Friday, May 18, 2007

Steven Jones' Prior Involvement in a Hoax Involving Neo-Nazis?

Note the question mark at the end of the post title. This is something that came up in a post on 9-11 Blogger. Jones wrote something about how people should not attack his science because he is religious. This is certainly something we concur with; for one thing, there's ample to criticize about Jones' science without getting into his religious beliefs.

However, it is striking to find that Jones was apparently involved tangentially, at least, in perpetuating an archaeological hoax just prior to his becoming involved in the 9-11 Denial Movement. Here's the long version of the hoax (prior to Jones' involvement). The short version is that a man named Russ Burrows claimed to have discovered a cave in Illinois during the early 1980s, where he found artifacts that appeared to have been created in ancient societies in the Old World. According to the article, the cave has never been inspected by a trained archaeologist, and the artifacts themselves appear to be crude fakes:

The artifacts themselves are by all accounts ludicrous, obvious fakes created by someone who paged through various books, found likely-looking inscriptions, and copied them onto available pieces of stone. Many of the "rock art pieces" depict the same "lantern-jawed" profile of a human male, and numerous artists and archaeologists have noted that all appear to have been drawn by the same individual. Several pieces have been recognized as copies of known artifacts that have been depicted in various books over the years, and Barry Fell commented that the "Elephant stele" was an obvious copy of one he depicted in his book America BC. The forger even copied a mistake Dr. Fell made on the transcription in the first edition, which allows the forgery to be dated to sometime after 1976.

Burrows reportedly showed off the artifacts at a May 2005 symposium at BYU, where Jones apparently enters the picture. He used the equipment at BYU to determine the chemical composition of the artifacts (sound familiar?). Discussion of the findings here. Note: It certainly does not appear that Jones vouched in any way, shape or form for the authenticity of the artifacts, but it certainly seems odd that he would agree to test them without having checked into the Burrows Cave, which appears to have been well-debunked in archaeological circles by the 1990s at least:

One said "on close inspection of the artifacts it was determined that they were recently created as the stone they were made from showed geologic characteristics that only exist during a short span of time after being exposed to the atmosphere." This same researcher commented " other aspect of these stones that differs from the norm is the nodular nature and uneven shapes that were used for the art work. Normally art of this nature is found on well formed flat surfaces...and not soft shale. These stones also showed two textures and color differences that are indicative of fresh and not ancient buried artifacts" (Pyle, 1994). In yet another report, it is stated that "every professional archaeologist who has seen photos (or in the rare instance been allowed to examine actual artifacts) has judged them to be very modern and very crude fakes made by someone with no real knowledge of ancient cultural symbols" (Hayden, 1994).

The neo-Nazi connection is rather oddball:

The matter of the Cave's provenance is further complicated by the colorful background of some of the people whose names have become attached to it. Writer Rick Flavin wrote a column about a fellow named Frank Collin, best known as the neo-Nazi who attempted to organize a march through predominantly Jewish Skokie, IL in the 1970s. In the article Flavin touched on the subject of Burrows Cave and the apparent relationship between Frank Collin (who is no longer a neo-Nazi but has picked up a new vocation as a "new age" icon and writer while operating under the pseudonym "Frank Joseph") and Russell Burrows. Collin is an editor for Ancient American magazine, a glossy, non-scholarly publication that publishes numerous articles in support of diffusionist theory (it is also the only national magazine to publish any articles about the Cave). Several of the magazine's publishers and staff are members of a fringe sect of Mormons who, according to mainstream members of the LDS Church, are a "bunch of loons making the rest of us look bad." (message from Ben Spackman, July 2003).

Fascinating stuff. I want to be clear here; there is no indication that I've seen that Jones had any interaction with Collin/Joseph. Jones may have simply fallen for the Burrows Cave hoax himself. I do note that the last entry from Hard Evidence (reportedly Jones' nick) is dated 10/6/05; IIRC Jones published the first version of his "Why Indeed Did the WTC Buildings Completely Collapse?" sometime around November of that year.