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Peru’s ancient Paracas people are being de-humanized by absurd assertions.
Peru’s ancient Paracas people are being de-humanized by absurd assertions.
First it was “Starchild,” then “Ata, the non-Alien Boy,” and now it’s a collection of elongated skulls from southern Peru. Once again people are being invited to donate money for genetic testing of some poor soul’s remains to prove how unlike us he—or in this case, they—are.
This story began with archaeologist Julio Tello’s 1928 discovery of 429 mummies in the subterranean necropolis at Wari Kayan on southern Peru’s Paracas Peninsula. Interred sitting in baskets, the dessicated bodies were swaddled in colorful fabrics, some richly embroidered. Pottery and textiles from the site resemble those of Peru’s Nasca people. Archaeologists think the Paracus Necropolis Culture probably dates to sometime in the first two centuries AD.
The people buried at Wari Kayan had conical, extremely elongated skulls. Their faces were normal, and the cranial deformation is typical of that produced by infant head binding, a common practice among ancient societies.
Tour guide Brien Foerster and David Hatcher Childress—a prolific author of self-published books about mysterious phenomena—weren’t content with the historical place of these people. They decided the skulls were so unusual they couldn’t be as human as you and I. They co-authored the book The Enigma of Cranial Deformation featuring a Paracan skull on the cover. In the book they quote 19th century doctor Johann Jakob von Tschudi who claimed the “wormian” bone found on the skulls of many South American natives was evidence they were of a primitive race. The wormian bone is an extra bony plate that forms within a cranial suture line. (Sutures are immobile joints that fuse skull bones together once a child’s head has finished growing.) Of course the wormian bone, found in a variety of disease and non-disease states, has nothing to do with being members of a primitive “race”!
Foerster claims the cranial capacity of these skulls is much too large for a human— “in some cases 2.5 times larger than a conventional modern human skull.”1 He says he’s talked to “a doctor” who assured him the large volume could not be attributed to ritual cranial deformation and must therefore be genetic. In reality, the average cranial capacity of the skulls from the necropolis is about 1600 cc. Normal human cranial capacity varies widely, with 1350 cc being the modern average, Cro-Magnon brain size being about 1600 cc, and Homo erectus being substantially smaller than that of modern humans. While above average for modern humans, this volume is not abnormal for humans.
Foerster notes the skulls have two abnormal holes and “only one parietal plate” instead of the usual two. The latter is known as sagittal synostosis—premature fusion of the sagittal suture line that runs across the top of the skull. This suture knits the parietal bones together, but premature fusion can obliterate the line. The little holes are a common human variation. Called parietal emissary foramina, they allow the passage of veins connecting the venous system inside the skull to that on the outside.
Claiming to think these skulls must be something other than human, Foerster decided to solicit funds to genetically test these people “for the good of humanity.” Were they really human or not? Foerster turned samples over to Starchild-promoter Lloyd Pye to be passed on to his geneticist. (Pye claims Starchild is an alien-human hybrid. He also collects donations to fund the complete sequencing of Starchild’s DNA.)
“I have had many different ideas but I've been waiting for actual DNA analysis and that has taken an incredibly long time, mainly due to lack of funding and also finding a geneticist who is open to studying this, doing it at a fraction of the normal cost that it would cost commercially,” Foerster said. “My intent simply is to find the truth as to who these people were.”
Preliminary results are out, Foerster says. And (surprise, surprise) they aren’t like us at all! Also (surprise, surprise), the geneticist remains anonymous but looks forward to going public when further tests prove his claims conclusively.
According to Foerster, the unnamed geneticist says, “It had mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA) with mutations unknown in any human, primate, or animal known so far. But a few fragments I was able to sequence from this sample indicate that if these mutations will hold we are dealing with a new human-like creature, very distant from Homo sapiens, Neanderthals and Denisovans. I am not sure it will even fit into the known evolutionary tree. . . . The question is if they were so different, they could not interbreed with humans.”2 This “expert” opinion has even been “published” . . . on Foerster’s Facebook page.
There is little need to comment on the lack of professionalism in this anonymous “report” by a rogue geneticist. There is certainly ground for suspicion in the selection of a geneticist whose current claim to fame is an association with Lloyd Pye’s bizarre alien assertions.
Facial features show the Paracas skulls are human. Misshapen skulls are a common product of head binding. Their above average cranial capacity and other features are normal human variations. They do not forfeit their humanity and get down-graded to “human-like” because their mutations don’t appear in the current database. Such unmatched mutations at most means that people from their ancestral line haven’t yet been sampled.
Facial features show the Paracas skulls are human. Misshapen skulls are a common product of head binding.
Furthermore, the samples Foerster gave to Pye for DNA testing have been stored in uncertain conditions since the tombs in which they were housed were opened nearly a century ago. The ordinary degradation that takes place in DNA over time coupled with additional degradation due to humidity, acidity, heat, and light as well as possible contamination can all produce aberrations in DNA sequences. Any such degraded region can trigger a “no similarity found” message when the DNA is compared to genetic databases. Thus the “mutations not matching any known animal or person” may simply be an artifact of DNA degradation.
Whether the non-matching DNA regions are real mutations or artifacts, the wild conjectures Foerster attributes to his geneticist are as groundless as his claims about the skulls being incompatible with humanity. To further suggest that they represent a hominid that doesn’t fit the evolutionary tree adds poorly rendered science to an imaginary and biologically insupportable evolutionary worldview. Furthermore, if Foerster hopes to join the ranks of the paleoanthropologists and geneticists who have been investigating varieties of humans such as Neanderthals, Denisovans, Homo heidelbergensis, Homo antecessor, and Homo floresiensis (“Hobbits”), he should understand that the more is discovered about those people, the more obvious it is that they were as fully human as ourselves.
In any case, since we know from looking at these skulls that they belonged to human beings, we know their DNA was also human.
Given that near relations of this extinct group of South American people may well have not been previously included in genetic samples, it would be no surprise to find that the apparent mutations are both genuine and new to the database of human genomes. Answers in Genesis molecular geneticist Dr. Georgia Purdom sees some parallels in the wild assertions once made about Neanderthals. She says:
As I read about the “unusual” mtDNA findings I couldn’t help but think about the publication of the Neanderthal mtDNA sequence in 1997. Scientists claimed it was so different from modern humans that Neanderthals could not possibly be our close relatives. However, further analysis of the differences by creation scientist Dr. David DeWitt (Liberty University) and his students showed that these sites in mtDNA are highly variable even among modern humans. They concluded based on the evidence that Neanderthals and modern humans shared a recent common ancestor (and we know from Scripture that this was Adam and Eve). As additional Neanderthal mtDNA sequences were published the sequences showed more similarity to modern humans supporting the idea that these sites in the mtDNA are mutational hotspots. A similar scenario is very likely for the Paracas people. The differences likely represent mutational hotspots in mtDNA and additional mtDNA sequences from the Paracas people will likely bear this out.
In the beginning God created the earth and all kinds of plants and animals in the space of a few days. On the sixth day of our world’s existence He created just two people, Adam and Eve. He did not evolve them from an ape-like ancestor but created them in His own image. He did not make several kinds of humans.
Less than 1700 years later the global Flood destroyed all but eight people. In the years after the Flood, God dispersed groups of people from the tower of Babel, and it is from them that the earth was populated. All varieties of people living and extinct descended from them. That is the true history of the Paracas Necropolis people. Reputable, peer reviewable genetics may suggest connections to other cultural groups. But no amount of genomic analysis will discover that these people were not fully human.
Theistic evolutionists typically claim humans gradually evolved and that God then picked out a couple to be Adam and Eve. That unscriptural position would leave all other human lineages beyond the reach of salvation through Jesus Christ. After all, Jesus Christ came through the lineage of the first couple as the “Last Adam” to die for the sins of all descendants of the “First Adam” (Romans 5:12–17; Hebrews 2:9–10). The same can be said for those who think intelligent aliens evolved on other planets. They also would have suffered the effects of sin’s curse upon all of creation (Romans 8:22) but would, not being part of Adam’s family, be without access to the salvation purchased by Jesus Christ.
We at Answers in Genesis have received a number of questions about Foerster’s claims. Christians seeking to answer their friends’ questions need to be aware not only of the historical facts and fallacies about these finds but also to have the biblical understanding that should force all biblically compromised positions about human origins into the trash heap.
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Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.