not arrive empty-handed. They brought small bundles of tools manufactured from rocks, as well as antlers, bones, shells, and wooden sticks.

    Fairfax Public Schools, Bone Tools used by Virginia's First People

    Points is the generic term for most artifacts that could have been used as weapons. Knives and scrapers describe sharp-edged tools used to dismember animals and prepare hides for clothing. Awls are pencil-sized tools with sharp points used to drill points in hides for sewing or decorating. A close look at many items called "arrowheads" will reveal they are too heavy to be associated with arrows, but could have been used on spears of some sort.

    Points, knives, and scrapers were manufactured from bone, wood, or by flaking chunks of carefully-selected stone. Using percussion and pressure, chips of rock were removed to create a sharp edge. Edges grew dull quickly, so Native Americans continuously improved their skills by constantly re-working or replacing their tool kit.

    shaping rocks to make points of desired size/shape required skills that very few Americans have today
    Source: Virginia Department of Transportation, VDOT: Discovering the First Virginians

    Axes, weights for fishing nets, and atlatl throwing stones were manufactured by grinding as well as chipping. Even bowls were made from stone.

    The rock tools of Native Americans have a high percentage of quartz (silicon dioxide, SiO2). When quartz crystallizes in various cryptocrystalline forms such as jasper, chert, flint, quartzite, or even silica-rich metarhyolite, the rock fractures to form sharp edges.

    Modern Virginians who depend upon silicon-based computer chips to perform specialized jobs might not be able to recognize quartz veins in sandstone, or distinguish jasper from basalt. When "primitive" people first wandered across Virginia 15,000 years ago looking for food, they were already savvy about silicon.

    Native Americans used a variety of techniques for converting various types of quartz-rich rocks into specialized tools. Sharp edges were crafted by different techniques to chip the edges on one or two sides of a cobble or rock, to create axes, knives, choppers, spear points, drills, hammer stones, etc.

    Native Americans sought out the best material for their tools, but preferences changed over time as specialized tools were developed for different circumstances. Some groups used jasper, others used quartzite or metarhyolite, but all had a specific mineral structure which created sharp edges when fractured. Modern glass Coca-Cola bottles have a similar structure, and in the 1600's Native Americans manufactured points from glass obtained from colonists. 1

    The trading patterns in prehistoric America were extensive. Stone was obtained from many miles away, even though local forms of quartz might have been worked into tools. Volcanic obsidian does not exist naturally east of the Mississippi River, but obsidian from Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and California has been found in New Jersey. Paleo-Indians who lived at the Shoop site near the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania used Onondaga chert from New York perhaps 150 miles away. 2

    Changes in tool making materials and techniques can provide insight into the population patterns of the past. Native Americans in Virginia never developed writing, so the story of Virginia's people prior to European contact in the 1500's is based on interpretations of the archeological record. Most items made from organic material (baskets, clothing, houses) has decayed, but the stone tools remain largely unchanged in the soil until discovery by farmers after rainstorms in plowed fields, bulldozer operators clearing a site for a new road/house, looters seeking artifacts, or archeologists seeking information.

    When archeologists discover a new type of stone tool at a site, debate begins on whether the occupants of that area evolved a new technique, learned a new technique from neighbors - or whether a new group of people moved into the territory. New occupants may have settled in an abandoned area, two communities may have integrated peacefully, or one group could have completely displaced the previous residents by force.

    For example, most tools found at a Peaks of Otter site when Abbott Lake was drained in 2008 were made from quartz and argillite found in the Piedmont to the east, not jasper from the Ridge and Valley province to the west. That pattern suggests that, perhaps 5,000 years ago, a band of Native Americans living in the Roanoke River watershed near modern Bedford or Altavista followed the Big Otter River upstream on a hunting expedition.

    They kept moving uphill, using Stoney Creek as a guide as well as a supply of drinking water, then established a temporary camp near the crest of the Blue Ridge next to a wetland that is now dammed and drowned to form Abbott Lake. Those ancient hunters probably traveled further west to the James River near modern-day Buchanan. There they may have traded with one or more bands of hunters who had quarried the jasper outcrops (site 44RB323) in the Arnold Valley near Natural Bridge. 3

    possible travel route of hunting band 5,000 years ago in Archaic Period, based on types of rock used for tools and found at Peaks of Otter in 2008
    Source: base map from US Fish and Wildlife Service, Wetlands Mapper

    The earliest stone quarries used by Paleo-Indians in Virginia have been found at Flint Run in Warren County and the Williamson site in Dinwiddie County. At those sites, Native Americans pried chunks of cryptocrystalline quartz away from the less-useful limestone in the area. The quartz had crystallized several hundred million years earlier from silica-rich fluids that had penetrated geologic faults.

    The initial chunks quarried from the bedrock were rarely in the correct shape to be useful without further processing. Large piles of waste rock chips were left behind at or near the quarries - a clue used thousands of years later to identify the location of ancient quarries. On the Coastal Plain, cobbles in streambeds provided the raw material for conversion into stone tools.

    Converting rocks into tools required substantial time to chip off edges, starting with a step called "preliminary lithic reduction" to convert raw stone into cores or preformed blanks. Those chunks of rock could be carried away and refined by additional chipping into knives, blades, and various forms of "points."

    The cores were portable, but nowhere close to a finished product. Cores were processed further at sites located away from quarries. Carrying the cores required carrying extra rock, but moving may have minimized conflicts with others coming to the quarry to obtain raw stone.

    in 2019, sharp-eyed archeologists at Strawberry Run in Alexandria spotted quartzite cobbles manufactured in the Archaic Period into preform cores
    Source: Dovetail Cultural Resource Group, What’s THAT Doing HERE? Unexpected Discoveries at the Strawberry Run Site in Alexandria, Virginia

    Work stations where cores were converted into useful tools are often found near water sources. It is possible that everyone in a Paleo-Indian band made their own points for a season of hunting. Some with unusual talent may have become specialists and supplied points to others in a hunting band or for trade with a different group, but everyone needed stoneworking skills to ensure survival.

    Individual points were resharpened after use. Sharp edges were essential for spear points to cut through the hides of game animals, blades to sever plant stalks easily, and drills to create holes for manufacture of clothing and cooking containers. Small scatterings of broken rock chips, where hunters resharpened their stone tools, may be found at many sites far away from the quarries.

    Modern tourists at a scenic overlook may find stone flakes in the dirt near their feet. Visitors have admired the same scenery for the last 15,000 years, and some may have repaired a tool that was damaged during a hunt while enjoying the view. The appreciation of overlooks is not a new concept, developed only after automobiles facilitated modern tourism.

    Once a resharpened point became too small, it was discarded. When too many tools had been broken or dulled, the band would return to a quarry to acquire more cores and restock the tool kit.

    Fairfax Public Schools, Stone Tools used by Virginia's First People

    All stone and bone tools were carried on the "seasonal round" as bands followed the migrations of animals and the ripening pattern of plants, so the weight of the tool kit was limited. If needed, local rocks could be used for temporary tools, but a Paleo-Indian band might have planned to visit each of its preferred quarries once a year.

    Bonifant/Bonnefont jasper is found as nodules in creeks near Macon (Powhatan County)
    Source: background map from US Fish and Wildlife Service Wetlands Mapper

    In Virginia, sources of jasper used for prehistoric stone tools include Flint Run (Warren County - site 44WR12), Brook Run (Culpeper County - site 44CU122), Arnold's Valley (Rockbridge County - site 44RB323), Bonifant (Powhatan County - site 44PO132), and sediments with eroded and transported cobbles in Virginia Beach (site 44VB5) and Accomack County (site 44AC136). 4

    The Powhatan County site, also called Bonnefont, was discovered after examination of a nearby archeological site revealed such a large amount of debitage (chips of waste rock, created as cores were converted into tools). The stone debris at Bonifant alerted archeologists that there could be a local source of high-quality stone in the area. Further searching led o discovery of the quarry site. 5

    The Flint Run complex in Warren County developed around 9,500BC. The jasper was quarried near the mouth of Flint Run, then carried across the South Fork of the Shenandoah River to the Thunderbird and Fifty sites and processed further on the other bank, perhaps during the winter when the river was frozen over. The Fifty site was close to a wetland that may have provided food, while the Thunderbird base camp faced south and was sheltered from the strong winds of that era. 6

    At the Thunderbird base camp, excess rock was chipped off to produce chunks suitable for later processing into blades and points. The prehistoric stone masons produced cores of good jasper/chert, the stone that flaked in the right pattern to form useful points with sharp edges.

    Paleo-Indian and Archaic stonesmiths refined those chunks later (at locations away from the Thunderbird site) to create the spear points, drills, scrapers, cutting instruments, etc. Since more than one tribal group used the same quarry, there was logic to decision of different groups to grab-'n-go after initial processing to create cores, rather than linger around a place where conflict could occur to produce the complete toolkit.

    However, the quarry may have been an intentional place for different family-sized groups to meet. There, they could trade items (such as rare shells that provided status), share information about good hunting/gathering places that year, and choose partners from outside the family. Every Paleo-Indian band needed to resupply their stone tool kit, so gathering at the quarry may have been the most logical place.

    In the later Archaic Period, when Native Americans used a wider range of rock to make tools, gathering places were areas of rich biological productivity. Food became a stronger attraction than geology. Further north in Pennsylvania and New York, gathering places may have been associated with hunting camps for caribou, since those hunts were probably more successful when more than one family group participated. 7

    Thunderbird was used as a quarry for 4,000 years. That makes the site at the mouth of Flint Run the first and the longest-used industrial site in Virginia. 8

    the Williamson Site is located above the Fall Line on Little Cattail Creek in Dinwiddie County
    Source: US Geological Survey, The National Map

    The Williamson site is southeast of Petersburg National Battlefield Park, east of I-85 in Dinwiddie County. The elevation of the site is 180 feet, and it is located near the Fall Line.

    The fields on the Sally Williamson Farm from which points have been collected are located south of Little Cattail Creek. Locations with chert debitage dating back to the Paleo-Indian Period have also been identified just north of Little Cattail Creek. The creek is a tributary of the Nottoway River. The Cactus Hill site, site of pre-Clovis artifacts, is further downstream along the Nottoway River.

    The Williamson site is the source of Cattail Creek Chalcedony. That distinctive form of quartz was use for making Clovis points and other tools. Based on the artifacts found by archeologists, it appears the site was occupied from 11,200-8,500 years ago (from the Paleo-Indian into the early Archaic Period). There was a wetland/vernal pool at the site then.

    The high volume and type of "debitage" (waste rock, including edges chipped off cobbles) suggests the stone source was nearby, but no outcrops with evidence of quarrying have been found at the Williamson site itself. The bed of Little Cattail Creek is the Petersburg Granite, and the chalcedony may be a relic of hydrothermal metamorphism 300 million years ago.

    There may have been exposed outcrops 8,500 years ago, but those were chiseled away and are now covered with soil. In addition, cobbles in the creeks may have provided some of the source material for manufacturing tools at the Williamson site.

    Outcrops of chert and chalcedony have been found nearby on the Nottoway and Meherrin rivers, including at Bonifant in Powhatan County, but the Williamson site appears to have been a primary source or "base quarry." Paleo-Indians would quarry chunks of preferred rock at Williamson and walk to another site, where the chunks would be worked into tools for perhaps another seasonal round of hunting and gathering.

    The Boney site in Greensville County, 30 miles away from Williamson, is a quarry reduction site where the initial chunks were processed into points, scrapers, and other tools. Some chunks were reduced only partially to create "preforms," which could be processed later into whatever tool might be required at the time before returning to the base quarry to restock. 9

    the Williamson Farm, between Route 693 and Little Cattail Creek, is at the eastern edge of the Fall Zone
    Source: ESRI, ArcGIS Online

    In 1998, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) identified the Brook Run archaeological site on Route 3 (ten miles east of Culpeper, about 100 yards east of the intersection with Carrico Mills road, Route 669). When VDOT routinely examined the planned route of a 4-laning of the Germanna Highway, the shovel test pits in a dense grove of cedar revealed a surprising concentration of debitage, or waste rock flakes that had been discarded, one foot below the surface. More jasper flakes, removed from a core rock in order to create projectile points, were found three feet deep.

    In this case, the environmental assessment process to identify unknown cultural resources before altering the landscape worked. The previously unknown location was far away from any recognized sensitive areas (i.e., no nearby wetlands), and its discovery during the cultural resource management survey was a complete surprise.

    Underneath that cedar grove was a site now designated as 44CU122. "44" stands for the state of Virginia, because the record-keeping system for cultural resources was developed in the days before 51 was assigned as the state's Federal Information Processing Standard or FIPS code. "CU" stands for Culpeper County, and "122" designates the individual site in the county.

    Highway engineers and archeologists initially saw no distinctive features at Brook Run, though testing of charcoal from the site revealed that it is one of the oldest known locations of humans in Virginia.

    There was no clear reason for Native Americans to carry large chunks of jasper (up to 10 pounds) to the edge of Brook Run, to manufacture tools from the chunks of raw stone there. When occupied 11,000 years ago, the site was not a high-value swampland providing food. VDOT prepared to abandon research into the mysterious flakes at site and to proceed with widening Route 3, unable to answer the key question: "why were people processing chunks of jasper into points at this location?"

    Just one day before the dump trucks were scheduled to backfill the excavations and seal up the site, archeologists answered the question. They uncovered a jasper quarry at the Brook Run site, a rare resource which Paleo-Indians had identified and utilized. 10

    the Brook Run jasper quarry was excavated in a thin slice of distinctively-valuable rock, surrounded by Triassic sandstone
    Source: ESRI, ArcGIS Online

    A natural deposit of jasper in the middle of the Culpeper Basin was a surprise. Perhaps 200 million years earlier, quartz had been injected by hot fluids into a fault. The bedrock had cracked as the Triassic Basin formed, and multiple earthquakes had created a narrow zone of fault gouge. With the help of microbes, the quartz injected into the fault zone slowly crystallized to form jasper. Continuing tectonic stresses also broke the jasper blocks into small chunks, and they were inter-mixed with other rocks that decomposed into clay. 11

    A chunk of charcoal from a spruce tree provided the date of the site. About 11,000 years ago, one or more bands of early Virginians had discovered and started to extract jasper nodules from the narrow fault zone. Spotting the reddish jasper required a sharp eye, to recognize it was different from the surrounding red sandstone of the Culpeper Basin. The softer sandstone was useless for making tools. The sandstone crumbled under pressure into loose sand grains, rather than flaked to create sharp edges.

    The yellowish jasper would crack with a different pattern, creating hard flakes with edges sharp enough to cut through skin and kill an animal. Such flakes provided the knives, scrapers, spear points, and other cutting tools created by miners and stonesmiths at the site. An observer, with geological expertise passed down through the generations rather than taught in a formal classroom, spotted the narrow slice of jasper with unique value.

    The Paleo-Indians selectively dug jasper nodules the size of modern bowling balls from the fault zone, leaving the clay behind. After 600 years of excavation by hand, they had created a narrow gash in the ground up to 3 feet wide and about 12 feet deep. Different foraging groups extracted that unique jasper and converted it into the high-tech tools of the time. By word of mouth, or perhaps simply by the debris from their digging, the value of that site was communicated to many generations.

    chunks of Brook Run jasper
    Source: Virginia Department of Historic Resources, Brook Run Jasper

    To work the jasper stones free from the muddy matrix at the bottom of the vein, Native American miners squeezed into a dark hole in the ground to extract jasper from a crack just 10" wide. The prehistoric miners may have been young children, perhaps held upside-down by their ankles as they reached down into the narrow dark crevice. There was still jasper in the hole when the site was abandoned, but excavation may have become too difficult - especially when the hole was filled with water.

    Only a small part of the jasper was processed into tools at the quarry almost all was carried away to some other place. The archeologists working with VDOT found 700,000 flakes, but they were associated with creating large chunks of jasper rather than chipping those "blanks" into small individual tools needed for killing, skinning, and butchering an animal for food. Brook Run is one of the oldest mining sites in Virginia.

    Source: Virginia Department of Transportation, VDOT: Discovering the First Virginians

    The band of Paleo-Indians took the chunks away in order to do their detail work in a safer location, where there was less risk of a competing band stealing their hard-earned raw material. That would suggest the quarry workers were not only squeezed into a tight space they were also working in a hurry. 12

    archeologists found the Paleo-Indians had excavated a quarry that was 12' deep
    Source: Virginia Department of Transportation, VDOT: Discovering the First Virginians

    Since large chunks of relatively high-value jasper were left behind, it is possible that some prehistoric conflict blocked access to the quarry site. For whatever reason, memory of its location was lost, allowing time for wind and rain to bury the quarry with another foot of sediment until the Virginia Department of Transportation's alert contractors recognized that the unusual concentration of jasper flakes was worth further study.

    the Virginia Department of Transportation excavated and documented the Brook Run jasper quarry
    Source: Virginia Department of Transportation, VDOT: Discovering the First Virginians

    Virginia's archeological sites are dated largely through the charcoal remaining from old cooking and warming fires. At Brook Run, the dates are consistently in the range of 11,000-11,5000 years before present (BP). The wood remaining in the ancient hearths is often spruce, suggesting that the climate at that time was much colder than today.

    One chunk of white oak charcoal at Brook Run was about 2,000 years older, but it may be the wrong date for human occupation at the site. It could be an old remnant of an ancient forest fire that was disturbed in the mining operation, and ended up in the sediments that washed into the excavation created by the rock miners years later. 13

    The jasper vein and prehistoric quarry was covered by more-recent sediments until 1998, when the Virginia Department of Transportation examined the site prior to widening Route 3. The archeologists were the second group of Virginians to look closely at the site. Someone 10,000 years earlier was able to spot a small outcrop of rock, roughly 3 feet wide, that was "different." Maybe a foraging party rested there, before gathering more plant food or hunting more wild animals for dinner, and looked around. Maybe someone found a cobble of jasper in Brook Run, and explored upstream until finding the geologic fault with jasper exposed on the surface. but it is safe to assume that 11,000 years ago, the sensitivity to the geologic setting was far greater than today.

    In prehistoric times, the skill of distinguishing different types of rocks was critical to survival. Bands of early hunters and gatherers were savvy about rocks. They lived in the Stone Age, a time when technology was also based on silicon dioxide (SiO2), though it was used in a form different from the silicon base of modern computer chips. Jasper, chert, flint, and other forms of quartz are cryptocrystalline forms of silicon that fracture into fragments with sharp edges, useful for crafting knives, scrapers, axes, and points for the tips of hunting spears and arrows.

    In addition to using forms of quartz that originally precipitated from aqueous solutions, metamorphosed quartzite and metamorphosed volcanic rocks high in silica (metarhyolite) were chipped and cracked to form tools. Metarhyolite came from quarries in the Blue Ridge, including South Mountain in Maryland/Pennsylvania and the Uwharrie Mountain quarries in North Carolina. 14

    After perhaps 10,000 years of cracking and chipping rocks into desired shapes with sharp points and edges, Native Americans discovered around 4,500 years ago how to carve bowls and other shapes from a soft rock called soapstone or steatite. Stone bowls spurred a "container revolution" in technology, and may reflect a greater tendency for bands of hunters-gatherers to stay in one place ("sedentism") as wild plants were initially domesticated - and at the end of the Ice Age, after sea levels rose, estuaries rich with shellfish and anadromous fish runs became established.

    counties with soapstone quarries used by Native Americans
    Source: map from Johns Hopkins University Color Landform Atlas of the United States,
    county list from Encyclopedia of Virginia: Virginia Indian Ceramics

    Soapstone bowls must have been heavier to carry than containers formed from skins, bark, wood, or turtle shells. In addition, soapstone was relatively rare compared to organic sources for containers for many family groups engaged in foraging, trade for soapstone must have required different expertise than continuing traditional processes for making containers. Native Americans did not start to use soapstone bowls just to leave artifacts for future archeologists to study, so what was the advantage of switching to stone?

    One possible answer: soapstone bowls were better technologically. Much of the cooking in the Archaic Period involved preparation of stews and soups, where fragments of meat/bone could be heated (along with raw fruits and vegetables) to extract nutrients. The oil from hickory nuts could be extracted more completely by heating nuts in water, and skimming off the edible oil that floated to the surface. Cooking was done by heating small stones in a fire, then dropping the hot rocks carefully into the soup/stew inside skin/bark/wood/shell containers. Stone pots were more durable for such cooking practices, resisting damage better than traditional materials.

    Another possible answer: the soapstone bowls had special symbolic importance. Heavy, hard-to-acquire items may have been used for rituals rather than efficiency. Possession of a rare bowl may have identified a person/family as "elite" with higher status than other Native Americans. If so, then soapstone bowls might have been adopted because they were hard to acquire and replace, the way a Rolls-Royce car or a Picasso painting provides status today. 15

    Soapstone quarries are located in the Piedmont and Blue Ridge physiographic provinces. Pods of soapstone were formed as the Iapetus Ocean seafloor was shoved west and metamorphosed during the Taconic orogeny. 16

    Soapstone has a high percentage of talc, the main component of chalk, so Native Americans could use harder stones to carve out bowls directly from the bedrock. However, prehistoric people living in the Coastal Plain, Valley and Ridge, or Appalachian Plateau physiographic provinces had to travel to the Piedmont/Blue Ridge, or trade with groups already living there, to acquire soapstone.

    location of soapstone deposits in Virginia that were utilized in historic times
    Source: Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, Talc, Soapstone, and Related Stone Deposits of Virginia (Figure 1)

    Roughly 4,500 years ago, Native Americans along the Georgia/South Carolina coast learned how to make new "rock" in desired shapes, by heating clay in a fire to metamorphose the soft material into hard pottery. The technique of making pottery was then introduced into Virginia, either by sharing the new technology between neighboring groups or by migration of pottery-makers into Virginia. 17

    Clay is readily available throughout Virginia. Unlike soapstone, clay pots could be manufactured quickly as needed from local sources. The shift to pottery dramatically reduced the demand for soapstone, and may reflect a social shift to democratize access to what had been high-status items. One of the earliest forms of pottery in Virginia, the Marcey Creek ceramics, used soapstone as a temper, or addition to the clay. Temper can make clay easier to knead. Some materials used as temper allow moisture and air to escape pottery as it heats, minimizing breakage.

    For thousands of years, Native Americans understood how different types of rock were suitable for tool making, and how different soils were suitable for agriculture. When the English arrived in the Woodland Period, the villages were located on floodplains where alluvial soils were relatively rich in nutrients for growing corn. When a village erred and chose less-appropriate soils, the occupants simply moved.

    For example, around 1500AD about 100 people settled on Wolf Creek in Bland County. The soils there are derived from Devonian shale, so productivity was low. Despite the investment in infrastructure by clearing fields, building 11 houses, and constructing a palisade, the village was abandoned after just five years. 18

    Wolf Creek Indian Village, occupied around 1500AD and destroyed when I-77 was built in 1970, has been reconstructed for interpretation (Bland County)
    Source: ESRI, ArcGIS Online

    In addition to using rocks as a material for making tools, Native Americans used bedrock cliff faces as a canvas in at least two locations in Virginia. There are nearly 40 sites recorded by the Pennsylvania Archaeological Site Survey, most estimated to have been created in the last 1,000 years. 19

    the Salt Rock Petroglyph in West Virginia
    Source: Council for West Virginia Archaeology, Recent Vandalism at Salt Rock Petroglyph and the "Prom Queen" Petroglyph

    The small number recorded in Virginia may reflect not the absence of stone art but the difficulty in finding it. Only shallow scratches were pecked into the rock massive stone sculptures were not carved by the prehistoric equivalents of Michelangelo and Rodin. If the colors smeared into those scratches were derived from plants such as bloodroot, or were animal blood, then they have oxidized and no longer stand out against the rock background.

    At Paint Lick Mountain in Tazewell County, twenty or so pictographs were painted on the rock using clay rich in hematite (reddish iron oxide). On the other side of the Blue Ridge in Nottoway County, three glyphs resembling hands were made using a similar technique.

    Further north, someone scratched glyphs into the hard metamorphic schist at Gulf Branch and the hard metamorphic quartzite at Difficult Run, both in Fairfax County. The Shenks Ferry people scratched 1,000 petroglyphs into metamorphic rocks near the mouth of the Susquehanna River starting roughly 1,000 years ago, until they were displaced by the Susquehannocks around the year 1450: 20

    The nature of the rock - an extremely hard mineral known as granitic mica schist - has preserved many of the petroglyphs through centuries of weathering by floods and ice. The rock is so hard that just a small dot, known as a cupule, would take about 20 minutes to carve. This tells us that making each petroglyph took a very long time and held great meaning.

    There are two "mud glyph" caves in the headwaters of the James River. Streams naturally deposited mud on the cave walls during floods, and later stream migration left the deposits intact. Prehistoric artists used their fingers/sticks to draw chevrons, parallel lines, anthropomorphic figures, and other shapes whose meaning is unknown today.

    The closest equivalent sort of cave artistry is in Eastern Tennessee, and the cultural connection with the James River watershed is a mystery: 21

    . the glyphs are absolutely out of place at the headwaters of the James River. Whether brought to the area by some wayward emissary, compassless wanderer, or powerful ideation, the symbols and messages are not consistent with the current understanding of the Late Woodland of the region.

    Crumps Cave in Kentucky has mud glyphs located nearly a mile inside the cavern
    Source: Kentucky Archaeological Survey video, Saving A Kentucky Time Capsule

    The locations of rock overhangs and caves were probably discovered in the earliest years of human occupation, roughly 15,000 years ago, since those features could be used for shelter. Archeologists have identified 34 prehistorically occupied rock shelters along the Guest River alone in Wise County, and suggest these served as transient camps for hunting and gathering expeditions.

    In far southwest Virginia, and 200 miles north in Page County, there are mortuary caves. Human remains were carried inside the caves, in some cases into the depths where it was perpetually dark. Archeologists assume the caves were viewed as a portal of some sort, perhaps into an afterlife, but the cultural significance of burial in the caves is as speculative as the interpretation of the rock art and mud glyphs. 22

    petroglyphs chipped out by Native Americans are displayed on a boulder at the visitor center at Great Falls Park in Fairfax County

    After the Industrial Revolution, we have become disconnected from the natural sources of tools and grown dependent upon items we can buy at the hardware store. Most modern Virginians might know the difference between a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) and a cell phone, but few modern Virginians have the geological expertise of the First Virginians.

    If you walked from Colonial Beach to Harrisonburg, would you know when you were no longer walking on the Coastal Plain and had crossed the Fall Line? Would you be able to say "I'm walking on the metamorphosed sediments underlying the Piedmont" or "Hey, I'm in the sandstone of a Triassic Basin"? Would you recognize when you have crossed onto the greenstone of the Blue Ridge (near Route 29) or the limestone in the Shenandoah Valley (before you reached Route 340)?

    Centuries years ago, the residents in the area would have use far different terminology to distinguish the rock formations, but the ability to distinguish different rock types would have been common. Some of the earliest Virginians spotted a tiny seam of jasper in Culpeper County, and extracted the valuable resource without having any metal tools. Who is technologically challenged - the modern resident of Virginia with fancy computers but minimal expertise in understanding the surrounding landscape, or the Stone Age residents who lived in Virginia long long ago?

    Caves and treasures in the Grand Canyon?

    A front page story which ran in the ”Phoenix (Arizona) Gazette”, a major Arizona newspaper of the era, dated April 5, 1909, began with the headline, “Explorations in the Grand Canyon” “Mysteries of the Immense Rich Cavern being brought to Light” “Jordan is enthused” “Remarkable finds indicate ancient people migrated from the Orient.” The story tells of a lone explorer, G. E. Kincaid, described as “an explorer and hunter all his life” and “thirty years having been in the service of the Smithsonian Institute“, who was traveling alone, down the Colorado river, in a wooden boat, in search of “mineral”.

    Mr. Kincaid claimed to have seen “stains in the sediment” on the east wall of the canyon gorge he was traveling through. He most likely landed his boat, and made his way up the east side of the canyon, and over a “shelf”, then walked past “steps” to the “mouth of a cave” entrance. He went inside the entrance and discovered hallways, rooms, “mummies” “copper objects” and various other “artifacts” along with what appeared to him at the time to be “hieroglyphics” of an “Egyptian” or “Oriental” type.

    This is just a brief description of what he found and saw.

    The rest of the story goes on to relate how the Kincaid carried a few artifacts back to Yuma Arizona and then sent them off to Washington (presumably to the Smithsonian, although he did not say that specifically) who then went on to further investigate the site under the supervision of “S. A. Jordan” and a group of archaeologists a “group” that eventually was to amount to 30-40 persons.

    It is important to note here that S. A. Jordan was NOT named as a Smithsonian employee. The article only says he “supervised” the explorations. For the purposes of this analysis, I will try not speculate or go into reasons I may have to determine whether or not Mr. Kincaid’s story is true or false. That separate subject I have dealt with at: Lost City of the Dead in the Grand Canyon. My purpose in this writing is to determine as best as I possibly can, from Mr. Kincaid’s own words, and my own other experience and research, where the alleged “cave” and subsequent “citadel” might have been located (or “is” located, if it actually exists or still exists) in Grand Canyon National Park.

    I will determine what I think is the most likely location based on evidence gained from Mr. Kincaid’s own description of the location, my knowledge of the Grand Canyon from twenty one hikes below it’s rims, my extensive reading and research on the Grand Canyon, elevation data of the area from USGS topographic maps, mileage distances on the Colorado river, historical “place names” in the Grand Canyon, and geological “layers” in the Grand Canyon, along with various other sources of research, some of which are listed at the end of this writing in my “References and Notes”. I will attempt to make a case for it’s location at a relatively specific point in the Marble Canyon area of Grand Canyon National Park, adjacent to and possibly including a portion of the Navajo Indian Reservation, (the underground portion of the caverns) in north eastern Arizona.

    I will quote G. E. Kincaid’s own words on the location as published in the “Gazette” story and add my reasons under each quote for my interpretation of his words and how they describe what I deduced to be the location back in 1972 and still believe is the location today.

    “First I would impress that the cavern is nearly inaccessible”

    (Phoenix/Arizona Gazette, 1909) This implies that the location is very difficult to reach (at least in 1909 when Kincaid described it).

    I agree that the location would have been difficult to reach in 1909, and also, would be difficult (although less difficult than in 1909) to reach today. The location below the cave itself, is in a deep river gorge (Marble Canyon) accessible by either arriving there in a boat or float trip, or on foot from the rim of the Little Colorado river gorge, on the Navajo reservation. One could also hike from the Tanner Trail, or down the North Rim Nankoweap trail, cross the Colorado River (illegally) and walk the east bank to a point across from Kwagunt Rapids.

    The most practical hike would involve some scrambling down steep areas of the “Hopi Salt Trail” in the canyon gorge of the Little Colorado River, then hiking several miles westerly to the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers in the Grand Canyon proper. (Marble Canyon)

    Then the trip would necessitate a relatively level hike along the Colorado river in a northern direction for several more miles. In 1909 these options would have been considerably more difficult, either boating to the location in a hard shell boat (as Kincaid did), or hiking there on foot. The rigid boats of the period around 1909 were much more hazardous in the Grand Canyon‘s rapids than their modern equivalents, inflatable rafts.

    Also, in 1909 trails to the site would have been less known and less frequently traveled, making a hiking trip to the location much more hazardous. One could, in theory attempt a rim down climb to the area near the cave.

    “The entrance is 1,486 feet down the sheer canyon wall”

    (Phoenix/Arizona Gazette, 1909) This alone shows that the “cave” entrance would be difficult to get to and would most likely involve rock climbing skills and be very dangerous.

    Cliffs such as this are common in Marble Canyon and vertical cliffs are also common near the river in this area. Kincaid’s 1,486 feet is also an important elevation marker in determining the location of this site.

    I have been to the area above the three mile stretch of the canyon, where the cave most likely exists, and as you can see from the photo below, the cliffs just below the rim are very steep and impassable on foot.

    Original Photo Courtesy Steve Wingate copyright 2000

    “I was journeying down the Colorado river in a boat, alone, looking for mineral. Some forty-two miles up the river from the El Tovar Crystal canyon…”

    (Phoenix/Arizona Gazette, 1909) Here Kincaid states that he was “journeying “down” the Colorado river.” “Down” a river (any river) is generally, if not nearly always construed to mean “with the current of the river.”

    This usage of the word “down” has been confirmed by my conversations and correspondence with river runners, historians and in particular, Colorado river runners. Kincaid then goes on to use the term “up the river.” “Up” the river is the opposite of “down” the river and generally construed to mean “against the current of the river” This has also been confirmed by the above sources.

    These terms would not generally be confusing in everyday conversation about a boat moving along a river, but I clarify them here because they are critical terms in determining Kincaid’s stated location of the cave. The Colorado river runs from a northeastern location in Marble Canyon, in a south and southwestern direction, down through the Grand Canyon proper. The current runs from north to south in the area Kincaid describes.

    So I will assume with some accuracy that Kincaid was traveling “down” the river through the Grand Canyon, in a south to southwestern direction. I will also assume that when he stated “up the river”, he was referring to a location against the current, or north to northeast of his given reference point. (“El Tovar Crystal Canyon“) Kincaid in refers to the location of the “cave” as being a certain distance from “El Tovar Crystal Canyon“.

    The name, “El Tovar” originated historically from ”Don Pedro Tovar”, one of the Spanish explorer Coronado’s captains, who in August of 1541 was sent to explore the Cebolla ”country”, located in the province of Tusayan. (north eastern Arizona near theHopi lands) Tovar found the “Moqui” (Hopi) villages whose inhabitants informed him that there existed a “great river” several days journey to the north. (The Colorado of the Grand Canyon) Tovar reported this back to Coronado who sent Captain Cardenas to “seek the great river”.

    Cardenas eventually reached the river and the great cliffs of the Grand Canyon (yet to be named “Grand“). Some of his party tried to cross the great gap of the canyon and failed, unable to get down the sheer walls and steep slopes of the canyon.1 Cardenas has thus been granted the historical distinction of being the first non Native American (“European”) to see the Grand Canyon. For purposes here I am concerned with Kincaid’s use of the term “El Tovar” in reference to “Crystal Canyon.” I highly suspect that Kincaid is referring to the El Tovar Hotel on the South rim of the canyon, in Grand Canyon Village. This grand hotel was built on the rim of the canyon between the years of 1903 and 1905. On January 14, 1905 El Tovar Hotel opened to the public. 2

    In the Phoenix (Arizona) Gazette article of April 5, 1909 it is stated that Kincaid “brought the story” of the “underground citadel” “to the city” (Phoenix and the Gazette) “yesterday” (April 4, 1909) after having “discovered” the site “several months ago”.

    This would imply that Kincaid discovered the citadel in 1908 or 1909. I now know that he most likely discovered the site in October of 1908. It is possible then that he knew of the El Tovar Hotel (opened in 1905) and could have been referring to the hotel’s name in reference to “Crystal Canyon“.

    The mouth of Crystal Canyon (Crystal Creek actually) should be visible from a window of the hotel, or somewhere near the hotel (a rim viewpoint) and Kincaid simply used the Hotel as a reference point that readers of the Gazette could relate to, since the hotel was a brand new feature and a prominent place to stay at the rim.

    The middle to upper reaches of the Crystal Creek canyon area should be visible from El Tovar Hotel (see map below) .

    In any case, the only other modern public structure currently anywhere near Crystal Creek is Phantom Ranch, and that was built in 1922 several years after Kincaid’s discovery and the appearance of the Phoenix (Arizona) Gazette article.

    The El Tovar hotel seems to be be the nearest publicly known reference point to Crystal Creek (canyon) that the readers of the Gazette could relate to, and it was probably used in that regard, by Kincaid as a reference point for the general public.

    The importance of “El Tovar Crystal Canyon” is that it most likely refers to Crystal Creek and it’s surrounding canyon. In an extensive search of the Grand Canyon area, referring to historical journals, several historic and modern maps, hiker’s guides, rangers, Grand Canyon historians, Grand Canyon Place Names and numerous other sources, I am unable to turn up any reference to “El Tovar” Crystal Canyon.

    The only other location that comes near to the name “Tovar” is “Tobar Terrace” further west in the Grand Canyon, but “Tobar” Terrace is bordered on the east by “Blacktail Canyon” and on the west by “One Hundred and Twenty Two Mile Creek”. Both names are not even remotely near the name “Crystal Canyon” referred to by Kincaid in 1909.

    Various sources agree that the reference most likely refers to the canyon in which Crystal Creek flows, a side canyon off of the Colorado river in the heart of Grand Canyon.

    I agree that Kincaid was most likely referring to “Crystal Creek” and it’s associated canyon at mile 98 on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, especially since “Crystal Creek” is commonly labeled on Grand Canyon maps, and maps dated to the period when Kincaid traveled the river.

    1903 map showing Crystal Creek.

    This map would have been available to G. E. Kincaid

    Designated points along the Colorado river in the Grand Canyon are referred to with numbers such as “mile 98″ above.

    These points reference a distance on the Colorado river from Lee’s Ferry, Arizona, a common starting point for many Colorado river float trips. Crystal Creek. The most likely candidate for Kincaid’s “El Tovar Crystal Canyon“, and it is at is at mile 98.

    “Some forty-two miles up the river from the El Tovar Crystal canyon”

    Phoenix/Arizona Gazette, 1909 Subtracting 42 miles from mile 98 leaves mile 56.

    Remember that “up the river” is “against the current” and in the Grand Canyon, this means up toward Lees Ferry. Mile 56 is at Kwagunt Creek or Kwagunt rapid, in Marble Canyon.

    Map of Grand Canyon National Park showing Kincaid’s “42 miles” as a red line on the river. by Jack Andrews 2000

    Marble Canyon got it’s name from Major John Wesley Powell, who in August of 1869, wrote in his journal about “cliffs of marble” which contained “a great number of caves“. It is important to note here Powell stated that Marble Canyon contained “a great number of caves“. The “citadel” Kincaid speaks of in his story is in a “cave“.

    Since Powell’s time many caves have been noted or discovered in the Marble Canyon area, including Stanton’s Cave, a large cave in the Redwall formation at mile 31.7 and an important archaeological site. 5

    Stanton’s cave in Marble Canyon, Grand canyon, Arizona

    “Marble Gorge” Canyon or gorge in Colorado river between mouths of Paria and Little Colorado, so named by Major Powell 1869.

    We have cut through the sand stones and limestones met in the upper part of the canyon and through one great bed of marble a thousand feet in thickness. So we call it ‘Marble Canyon. It is 651/2 miles long.

    “Powell” Dellenbaugh writes:

    “As the formation was mainly a fine-grained gray marble, Powell concluded to call this division by a separate name and gave it the title Marble Canyon.”

    “Some forty-two miles up the river from the El Tovar Crystal canyon, I saw on the east wall, stains in the sedimentary formation…”

    (Phoenix/Arizona Gazette, 1909) At mile 56 (Kwagunt creek and rapid) the Marble canyon and Colorado river takes turn from a south eastern direction and trends almost due south for approximately 3.3 miles. (see USGS topographic map section of the area below):

    The 5.5 mile (or so) stretch of the Colorado River in Marble Canyon (Grand Canyon National Park, and Navajo “Dineh” Nation) that most likely still hides G. E. Kincaid’s Lost “Cave”

    “Some forty-two miles up the river from the El Tovar Crystal canyon, I saw on the east wall, stains in the sedimentary formation…”

    (Phoenix/Arizona Gazette, 1909) Back in 1909 Kincaid has most likely followed the turn in the river here at mile 56 headed due south. In his search for “mineral” he looked up and saw on “the east wall, stains in the sedimentary formation about 2,000 feet above the river bed”.

    Several of Kincaid’s observations are very important here.

    1. Kincaid notices the “stains” on the east wall. Looking at the topographic map, it is easy to see that he would have been in a position on the river to be just next to an “east wall”, immediately after passing through Kwagunt rapid. 2. The “stains” according to Kincaid were “in the sedimentary formation”. This is very important. The geology of the Marble Canyon region is basically a record of altered sedimentary deposits. From the rim to the river in Marble Canyon there are successive layers of modified sedimentary deposits. You can see this in the diagram below, which lists the various formations from rim to river.

    I have delineated the formations present in Marble Canyon, in the diagram. Most all formations had their origins as sedimentary deposits. It is important to emphasize here that in this particular stretch of the Grand Canyon, ”Marble Canyon”,modified sediment types reach from rim to river.

    Modified image by Jack Andrews 2001

    Further south and west in the Grand Canyon the “Inner Gorge” of the Colorado (1200-1900 or so foot high) cliffs along both sides of the river, are made up of the Vishnu Schist, a 2 billion (or so) year old formation, dark brown in color of extremely altered sandstones shales and limestones, intermingled with lava flows.

    The dark smooth rock of the Vishnu Schist is the result of metamorphism, altered (in this case) by the tremendous pressure of lying (originally) under nearly 12 miles of formations, crushed folded and melted into it’s present highly altered state. 6 It would take a stretch of the imagination to see Kincaid looking up at the nearly glassy dark brown surface of the Vishnu Schist and calling it “sedimentary formation”. Also, immediately above the Inner Gorge (Vishnu Schist), is the “Tonto Platform” a nearly horizontal platform of gently rolling hills, that extends for some distance horizontally away from the edge of the Inner Gorge.

    It is not a formation known for caves. Kincaid said he saw “stains in the sedimentary formation about 2,000 feet above the river bed”. In the Inner Gorge area of the Vishnu Schist, if Kincaid looked up, he would have see only the edge of the Vishnu Schist at about 1200-1900 feet, and not have been able to see much if anything of the horizontal Tonto Platform, just above the Inner Gorge, which would have been out of his line of sight (horizontal).

    He would not have seen “stains in the sedimentary formation”, since the Vishnu Schist id hardly “sedimentary”. He also would have also been located incorrectly on the river, since he would not be even near “42 miles up the river from El Tovar Crystal Canyon” (Crystal Creek and canyon), if in the Vishnu Schist area of the Inner Gorge. USGS topo map below, showing the Inner Gorge (Vishnu Schist) As “Granite Gorge“, in the central area of Grand Canyon National Park. The more horizontal “Tonto Platform” can be seen just below the 3898 foot elevation marker (lower right) as the area containing the name “Tonto Trail” If you look north across the river where it says: “Clear Creek Trail” you will see the “Tonto Platform” again, as a broad more horizontal formation. (topo lines further apart)

    The area shown as “Granite Gorge” ( says “GORGE“) is the “Inner Gorge” “Vishnu Schist” formation, next to the river.

    It is also true that views in Marble Canyon, at river level are somewhat limited, due to the steep walls of the redwall formation, just above the river.

    But at mile 56 on the Colorado River, in Marble Canyon, there is a large gap in the vertical walls that would allow a clear view up to the 2000 foot level near where Kincaid said he saw “stains in the sediment”. At the river near “KwaguntRapids the elevation of the river is near 2,760 feet. The elevation at the rim above Kwagunt is approximately 6050 feet. (both elevations vary slightly in the 6 mile stretch I have designated as containing the “cave’.) If we subtract 2,760 (river at ground level) feet from 6050 feet (rim at top) we have 3,290 feet as the actual height of the canyon at Kwagunt, from river to rim.

    Remember that Kincaid said,

    “I saw on the east wall, stains in the sedimentary formation about 2000 feet above the river bed”

    “The entrance is 1,486 feet down the sheer canyon wall..” (meaning from the rim down)

    If we add Kincaid’s two figures, 2000 feet and 1,486 feet we come up with 3,486 feet as Kincaid’s height from the river to the rim. That figure is only 196 feet in variation from the actual height (river to rim of 3,290 feet) at the present day location!! Considering that the rim and river elevations vary almost 200 combined feet in that 6 mile stretch of canyon, it is evident that Kincaid’s measurements are highly accurate in to the area in which he stated that he saw the cave. For the reasons detailed above, I think the “cave” described in the headline story of the Arizona Gazette, April 5, 1909 and its fantastic underground installation was, and still may be, located above an approximate six mile stretch of the Colorado River inMarble Canyon, at the border of Marble Canyon and the Navajo Nation above an area near Kwagunt Rapids.

    1. Will C. Barnes Arizona Place Names (The University of Arizona Press, 1988) 2. Margaret M. Verkamp History of Grand Canyon National Park (A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of the Department of History, Graduate College, University of Arizona, 1940) 3. Michael F. Anderson Living at the Edge, Explorers, Exploiters and settlers of the Grand Canyon Region (Grand Canyon Association, 1998) 4. Byrd H. Granger Grand Canyon Place Names (The University of Arizona Press, Tucson, 1960) 5. Robert C. Euler, Editor, The Archaeology, Geology, and Paleobiology of Stanton’s Cave, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona (Grand Canyon Natural History Association Monograph Number 6, 1984) 6. Halka Chronic, Roadside Geology of Arizona, (Mountain Press Publishing Co., Missoula, February 1989, 6th Printing), on page 280 the author describes the Vishnu formation, and it is this discussion I refer to in my text.


    The Original April 5, 1909 Arizona Gazette article

    Mysteries of Immense Rich Cavern Being Brought to Light Remarkable finds indicate ancient people migrated from Orient

    as edited by The Arizona Gazette

    The latest news of the progress of the explorations of what is now regarded by scientists as not only the oldest archaeological discovery in the United States, but one of the most valuable in the world, which was mentioned some time ago in the Gazette, was brought to the city yesterday by G. E. Kinkaid, the explorer who found the great underground citadel of the Grand Canyon during a trip from Green River, Wyoming, down the Colorado, in a wooden boat, to Yuma, several months ago. According to the story related to the Gazette by Mr. Kinkaid, the archaeologists of the Smithsonian Institute, which is financing the expeditions, have made discoveries which almost conclusively prove that the race which inhabited this mysterious cavern, hewn in solid rock by human hands, was of oriental origin, possibly from Egypt, tracing back to Ramses.

    If their theories are borne out by the translation of the tablets engraved with hieroglyphics, the mystery of the prehistoric peoples of North America, their ancient arts, who they were and whence they came, will be solved.

    Egypt and the Nile, and Arizona and the Colorado will be linked by a historical chain running back to ages which staggers the wildest fancy of the fictionist.

    Under the direction of Prof. S. A. Jordan, the Smithsonian Institute is now prosecuting the most thorough explorations, which will be continued until the last link in the chain is forged.

    Nearly a mile long tunnel underground, about 1480 feet below the surface, the long main passage has been delved into, to find another mammoth chamber from which radiates scores of passageways, like the spokes of a wheel.

    Several hundred rooms have been discovered, reached by passageways running from the main passage, one of them having been explored for 854 feet and another 634 feet.

    The recent finds include articles which have never been known as native to this country, and doubtless they had their origin in the orient. War weapons, copper instruments, sharp-edged and hard as steel, indicate the high state of civilization reached by these strange people.

    So interested have the scientists become that preparations are being made to equip the camp for extensive studies, and the force will be increased to thirty or forty persons.

    “Before going further into the cavern, better facilities for lighting will have to be installed, for the darkness is dense and quite impenetrable for the average flashlight.

    In order to avoid being lost, wires are being strung from the entrance to all passageways leading directly to large chambers. How far this cavern extends no one can guess, but it is now the belief of many that what has already been explored is merely the “barracks”, to use an American term, for the soldiers, and that far into the under-world will be found the main communal dwellings of the families.

    The perfect ventilation of the cavern, the steady draught that blows through, indicates that it has another outlet to the surface.”

    Mr. Kinkaid was the first white child born in Idaho and has been an explorer and hunter all his life, thirty years having been in the service of the Smithsonian Institute. Even briefly recounted, his history sounds fabulous, almost grotesque. First, I would impress that the cavern is nearly inaccessible. The entrance is 1,486 feet down the sheer canyon wall. It is located on government land and no visitor will be allowed there under penalty of trespass.

    The scientists wish to work unmolested, without fear of archaeological discoveries being disturbed by curios or relic hunters.

    A trip there would be fruitless, and the visitor would be sent on his way. The story of how I found the cavern has been related, but in a paragraph: I was journeying down the Colorado river in a boat, alone, looking for mineral.

    3D computer rendering by Jack Andrews

    Some forty-two miles up the river from the El Tovar Crystal canyon, I saw on the east wall, stains in the sedimentary formation about 2,000 feet above the river bed. There was no trail to this point, but I finally reached it with great difficulty. Above a shelf which hid it from view from the river, was the mouth of the cave. There are steps leading from this entrance some thirty yards to what was, at the time the cavern was inhabited, the level of the river.

    When I saw the chisel marks on the wall inside the entrance, I became interested, securing my gun and went in. During that trip I went back several hundred feet along the main passage till I came to the crypt in which I discovered the mummies. One of these I stood up and photographed by flashlight. I gathered a number of relics, which I carried down the Colorado to Yuma, from whence I shipped them to Washington with details of the discovery.

    Following this, the explorations were undertaken.

    The main passageway is about 12 feet wide, narrowing to nine feet toward the farther end.

    About 57 feet from the entrance, the first side-passages branch off to the right and left, along which, on both sides, are a number of rooms about the size of ordinary living rooms of today, though some are 30 by 40 feet square. These are entered by oval-shaped doors and are ventilated by round air spaces through the walls into the passages. The walls are about three feet six inches in thickness. The passages are chiseled or hewn as straight as could be laid out by an engineer.

    The ceilings of many of the rooms converge to a center. The side-passages near the entrance run at a sharp angle from the main hall, but toward the rear they gradually reach a right angle in direction.

    Over a hundred feet from the entrance is the cross-hall, several hundred feet long, in which are found the idol, or image, of the people’s god, sitting cross-legged, with a lotus flower or lily in each hand.

    The cast of the face is oriental, and the carving this cavern. The idol almost resembles Buddha, though the scientists are not certain as to what religious worship it represents.

    Taking into consideration everything found thus far, it is possible that this worship most resembles the ancient people of Tibet.

    Over a hundred feet from the entrance is the cross-hall, several hundred feet long, in which are found the idol, or image, of the people’s god, sitting cross-legged, with a lotus flower or lily in each hand. The cast of the face is oriental, and the carving this cavern. The idol almost resembles Buddha, though the scientists are not certain as to what religious worship it represents. Taking into consideration everything found thus far, it is possible that this worship most resembles the ancient people of Tibet. Surrounding this idol are smaller images, some very beautiful in form – others crooked-necked and distorted shapes, symbolical, probably, of good and evil. There are two large cactus with protruding arms, one on each side of the dais on which the god squats. All this is carved out of hard rock resembling marble.

    3D computer rendering by Jack Andrews

    Surrounding this idol are smaller images, some very beautiful in form – others crooked-necked and distorted shapes, symbolical, probably, of good and evil.

    There are two large cactus with protruding arms, one on each side of the dais on which the go- squats. All this is carved out of hard rock resembling marble. In the opposite corner of this cross-hall were found tools of all descriptions, made of copper.

    These people undoubtedly knew the lost art of hardening this metal, which has been sought by chemists for centuries without result. On a bench running around the workroom was some charcoal and other material probably used in the process.

    There is also slag and stuff similar to matte, showing that these ancients smelted ores, but so far no trace of where or how this was done has been discovered, nor the origin of the ore. Among the other finds are vases or urns and cups of copper and gold, made very artistic in design. The pottery work includes enameled ware and glazed vessels.

    Another passageway leads to granaries such as are found in the oriental temples. They contain seeds of various kinds. One very large storehouse has not yet been entered, as it is twelve feet high and can be reached only from above. Two copper hooks extend on the edge, which indicates that some sort of ladder was attached.

    These granaries are rounded, as the materials of which they are constructed, I think, is a very hard cement. A gray metal is also found in this cavern, which puzzles the scientists, for its identity has not been established. It resembles platinum.

    Strewn promiscuously over the floor everywhere are what people call – cats eyes’, a yellow stone of no great value. Each one is engraved with the head of the Malay type.

    On all the urns, or walls over doorways, and tablets of stone which were found by the image are the mysterious hieroglyphics the key to which the Smithsonian Institute hopes yet to discover.

    These writings resemble those on the rocks about this valley. The engraving on the tables probably has something to do with the religion of the people. Similar hieroglyphics have been found in the peninsula of Yucatan, but these are not the same as those found in the Orient.

    Some believe these cave dwellers built the old canals in the Salt River Valley.

    Above is a scan of a tracing of a xerox copy of photograph(s)? depicting hieroglyphics

    allegedly photographed by G. E. Kincaid in 1908 inside the cave in the Grand Canyon.

    This was submitted to me from a friend with a request that

    the source remain anonymous, a request I always honor. – Jack

    The tomb or crypt in which the mummies were found is one of the largest of the chambers, the walls slanting back at an angle of about 35 degrees.

    On these are tiers of mummies, each one occupying a separate hewn shelf. At the head of each is a small bench, on which is found copper cups and pieces of broken swords. Some of the mummies are covered with clay, and all are wrapped in a dark fabric.

    The urns or cups on the lower tiers are crude, while as the higher shelves are reached, the urns are finer in design, showing a later stage of civilization. It is worthy of note that all the mummies examined so far have proved to be male, no children or females being buried here.

    The Crypt The tomb or crypt in which the mummies were found is one of the largest of the chambers, the walls slanting back at an angle of about 35 degrees. On these are tiers of mummies, each one occupying a separate hewn shelf. At the head of each is a small bench, on which is found copper cups and pieces of broken swords. Some of the mummies are covered with clay, and all are wrapped in a dark fabric. The urns or cups on the lower tiers are crude, while as the higher shelves are reached, the urns are finer in design, showing a later stage of civilization. It is worthy of note that all the mummies examined so far have proved to be male, no children or females being buried here. This leads to the belief that this exterior section was the warriors’ barracks. Arizona Gazette 1909

    3D computer rendering by Jack Andrews

    This leads to the belief that this exterior section was the warrior’ barracks. Among the discoveries no bones of animals have been found, no skins, no clothing, no bedding. Many of the rooms are bare but for water vessels. One room, about 40 by 700 feet, was probably the main dining hall, for cooking utensils are found here. What these people lived on is a problem, though it is presumed that they came south in the winter and farmed in the valleys, going back north in the summer. Upwards of 50,000 people could have lived in the caverns comfortably. One theory is that the present Indian tribes found in Arizona are descendants of the serfs or slaves of the people which inhabited the cave. Undoubtedly a good many thousands of years before the Christian era, a people lived here which reached a high stage of civilization.

    The chronology of human history is full of gaps. Professor Jordan is much enthused over the discoveries and believes that the find will prove of incalculable value in archaeological work. One thing I have not spoken of, may be of interest. There is one chamber of the passageway to which is not ventilated, and when we approached it a deadly, snaky smell struck us. Our light would not penetrate the gloom, and until stronger ones are available we will not know what the chamber contains. Some say snakes, but other boo-hoo this idea and think it may contain a deadly gas or chemicals used by the ancients.

    No sounds are heard, but it smells snaky just the same. The whole underground installation gives one of shaky nerves the creeps. The gloom is like a weight on one’s shoulders, and our flashlights and candles only make the darkness blacker.

    Imagination can revel in conjectures and ungodly daydreams back through the ages that have elapsed till the mind reels dizzily in space.

    In connection with this story, it is notable that among the Hopi Indians the tradition is told that their ancestors once lived in an underworld in the Grand Canyon till dissension arose between the good and the bad, the people of one heart and the people of two hearts.

    Machetto, who was their chief, counseled them to leave the underworld, but there was no way out. The chief then caused a tree to grow up and pierce the roof of the underworld, and then the people of one heart climbed out. They tarried by Paisisvai (Red River), which is the Colorado, and grew grain and corn. They sent out a message to the Temple of the Sun, asking the blessing of peace, good will and rain for people of one heart. That messenger never returned, but today at the Hopi villages at sundown can be seen the old men of the tribe out on the housetops gazing toward the sun, looking for the messenger.

    When he returns, their lands and ancient dwelling place will be restored to them. That is the tradition. Among the engravings of animals in the cave is seen the image of a heart over the spot where it is located. The legend was learned by W.E. Rollins, the artist, during a year spent with the Hopi Indians. There are two theories of the origin of the Egyptians. One is that they came from Asia another that the racial cradle was in the upper Nile region. Heeren, an Egyptologist, believed in the Indian origin of the Egyptians.

    The discoveries in the Grand Canyon may throw further light on human evolution and prehistoric ages.

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    Technology has a long history and is suprisingly sophisticated

    1. Underworld, by Graham Hancock.
    2. The latest model of the Antikythera Mechanism was published in Nature in November 2006
    9. Archaeological Report, English Heritage Phase I (2950-2900 BCE)
    10. Stonehenge Decoded, by Gerald Hawkins

    The Surprising Truth About How the Great Pyramids Were Built

    "This is not my day job," begins Michel Barsoum as he recounts his foray into the mysteries of the Great Pyramids of Egypt. As a well respected researcher in the field of ceramics, Barsoum never expected his career to take him down a path of history, archaeology, and "political" science, with materials research mixed in.

    As a distinguished professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Drexel University, his daily routine consists mainly of teaching students about ceramics, or performing research on a new class of materials, the so-called MAX Phases, that he and his colleagues discovered in the 1990s. These modern ceramics are machinable, thermal-shock resistant, and are better conductors of heat and electricity than many metals &mdash making them potential candidates for use in nuclear power plants, the automotive industry, jet engines, and a range of other high-demand systems.

    Then Barsoum received an unexpected phone call from Michael Carrell, a friend of a retired colleague of Barsoum, who called to chat with the Egyptian-born Barsoum about how much he knew of the mysteries surrounding the building of the Great Pyramids of Giza, the only remaining of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

    The widely accepted theory &mdash that the pyramids were crafted of carved-out giant limestone blocks that workers carried up ramps &mdash had not only not been embraced by everyone, but as important had quite a number of holes.

    Burst out laughing

    According to the caller, the mysteries had actually been solved by Joseph Davidovits, Director of the Geopolymer Institute in St. Quentin, France, more than two decades ago. Davidovits claimed that the stones of the pyramids were actually made of a very early form of concrete created using a mixture of limestone, clay, lime, and water.

    "It was at this point in the conversation that I burst out laughing," Barsoum said. If the pyramids were indeed cast, he said, someone should have proven it beyond a doubt by now, in this day and age, with just a few hours of electron microscopy.

    It turned out that nobody had completely proven the theory … yet.

    "What started as a two-hour project turned into a five-year odyssey that I undertook with one of my graduate students, Adrish Ganguly, and a colleague in France, Gilles Hug," Barsoum said.

    A year and a half later, after extensive scanning electron microscope observations and other testing, Barsoum and his research group finally began to draw some conclusions about the pyramids. They found that the tiniest structures within the inner and outer casing stones were indeed consistent with a reconstituted limestone. The cement binding the limestone aggregate was either silicon dioxide (the building block of quartz) or a calcium and magnesium-rich silicate mineral.

    The stones also had a high water content &mdash unusual for the normally dry, natural limestone found on the Giza plateau &mdash and the cementing phases, in both the inner and outer casing stones, were amorphous, in other words, their atoms were not arranged in a regular and periodic array. Sedimentary rocks such as limestone are seldom, if ever, amorphous.

    The sample chemistries the researchers found do not exist anywhere in nature. "Therefore," Barsoum said, "it's very improbable that the outer and inner casing stones that we examined were chiseled from a natural limestone block."

    More startlingly, Barsoum and another of his graduate students, Aaron Sakulich, recently discovered the presence of silicon dioxide nanoscale spheres (with diameters only billionths of a meter across) in one of the samples. This discovery further confirms that these blocks are not natural limestone.

    Generations misled

    At the end of their most recent paper reporting these findings, the researchers reflect that it is "ironic, sublime and truly humbling" that this 4,500-year-old limestone is so true to the original that it has misled generations of Egyptologists and geologists and, "because the ancient Egyptians were the original &mdash albeit unknowing &mdash nanotechnologists."

    As if the scientific evidence isn't enough, Barsoum has pointed out a number of common sense reasons why the pyramids were not likely constructed entirely of chiseled limestone blocks.

    Egyptologists are consistently confronted by unanswered questions: How is it possible that some of the blocks are so perfectly matched that not even a human hair can be inserted between them? Why, despite the existence of millions of tons of stone, carved presumably with copper chisels, has not one copper chisel ever been found on the Giza Plateau?

    Although Barsoum's research has not answered all of these questions, his work provides insight into some of the key questions. For example, it is now more likely than not that the tops of the pyramids are cast, as it would have been increasingly difficult to drag the stones to the summit.

    Also, casting would explain why some of the stones fit so closely together. Still, as with all great mysteries, not every aspect of the pyramids can be explained. How the Egyptians hoisted 70-ton granite slabs halfway up the great pyramid remains as mysterious as ever.

    Why do the results of Barsoum's research matter most today? Two words: earth cements.

    "How energy intensive and/or complicated can a 4,500 year old technology really be? The answer to both questions is not very," Barsoum explains. "The basic raw materials used for this early form of concrete &mdash limestone, lime, and diatomaceous earth &mdash can be found virtually anywhere in the world," he adds. "Replicating this method of construction would be cost effective, long lasting, and much more environmentally friendly than the current building material of choice: Portland cement that alone pumps roughly 6 billion tons of CO2 annually into the atmosphere when it's manufactured."

    "Ironically," Barsoum said, "this study of 4,500 year old rocks is not about the past, but about the future."

    More to Explore

    Editor's Note: This research was supported by the National Science Foundation, the federal agency charged with funding basic research and education across all fields of science and engineering.

    Coral Castle

    How unfortunate that these secrets of levitation—if they ever existed—are lost to antiquity or the remoteness of the Himalayas. They seem to be forever elusive to modern Western man. Or are they?

    Beginning in 1920, Edward Leedskalnin, a 5-ft. tall, 100-lb. A Latvian immigrant began to build a remarkable structure in Homestead, Florida. Over a 20-year period, Leedskalnin single-handedly builds a home he originally called "Rock Gate Park," but has since been named Coral Castle. Working in secret—often at night—Leedskalnin was somehow able to quarry, fashion, transport and constructed the impressive edifices and sculptures of his unique home from large blocks of heavy coral rock.

    It's estimated that 1,000 tons of coral rock were used in the construction of the walls and towers, and an additional 100 tons of it were carved into furniture and art objects:

    • An obelisk he raised weighs 28 tons.
    • The wall surrounding Coral Castle stands 8 ft. tall and consists of large blocks each weighing several tons.
    • Large stone crescents are perched atop 20-ft.-high walls.
    • A 9-ton swinging gate that moves at the touch of finger guards the eastern wall.
    • The largest rock on the property weighs an estimated 35 tons.
    • Some stones are twice the weight of the largest blocks in the Great Pyramid at Giza.

    All this he did alone and without heavy machinery. No one ever witnessed to how Leedskalnin was able to move and lift such enormous objects, although it is claimed that some spying teenagers saw him "float coral blocks through the air like hydrogen balloons."

    Leedskalnin was highly secretive about his methods, saying only at one point, "I have discovered the secrets of the pyramids. I have found out how the Egyptians and the ancient builders in Peru, Yucatan, and Asia, with only primitive tools, raised and set in place blocks of stone weighing many tons."

    If Leedskalnin had indeed rediscovered the ancient secrets of levitation, he took them with him to his grave.