The Museum of Hoaxes
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Archaeology Hoaxes
The Stone Age Discoveries of Shinichi Fujimura, 2000
Shinichi Fujimura was one of Japan's leading archaeologists and was something of a celebrity because of his discovery of human settlements in Japan that appeared to be over 600,000 years old. So it caused an enormous scandal when the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper accused Fujimura of planting artifacts that he later claimed to find. But it had photos of Fujimura caught red-handed, burying artifacts at a site. Fujimura confessed to the crime, explaining, "I was tempted by the Devil. I don't know how I can apologise for what I did... I wanted to be known as the person who excavated the oldest stoneware in Japan." More…
Chariots of the Gods?
Chariots of the Gods?, written by Erich von Däniken, was first published in 1968. It became an international bestseller. The thesis of the book is that ancient human civilizations had contact with visitors from outer space. These "ancient astronauts" were supposedly responsible for many of the great architectural feats of history, such as the Egyptian pyramids, the Nazca lines of Peru, and the statues on Easter Island. Mainstream archaeologists dismiss von Däniken's argument as pseudoscience. A charitable view of von Däniken would credit him with really believing all the arguments he makes. A more cynical view paints him as a... More…
The Mysterious Glozel Finds, 1924
In 1924, a seventeen-year-old farmer, Emile Fradin, discovered an underground chamber that contained many mysterious artifacts. He did so while plowing a field on his grandfather's property in Glozel (near Vichy, in central France). More…
King Tut’s Curse, 1923
In November 1922 Howard Carter located the entrance to the tomb of Tutankhamun. By February he and his team had unsealed the door of the Burial Chamber. But a mere two months later, on April 5, 1923, the sponsor of his expedition, Lord Carnarvon, died in his Cairo hotel room, having succumbed to a bacterial infection caused by a mosquito bite. The media immediately speculated that Carnarvon had fallen victim to King Tut's Curse. This curse supposedly promised death to all who violated his tomb. More…
Forest City Man
A petrified man, manufactured out of a human skeleton, exhibited in 1893 at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. More…
The Holly Oak Pendant, 1889
In 1889 Hilborne T. Cresson, an archaeological assistant at Harvard's Peabody Museum, announced he had discovered a prehistoric seashell pendant that bore an engraving of a woolly mammoth. He said he had found it in a peat and forest layer near the Holly Oak railway station in northern Delaware. The pendant was an important find, since it suggested that prehistoric man must have been present in the Americas at the time when woolly mammoths still existed, tens of thousands of years ago. However, the pendant was almost immediately suspected of being fake. More…

The Taughannock Giant
The Taughannock Giant was a stone giant unearthed on July 4, 1879 on the shores of Lake Cayuga in Ithaca. It was pronounced to be of ancient origin by scientists and physicians. However, it turned out to be the work of Ira Dean who had spent months carving it in his home, with the simple desire of fooling someone. More…
George Washington Petrified
In early 1877, an article appeared in many American newspapers alleging that the remains of General George Washington had been discovered to be petrified. The reporting was attributed to the Washington correspondent of the San Francisco Chronicle. It was only a matter of time before people realized that Washington's remains had not turned to stone. Nevertheless the news continued to circulate as a true story for many months. More…
The Pine River Petrified Baby, 1875
"Effigy in Lava" (Harper's Magazine, 1863)In October 1875 two hunters reported finding a small stone man, or "petrified baby" as some newspapers dubbed it, embedded in a gravel bank alongside Pine River in Michigan. The petrified baby was about four feet tall, with an extremely wide, flat forehead. Local papers offered the following description of it: The right arm is bent. The forearm is lying across the body; the other is bent below the elbow. The eyes are well defined and very broad; forehead flat and sloping. Nose, small, sharp; nostrils open; lips very thin, flat; mouth well defined — curve of the lips perfectly natural; chin... More…
The Cardiff Giant, 1869
On October 16, 1869, a farmer in Cardiff, New York found an enormous stone giant buried in the ground as he was digging a well. He put it on display, and thousands of people made the journey to see it. Speculation ran rampant about what it might be: a petrified giant from Biblical times or an ancient stone statue. The reality was that it was an elaborate hoax, created by the farmer's cousin, George Hull, in order to poke fun at Biblical literalists. Showman P.T. Barnum later tried to buy the Giant. When he was refused, he created a duplicate that soon was drawing larger crowds than the original. More…
The Petrified Man, 1862
Nevada's Territorial Enterprise reported the discovery of a petrified man in nearby mountains. The body was in a sitting posture, leaning against a rock surface to which it had become attached. The report subsequently was reprinted by many other papers. However, it was pure fiction, written by a young reporter, Samuel Clemens, who would later be better known as Mark Twain. He later admitted surprise at how many people were fooled by his story, since he considered it "a string of roaring absurdities." More…
The Kinderhook Plates, 1843
Six bell-shaped pieces of flat copper inscribed with hieroglyphics were unearthed from an Indian burial mound in Illinois. According to some reports, the plates were taken to Mormon leader Joseph Smith, living nearby, who proceeded to translate the markings. After which, the plates were revealed to be the work of local pranksters who intended to embarrass Smith, as the hieroglyphics were meaningless. The Mormon church denies Smith translated the plates. More…
The Cerne Abbas Giant
The Cerne Abbas Giant is a chalk figure of an enormous naked man wielding a club carved into the side of a hill in Dorchester, England. The giant is widely believed to have been carved thousands of years ago. But in recent years historians have suggested that the Giant may date only to the seventeenth-century, since the first written reference to it only dates to 1694. Furthermore, its creation may have been intended as a prank. More…
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Eras: 0-1699 1700s 1800-1849 1850-1899 1900-1949 1950-1979 1980s 1990s 2000s
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  • All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.