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Archaeological Approach To Verifying Evidence

From: UFO UpDates - Toronto <ufoupdates.nul>
Date: Mon, 26 Nov 2007 08:47:44 -0500
Archived: Mon, 26 Nov 2007 08:47:44 -0500
Subject: Archaeological Approach To Verifying Evidence

Source: Contego Library Blog - Biloela, Queensland, Australia


Nov 24 2007


Searching For Extraterrestrial Intelligence: An Archaeological
Approach To Verifying Evidence For Extraterrestrial Exploration
On Earth

Greg Fewer, MA

Archaeologist & Historian

"Les Revenants"

Corballymore, Dunmore East, Co. Waterford, Republic of Ireland


Part-Time Lecturer, Dept of Adult & Continuing Education
Waterford Institute of Technology
Cork Road, Waterford, Republic of Ireland


In considering the possibility of the existence of
Extraterrestrial Intelligence, an independent means of verifying
eyewitness accounts of flying saucers and alien beings on Earth
is proposed. The approach would be an archaeological one whereby
various archaeological surveying and excavation techniques would
be used to examine an alleged landing or crash site of an
extraterrestrial craft. The alleged flying saucer crash sites of
1947 in the vicinity of Roswell, New Mexico, are highlighted by
way of example. Following an overview of the eyewitness
testimony relating to the Roswell Incident, the methods by which
the crash sites might be assessed are outlined.

Introduction: The Possibility of ETI

Since the days of classical Greece, humans have speculated on
the existence of intelligent life on other worlds, but it is
only in the last three hundred years that increasingly informed
and systematic research on the possibility of Extra-Terrestrial
Intelligence (ETI) has gone apace. (1) In the late nineteenth
and early twentieth centuries, much energy was spent
concentrating on the apparent existence of bodies of water on
Mars and the consequent possibility that intelligent life might
be utilizing them to sustain their existence, particularly in
the construction of huge canals that some astronomers claimed to
be able to see from Earth. By the 1930s, however, these socalled
canals had come to be seen (correctly) as an optical illusion,
but it wasn't until the advent of space travel to other
planetary bodies from the 1960s and 1970s, that the likelihood
of ETI elsewhere in the solar system became somewhat diminished
by the sterile findings of various interplanetary space probes
such as Viking 1 and 2 on Mars or by the eight Venus probes sent
to Venus by the USSR. (1, 2, 3) In the 1980s and 1990s, other
advanced forms of scientific research have taken place including
looking for possible ETI radio signals with the Search for
Extra- Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) program or the analysis
of Martian meteorites for possible signs of ancient organic
activity, as in the case of the now famous meteorite ALH84001.
(4, 5, 6) Meanwhile, reports of sightings of unidentified flying
objects (UFOs) interpreted as ETI spacecraft increased during
the 1940s and afterwards so that today there are many people
that are committed not only to the belief that Earth has been
visited many times by extra-terrestrials, but that humans have
also been frequently abducted by aliens. (7, 8)

While it is difficult to ascertain how genuine many of these UFO
sightings are and whether those that are genuine actually
indicate the presence of alien spacecraft or not, the question
might still be asked how we could systematically search for
evidence of ETI on Earth or in the solar system. Whilst the
reception of alien radio signals might turn out to be the first
kind of contact between humans and ETI, the initial form that
physical contact might take could involve the discovery of one
or more interplanetary space probes launched by an extra-
terrestrial civilization that have arrived in our own planetary
system. Given the great age of some star systems and the
likelihood that at least a few of them provide the conditions
for life and, in particular, ETI to have evolved, (9) it seems
probable that an extra-terrestrial civilization could have
arisen with an interest in space exploration. However, since the
solar system is a relatively isolated one in the Milky Way, it
is rather doubtful that any spacecraft bearing alien personnel
would take an exploratory trip to such a potentially unrewarding
region of space. Nevertheless, an automated or remotely
controlled interplanetary probe with the purpose of exploring
not only our system but a number of others in our arm of the
Milky Way might have been launched by an ETI at some time in the
distant past. Possibly, such a probe has already passed through
the solar system (perhaps even millennia ago) and has long ago
transmitted details of its discovery of life on our planet to
its owners, thereby encouraging the ETI that sent the probe to
launch a spacecraft bearing an alien crew.

On Earth, the alleged landing sites of such alien spacecraft
(for example, that at Roswell, New Mexico, which has been
described by one writer as 'the mother of all UFO scenarios'
[10]) could be examined anew from an archaeological perspective,
whereby geophysical surveying and excavation techniques could be
applied to prove or disprove the purported landing. In this
essay, I propose that a research project be established to apply
archaeological techniques to the study of alleged alien landing
sites, particularly that of Roswell because of its recent
widespread media interest. Archaeology may provide a valuable
methodological tool in verifying the presence of alleged ETI
activity, especially that which has occurred in the more distant

Archaeology as a Tool for Verifying ETI

In recent years, a growing number of archaeologists have taken
an interest in the possibility of carrying out archaeological
research on other planets. This interest was recently expressed
in a session of the annual conference of the Theoretical
Archaeology Group (TAG) in December 1997 (abstracts of the
papers given at this conference are available on the World Wide
Web at http://csweb.bournemouth.ac.uk/consci/tag97/). Most
speakers at the conference concentrated on the use or
presentation of archaeological theory and practice in science
fiction novels and films, while one (11, 12) examined the
archaeology and conservation of human space exploration. Two
Searching for Extraterrestrial Intelligence other speakers,
however, considered how archaeological research might be applied
to as yet undiscovered ancient extraterrestrial civilisations on
other planets. (13, 14) Although some archaeologists have
considered a putative role for themselves should ancient traces
of any ET civilization be found on other planets, few (if any)
have openly considered applying their techniques to the study of
alleged alien landing or abduction sites. Of course, this is
partly because of the recent nature of the purported events and
also (perhaps) because little evidence of ET activity might be
expected to lie beneath the surface of the soil. However, in the
last thirty years or so, archaeological methods and techniques
have been increasingly applied to recent events in a forensic
context, such as the careful excavation and analysis of buried
murder and combat victims or the study of airplane crash sites
(15, 16).

If a field in which an alien spacecraft allegedly landed was
subsequently ploughed before its surface could be examined
scientifically, the archaeological technique of fieldwalking
could be applied to search for any possible artifacts that might
have been dropped in the vicinity of the alleged landing site.
In addition, geophysical techniques such as magnetometer and
soil resistivity surveys could be carried out to pinpoint any
electro-magnetic anomalies in the soil (such as might be caused
by areas of burning) that might have been created by the arrival
or departure of the alleged spacecraft. Shallow archaeological
excavation might then proceed once the supposed landing site has
been located, should the existence of artifacts be anticipated,
though this would also allow for properly documented soil
samples to be taken for detailed chemical, geological and
biological analysis in the laboratory. In the case of older
sites, a buildup of soil and other deposits might have taken
place as a consequence of natural flooding, rubbish dumping,
rock falls, sand dune formation, soil creep (if on a slope) or
nearby construction or demolition work. If the overlying
sediments are quite substantial, then geophysical prospecting
and archaeological fieldwalking techniques would be of limited
value, necessitating the digging of a number of test pits or the
taking of core samples at regular intervals over an area
centered on the supposed landing. What follows is an assessment
of how archaeology might be applied to verifying the claim that
a 'flying saucer' crashed in the desert near the town of
Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947.

The Roswell Incident: Eyewitness Accounts

The Roswell Incident, as this seemingly archetypal UFO event is
commonly known, took place in the first two weeks of July 1947,
and may involve up to three separate craft that crashed onto the
ground at varying distances from the town of Roswell, New
Mexico. These crashes received wide media coverage at the time
when one of the crashed craft was initially announced (on July 8
1947) to have been a flying saucer in a press release issued by
the nearby United States Army-air force base. The following day,
the US Army retracted this story, explaining that the 'flying
saucer' was none other than a downed 'weather balloon' that had
been misidentified. Although soon apparently forgotten, the
story of the Roswell saucer was resurrected by ufologists in
1980 after which stories of government or military cover-ups
relating to the spacecraft abounded. Only at this time, does it
seem that associations were made with the other two alleged
crash sites located about 90 and 150 miles, respectively, from
Roswell. The imputed relationship between these alleged crash
events has led to some conflation of their reporting in such
newspapers as The (Manchester) Guardian where, in one article,
no suggestion is made that more than one crash might have
occurred. (17)

The first crash site, and that nearest to Roswell town, was
discovered by W. W. ('Mac') Brazel, a sheep rancher, who found
an area covered with strange, shiny and lightweight debris on
his ranch, some of which he soon showed the local county sheriff
who, in turn, showed it to the intelligence officer (Major Jesse
Marcel) at the nearby Army base. (18) Marcel then retrieved the
rest of the debris from Brazel's ranch, which had been stored in
a small shed on Brazel's property. (19)

Marcel claimed not to have seen anything like it. The debris
included bits of metal, some kind of porous substance,
parchment-like material, and long slender rods no heavier than
balsa that bore markings described by Marcel as 'hieroglyphics'.
One of these rods was stated by Marcel to be three to four feet
long. Overall, the material could be spread out over an area of
200 yards, yet it only weighed 51 lbs in total. Marcel took some
of the metal home with him and showed it to his children (17)
but he brought the debris with him on a plane to Fort Worth
where General Roger M. Ramey identified it as the remains of a
downed weather balloon with a radar target. However, Marcel
claims that the debris he had found was switched with the
tattered remnants of a weather balloon, which was shown to the
press. A report from the Alamogordo News of 10 July 1947 and
cited in Sobel's article explained that such weather balloons
carried 'paper triangles covered with tinfoil and held rigidly
by small wooden strips' to reflect radar signals, and that the
reflectors were about 48 inches across (the rods found by Brazel
were up to three or four feet long). In recent years, the Army
admitted that there was a cover up, and that the debris from
Brazel's ranch came not from an ordinary weather balloon but
from a top-secret experimental high altitude balloon designed to
detect nuclear explosions around the world from the air. This
experimental program (known as Project Mogul) was carried out at
the Army base at Roswell, and though it was discontinued in
1950, it remained classified until the 1970s. Interestingly, a
few special radar targets not previously used in New Mexico were
reinforced with Scotch tape bearing a pinkish-purple abstract
flower design which may very well account for Marcel's so called
hieroglyphics. Various other descriptions of the markings made
at the time of the debris's discovery also concur with this

Neither Brazel nor Marcel referred to any bodies lying in the
vicinity of the debris on Brazel's ranch, nor did Marcel
describe the material as constituting a 'flying saucer'.
However, the other two crash sites do contain both of these
elements. According to Vern and Jean Maltais, their late friend
Grady Barnett allegedly witnessed a flying saucer wreck near
Socorro, New Mexico, during the 1940s when he worked as a
government engineer, and he described the craft as a large
metallic disk circa 25 to 30 feet in diameter. One ufologist,
Stanton T. Friedman, placed this crash site on the Plains of San
Augustin near Socorro, a point 150 miles west of Roswell. He was
only able to locate one other eyewitness who, as a child of no
more than 5 years of age in 1947, saw the wrecked saucer with
the bodies of its occupants lying around the wreckage whilst on
a family rock-hunting expedition. Apparently, the craft had
gouged out a furrow in the ground as it crashed, tearing up and
setting alight some sagebrush in the process. However,
Anderson's account is so detailed for such a young witness to
recall decades later, that his testimony is regarded as somewhat
suspect. Indeed, an entry made in Anderson's uncle's Searching
for Extraterrestrial Intelligence diary used to corroborate the
story of the saucer was found to have been fabricated on
forensic grounds (the entry was made with ink only available
from 1974). Friedman places the third crash site close to the
town of Corona at about 90 miles north-west of Roswell. One
eyewitness was Jim Ragsdale who was camping out with his
girlfriend north of Roswell on the night of 2 July 1947 (or
later) when they saw a bright object roar overhead before
hitting the ground. A search with a flashlight by the couple
revealed the remains of a flying saucer accompanied by the
bodies of its crew. (10) Ragsdale described the bodies he saw as
being between four and five feet long, and he thought the metal
of the craft to have been unusual. Although the metal resembled
tinfoil, it was much stronger and would straighten itself out
after a piece was crushed in the hand. (17) When they returned
to the site the next morning, they found the place to be overrun
with soldiers from the Roswell Army base (located 35 miles away)
who had cordoned the area off (10, 17). Apparently, some credit
a team of archaeologists with being the first people on the
scene on 5 July, arriving before Ragsdale and his girlfriend.
The team, led by Dr W. Curry Holden of Texas Tech university,
reported the find to the local sheriff, describing it as 'a
crashed airplane without wings, and with a flat fuselage'
accompanied by three corpses. (17) Another eyewitness, Frank
Kaufmann, who claims to have been working for the Army in some
kind of paramilitary capacity after 1945, alleges that he saw
the wrecked craft when taking part in a secret reconnaissance
mission accompanied by high-ranking officers to locate the
saucer. Kaufmann later pointed out the crash site for a
television program in 1994. He described the craft as a wingless
plane and also noted the presence of bodies inside the ruptured
fuselage, but is unable to supply any supporting documentation
either of the incident or even of his military employment. One
other witness, a fire fighter named Dan Dwyer told his daughter
(Frankie Rowe) that he and other fire fighters went to the crash
site where they saw two body bags and a live 'very small being'
near the wreckage of some sort of flying craft. (10, 17) One
final witness is former mortician Glenn Dennis who did not visit
the site, but claims to have seen the bodies and the wreckage
which, he states, was brought to the Army base hospital, and to
have spoken with an otherwise unidentified nurse who was
involved in the beings' autopsies. He had also previously
received calls from the Army base about the availability of
child-sized coffins and about embalming fluids and procedures.
(20) However, the details of his testimony will not be
considered here since they do not refer directly to any of the
alleged crash sites.

Archaeology and the Roswell Crash Sites

As is clear from the summary of the eyewitness testimonies
above, there is some disparity in the chronology of the crash
site discoveries. In addition, some of the testimony is only
second hand (that of Dan Dwyer and Grady Barnett) while other
accounts have since been embellished (those of Ragsdale and
Kaufmann) thereby damaging their credibility. Furthermore, none
of the eyewitness testimony is backed up by photographs of the
crash sites or flying saucers (though a press photograph was
taken of the so called weather balloon in 1947 and highly
controversial film footage purportedly showing the autopsies
were widely publicized in 1995 [17]), nor was any physical
evidence of the different wrecks kept (in the form of a memento)
by an eyewitness.

Consequently, a new and independent source of evidence is sorely
needed to corroborate these eyewitness accounts, and an
archaeological approach might offer this. Each site where an
alleged craft was said to have been wrecked would first need to
be topographically surveyed in minute detail. Any indications of
a furrow at the Socorro site or an impact crater at the Corona
site should be clearly evident unless both were filled in as
part of a possible cover up. Aerial photographs of each site
might assist in the location of any features that had been
backfilled in this way. Archaeologists frequently use aerial
photographs to locate archaeological sites that lie beneath the
modern ground surface and which cannot easily be seen from the
ground. Such sites might appear as patterns in vegetation growth
or as anomalous soil colorations.

A survey grid ought to be placed over each site during the
topographical survey to facilitate subsequent geophysical
surveys and the pinpointing of finds retrieved through
fieldwalking or excavation. Magnetometer surveys of each site
ought to be able to reveal the presence of any metal or areas of
burning and other magnetic anomalies, whilst resistivity surveys
could be used to locate buried features such as pits and impact
craters. Once any features have been so identified as worthy of
further investigation, these could be archaeologically excavated
by an experienced team of qualified archaeologists. Careful
sieving and sampling of the soil might reveal tiny splinters of
the wrecked fuselage at each of the Socorro and Corona sites,
while traces of some of the tinfoil (or tinfoil-like) material
that formed part of the debris on Brazel's ranch might also be
located in this way. If the metal does indeed bear unusual
properties as Ragsdale pointed out for the craft he claims to
have witnessed, then this should still be evident from even very
small pieces recovered in a dig.

Another site that may be worth excavating is the floor of the
shed in which Brazel stored the debris he found on his ranch as
well as an area of soil around the shed. Presumably, small
splinters and shreds of the debris may still exist either
trampled into the soil or lying trapped between floorboards (if
the shed's floor is wooden).

At the end of the day, no physical evidence might be found
supporting the claims that flying saucers crashed at either of
the Corona or Socorro sites nor even of the probably
misidentified spy/weather balloon from Brazel's ranch. While the
evidence relating to Brazel's find seems the most reliable,
thereby making an archaeological discovery on his ranch more
likely, it's possible that the tinfoil (or tinfoil-like
material) would not have survived well in the soil due to
natural weathering and chemical processes.

Finally, archaeological research at each of the alleged crash
sites might provide no corroborative evidence at all that any
spacecraft were wrecked there. This would present a serious blow
to the hypothesis that extraterrestrial beings had indeed been
seen in New Mexico in 1947. However, the absence of evidence
might only indicate that the crash sites - which were allegedly
discovered over fifty years ago - have been misidentified in
recent times. On this basis, the archaeological evidence could
be argued as not refuting that flying saucers crashed in the
countryside of New Mexico, but merely that the eyewitness
recollections of the crash site locations are faulty. If this is
the case, then it might never be possible to prove the veracity
of the alien presence short of the United States Army confirming

Searching for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

References and Notes

1. R. Hennessy, 'The Martian Century', History Today, 48, no. 7,
9=9611 (1998).

2. M. Pauls and D. Facaros, The Travellers' Guide to Mars,
Cadogan Books plc, London, 1997, pp. 73-78, 90-93, 99=96100.

3. R. Turnill, The Observer's Book of Unmanned Spaceflight,
Frederick Warne and Co. Ltd, London and New York, 1974, pp.

4. P. Horowitz, 'Project Meta: What Have We Found?', The
Planetary Report, 13, no. 5, 4=969 (1993).

5. S. Shostak, 'Phoenix Rises: NASA SETI Project is Reborn', The
Planetary Report, 15, no. 3, 4=967 (1995).

6. D. S. McKay, E. K. Gibson, Jr, K. L. Thomas-Keprta, H. Vali,
C. S. Romanek, S. J. Clemett, X. D. F. Chillier, C. R. Maechling
and R. N. Zare, 'Search for Past Life on Mars: Possible Relic
Biogenic Activity in Martian Meteorite ALH84001', Science 273,
no. 5277, 924=96930 (1996).

7. P. Huyghe, 'The Secret Invasion: Does It Add Up?', Omni, 17,
no. 9, 58=9664, 72 (1995).

8. P. Huyghe, 'In Her Own Words: An Abductee's Story', Omni, 17,
no. 9, 69=9671 (1995).

9. C. Sagan, 'The Abundance of Life-Bearing Planets', The
Planetary Report, 16, no. 3, 8=9610.

10. D. Sobel, 'The Truth About Roswell', Omni, 17, no. 8, 90=9699,
127 (1995).

11. G. Fewer, 'Towards an LSMR & MSMR (Lunar & Martian Sites &
Monuments Records): Recording Planetary Spacecraft Landing Sites
as Archaeological Monuments of the Future', unpublished paper
presented at the '"When Worlds Collide": Archaeology and Science
Fiction' session of the Theoretical Archaeology Group Annual
Conference, 16=9618 December 1997, Bournemouth University,

12. G. Fewer, 'Space Heritage Sites', Spaceflight: The
International Magazine of Space and Astronautics, 40, no. 8, 286

13. K. Matthews, 'Archaeology and the Extraterrestrial: Blair
Cuspids, Martian Monuments and Beyond the Infinite', unpublished
paper presented at the '"When Worlds Collide": Archaeology and
Science Fiction' session of the Theoretical Archaeology Group
Annual Conference, 16=9618 December 1997, Bournemouth University,

14. V. Walsh, 'Exoarchaeology', unpublished paper presented at
the '"When Worlds Collide": Archaeology and Science Fiction'
session of the Theoretical Archaeology Group Annual Conference,
16=9618 December 1997, Bournemouth University, England.

15. Anonymous, 'Profile of an Anthropologist. Anthropometry,
Assassinations, and Aircraft Disasters: A Career in Forensic
Anthropology', Anthropology Newsletter 23, no. 6 (1982),
reprinted in Applying Anthropology: An Introductory Reader, ed.
A. Podolefsky and P. J. Brown, Mayfield Publishing Company,
Mountain View, California, 1989, pp. 54=9656.

16. D. D. Scott and C. C. Snow, 'Archaeology and Forensic
Anthropology of the Human Remains from the Reno Retreat
Crossing, Battle of the Little Bighorn, Montana' in Images of
the Recent Past: Readings in Historical Archaeology, ed. C. E.
Orser, Jr, Altamira Press, Walnut Creek, California, 1996, pp.

17. M. Walker, 'Space Oddity', The Guardian, 25 July, Section 2,
2=963 (1995). 18. The following information is based on D. Sobel's
article in Omni cited in footnote 10 above unless otherwise

19. P. McCarthy, 'The Case of the Vanishing Nurses', Omni, 17,
no. 8, 106=96114 (1995).

20. K. T. Pflock, 'Star Witness: The Mortician of Roswell Breaks
His code of Silence', Omni, 17, no. 8, 100=96105, 132 (1995).

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