A scandal arose around 27,000-year-old pyramid in Indonesia: it may rewrite history, but scientists have different opinions
An article by scientists about a 27,000-year-old pyramid located in the prehistoric site of Gunung Padang in West Java, Indonesia, has caused a scandal, dividing scientists in some way. While some defend the version of the oldest pyramid in human history, which predates the pyramids of Egypt by tens of thousands of years, others question the very idea that it was built by humans.
The details of the controversy surrounding the sensation that hit the headlines of all the world's media are described in the scientific journal Nature. Meanwhile, the journal Archaeological Prospection, which was the original source of the article about the pyramid, has launched an investigation to determine whether the published scientific work was reliable.
The article in Archaeological Prospection was published on October 20. After that, the sensation was discussed in all scientific circles. The main topic was the pyramid, which is 27,000 years old. Such a discovery can rewrite human history not only because the oldest previously known giant pyramid, the Djoser pyramid, was built only 4,600 years ago but also because there is no other evidence that such ancient people were capable of building such complex structures.
Prior to that, the most famous megalithic site was Göbekli Tepe in Turkey, which was built by masons about 11,000 years ago.
One of the co-authors of the original article, a geologist at the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) in Bandung, Indonesia, Danny Hilman Natawidjaja, argued that "the pyramid has become a symbol of advanced civilization."
But not everyone shares the scientist's enthusiasm. For example, BRIN archaeologist Lutfi Yondri, who has studied civilizations in Indonesia, says that there is no evidence of the existence of an advanced civilization. Moreover, his work has shown that people in the region lived in caves between 12,000 and 6,000 years ago. This clearly does not fit with the idea of them being capable of building a giant pyramid. No excavations of this period have also revealed evidence of sophisticated stonemasonry.
British archaeologist Flint Dibble from Cardiff University is also surprised by what he read in the article and does not understand how the work of scientists "was published in this form." He noted that the conclusions about the site and its age are completely unfounded.
Gunung Padang consists of five stepped stone terraces with retaining walls and connecting staircases, which are located on top of an extinct volcano. Natawidjaja and his colleagues spent three years exploring the site to determine what lies beneath the terraces. They claim to have found evidence of separate phases of construction.
The authors of the article claimed that the inner layer is a hardened lava core that was "carefully molded." Subsequent layers of rock were "arranged like bricks". Radiocarbon analysis of the soil found between the stones revealed that the first stage of construction allegedly took place between 27,000 and 16,000 years ago. The last layer, which includes the visible stepped terraces, was installed between 4,000 and 3,100 years ago.
However, Dibble notes that there seems to be no evidence for the construction of these layers. In his opinion, all of these layers were formed as a result of natural weathering and rock movement over time. According to him, the stones simply rolled down from above and stacked on top of each other, which is a completely natural process.
Natawidjaja, however, disagrees and argues that the stones were too large and ordered to have simply rolled down there.
Nevertheless, Dibble is convinced of the unlikelihood that the pyramid was created by humans. He believes that there is no evidence of "work or anything to indicate that it was created by man."
Natawidjaja defends his theory by arguing that there could have been an advanced global civilization on Earth that was wiped out at the end of the last ice age 12,000 years ago. The possibility of the existence of such a civilization in Gunung Padang was discussed in the documentary Ancient Apocalypse, which was released on Netflix in 2022.
However, archaeologists do not accept the arguments of the study's co-author. Bill Farley of the University of Southern Connecticut (USA) says that the authors have not provided any evidence of the existence of such a civilization. In particular, he notes that the soil samples, which indicate an age of 27,000 years, have accurate dating, but do not contain evidence of human activity. If the civilization really existed, signs of its activity would have been found in the soil, including charcoal, bone fragments, etc.
Currently, Archaeological Prospection and its publisher Wiley have launched an investigation into the article by Natawidjaja and his colleagues.
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