Those Damn Scuba Diving Pyramid Builders

PyramidUnderwater

So this one’s getting around the social media currently: A Portuguese sailor has discovered a 60 meter high pyramid under the water off the coast of Portugal. Who put it there? Was it aliens, or maybe those underwater aliens from The Abyss? Is this Atlantis? The answer according to hopeful pyramid fetishists is yes. Yes to all of that.

The supposed phenomenon of underwater pyramids is nothing new. This actually flashes across the web every couple of years or so. When people started posting this link a few days ago, I thought it was old news, but I was probably remembering this underwater pyramid they found near Cuba in 2012. Or this underwater pyramid they found near Japan in 2007. There’s also this underwater pyramid that has been on and off the rumour mill since the 60s. I could bring up half a dozen other underwater structure discoveries that have been floated (pun unintended) around the past decade or so, but I figure you get the point.

This image which was being misreported as a photograph by the media is actually an artist's interpretation. Bu tthat's no fun, right?

This image which was being misreported as a photograph by the media is actually an artist’s interpretation. But that’s no fun, right?

People are obsessed with underwater structures predominantly due to our cultural obsession with the lost city of Atlantis. Every time this kind of thing comes up, people mutter “Atlantis” in hushed whispers. No actually they’re more inclined to shout it from the rooftops. In any case, it’s a fool’s game – Atlantis isn’t lost because it was never there to begin with. It was a work of fiction–a fable, essentially–told by Plato back when togas were in fashion. Aesop wasn’t the only ancient Greek guy who told fables, it was a popular genre back then, and if we don’t believe the famous race between a tortoise and a hare ever really happened, there’s no reason we should believe in Atlantis, either. And we didn’t for a very long time – nobody believed that Atlantis was anything but a fictional story until an American cult called Theosophy (the precursor to the modern New Age movement) started claiming it was real and that they knew it because psychics and stuff.

But even when we discount Atlantis, how did all those pyramids get down there? Well, they’re probably not pyramids. I don’t doubt that people are seeing something down there (although I suspect the story about the famous crystal pyramid might be whole-cloth bullshit due to its discoverer accidentally losing his evidence and also accidentally forgetting where he saw it) but westerners have a bit of an odd fetish for pyramids. We’ve observed that there are pyramids in Egypt, Central America and Cambodia, and we wonder how many other ancient cultures around the world might have built them. (Again, Atlantis is often cited as evidence for why pyramids are scattered across the world, like one culture must have built all of them, even though they look completely different from each other besides the fact that they are all vaguely triangle shaped.)

Good God, they're IDENTICAL!

Good God, they’re IDENTICAL!

As a result, we’ve started actually seeing pyramids that aren’t there. I’m reminded of the famous “Bosnian pyramid” that some pseudoarchaeologists are trying to push as a real thing. Back in 2005, news was announced that a massive pyramid had been hidden in plain sight in Bosnia, and it was actually the largest pyramid ever built, but they’d only just found it because it was so old and dirty that we’d been assuming it was a mountain. In actuality, it’s a mountain. But it’s kind of oddly triangular, which has pseudoarchaologists crying conspiracy.

The same thing applies to these mysterious underwater structures. The Japanese pyramid and accompanying “structures” at least have been confirmed to be natural sandstone formations. Off the coast of Cuba, the depth of their underwater city is far too low for sonar to be able to tell pyramids from rocks, and even if we assume they were pyramids, they’re far too low to have ever been built by anyone who wasn’t wearing scuba gear. As for this latest Portuguese pyramid, no studies have come to light yet, but we do know that area of the seabed is a mess of underwater mountains, so what’s the over/under on the mysterious pyramid being a pointy hill? Call that cynical, but until I see a Sphinx down there, I’m going to assume the explanation is probably the same as the last 500 times someone has pointed at a triangular rock and run to the media.

Coneheads Probably Not Real After All

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So this one is getting around the social media recently: DNA testing done on these weird looking Peruvian skulls has revealed that they are not human. In fact, they’re not even closely related to humans! What does it mean? Are they members of some hitherto unknown extinct humanoid? Are they aliens? They’re aliens, aren’t they.

coneheads
Claims like these require pretty extraordinary evidence, because if it’s true, it will absolutely change everything we know about the science of human origins. Scientists would want to be absolutely sure that what they’re saying is accurate before they go ahead and release such an explosive claim to the world. Which is why it’s funny that the story is being broken by sites like Above Top Secret, Ghost Theory, Ancient Origins.net, and The Rundown LIVE (Milwaukee’s Alternative Talk Radio). In my job as an editor and fact-check-ologist, the first thing I do when I see a story like this is try to follow the links back to the source – the first place to break the story, and ideally, the peer reviewed paper written by the scientists in question. If trying to trace the source of a story like this gives me the runaround, ducking through conspiracy sites and Bigfoot forums, then we have a problem.

In this case it turns out that the man behind this DNA study is Brien Foerster, a close friend of David Hatcher Childress (who believes the Pyramids were power plants, Atlantis was destroyed by a nuclear bomb, and Nikola Tesla had access to a time machine) and Graham Hancock (a well known member of the “ancient aliens” crowd). Pseudoarchaeologists like Foerster are often credited as “experts” within their field (as Foerster is often referred to as one of the world’s foremost experts on the Peruvian skulls) but in reality, they start with an esoteric and extreme belief (usually that ancient civilizations had futuristic technology or were in contact with aliens) and manipulate or cherry-pick evidence in order to fit that belief.

So I already don’t trust Brien Foerster to conduct this kind of scientific study, especially not when his resulting claim is so outrageous, and not even after Graham Hancock assures us, no, this is all totally legit you guys. But this story gets even sillier. Who do you think Foerster recruited in order to conduct the DNA analysis? The top minds at University of California Berkeley? Nope! Try Melba Ketchum, a vet in Texas who claims to have sequenced the genome of Bigfoot. It’s safe to say that Ketchum isn’t particularly good at this DNA analysis thing, because the sample that she claimed to have been from a species of nonhuman primate, i.e. Sasquatch, was independently verified by other scientists to have come from an opossum. But that’s a mistake anyone could make, right?

bigfootKeep that dream alive.

So why would you send a research project like this to “the Bigfoot lady” instead of reputable scientists? Simple – she’s part of the echo chamber. It’s all about the result that you want in the first place. If you want to confirm the real truth, which is probably that these are the skulls of regular humans whose heads were bound as infants to grow into a particular shape as per the local custom, then you’ll get mainstream scientists to do the study. If you want to find out that these are the skulls of aliens or some advanced non-human race or time travellers or elves or something, then you send it to a Bigfoot expert. Because really, what was she going to say? That they’re not aliens? These are people whose entire lives are dedicated to finding any possible opportunity to say that something is aliens, or Bigfoot, or the Loch Ness Monster. Pseudoarchaeologists, cryptozoologists, ufologists and other esoteric ‘ologists stick together and feed off each other, often because they believe that “mainstream” science has some kind of ulterior motive to keep this stuff hidden, although they don’t question whether their own discipline has an ulterior motive of its own.

So no, as cool as it would be, the Peruvian skulls are probably just the result of a weird cultural practice rather than some obscure localized species of beings of the possibly interdimensional variety. If it would turn out that Indiana Jones was real, I’d prefer it to be one of the better movies.