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Alternate Perceptions Magazine, February 2021

Pseudoarchaeology in Archaeology—1

Archaeology inaccurately dismisses critical details of the 1909 newspaper report of a mysterious “oriental” cache of objects discovered in a cave along the Colorado River

by: Dr. Greg Little

An examination of “facts” cited in “The Encyclopedia of Dubious Archaeology,” by Kenneth L. Feder, pub. 2010, 292 pages.

This “encyclopedia” is not much larger than a typical trade book, and at 292 pages it contains 134 alphabetical entries. It only costs $89.84. It was certainly not a replacement for Feder’s earlier “Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries,” a paperback text costing just $53.95. It’s probably beneficial for the author and the publishers that archaeology students can be required to buy or “rent” the books for a semester course and, of course, that other academic archaeologists will be certain that their college library buys copies. Skeptics often cite “greed” as the main motivating force for alternative historians, but it’s likely a human motivation also driving those who purport to represent science. However, when pseudoscience and covering up inconvenient truths enters their authoritative statements in textbooks, one has to wonder if there is another motive.

Pages 121 to 123 in the “Encyclopedia” are primarily devoted to the “Grand Canyon Lost Civilization,” a story that was derived from a front-page article in the Phoenix “Arizona Gazette” dated April 5, 1909. The article related that a Smithsonian-funded expedition discovered a huge underground complex of tunnels and rooms in the Grand Canyon. The article mentioned that a G. E. Kinkaid and a Professor S. A. Jordan had made the discovery and shipped many artifacts, including oriental-style artifacts to the Smithsonian. The article repeatedly refers to “Professor Jordan.” I’ll say this now: I do not believe that the article was factual.

In 1962 the book “Arizona Cavalcade” reprinted the 1909 article, which may have eventually come to the attention of the well-known writer David Childress, who reprinted it in his 1992 book, “Lost Cities of North and Central America.” Starting in 1993 the Smithsonian began issuing formal statements about the article relating that they had no record of “either a Kinkaid or a Professor Jordan ever working with or for the Smithsonian.” This statement contains either a blatant lie, a deception, or is stemming from incompetence.

Among mainstream archaeologists, the story is considered to be a complete hoax with no evidence whatsoever. And it is true that there is no physical evidence that the story, as it was published, is factual. But that’s not the issue here. On page 122 of his encyclopedia, Feder writes: “As to Professor Jordan, there is no record of any such person actually working for or with the Smithsonian Institution…” In addition, the Smithsonian has also stated that there never was a “professor Jordan” who worked with or for the Smithsonian. That simply isn’t true. There is a record of a Prof. Jordan who worked for and with the Smithsonian back then, and it’s a long record contained in many different places.

On October 9, 2008 the Smithsonian website quietly posted an article on Professor David Starr Jordan’s 30-year affiliation with the Smithsonian. (I have found that the posting appears to be no longer available, but have reprinted their original post below.) Jordan, among other things, was a highly-regarded ichthyologist who began his affiliation with the Smithsonian in the 1870s. He is considered to be the “father of ichthyology.” Jordan continued to work for and with the Smithsonian well into the 1900s, and published hundreds of papers on his fish identification and collection excursions for the Smithsonian. In 1889 Jordan made an expedition on various rivers in Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico, including most of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. (See: https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/148425#page/1/mode/1up ). This trip was highly publicized in many newspapers and magazines, with many of those articles penned by Jordan himself.

Various Smithsonian publications contain numerous articles and references to Prof. Jordan, as he is referred to again and again. The Smithsonian entry on him related: “He was closely associated with the Smithsonian for much of his career. … He was even offered, at different times, the positions of National Museum Director and Smithsonian secretary.”

In the Summer of 2009 a 9-page article in “The Ol’ Pioneer,” a publication of the Grand Canyon Historical Society, identified the enigmatic, allegedly non-existent Prof. Jordan as a tale likely based on David Starr Jordan and his 1898 excursion into the Grand Canyon. (See: http://www.grandcanyonhistory.org/uploads/3/4/4/2/34422134/top_2009_2.pdf

A simple search of the Smithsonian’s website after October 2008 would have revealed that a very prominent “Prof. Jordan” who worked for and with the Smithsonian did exist. A search of the early Smithsonian publications on the archive.org site would have revealed the same evidence. And then there is the quite detailed 2009 magazine article. However, the 2010 “Encyclopedia of Dubious Archaeology” tells us authoritatively: “As to Professor Jordan, there is no record of any such person actually working for or with the Smithsonian Institution…”

In my earlier article on this affair (See: http://www.apmagazine.info/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=574 ) contrary to blogger’s statement that I believe “the story is true,” I wrote that it was “possible; maybe not probable” that the story was concocted to conceal the illegal looting of an Arizona site called Casa Malpais. The names Jordan and Kinkaid may have been offered to reporters by the looters along with the name “Smithsonian” to remove suspicions. I presented that idea in a 2001 book. (See: https://www.amazon.com/Mound-Builders-Forgotten-Ancient-America/dp/0940829673 ). The point here is simple: Feder’s book relates these words: “As to Professor Jordan, there is no record of any such person actually working for or with the Smithsonian Institution…” That’s not true, and he certainly could and should have known better. To drive home his point, Feder (p. 122) tells his readers, presumably archaeology students, that: “it is a textbook case of a pseudoscience…” Indeed it is: pseudoscience in a book on pseudoscience. I’ll add one more fact here also that goes unmentioned and generally unknown. In March of 1909, three weeks prior to the main article that appeared in April, the “Arizona Gazette” published story relating that G. E. Kinkaid arrived in Yuma, Arizona in preparation for an expedition.

So, why would the Smithsonian and archaeological “textbooks” claim that a “Professor Jordan” never existed? Well, he is a rather inconvenient character. Jordan “was the founding president of Stanford University” but he was a prominent eugenics advocate who “sought to prevent the decay of Anglo-Saxon/Nordic race by limiting racial mixing and preventing the reproduction of those he deemed unfit.” He wrote many books an articles essentially supporting white supremacy. He was also involved in the cover-up of a murder in 1905. (See: Wikipedia entry on Jordan). In addition, Jordan perpetrated a hoax in 1896: In the magazine “Popular Science Monthly” Jordan wrote that he had “invented a device that could photograph telepathic images.” (Lago, 2009). Jordan despised the emerging beliefs in psychic abilities and perpetrated the hoax in a failed effort to discredit those who believed in paranormal phenomena. That is, he perpetrated a hoax to support science. The real Professor Jordan is an inconvenient truth and the very fact that he existed makes the story of a ancient site in the Grand Canyon a bit more believable. So it appears many have just decided to pretend that a Professor Jordan who explored the Grand Canyon never existed.

Lago’s 2009 article concludes that a man named Joe Mulhatton may have concocted the entire story as a hoax, using Jordan’s name along with invoking the Smithsonian to give it credibility. Mulhatton was then a well-known hoaxer who told stories of incredible artifacts and treasures found in caves in vast areas of America. However, there is no real evidence that Mulhatton was the source, it’s only supposition. So, what are we left with? I believe that it’s possible that the story was concocted to cover-up the illegal looting of the Casa Malpais site in Arizona as I mentioned in the 2001 book. But it is certainly possible the entire affair is a hoax perpetrated by Mulhatton or others. However, a Professor Jordan did exist and he did, in fact, make trips on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon a few years before the 1909 article appeared. That fact should have been acknowledged by the Smithsonian as well as the many others who have tried to brush the entire story under the rug. Denying the existence of Jordan is using pseudoscience and deception to attack what is likely a hoax.


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