Remember to Find The Proof in the Pudding

Sure, I am proud to be an American and be part of the American culture, but I am not willing to accept ridiculous claims about our heritage.  The public must be critical of archaeological finds, because not everything is true.  Greedy, egotistical, and tricky schemers create hoaxes that while appealing, are not backed by substantiated evidence.

The Cardiff Giant

Let’s look at the Cardiff Giant.  The Cardiff Giant, one of the greatest hoaxes in American history, was claimed to be a fossilized giant, similar to giants described in the Bible’s Book of Samuel.  Really a statue, buried and then dug up on a farm, the Cardiff Giant became an instant tourist attraction as people flocked to see remains of Goliath.  With many visitors and economic impact, how did it take so much time to figure out that the Cardiff Giant was a hoax?

The answer is simple: humans have an amazing ability not to question when they get what they want.  1869 was a religious time, creationism was popular, and many people read the Bible literally.  The Cardiff Giant appeared as physical evidence that proved that Goliath existed as the Bible claimed.  The public did not question the finding because the evidence was desirable and questioning it would have negative consequences.

Also, the discovery was exciting and fun.  People love mystery and the unexplainable.  As Kenneth Feder says in Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries,  “perhaps it was the simple romance of such an amazing discovery that played at least a secondary role in convincing people to part with their hard-earned money to see what was clearly a gypsum statue” (Feder 62).  The Cardiff Giant is only one example of an ancient discovery without evidence: they are all over ranging from the Loch Ness Monster to ancient aliens.

Nationalism is a third reason for embracing hoaxes.  People in America were proud that Goliath was found in this country.  The discovery advanced and bettered America’s history, so why question it?  As an immigrant nation, there is no common ethnic background. As Philip Kohl puts it in Nationalism and Archaeology: On the Constructions of Nations and the Reconstructions of the Remote past, “the process of national identity formation is continuous and ongoing” (Kohl 235).  If Goliath was American, there is more meaning behind being American.  Nationalistic biases are not unique to America; hoaxes have occurred throughout the world, such as the Piltdown hoax in England and Shinichi Fujimura’s hoax in Japan.  Power and prestige are associated with age so these hoaxes create a false national history and pride.

The Piltdown skull combined a chimpanzee jaw and a human skull in an effort to make the English have the oldest ancestry in the world.

Shinichi Fujimura was caught by hidden camera planting artifacts in an attempt to make Japanese ancestry older.

Even after experts identified the Cardiff Giant as a hoax, the public still believed it was real.  It took time, a confession, and many scientists to prove the Cardiff Giant was nothing but a recently buried statue.  As with many other hoaxes, we must learn this lesson: be wary of ridiculous claims and no matter what ask for evidence—do not trust findings unless there is evidence.


Leave a Reply