What is the past if the leader declares it a fairy tale? Modern scientific advances have provided us with countless answers to that of which was previously unknown. However, with every answer comes another question, and unanswered questions are not typically accepted in society. With that being said, humans have discovered a great deal about our past, but they have not discovered everything. In order to accommodate those who want answers, scholars abuse their educational background and create fictional pasts based on factual, but ambiguous evidence. They refer to themselves as experts, yet they only proclaim what cannot be proven. Upon doing so, scientists become celebrities in television shows, such as Ancient Aliens which airs on the History Channel. This network, and others alike, is supposed to educate the public; however, it’s only success lies in its ability to deceive the public into believing scientists actually agree with this nonsense. It is important to defend the scientific way of thinking which has taught us so much, and accept that factual knowledge has its limits. Since big moneymaking shows like Ancient Aliens will continue to be successful, it is important expose other, less popular pseudo archaeological claims in order to prevent them from getting even more attention. The phenomena of the Bakoni ruins in South Africa provide a great example for how and why these preposterous claims arise, and what archaeologists are doing to expose the truth.
The Bakoni ruins are located in South Africa in the province of Mpumalanga. They refer to the many, complex hills that people terraced with stone to create walls for the sake of improving agricultural practices.
If you were to fly over the area in a small plane you would be amazed by the endless stone circles, set in bewildering mazes and linked by long stone passages, that cover the landscape below. In some places the coverage is quite sparse and intermittent but in others it is dense, continuous and intricate. If you study the views provided by Google Earth and focus on the ghostly circles that cover the landscape you may get a sense of the extent of the heartland of this world, which stretched from Ohrigstad to Carolina and connected over 10,000 square kilometers of the Mpumalanga escarpment into a complex web of walled structures (Schoeman).
There are many disputes regarding the age of these structures, ranging from 25,000 to 250,000 years old. Needless to say, the Bakoni ruins have never been excavated to date—yet alone thoroughly researched. “One of South Africa’s most extensive and remarkable legacies of the past is little known by the public and largely ignored by heritage authorities” (Schoeman). Although past oral and written documents may account for some of our knowledge, they are highly insufficient in providing solid evidence of why and when these greatly expansive structures were created. With that being said, there is very little known about the Bakoni ruins; yet there are ridiculous allegations involving advanced, ancient civilizations as their creators. Michael Tellinger created one of these theories, which thrives on the fantastical idea that some alternate species of homo sapiens built the terraces in biblical times in order to create a large gold-mining system (Cassidy). Considering the lack of scientific research on the Bakoni Ruins, it is absolutely ridiculous that uneducated bystanders are claiming it to be some far-fetched phenomena.
Even though the unfamiliarity with pre-Columbian South African groups should be sufficient enough to disprove Tellinger’s theory, the strong desire for concrete answers provokes people to follow his beliefs anyway. Fortunately, there is enough concrete evidence to explain why his fishy theory is not the least bit scientific. The stone walls were built by a group of people from a town known now as Machadodorp. “The makers of this agriculture find an identity as the ‘Bakoni’ in an archive of oral histories which have been recorded by missionaries, officials, ethnographers and historians at various times and under widely varying circumstances from the early twentieth century, and perhaps before, to the present” (Wright). With this in mind, one must take into consideration the advancement of archaeology as a science. The practice of archaeology used to consist of looting goods and poor, biased documentation. Therefore, it would be naive to simply ignore the carelessness and subjectivity of past “researchers” in order to understand who the Bakoni were. Historian John Wright explains the importance of “getting away from the still common colonial stereotype that these names stand for ready-made ‘tribes’ or, in more modern parlance, ethnic groups” (Wright). Thankfully, historian Peter Delius and archaeologist Alex Schoeman are comfortable enough to recognize past documentation as a flaw within their extensive studies.
… Delius and Schoeman (2008) have re-interpreted the admittedly sketchy evidence from recorded oral histories to argue that the people who came to be known as Bakoni did not necessarily constitute a homogeneous ethnic group whose members arrived in Bokoni at the same time: it is more likely that they consisted of different groups with different origins which arrived at different times. What these groups called themselves will probably never be known, but to other peoples of the region, presumably those already living there, they must have become known collectively at some stage as Bokoni, ‘those from the North’ (Wright).
This clarifies the Bakoni as not necessarily one culture, but many cultures in one area, which accumulated ideas over time in order to create these structures and use them for advanced agricultural purposes. They resided in what was the Bokoni region, which “takes in the escarpment and adjoining areas from Ohrigstad for 150 kilometers to the South and southwest” (Wright). The massive size and relative positions of the Bakoni ruins and escarpment were crucial to success of the farming system.
Although Africans were thought of as primitive beings before the colonization of their country, archaeologists have found the opposite to be true. “After about 1600 [Bokoni] saw the establishment of numerous communities based on the development of what was for the times an exceptionally intensive form of agriculture. Evidence for this is to be found in the numerous and often densely concentrated ruins of stone enclosures, agricultural terraces, and interweaving cattle lanes…” (Wright). This suggests that the Bakoni peoples were not only intelligent, but also faithful inhabitants of the land. They must have communicated with one another, even though they may not have been from the same origin, in order to create a very successful community that flourished for some, most likely great, time. Considering the vastness of this system and the variety of people controlling it, one must note the exceptional resemblance of the walls. “The relative similarity of the Bakoni walls over hundreds of kilometers suggests a settled society with social and cultural continuity over time, and space, and with some uniformity of building style” (Beinart). The somewhat uniformity over such a large area is especially impressive because it shows the unity of the society, despite different backgrounds, and also the prominence of the people occupying the land over time.
Unfortunately, the 1800s brought about colonization, and the Bakoni peoples transitioned from a functioning, diverse community into a conforming, uniform one.
Bakoni society or its predecessors may have lasted at least a couple of centuries, perhaps from the seventeenth century. It fragmented, or was largely destroyed, during the period of the Mfecane in the early nineteenth century when more powerful new kingdoms were established around it: the Pedi, Swazi, and Ndzundza Ndebele. The Bakoni found themselves vulnerable on the peripheries of these new nodes of political authority in the first half of the nineteenth century; their settlements were in part scattered and some were absorbed into the expanding kingdoms (Beinart).
Since the colonists completely obliterated the Bakoni people and archaeology was of no concern of the time, it was inevitable that this culture would become somewhat ‘lost’. The declaration of Bakoni as builders of these impressive walls was so delayed because of the supremacy of the colonists, and “it was not until recently that the Bakoni authorship has been established” (Maggs). That is, we know a group of people created these structures long before the colonization of South Africa, and the structures were used for advanced farming techniques. Beyond that, the Bakoni ruins is simply a void waiting to be filled. Modern society’s quest to answer all that is unexplained is defeated by this lack of evidence and documentation; therefore, instead of recognizing this as unknown, people create an alternate past altogether.
With this in mind, the drought of factual information on the Bakoni leaves the interpretation of their ruins completely open to uneducated “experts,” such as Michael Tellinger. Upon viewing his website, one finds that Tellinger “graduated in 1983 from the University of Witwatersrand Medical School, Johannesburg, with a B. Pharmaceutics degree, a passion for the cosmos, genetics and human history” (Tellinger). He also spends some time with the arts, writing and performing screenplays and music. Interestingly enough, he found enough time to write three books, Slave Species of God, Adam’s Calendar, and Temples of the African Gods, each of which revolve around the true human origin (Tellinger). Before further exploring his theory regarding the Bakoni ruins, it is important to note his relevance on the topic. Michael Tellinger is not educated in astronomy, history, or archaeology, simply intrigued by it. In regard to his claims about the human origin, his academics only account for the complexity of microscopic structures such as DNA and alleles, which account for genetic variation. Yet, his books are based off of “new” archaeological findings (Tellinger), of which no educated archaeologist has ever legitimized, or even remotely agreed with. “These interpretations have proliferated and diversified but most of them are based on speculation rather than credible evidence and share the key assumption that African society was incapable of innovation without decisive external influence” (Schoeman). His hyperdiffusionist theories not only reinforce stereotypes, but also over-simplify human origin in order to provide answers that cannot be tested, therefore proven wrong.
In light of this madness, it is fair for one to think that Tellinger’s claims are harmless; however, that is far from true in further retrospect. Michael Tellinger explains his beliefs in an interview with Kerry Cassidy, and it is not only irrational, but also embarrassing to the archaeological community. Upon being asked about his research, Tellinger replies: “We now are starting to find overwhelming physical evidence and proof for those first early civilizations of very early homo sapiens living in South Africa” (Cassidy). He is referring to an ancient, vanished civilization starting “with the arrival of people from another planet who came to Earth in search of gold,” which is only documented by the current translation of the Sumerian tablets (Waterworth). He claims that the Bakoni ruins are so vast and circular for the purpose of creating a massive amount of energy to locate and extract gold from the mines (Cassidy). He continues to explain his reasoning:
Well, what first caught my attention was the fact that the stones that have been used to build these circular stone ruins, these ancient ruins, they ring like bells — every stone… I suddenly realized that this wasn’t just an accident because these stones were making a completely different sound, and they rang… As I say, they actually ring like bells, the most beautiful crystal or metallic structures (Cassidy).
This pharmacist-musician extraordinaire is attempting to convince others that the Bakoni ruins were made by an advanced civilization capable of measuring sound and using that sound to generate enough energy to locate gold. This is purely based off of the “ringing” quality of the rocks at different frequencies, and the stories associated with Africa’s lost civilization found in the Sumerian tablets (which can be compared to the usefulness of information found in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible). Although in this context the claim seems far-fetched, when put in the context of Tellinger’s confidently worded answers, one may begin to stray away from the truth.
Tellinger’s attempt to convince the public of his nonsense is amplified even further when he bashes the modern beliefs of archaeologists. He bluntly states that they need to come to terms with dates as far back as 200,000 years (Cassidy), suggesting modern practices are faulty and misleading. However, it is impossible to come to terms with something in which there is no sufficient evidence for. He is suggesting that everyone throw away his or her history books because he, alone, has seen over 10 million of these ruins.
“All of these structures… were circular in its shape, and each of them was linked by a road or a channel. Now, that is highly irregular; you don’t see that in any ancient civilizations at all. And then in among all of these stone structures there are thousands of kilometers of beautifully shaped and constructed agricultural terraces that link all of these structures together” (Cassidy).
Although there is no other documentation of how many ruins are in South Africa other than the word of Michael Tellinger, people are still convinced by his argument. He uses the unique physical appearance of the ruins and the different sounds they make in order to back up his claim, when, in fact, it can be completely accounted for by an advanced agricultural system created by a diverse population. His basis for truth is unfalsifiable, in that no one can prove him wrong, which is an absurd, entirely unscientific argument.
Overall, the abuse of archaeology fools society into believing that they have been lied to. Although there are many larger issues regarding the abuse of archaeology that continually air on big, ‘educational’ networks like the History Channel, the Bakoni Ruins are particularly offending. People such as Michael Tellinger are profiting off of this bad education, and taking advantages of gaps in human history and knowledge. They create these stories and refute the counter argument simply by default because they cannot be proven wrong. Aliens and advanced, ancient civilizations become more than just a daydream when so-called scholars use their degree to convince others of their existence. Michael Tellinger and those alike are the beginning of a new education: ‘scientific’ fiction.
Beinart, William. “FYI Workshop: Some Comparative Comments.” African Studies 69.2 (2010): 219-27. Taylor & Francis. Routledge. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.
Cassidy, Kerry. “Michael Tellinger – Part 1 Whistleblower Radio.” Online interview. 14 Jan. 2010. http://projectcamelot.org/lang/en/michael_tellinger_1_en.html
Maggs, Tim. “The 2009 FYI Workshop and Excursion: Valuable Lessons from Eastern Africa.” African Studies 69.2 (2010): 213-17. Taylor & Francis. Routledge. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.
Mortazavi, Mehdi. “Irresponsibility in Archaeology.” Eesti Arheoloogia Ajakiri (2010): 143–152,143–152. Web.
Schoeman, Alex, Peter Delius, and Tim Maggs. Forgotten World: The Stone-Walled Settlements of the Mpumalanga Escarpment. Johannesburg: Wits UP, 2014. 1-25. Print.
Tellinger, Michael. “Slave Species: The Story of Humankind, From the Cradle of Humankind.” Slave Species. Slave Species, 14 Sept. 2012. Web. 21 Nov. 2015. <http://www.slavespecies.com>.
Waterworth, Tanya. “Rethinking our Origins.” The Pretoria News2011. Web.
Wright, John. “Putting Bokoni on the Historian’s Map.” African Studies 69.2 (2010): 229-33. Taylor & Francis. Routledge. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.