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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