The Pseudohistoric and Pseudoscientific claims about “Bakoni Ruins” of South Africa
Micheal Tellinger claims of Bakoni Ruins being from prehistory is false pseudoscience. According to author Michael Tellinger
I’d suggest that, rather than writing these books off as nonsense, it might be more useful to regard them as ‘modern romances’. They purport to be factual while having virtually no factual basis; but once again, it’s the narrative that is important, providing as it does a key to ancient mysteries and a discovery of something wonderful. I’d go further and suggest the modern romance label could be applicable across a broad range of fortean topics, from the ‘Holy Blood’ literature to ancient astronauts, crashed saucer retrievals, alien abductions… and so on, once more, ad infinitum. Perhaps it’s not really important whether these notions are ‘true’ or not. Instead, these are narratives that we want to be true, and so they tell us something about ourselves, our desire to escape from mundane reality, and our wish for the wondrous. They are, quite simply, romantic … and that, no doubt, is the greatest part of their appeal.
Forgotten World: The Stone-walled Settlements of the Mpumalanga Escarpment
“This is what recent archaeological and historical research in the area known as Bokoni in Mpumalanga has revealed. The Bakoni, the Koni people who first emerged in this area around the 1500s and lived here until around the 1820s, were advanced farming communities that created stone-walled sites – the remnants of which still cover vast areas in Mpumalanga today. According to The University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg researchers, historian Professor Peter Delius and archaeologist Dr Alex Schoeman, it is now clear that the Bakoni practiced advanced technological and agricultural innovation and techniques long before Africa was colonized. Their book, Forgotten World – The Stone-walled Settlements of the Mpumalanga Escarpment, as well as an hour-long documentary, aim to create awareness and to inform on a “forgotten” part of South Africa’s history and heritage that has for too long been ignored. Delius and Schoeman elaborated on their research project during the National Research Foundation Science for Society Lecture held at Wits University on 11 June 2015. Unique systems: “This intensive farming system was unique in South Africa and was the largest intensive farming system in southern and eastern Africa. It included massive investment in stone terracing, cattle kraals and which allowed for the cultivation of rich, volcanic soils on the hillsides of the escarpment,” Delius said. Crop cultivation was combined with closely managed livestock production in which cattle were kept at the heart of the settlements at night and during the day were able to feed on the diverse grasslands. “It is also connected to systems of long-distance trade which span the interior that linked to the east coast and to the vast and ancient Indian Ocean trading system. So this was not an isolated society, an isolated world, it was part of a much bigger regional system,” said professor Peter Delius. A study shows South Africans using milk-based paint 49,000 years ago.” Ref
The hills around the town are terraced with thousands of stone walls which form part of a vast complex of settlements, fields and roads. Some tour guides describe these as South Africa’s “real” lost city. Archaeologists and historians have described the ruins as settlements of the baKoni people. Oral records and historical evidence trace the baKoni to at least the early 18th century. The ongoing 500 Year Initiative to rewrite South Africa’s history continues to deliver new insights into the extent and complexity of these settlements. An international group of researchers have placed the baKoni settlements in the context of numerous other cases of agricultural intensification, that took place in the precolonial era in different parts of Africa. Other controversial hypotheses on the origins of these ruins have also been circulated in South Africa:
- Anthropologist, Hindu-expert and linguist, Dr Cyril Hromnik, postulates that Dravidian traders, originally from the Gomti river in India, mined and inter-married with the Kung during the first millennium AD and that their descendants were responsible for building the terraces and stone circle dwellings that meander along Mpumalanga’s escarpment as “astrological clocks,” as well as for creating the Quena – or Hottentot – race. – Swanepoel, Natalie, Esterhuysen, Amanda & Bonner, P. L. (ed.) (2008). Five hundred years rediscovered: Southern African precedents and prospects ; 500 year initiative ; 2007 conference proceedings. Johannesburg: Wits University Press. ref
Historian Professor Peter Delius and archaeologist Dr Alex Schoeman from The University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, believe the ruins at Bakoni to be evidence of advanced technological and agricultural innovation, long before the colonial era. This consisted largely of closely managed livestock production in combination with crop cultivation. Cattle were kept in the settlements at night while during the day they were released out onto the grasslands to graze. The two researchers, along with Dr Tim Maggs, have written a book about the site as well as producing an hour long documentary. Delius and Schoeman recently appeared at the National Research Foundation Science for Society Lecture at Wits University, on 11 th June 2015, to discuss the project.
“This intensive farming system was unique in South Africa and was the largest intensive farming system in southern and eastern Africa” Professor Delius told Past Horizons . “ It included massive investment in stone terracing, cattle kraals and which allowed for the cultivation of rich, volcanic soils on the hill sides of the escarpment . It is also connected to systems of long distance trade which span the interior that linked to the east coast and to the vast and ancient Indian Ocean trading system. So this was not an isolated society, an isolated world, it was part of a much bigger regional system.” Ref
By Michigan State University
The Bakoni ruins are located in South Africa in the province of Mpumalanga. They refer to the many, complex hills that people terraced with stone to create walls for the sake of improving agricultural practices.
If you were to fly over the area in a small plane you would be amazed by the endless stone circles, set in bewildering mazes and linked by long stone passages, that cover the landscape below. In some places the coverage is quite sparse and intermittent but in others it is dense, continuous and intricate. If you study the views provided by Google Earth and focus on the ghostly circles that cover the landscape you may get a sense of the extent of the heartland of this world, which stretched from Ohrigstad to Carolina and connected over 10,000 square kilometers of the Mpumalanga escarpment into a complex web of walled structures (Schoeman).
There are many disputes regarding the age of these structures, ranging from 25,000 to 250,000 years old. Needless to say, the Bakoni ruins have never been excavated to date—yet alone thoroughly researched. “One of South Africa’s most extensive and remarkable legacies of the past is little known by the public and largely ignored by heritage authorities” (Schoeman). Although past oral and written documents may account for some of our knowledge, they are highly insufficient in providing solid evidence of why and when these greatly expansive structures were created. With that being said, there is very little known about the Bakoni ruins; yet there are ridiculous allegations involving advanced, ancient civilizations as their creators. Michael Tellinger created one of these theories, which thrives on the fantastical idea that some alternate species of homo sapiens built the terraces in biblical times in order to create a large gold-mining system (Cassidy). Considering the lack of scientific research on the Bakoni Ruins, it is absolutely ridiculous that uneducated bystanders are claiming it to be some far-fetched phenomena.
Even though the unfamiliarity with pre-Columbian South African groups should be sufficient enough to disprove Tellinger’s theory, the strong desire for concrete answers provokes people to follow his beliefs anyway. Fortunately, there is enough concrete evidence to explain why his fishy theory is not the least bit scientific. The stone walls were built by a group of people from a town known now as Machadodorp. “The makers of this agriculture find an identity as the ‘Bakoni’ in an archive of oral histories which have been recorded by missionaries, officials, ethnographers and historians at various times and under widely varying circumstances from the early twentieth century, and perhaps before, to the present” (Wright). With this in mind, one must take into consideration the advancement of archaeology as a science. The practice of archaeology used to consist of looting goods and poor, biased documentation. Therefore, it would be naive to simply ignore the carelessness and subjectivity of past “researchers” in order to understand who the Bakoni were. Historian John Wright explains the importance of “getting away from the still common colonial stereotype that these names stand for ready-made ‘tribes’ or, in more modern parlance, ethnic groups” (Wright). Thankfully, historian Peter Delius and archaeologist Alex Schoeman are comfortable enough to recognize past documentation as a flaw within their extensive studies.
… Delius and Schoeman (2008) have re-interpreted the admittedly sketchy evidence from recorded oral histories to argue that the people who came to be known as Bakoni did not necessarily constitute a homogeneous ethnic group whose members arrived in Bokoni at the same time: it is more likely that they consisted of different groups with different origins which arrived at different times. What these groups called themselves will probably never be known, but to other peoples of the region, presumably those already living there, they must have become known collectively at some stage as Bokoni, ‘those from the North’ (Wright).
This clarifies the Bakoni as not necessarily one culture, but many cultures in one area, which accumulated ideas over time in order to create these structures and use them for advanced agricultural purposes. They resided in what was the Bokoni region, which “takes in the escarpment and adjoining areas from Ohrigstad for 150 kilometers to the South and southwest” (Wright). The massive size and relative positions of the Bakoni ruins and escarpment were crucial to success of the farming system.
Although Africans were thought of as primitive beings before the colonization of their country, archaeologists have found the opposite to be true. “After about 1600 [Bokoni] saw the establishment of numerous communities based on the development of what was for the times an exceptionally intensive form of agriculture. Evidence for this is to be found in the numerous and often densely concentrated ruins of stone enclosures, agricultural terraces, and interweaving cattle lanes…” (Wright). This suggests that the Bakoni peoples were not only intelligent, but also faithful inhabitants of the land. They must have communicated with one another, even though they may not have been from the same origin, in order to create a very successful community that flourished for some, most likely great, time. Considering the vastness of this system and the variety of people controlling it, one must note the exceptional resemblance of the walls. “The relative similarity of the Bakoni walls over hundreds of kilometers suggests a settled society with social and cultural continuity over time, and space, and with some uniformity of building style” (Beinart). The somewhat uniformity over such a large area is especially impressive because it shows the unity of the society, despite different backgrounds, and also the prominence of the people occupying the land over time.
Unfortunately, the 1800s brought about colonization, and the Bakoni peoples transitioned from a functioning, diverse community into a conforming, uniform one.
Bakoni society or its predecessors may have lasted at least a couple of centuries, perhaps from the seventeenth century. It fragmented, or was largely destroyed, during the period of the Mfecane in the early nineteenth century when more powerful new kingdoms were established around it: the Pedi, Swazi, and Ndzundza Ndebele. The Bakoni found themselves vulnerable on the peripheries of these new nodes of political authority in the first half of the nineteenth century; their settlements were in part scattered and some were absorbed into the expanding kingdoms (Beinart).
Since the colonists completely obliterated the Bakoni people and archaeology was of no concern of the time, it was inevitable that this culture would become somewhat ‘lost’. The declaration of Bakoni as builders of these impressive walls was so delayed because of the supremacy of the colonists, and “it was not until recently that the Bakoni authorship has been established” (Maggs). That is, we know a group of people created these structures long before the colonization of South Africa, and the structures were used for advanced farming techniques. Beyond that, the Bakoni ruins is simply a void waiting to be filled. Modern society’s quest to answer all that is unexplained is defeated by this lack of evidence and documentation; therefore, instead of recognizing this as unknown, people create an alternate past altogether.
With this in mind, the drought of factual information on the Bakoni leaves the interpretation of their ruins completely open to uneducated “experts,” such as Michael Tellinger. Upon viewing his website, one finds that Tellinger “graduated in 1983 from the University of Witwatersrand Medical School, Johannesburg, with a B. Pharmaceutics degree, a passion for the cosmos, genetics and human history” (Tellinger). He also spends some time with the arts, writing and performing screenplays and music. Interestingly enough, he found enough time to write three books, Slave Species of God, Adam’s Calendar, and Temples of the African Gods, each of which revolve around the true human origin (Tellinger). Before further exploring his theory regarding the Bakoni ruins, it is important to note his relevance on the topic. Michael Tellinger is not educated in astronomy, history, or archaeology, simply intrigued by it. In regard to his claims about the human origin, his academics only account for the complexity of microscopic structures such as DNA and alleles, which account for genetic variation. Yet, his books are based off of “new” archaeological findings (Tellinger), of which no educated archaeologist has ever legitimized, or even remotely agreed with. “These interpretations have proliferated and diversified but most of them are based on speculation rather than credible evidence and share the key assumption that African society was incapable of innovation without decisive external influence” (Schoeman). His hyperdiffusionist theories not only reinforce stereotypes, but also over-simplify human origin in order to provide answers that cannot be tested, therefore proven wrong.
In light of this madness, it is fair for one to think that Tellinger’s claims are harmless; however, that is far from true in further retrospect. Michael Tellinger explains his beliefs in an interview with Kerry Cassidy, and it is not only irrational, but also embarrassing to the archaeological community. Upon being asked about his research, Tellinger replies: “We now are starting to find overwhelming physical evidence and proof for those first early civilizations of very early homo sapiens living in South Africa” (Cassidy). He is referring to an ancient, vanished civilization starting “with the arrival of people from another planet who came to Earth in search of gold,” which is only documented by the current translation of the Sumerian tablets (Waterworth). He claims that the Bakoni ruins are so vast and circular for the purpose of creating a massive amount of energy to locate and extract gold from the mines (Cassidy). He continues to explain his reasoning:
Well, what first caught my attention was the fact that the stones that have been used to build these circular stone ruins, these ancient ruins, they ring like bells — every stone… I suddenly realized that this wasn’t just an accident because these stones were making a completely different sound, and they rang… As I say, they actually ring like bells, the most beautiful crystal or metallic structures (Cassidy).
This pharmacist-musician extraordinaire is attempting to convince others that the Bakoni ruins were made by an advanced civilization capable of measuring sound and using that sound to generate enough energy to locate gold. This is purely based off of the “ringing” quality of the rocks at different frequencies, and the stories associated with Africa’s lost civilization found in the Sumerian tablets (which can be compared to the usefulness of information found in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible). Although in this context the claim seems far-fetched, when put in the context of Tellinger’s confidently worded answers, one may begin to stray away from the truth.
Tellinger’s attempt to convince the public of his nonsense is amplified even further when he bashes the modern beliefs of archaeologists. He bluntly states that they need to come to terms with dates as far back as 200,000 years (Cassidy), suggesting modern practices are faulty and misleading. However, it is impossible to come to terms with something in which there is no sufficient evidence for. He is suggesting that everyone throw away his or her history books because he, alone, has seen over 10 million of these ruins.
“All of these structures… were circular in its shape, and each of them was linked by a road or a channel. Now, that is highly irregular; you don’t see that in any ancient civilizations at all. And then in among all of these stone structures there are thousands of kilometers of beautifully shaped and constructed agricultural terraces that link all of these structures together” (Cassidy).
Although there is no other documentation of how many ruins are in South Africa other than the word of Michael Tellinger, people are still convinced by his argument. He uses the unique physical appearance of the ruins and the different sounds they make in order to back up his claim, when, in fact, it can be completely accounted for by an advanced agricultural system created by a diverse population. His basis for truth is unfalsifiable, in that no one can prove him wrong, which is an absurd, entirely unscientific argument.
Overall, the abuse of archaeology fools society into believing that they have been lied to. Although there are many larger issues regarding the abuse of archaeology that continually air on big, ‘educational’ networks like the History Channel, the Bakoni Ruins are particularly offending. People such as Michael Tellinger are profiting off of this bad education, and taking advantages of gaps in human history and knowledge. They create these stories and refute the counter-argument simply by default because they cannot be proven wrong. Aliens and advanced, ancient civilizations become more than just a daydream when so-called scholars use their degree to convince others of their existence. Michael Tellinger and those alike are the beginning of a new education: ‘scientific’ fiction.
Works Cited by Michigan State University on the info above on the Bakoni Ruins
Beinart, William. “FYI Workshop: Some Comparative Comments.” African Studies 69.2 (2010): 219-27. Taylor & Francis. Routledge. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.
Cassidy, Kerry. “Michael Tellinger – Part 1 Whistleblower Radio.” Online interview. 14 Jan. 2010. http://projectcamelot.org/lang/en/michael_tellinger_1_en.html
Maggs, Tim. “The 2009 FYI Workshop and Excursion: Valuable Lessons from Eastern Africa.” African Studies 69.2 (2010): 213-17. Taylor & Francis. Routledge. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.
Mortazavi, Mehdi. “Irresponsibility in Archaeology.” Eesti Arheoloogia Ajakiri (2010): 143–152,143–152. Web.
Schoeman, Alex, Peter Delius, and Tim Maggs. Forgotten World: The Stone-Walled Settlements of the Mpumalanga Escarpment. Johannesburg: Wits UP, 2014. 1-25. Print.
Tellinger, Michael. “Slave Species: The Story of Humankind, From the Cradle of Humankind.” Slave Species. Slave Species, 14 Sept. 2012. Web. 21 Nov. 2015. <http://www.slavespecies.com>.
Waterworth, Tanya. “Rethinking our Origins.” The Pretoria News2011. Web.
Wright, John. “Putting Bokoni on the Historian’s Map.” African Studies 69.2 (2010): 229-33. Taylor & Francis. Routledge. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.
The Botswana Skeptic comments on Michael Tellinger in the Botswana Guardian
Here is my external pages or content: Facebook Witter Page, My YouTube, My Linkedin, Twitter: @AthopeMarie, Instagram: damienathope, Personal Facebook Page, Secondary Personal Facebook Page, Main Atheist Facebook Page, Secondary Atheist Facebook Page, Facebook Leftist Political Page, Facebook Group: Atheist for Non-monogamy, Facebook Group: (HARP) Humanism, Atheism, Rationalism, & Philosophy and My Email: email@example.com