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No. 43: Jan-Feb 1986

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The Mysterious Tumuli Of New Caledonia

The Isle of Pines, New Caledonia is spangled with about 400 large tumuli or mounds, ranging from 30 to 165 feet in diameter. Their heights are 2 to about 15 feet. All of the material making up the mounds seems to come from the immediate surroundings: coral debris, earth, and grains of iron oxide. The larger tumuli enclose a block of tuff, about 5 feet high and 6 feet in diameter, comprised of tumuli material held together by a calcareous cement or mortar. Some who have investigated these mounds believe that the presence of cement, presumably man-made, is proof-positive that the tumuli are the product of human activity. Other archeologists doubt this because the early settlers of New Caledonia did not use cement. Besides, there seem to be no other signs of human involvement. This has led to the hypothesis that the mounds were built by huge, now-extinct, flightless birds for the purpose of incubating their eggs. Some birds do indeed incubate their eggs in mounds today; and some 5,000 years ago New Caledonia did boast a giant bird (Sylviornia neocale doniae), which was 5-6 feet tall. The authors of the present paper feel that the giant bird hypothesis is just as reasonable as the theory that these mounds were built by ancient humans who knew how to make cement.

(Mourer-Chauvire, Cecile, and Poplin, Francois; "Le Mystere des Tumulus de Nouvelle-Caledonie," La Recherche, 16: 76, September 1985. Cr. C. Mauge.)

Comment. We find in our Handbook Ancient Man an article by A. Rothovius entitled: "The Mysterious Cement Cylinders of New Caledonia." The 1967 article covers much the same ground as that in La Recherche, but sans the giant bird theory. Rothovius states that the cylinders inside the tumuli:

"...are of a very hard, homogeneous lime-mortar, containing bits of shells which yield radiocarbon dates between 5,120 and 10,950 B.C. -- even the lowest date being some 3,000 years earlier than man is believed to have reached the southwest Pacific from the area of Indonesia."

The book Ancient Man is described here.

Los Lunas inscription showing the Old Hebrew letters
The first three lines of the Los Lunas inscription, showing the Old Hebrew letters.
Adapted from Fell's article cited above.

From Science Frontiers #43, JAN-FEB 1986. 1986-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987