April Fool's Day History and Archaeology Hoaxes
The mayor of Santa Fe, New Mexico announced that the perfectly preserved bones of a prehistoric boy and girl had been found in the badlands near San Rafael. The bones were located in a white stone house that was partially buried in lava. The prehistoric couple had apparently been overwhelmed by a volcanic eruption. Their skeletons were covered with a thick yellow plaster. Even the reddish-brown hair of the girl had been preserved. The girl had been wearing two turquoise earrings, that now rested beside her head. The find generated great interest among scientists. However, a few days later the mayor was forced to admit that there were no skeletons. He had been the victim of an April Fool's
Mummies found in Berlin underground.
A Berlin newspaper reported that a large find of mummies and Egyptian antiquities had been unearthed during the excavation of an extension of the city's underground railway. The paper quoted an expert, Dr. Lirpa, who said that the find rivaled Tutankhamen's tomb and indicated "the presence of an Egyptian colony in Germany in prehistoric times."
(Archaeologist Howard Carter, shown in the picture, had recently — on Feb. 16, 1923 — opened the burial chamber of Tutankhamen.)
Mme. Pompadour’s Metric Measure.
Merle Blanc, a humorous Parisian newspaper, laid a trap for André Perate, curator of the Versailles Palace. They sent him a letter, using the aristocratic signature "Madame de Mesnil-Heurteloup," offering to donate a "double decimeter measure in rosewood" once used by Mme. de Pompadour. They suggested it could be placed in the recently reopened Pompadour apartments in Versailles.
The newspaper later reproduced a facsimile of the curator's reply, noting that he had failed to realize that Mme. Pompadour died thirty years before the metric system was invented. They suggested that they might seek space in French museums "for Napoleon's automobile, a bracelet worn by the Venus de Milo, and
Vikings in Hawaii.
The Honolulu Star-Bulletin ran a story about the discovery of an ancient Viking ship in a sandstone quarry near Waimanalo, Oahu. The article was written in a tone of absolute seriousness, discussing details of the ship such as its dimensions and objects found alongside it. The only clue that the article wasn't entirely serious came at the end, when it was revealed that the letters A—R—FJOL—E. had been found inscribed on the stern of the vessel. Lest this was too subtle, the article noted that, "Its equivalent in English is APRIL FOOL."
Prehistoric Cave Dwelling.
The Dutch newsreel service Polygon-Journal gathered journalists to inform them about an "astonishing discovery from 5000 BC." An amateur filmmaker had found a cave system, outside the village of Klimmen in the province of Limburg, that appeared to have been the home of prehistoric men.
Journalists were led deep inside the cave, until they reached an inner room, in which they found a mysterious metal box. The box was dragged outside. When opened, there was a chunk of limestone inside of it. One of them lifted the rock into the air. As he raised it up, everyone could see the single phrase that was carved into it: "1 April"
The Origin of April Fool’s Day?.
Joseph Boskin, a History professor at Boston University, was interviewed by Associated Press writer Fred Bayles about the history and meaning of April Fool's Day. During the interview, Boskin stated that April Fool's Day originated during the Roman Empire when a group of fools and jesters boasted to Emperor Constantine that any one of them could rule the kingdom as well as or better than the Emperor himself. Amused, Constantine gave them a chance to prove this boast by appointing Kugel, the King of the Fools, emperor for a day. Kugel immediately decreed that only the absurd would be allowed in the kingdom on that day. The custom stuck, and therefore the tradition of April Fools was born.
First Photograph Discovered.
The camera manufacturer Olympus ran an ad in The Guardian announcing the discovery of "the first picture ever taken." The picture had been discovered "in a cave high in the remote Outer Fokus Mountains." It had been taken by Yorimoto Hishida around 1782, "almost a full half century before the earliest work of either Fox Talbot or Nicéphore Niépce."
The Napoleonic Chunnel.
The Daily Mail revealed the discovery of a tunnel linking England and France that had been constructed during the Napoleonic wars. Supposedly the tunnel was wide enough to allow an ass carrying two barrels of brandy to pass through it. The tunnel had supposedly been discovered beneath Dover Castle. The article explained, "It would have been used to rescue aristocrats from Napoleonic France, to transfer spies and to trade British goods with Europe."
Moore’s Law Rewritten.
Intel employees circulated a spoof newsletter revealing historical discoveries related to chip-making, such as the fact that archaeologists had uncovered evidence of the existence of chip-making factories in Ancient Egypt. The newsletter quoted eminent archaeologist Lord Dhrystone as saying, "We never imagined we'd find an active semiconductor industry in a major goat-herding area. Too much dust."
The newsletter also revealed the unknown origins of the famous "Moore's law." Apparently Gordon Moore, Intel Chairman, had once scribbled on the back of a phone bill the phrase 'Buy Intel chips. They'll get twice as big every year or so,' as he brainstormed about ways to get people to buy more Intel chips. It was his secretary, Jean Jones, who rewrote the phrase to the more famous, "The number of transistors on a chip will double every 18 months."
Asterix Village Found.
The Independent announced the discovery by archaeologists of the 3000-year-old village of the cartoon hero Asterix — found at Le Yaudet, near Lannion, France, in almost precisely the location where Rene Goscinny, Asterix's creator, had placed it in his books. The expedition was led by Professor Barry Cunliffe, of Oxford University, and Dr. Patrick Galliou, of the University of Brest. The team found evidence that the small village had never been occupied by Roman forces. They also discovered Celtic coins printed with an image of a wild boar (the favorite food of Asterix's friend Obelix), as well as a large collection of rare Iron Age menhirs (standing stones) "of the precise size
Holy Grail Discovered.
Discover magazine reported that an archaeologist digging in Jerusalem had uncovered the legendary Holy Grail. The archaeologist, Leon Decoeur, found the grail on Christmas eve when, for no particular reason, he had decided to work late at the dig. The discovery had sparked intense excitement and controversy in the scientific community, although some doubted Decoeur's findings, remembering that 15 years earlier he had claimed to have found the Sermon on the Mount. Most exciting of all, blood had been found at the bottom of the cup. Decoeur hypothesized that the DNA of Jesus might reveal, once and for all, "that we're closer to chimpanzees than to the deity."
An Oslo Township announced that city workers had discovered the remains of a 15,000-year-old body while digging part of a tunnel for the local subway system. As a result, work on the subway had been halted indefinitely. The skeleton was going to be named “Homo Metro” because of where it had been found.
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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.