Ica stones

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One of the stones showing dinosaurs.
Fiction over fact
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How it didn't happen

The Ica stones are alleged ancient artifacts that were "discovered" in Peru in the 1960s. Among other things, they depict dinosaurs, surgery, and modern technology, so they have been used as "evidence" by Young Earth creationists[1] and proponents of the ancient astronauts meme (most notably Erich von Däniken), despite all indications of being a modern forgery.

The stone collection of Dr. Cabrera[edit]

Doctor Javier Cabrera was a respected medical practitioner descended from Spanish aristocracy. His father, Bolivar Cabrera, had a small collection of pre-Incan artifacts, including some similar engraved andesite stones collected on the family plantation. He received a carved stone in 1966 as a birthday present. Determining that the engraving was that of an extinct fish species he began to collect similar stones with a singular obsession. Dr. Cabrera expanded his collection with the help of the Soldi brothers who sold him over 300 stones from the nearby Ocucaje region. In the 60's and 70's, he bought several thousand additional stones from Basilio Uschuya, a farmer from the Ocucaje district.

Dr. Cabrera was of the opinion that he had found some truly revolutionary artifacts and was vexed that archeologists in museums in Ica and in Lima did not share his enthusiasm. While Incan and pre-Incan stones of this sort were occasionally found in the Atacama Desert, a large number were known to be forgeries and folk-art of recent vintage.

Undeterred, Dr. Cabrera studied his collection, considering it a "library in stone" and proceeded to construct strange and fantastic narratives. Interpreting the art on the stones led him to believe that dinosaurs lived with humans. Diverging from young earth creationism and its timelines, he determined that the stones told us of human precursors who founded a dinosaur riding, industrial level civilization tens of millions of years ago, possibly as early as the Paleozoic era (535 to 251 million years ago).

In 1996, Dr. Cabrera opened the Museum of Engraved Stones in Ica to house his collection of some 11,000 stones and "Spreading the Message of the Glyptolites." The museum continues as a nonprofit organization after his death in 2001.[2]

The questionable source[edit]

Basilio Uschuya has changed his story several times. He has claimed to have manufactured the stones himself, and he has retracted that claim, saying that he lied about making fake Ica stones to avoid running afoul of Peru's laws against grave robbing and theft or exportation of cultural heritage items. It offers a slim lifeline of hope for the eager beleiver. Despite his powerful enthusiasm, Dr. Cabrera has not documented in-situ uncovering of any stones, much less put forth any sort of proper archeological expedition. With over 10,000 stones, he was acquiring them at a rate of roughly a stone per day between 1966 and the day he died.

The sheer volume of stones has cited by some as adding to their credibility. Uschuya couldn't have scultpted that many stones. However, not all of Cabrera's stones were sourced from Uschuya, and subcontracting this sort of thing wouldn't be too difficult. Once Dr. Cabrera made it known what he was looking for, what sort of subject matter got him most excited, he would become the hub of an entire cottage industry of folk artists armed with Dremels, dental tools, and hacksaw blades.

The claims, the timelines, and the problems[edit]

Age of the stones[edit]

In his book, The Message of the Engraved Stones of Ica, Dr. Cabrera asserts that the stones are tens of millions of years old judging by the depictions of long extinct dinosaurs they depict. Dr. Cabrera sent a sample of his collection to Eric Wolf, a geologist at the University of Bonn. Wolf concluded that the stones were very old, given the patina that coated them, but without the context of stratigraphy, their exact age was indeterminate. The patina is a very thin layer, which tells us little about the age of the carvings.[3] The age of the rocks and patina are not the issue of concern. There also seems to be a lack of split rocks in Cabrera's collection, despite the stunning amount of environmental changes and stress that they'd endure over the course of millions of years. Forgers have also enhanced the patina by baking stones in a kiln full of dung to produce the appearance of artificial aging, which may or may not have been taken into account by Eric Wolf.[4]

Gliptolithic man[edit]

The wildest, and therefore weakest, of Cabrera's claims is that an advanced yet incredibly ancient precursor to humankind lived as far back as the Mesozoic era.[5] They were advanced enough to produce telescopes and perform major surgery. This raises two important questions. If this civilization was ancient in that ten-million-plus year scale, how did evolution produce a people with a homo-sapien appearance before losing this form only for it to re-emerge in Africa much, much later? If these people are simply pre-Incan, as young Earth creationists put forth,[6] why are the stones the only thing to survive from this civilization? If these were meant to be some sort of record meant to withstand the millennia, carving them into durable andesite is a wise choice, by why are the stones so irregular? An advanced civilization would be able to quarry andesite in regular-sized blocks, allowing for more efficient storage and sorting of this information. This advanced civilization also appears to have no writing system beyond cartoon-like pictograms.

Uncarvable andesite[edit]

Andesite is tough stuff, an igneous rock with a Mohs hardness rating of 7. Cabrera and many who believe in his work claim that Andesite is too hard to carve using the primitive tools of Pre-Columbian Peru.[7] The Gate of The Sun in Tiahuanaco Bolivia is a 9 foot high entryway with a lintel carved to a much greater depth of relief than the shallow engraving on the Ica stones. It is made from a single, massive andesite slab.[8][9] In truth, you can grind or chip away at stone with a stone tool of identical material split into a point or wedge. Both the tool and the worked medium will wear away at roughly the same rate, but in an area where andesite is just lying around, this is a small hurdle to overcome.

World maps[edit]

Rough shapes on some Ica stones have led Dr. Cabrera to believe that stones are rough globes depicting the world, or the world as it was before countless millennia of tectonic movement. An ocean-going people who crossed the entire world would be expected to have leave more stones as their civilization spread. The relatively arid west coast of south and central America would have been able to preserve similar stones nearly as well as the Atacama desert, yet the truly fantastic ones only pop up in one corner of Peru.

Dinosaur anatomy[edit]

The writings of Dr. Cabrera imply that he was reading into the stones far more than what their fairly impressionistic and cartoonish depictions would show to a more neutral observer. He wrote of precise anatomical depictions of ancient biology that simply appear to be absent. Creationists will claim that the Ica stones got the correct shape of the apatosaurus head before paleontologists did, meanwhile the tyrannosaurus rex[10] is shown standing upright, tail on the ground, which was the common depiction in books and monster movies of the 1960's, but more recent research shows they walked by keeping their spine horizontal. The stones are a long, long way from photorealistic, so any information about dinosaur proportions is as likely to be an interpretation in the viewer's mind as it was the intent of the stone's creators.

External links[edit]