Fuente Magna Bowl

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Figure on the edge of the Fuente Magna Bowl [1]
Outer edge of the Fuente Magna Bowl[2]

The Fuente Magna Bowl was discovered in Bolivia near Lake Titicaca. Prior to this discovery, the site had not been a part of any excavation. It is a stone bowl (some authors say it is ceramic, though stone is the most accepted material) in the shape of a bowl for making libations, with zoological and anthropomorphic engravings on it.

The bowl also has either Proto-Sumerian, according to Dr. Clyde Winters, a stern Atlantean pseudoscientist, or Phoenician, according to Hugh Bernard Fox, script engraved on either side. Clyde Winters translated the script on either side of the bowl.

The right side reads:

"Girls take an oath to act justly (this) place. (This is) a favorable oracle of the people. Send forth a just divine decree. The charm (the Fuente Magna) (is) full of Good. The (Goddess) Nia is pure. Take an oath (to her). The Diviner. The divine decree of Nia (is), to surround the people with Goodness/Gladness. Value the people's oracle. The soul (to), appear as a witness to the [Good that comes from faith in the Goddess Nia before] all mankind."

The left side reads:

"Make a libation (this) place for water (seminal fluid?) and seek virtue. (This is) a great amulet/charm, (this) place of the people is a phenomenal area of the deity [Nia's] power. The soul (or breath of life). Much incense, to justly, make the pure libation. Capture the pure libation (/or Appear (here) as a witness to the pure libation). Divine good in this phenomenal proximity of the deity's power."


Alberto Marini translates it differently; however, and claims the bowl reads much more simply “the Lord of Serenity with the light gathers and herds together the large animals and the goats and the kids (weakened by lack of fodder, or wandering in search of food) to the open fields for rest.” [3] Furthermore, the linguist Anna Meskhi claims there are Kartuli Asomtavruli (Georgian) letters engraved on the bowl along with Sumerian. [4]


Discovery and (lack of) Excavation

The Fuente Magna Bowl was found outside of La Paz, Bolivia near Lake Titicaca by a worker from the Chúa Hacienda. The area in which it was found had never produced other relics, although which site that is exactly is hazy. The context, exact location, and even date of the artifact’s discovery are murky. There is no solid provenance. Freddy Arce Helguero, a renowned pseudoarchaeologist, and Bernardo Biados, whose title seems to be “Independent Education Management Professional”, travelled to the location of the discovery and met an 95 year-old man who recognized photographs of the object and claimed they used it to feed pigs. In 1960 it was taken from the hacienda to the Museo de Metales Preciosos in Bolivia where it still resides today. Although it’s hard to say if this account actually gives context, as some reports say the Fuente Magna bowl had to be restored, while this pig feed bowl would have needed to be in one piece. There is no date for the actual discovery, but authors seem to place it somewhere between 1950 and 1960, depending on who is writing about it. [5][3]


Pseudoarchaeological Narrative

Author Zecharia Sitchin uses the Sumerian supposedly engraved on the bowl, with the bowl being found so far away from Mesopotamia, as evidence of otherworldly intervention and interactions with Sumerians, particularly by a race of aliens called the Anunnaki.

Others claim that the bowl was crafted by Sumerians who settled in Bolivia in 2500 BC. This “theory” says the bowl is proof of ancient trans-Atlantic travel and the influence Sumerians had on South America. To explain this travel, apparently Sumerians travelled down the coast of Africa and then used an ocean current to cross the Atlantic where they eventually found and settled Bolivia. People who believe this theory say the bowl depicts the Goddess Nia, and the bowl was used in both fertility rituals and in rituals to offer thanks for the abundant resources Bolivia provided for the Sumerian settlers. [3] [6]

With the goddess Nia depiction in hand, one pseudoarchaeological website makes the claim “Nia is the Linear-A term for Neith. Neith is the Greek name for the Egyptian Goddess Nt or Neit, Semitic Anat. This goddess was extremely important and popular among the ancient people of Libya and other parts of Middle Africa, before leaving the region to settle Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, and Minoan Crete.” They make the argument that this is further proof of the Sumerians settling in Bolivia. [7]


The Fuente Magna Bowl as an Artifact

The biggest point against the Fuente Magna bowl is probably the fact that there is no solid context for the artifact. [8] No one knows when it was found, who it was found by, if there were any other artifacts at the site, even where exactly the site was. There is no way to understand the context at all. Any archaeologist will tell you that once an artifact loses its provenience, it’s effectively useless in terms of actual interpretation. This artifact doesn’t have provenance to begin with save for a story from an elderly man who claims to have seen it some 40 years before his retelling. [5]

Secondly, no one agrees on what is written on it or what language it is. Some people still argue about what the bowl is made of. There have been claims that it’s Sumerian, Proto-Sumerian, Phoenician, Georgian, and according to some there was Hebrew on it somewhere. With no consensus on what the writing on the bowl actually is people have been free to claim any language that fits their personal narrative, such as Clyde Winters who believes the Olmecs were descendants of Atlantis and originally settled in Libya. Even people who agree that it’s in Sumerian (or Proto-Sumerian) don’t agree on the translation.

Unfortunately, there has never been any actual investigation into the bowl by legitimate scholars and archaeologists, maybe due in part by the fact that the bowl has no context what so ever. It’s never even been dated, as it’s made of stone with no residue to test. There’s the possibility that stories of the Fuente Magna Bowl are actually about more than one bowl, as some say it was whole and others say it had to be restored. It’s legitimacy is highly questionable, and it seem to only attract people who want to use it to help fill in their own personal narratives. [5]

Pseudoarchaeologists claim that the reason for the lack of investigation by scholars is due to the fact it challenged orthodox archaeology. [9] Dr. Winters claimed the reason for no one agreeing on the language is that academics refused to compare it to Sumerian because they didn’t want something that proved his pseudoarchaeological ideas. [3] This idea that “mainstream” scientists are hiding information is unfounded, but also this mistrust is incredibly common by people involved in any pseudoscience.

Others still claim, with no evidence or examples, that it has been researched and found to be authentic. One website cites a group of mysterious “Fuente Magna Researchers,” saying that these researchers analyzed the bowl and could vouch for it’s legitimacy, though there is no information on how they came to this conclusion or who they are. Another website goes even farther and says, “researchers worldwide believe that this ceramic bowl provides proof of otherworldly contact at Puma Punku.” This claim is especially bold considering most of the pseudoarchaeologist who use the Fuente Magna Bowl to their advantage believe it is evidence of Sumerican culture as opposed to alien influence. Certainly, it is not researchers worldwide who agree it is evidence of aliens. [7][9]

Carl Feagans, an archaeologist for the National Forest Service, says that the most likely explanation for the bowl’s existence is a hoax. He states that. “You can plant a few artifacts, but forging a settlement -and entire culture is something else. Which is why we don’t see it. There should be plenty of artifacts and features that point to a Sumerian way of life -from their unique and innovative methods of city planning, to their religious iconography. Instead, we have a bowl.” [8]

The Issue of Pseudoarchaeology

The Fuente Magna Bowl may seem like the most desperate grasping for straws in Mesoamerica, but it is certainly not alone. Another famous example is the Maya site of Palenque where a sarchaphogus lid with engravings of king Pacal have been used as proof of ancient alien interference. Famed pseudoarchaeological author Von Däniken claims that Pacal is depicted in a space ship. Kenneth Feder, author of “Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries” says, “ The inkblot principle is at work again. When you are unfamiliar with the culture, you can make just about anything you want to out of these images, but you are most decidedly not practicing science.” [10]

In this case pseudoarchaeology seems to be rooted in racist and egocentric ideas. This idea that Mesoamerican culture was influenced by, and even created by an outside force stems from the idea that non-European civilizations were not capable of anything advanced on their own. The people who believe this may not be outright racist themselves, but it is pushing a narrative of colonialist propaganda regardless. Although not an archaeologist themselves, a lecturer at the University of South Africa, Everisto Benyera, says that people who tear down the accomplishments of non-western peoples are revoking these peoples’ agency and skill, going so far as to call this sort of dismissal “theft of history.”[11]

Robert Cargill, a professor of Classics and Religious Studies, sums up racially motivated pseudoarchaeology by saying, “There is an underlying ethnic bias against people of color that many white people don’t even recognize when the magnificent achievements of the ancient world are attributed to aliens instead of to their rightful creators — the ancestors of modern Egyptians, Iraqis, Guatemalans, Peruvians, etc. This is not to say that belief in ancient alien theory makes one racist. However, attributing the achievements of the forerunners of darker-skinned peoples to aliens because you believe they couldn’t have possibly done it themselves might be perceived as racists to the people of color who descend from these ancient innovators.” [11]


References

  1. https://faculty.ucr.edu/~legneref/archeol/fuentema.htm
  2. https://faculty.ucr.edu/~legneref/biados/fuentmag.htm
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 The Fuente Magna of Pokotia, Bolivia. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://faculty.ucr.edu/~legneref/archeol/fuentema.htm.
  4. Meskhi, A. (n.d.). Kartvelian Linguoculturology of the Past, Selected articles, Mtsignobari, Tbilisi, 2018, pp. 282-313.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Fitzpatrick-Matthews, K., Bloomfield, B., Mortimer, M., MarinaZ, Janica, Ben, … Dude, Z. (2015, May 3). 10 Amazing Discoveries That Will Won't Make You Question Everything. Retrieved from https://badarchaeology.wordpress.com/2015/04/12/10-amazing-discoveries-that-will-wont-make-you-question-everything/.
  6. Pye, M., & Dalley, K. (2012). Lost civilizations & secrets of the past. Pompton Plains, NJ: New Page Books.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Ivan. (2018, June 14). What Is Ancient Sumerian Writing Doing In America? Deciphering The Fuente Magna Bowl. Retrieved from https://www.ancient-code.com/what-is-ancient-sumerian-writing-doing-in-america-deciphering-the-fuente-magna-bowl/.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Feagans, C. (2015, March 23). Sumerians in Bolivia? Probably not. Retrieved from https://ahotcupofjoe.net/2015/03/sumerians-in-bolivia-probably-not/.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Sutherland, A. (2018, June 4). Controversial Artifact Fuente Magna Could Re-Write Ancient History - America's Mysterious Rosetta Stone. Retrieved from http://www.ancientpages.com/2014/10/18/controversial-artifact-fuente-magna/.
  10. Feder, K. L. (2020). Frauds, myths, and mysteries: science and pseudoscience in archaeology (8th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Bond, S. E. (2018, November 13). Pseudoarchaeology and the Racism Behind Ancient Aliens. Retrieved from https://hyperallergic.com/470795/pseudoarchaeology-and-the-racism-behind-ancient-aliens/.