More alien nonsense: the Lolladoff plate

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By Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews

The cover of Sungods in Exile

Sungods in Exile: the only known publication of Karyl Robin-Evans

According to Sungods in exile: secrets of the Dzopa of Tibet, a book published in 1978 and attributed to an Oxford Professor of ethnology, Karyl Robin-Evans (1914-74) but edited form his papers by his secretary David Agamon, a Polish Professor Sergei Lolladoff made an intriguing discovery in India. Shortly after the end of the Second World War in 1945, Lolladoff had purchased a Tibetan or Nepalese disc at the nineteenth-century hill station of Mussoorie (मसूरी Masūrī, Uttarakhand, India), which was attributed to the Dzopa people of the region. He showed the disc to Robin-Evans, who subsequently mounted an expedition to Tibet in 1947. Robin-Evans was received by Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso (ལྷ་མོ་དོན་འགྲུབ་) the fourteenth Dalai Lama (born Lhamo Döndrub) but, after his Tibetan guides deserted him, he befriended the people of the Baian-Kara-Ula region and learned their language, from which he was able to piece together the story behind the disc.

The Lolladoff Plate

The “Lolladoff Plate”

The disc was made from stone, although its dimensions do not seem to be recorded. It is flat, with a sun-like design at its centre, from which two spiral arms turn in a clockwise diection through about 450° to its edge. There are designs on the disc partly superimposed over the spirals and partly following them. The most striking is a humanoid figure depicted (naked?) facing forward with arms and legs away from the central axis of the body, and a large domed bald head, resembling the archetypal ‘Grey’ alien. To its left are two spider-like objects, with circular “bodies” and eight sinuous “legs”. Beyond these is a reptilian creature seen in profile resembling a bearded dragon. To the right of the humanoid, beyond a poorly defined mushroom-shaped smudge, there is a series of character-like impressions apparently in two registers of six characters each. Beyond these is a lenticular shape with a central bar; beyond that are four more characters and finally, another quadruped seen in profile with a tail that suggests something mammalian rather than reptilian. All these designs occupy one of the spiral arms, the other being blank. The humanoid figure is the only design to extend beyond this decorated spiral into the blank.

The Lolladoff Plate colourised

The “Lolladoff Plate” colourised

All the available images of the disc appear to derive from a single pair of photographs from Robin-Evans’s book, which show it from above and from an angle of around 45°. The two published photographs are monochrome, but there is a version commonly found on the web that has evidently been colourised. As the disc is said to be in a Berlin museum (although it is not specified which, at least one source says that it was a museum in the former East Berlin, so it ought to be a relatively simple task to identify which), it is curious that no-one has approached the museum for a better image than the two currently available.

What are we supposed to make of the disc? The humanoid figure is presumably meant to represent an alien, which, according to Professor Robin-Evans, would be one of the Dzopa. The lenticular shape is probably supposed to be an archetypal UFO of “flying saucer” type, although it also resembles ancient depictions of female genitalia. Quite what the two (perhaps terrestrial) animals are meant to mean is unclear. According to Robin-Evans’s research and conversations with their religious leader Lurgan-La, the Dzopa crashed in Tibet in 1014 CE following a previous exploratory visit around 20,000 years ago. They had arrived from a planet in the Sirius star system and were unable to return home.

An alleged photograph of the fourteenth Dalai Lama receiving Professor Robin-Evans in 1947

An alleged photograph of the fourteenth Dalai Lama receiving Professor Robin-Evans: remember that this is supposed to be in 1947!

Does any further information exist among the papers of Professor Robin-Evans who, as Professor of Ethnology at the University of Oxford, must have left a collection of research notes, diaries and other materials? There is a problem. There is no record, outside Sungods in exile of anyone called Karyl Robin-Evans, professor or not. If he went to Tibet in 1947, he cannot have met the fourteenth Dalai Lama, as the thirteenth Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso, had died in 1933 and Lhamo Döndrub was still plain twelve-year-old Lhamo Döndrub; after his recognition as the reincarnation of his predecessor in 1935, he was educated to become the next Dalai Lama but was not enthroned until 17 November 1950. Phillip Coppens has published a photograph which, although not captioned, has a name (evansdaililama.jpg) that makes it clear is supposed to depict the Dalai Lama receiving the Professor. If the Dalai Lama was really twelve when this photograph was taken, he was a remarkably precocious developer (not to mention prematurely aged), while the good Professor does not look as if he would live another thirty years. The Dzopa’s technology was also evidently very advanced, as the Dalai Lama appears to be looking at a laptop computer, the likes of which would not be seen again until the 1980s! Clearly, the photograph was not taken in 1947 (or, for that matter, at any date before Robin-Evans’s supposed death in 1974). Sergei Lolladoff is as elusive as Robin-Evans. All records of the two, outside the story of the “Lolladoff Plate”, have vanished. What is going on?

Tibetan nomadic herders, known as dropka

Tibetan nomadic herders, known as dropka

Actually, the whole thing is resolved very easily. A quick check of Sungods in exile reveals that it was published as a work of fiction. French Ufologist Patrick Gross found the real David H Gamon (not Agamon!), the author of Sungods in exile and asked him about the story. He was quite open about it being fiction, describing it as “his best hoax” (as he told Fortean Times in 1992 (Volume 62: 63)). The ‘Dropa’ – David Gamon seems to have been the first to spell the name ‘Dzopa’ – are more correctly know as Dropka, a nomadic people of western Tibet and Nepal and not an alien species at all! In fact, the name means “herder” and is not an ethnic designation at all.

One of the alleged Dropa Stones

One of the alleged “Dropa Stones”

So why has it been taken seriously (by some, at least)? The way it has been treated as factual is symptomatic of the nature of what passes for “research” among fringe authors, including Bad Archaeologists and Ufologists. Too often, statements made by one fringe writer are accepted as truthful without further checking (and, all too frequently, without acknowledging the original source). Worse, they are often unaware of the debunking work of others (or perhaps they choose to ignore it) and rarely seem to recognise acknowledged hoaxes. This is not the way that real scientists (and even archaeologists!) work: contentious statements need to be checked and re-checked, the reasoning behind unusual deductions must be stated in full, the hypotheses of others can never be repeated as facts and possible objections must be addressed before following new ideas to their conclusions. It is disappointing when even well regarded Ufologists such as Jacques Vallée repeat poorly researched (or even, it must be suspected, unresearched) assertions taken from earlier writers: this is particularly the case when such writers are dealing with historical documents or fieldwork carried out more than twenty or so years earlier.

The reason why the “Lolladoff Plate” has been welcomed in some alternative circles is that it appears to be independent verification of the so-called Dropa stones. The Bad Archaeology website deals with this alleged discovery in some detail; the basic story is that a 1938 expedition to a remote part of China located the graves of a mysterious short people known as the Dropa together with 716 stone discs which, after translation, recorded the arrival of these people when their space-ship crashed. Although there are still those who maintain that it first appeared in the German magazine Das Vegetärische Universum in July 1962, the story can be traced back to a magazine called Новое Русское Слово (Russian Digest) published in 1960; it was called “Were Alien Visitors on Earth?” and was written by V Ritch and M Chernenko. None of the people it mentions ever existed and the story was clearly a hoax. The “Lolladoff Plate” has been the only apparently confirmatory discovery; both stories turn out, with little research, to be fictional. And the picture? David Gamon told Patrick Gross that “he probably made a rough sketch of the plate for one of his friends who had a forgery talent and who made a black and white painting of the plate and photographed it just enough out of focus so that it appears real”. The “Lolladoff Plate” is testimony to the laziness of some “researchers” and their willingness to accept wild tales that happen to confirm their beliefs, nothing more.


The “Starchild skull”: palaeopathology meets alien abduction

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By Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews

Whitley Streiber's alien

The face of the type of alien alleged to have abducted novelist Whitley Streiber, as painted by Ted Seth Jacobs

In 1987, a new image became a cultural icon: the almond-faced alien with shining black eyes that adorned the cover of Whitley Streiber’s Communion, painted by artist Ted Seth Jacobs. From that moment on, virtually every alleged encounter with alien beings reported in the English speaking world involved creatures of this type, commonly referred to as ‘Greys’. This is not the place to delve into the complex world of alien typology, but it is worth noting that Greys seem to be a largely American alien, with other regions reporting predominantly different types of creature (such as the South American preference for dwarves, the European preference for Nordics, all of which suggests a strong cultural component to the phenomenon). However, during the burgeoning of the stories of alien abduction during the 1980s and 1990s, the Grey quickly established itself as the abductor par excellence if only because the majority of abduction accounts come from North America and the USA in particular.

A Grey alien?

A Grey alien or a fake?

Photographs of Greys and other aliens are notoriously unreliable and easily faked. Many look like models (indeed, many photographs of supposed aliens touted on the web turn out to be stills taken from Hollywood films or television dramas), some are crudely retouched photographs of humans, some are misidentifications of shadows and so on, and at least one shows a dead human pilot horribly burnt following a crash (the wire rims of his spectacles are glearly visible). Photographic evidence, as so often in UFOlogy, is useless. So what other evidence might there be for their presence on earth? Not the fantasies of Erich von Däniken, who has been unable in a career spanning more than forty years, to produce a single artefact of extraterrestrial origin, despite his penchant for ascribing virtually all of humanity’s cultural achievements to assistance given by aliens. Enter the “Starchild skull”, a real enough skull that is claimed to be physical evidence for a dead alien right here on earth.

The skull is supposed to have been discovered in the 1930s by an American girl from El Paso (Texas, USA) in a mine near Copper Canyon in Mexico, about 160 km south-west of Chihuahua. After her death in the 1990s, the skull and an adult’ from the same site were given to Ray and Melanie Young who, with the assistance of Lloyd Pye, founded The Starchild Project in 1999 as Melanie, a neonatal nurse, was convinced that the skull could no be the result of ordinary human deformities. Radiocarbon dating was carried out in 2004 by Beta Analytic of Miami (FLorida, USA), which gave a determination of 900 ± 40 bp, which calibrates to Cal AD 1117 ± 59; an earlier test on the adult skull gave exactly the same result. Over the past eleven years, the Project has promoted the skull, principally to UFO and New Age groups, among which the term “star child” is used to refer to alleged human/alien hybrids or to “the next stage in human evolution”.

The so-called "Starchild skull"

The so-called ‘Starchild skull’

Such hybrids have been reported by numerous “alien abductees”, whose (usually hypnotically recovered) accounts of their abductions often refer to the aliens’ obsessive interest in their reproductive organs. Some claim to have undergone frequently painful and disturbing procedures to remove eggs and sperm; some claim to have become pregnant as a result of their treatment and subsequently to have discovered that they are no longer pregnant following a further abduction. There are accounts of abductees being shown humanoid but emotionless children during an abduction and being given impressions that these are their own offspring.

Whatever the objective reality of alien abduction experiences (and it will be no surprise that I suspect it to be a wholly subjective phenomenon), physical evidence for the existence of the aliens themselves would be a powerful support for the veracity of the abductees’ stories. So how well does the “Starchild skull” match the available descriptions of Greys? First, we have to acknowledge that we are evidently dealing with the skull of an infant (based on the eruption of maxillary teeth, it has been estimated that the individual was aged around five or six years old when it died, although if we really are dealing with an alien or even an alien/human hybrid, it is a moot point whether we can use human tooth eruption data to assign an age at death!).

A reconstruction of the appearance of the "Starchild"

A reconstruction of the appearance of the “Starchild” around the time of its death

If we assume that the dental data can be used, then we have to recognise that the development of Greys from infancy to adulthood might well involve morphological changes to the shape of the face as subcutaneous fats are redistributed. This is the “puppy fat” that gives human children rounded faces and chubby cheeks that most lose during puberty. The reconstruction shown here – made by those promoting the skull as alien, it should be noted – depicts a child of distinctly human appearance. There are problems, of course, in that we do not have a mandible with which the reconstruct the appearance of the lower part of the face, but it has to be said that the eyes are much too close together, the nose too prominent and the width of the upper part of the head proportionally much greater than would be expected if this is the skull of a genuine Grey alien. We could always argue, of course, that if it is a human/alien hybrid, then human characteristics are dominant in this individual (although this would be a post hoc rationalisation).

Lloyd Pye has had DNA tests performed on the skull in 1999 and 2003; a promised third test in 2009 has not yet been published, if it ever happened. The 2003 extraction of mitochondrial DNA (that inherited from the mother) showed it to belong to haplogroup C, a typical Native American type. Thus, the child’s mother was beyond doubt a Native American, not an alien. Intriguingly, the adult skull recovered with the child’s yielded mtDNA of haplogroup A, another Native American type, but which means that the skull cannot be that of the child’s mother, which would by definition have mtDNA of the same haplogroup. However, the team was unable to extract any nuclear DNA, which Pye insists is evidence that the father was not human, as nuclear DNA was extracted from the adult skull. However, there are greater difficulties in the extraction of nuclear DNA from ancient bone than in the extraction of mitochondrial DNA, so the lack of nuclear DNA from the “Starchild skull’ is not at all mysterious. What Pye does not dwell on are the 1999 DNA test, which identified both X and Y chromosomes, which show that the child was a boy; Y chromosomes can only be inherited from the father (men have an XY chromosome pair, women an XX chromosome pair), so the child’s father must have been as human as his mother.

So why does the skull look so unusual? Although Lloyd Pye quotes doctors who state that it cannot have been a pathological condition, he ignores similar skeletal remains that are clearly the result of hydrocephalus, a condition in which the skull fills with cerebrospinal fluid in and around the brain and which can be fatal. Another condition that can yield similar skeletal pathologies is progeria, in which symptoms resembling premature ageing are caused by a genetic mutation. The scientific evidence shows very clearly that the “Starchild skull” is that of a very sick human boy who probably died from the condition that caused the unusual pathological features of the skull. To promote this unfortunate Native American, whose remains are being displayed for public entertainment, is immoral, does an immense disservice to his memory and is something that under the American NAGPRA legislation is probably illegal.

Can they really mean it?

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By Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews

I enjoy reading blogs. Whether they are political, archaeological, sceptical, UFO-related, journalistic, religious… I really don’t care, so long as they are informative. I may often disagree with polemical viewpoints, but if they are challenging, they are worth the few points’ rise in blood pressure. But just once in a while, a statement leaps out at me as jaw-droppingly stupid. So, when I was reading this piece by Michael Cohen, one of the executive directors of All News Web (“The World’s No.1 Source For UFO, Paranormal and Entertainment News”), having followed a link in Tim Printy’s excellent SUNLite UFO newsletter, I couldn’t quite believe that I was reading what it appears to say.

According to Michael Cohen, “[m]any researchers and scientists have correctly theorised that the Egyptian Pyramids were built with the assistance of aliens. This theory is believed to have been confirmed by aliens in contact with world governments in modern times”. It’s difficult to know where to begin in analysing this or even if it’s worthwhile doing so.

Cohen’s basic thesis is that humanity was guided towards civilisation by benevolent aliens who even now are watching us to see if we can solve the world’s problems, which are of our own making. Only if we succeed, will they make contact with us and involve us in “the galactic and universal community”. He says ominously that “[t]he rest tend to implode and destroy themselves”, so you can’t say you haven’t been warned.

His readers tend to agree with him. There are some scoffers; the first comment, by one LOL, reads “*cough*bullshit*cough* lolololol”, rather unkindly, while someone else, posing as Michael Cohen, claims “Sorry all but i can’t help writting bullshit to generate traffic on my site and so get some money with the ads !”. However, many like what Michael Cohen has to say. The second comment, by Mark, reads “Pure brilliance and a balanced,fair assesment of where humanity stands atm”. Going into greater detail, another by Ari Ben Gordon states “Flogging a dead horse . What You cannot imagine is That I perssonally know that 6000,000,000 Human minds have no clue on where they are going within this UFO Enigma and stated historical facts . To be alone and lost to the world under the carpet of Humanity – You seem to not realize how close You are in being lost to the Human environment for all modernistic time . For I am the only one who knows what they truly look like”.

Such is the murky world of counterknowledge, where any alternative viewpoint is welcome, simply because it deviates from what ‘experts’ and, worse, ‘the government’ (or ‘New World Order’) tell us what we ought to believe.

The Sphinx and Pyramid of Khaefre

Egyptian monuments in ‘built by humans, not aliens’ shock… Sphinx remains silent.

The Egyptians of the third millennium BCE were human beings just like ourselves. Culturally, they were very different and their technology was much more limited than ours, but they were the same creatures, with brains like ours, emotions like ours and daily concerns about staying alive like ours. Also like us, their culture was not static. There were constant innovations, improvements and change for its own sake. Despite the confident assertions of Bad Archaeologists (and I’m temporarily putting Michael Cohen in their ranks), we know an awful lot about how the Egyptians built their pyramids. We can see the first stirrings of experimentation in stepped structures at the end of the Second Dynasty, with the tomb of Kha‘seḫemwy, the first proper stepped pyramid of Ḏośer early in the Third Dynasty to the true pyramids of Śnofrw at the start of the Fourth. The use of large limestone blocks for filling gave way to smaller rubble in the Fifth Dynasty as the economy became over-stretched after the huge building projects of the Fourth and with the descent of the country into chaos at the end of the Sixth Dynasty, the first flush of pyramid building came to an end. It matches a typical typological development, where something starts out simple, becomes more complex and eventually regresses to a more simple form in its declining popularity.

So, no need for UFOs, aliens or superior technology. Just human beings doing what they do best: working with the materials around them to transform the world and to make sense of it.