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Bad Anatomy: Do the Mysterious Rhodope Skull and Adygea Skulls Belong to Aliens?

TO SOMEONE WITH BIOLOGICAL TRAINING, ONE OF THE MOST irritating and frustrating aspects of dealing with claims about “strange” and “weird” paranormal creatures is the widespread lack of knowledge about basic anatomy and biology. Nearly every hairless canine (whether a coyote or a feral dog) is immediately identified as a “chupacabra”—simply because most people don’t recognize an animal without its hair. Likewise, waterlogged, hairless, or partially decomposed bodies of raccoons and other mammals are treated as bizarre alien creatures because most people are not familiar with the process of bodily decay. Decomposed basking sharks and other marine creatures are the source of all sorts of sea monster myths. The list of cases goes on and on, saturating the internet with bogus claims. None of the authors of these sites ever consult anyone with the proper scientific training before jumping to paranormal conclusions.

In preparing an upcoming book about aliens and UFOs, Prothero and Callahan stumbled across two particularly obvious examples of this kind of error, often found in books and on websites that present odd objects as proof that aliens have visited earth. Both cases are simple mistakes in anatomy by people who don’t know the first thing about human and animal skulls. And in both cases, the mistakes and misinterpretations were spread all over the internet as proof of paranormal phenomena without anyone challenging them.

The Rhodope skull

The first example is the Rhodope skull. Type those two words into any search engine and you will get a string of paranormal sites that make extraordinary claims about it. The breathless hyperbolic prose of the following website1 is typical, and most of the other sites seem to be verbatim copies of this same text:

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DECEPTION IN CANCER TREATMENT SPECIAL ISSUE: The Cancer-care Industry’s Marketing is Among the Most Deceptive on the Consumer Landscape. SPECIAL SECTION: Classic Skepticism: The Amityville Hoax at 40; Alien Sulls: Do the Mysterious Rhodope Skull and Adygea Skulls Belong to Aliens?; The Real Meaning Behind the Nazca Geoglyphs; Clown Panics: Sightings of Mysterious Clowns Rattle Nerves ARTICLES: The Case for a Galactic Defense System; Is “Spirituality” so Broadly Defined that Testing for it is Meaningless?; Are We Living in a Computer Simulation?; Luck and Regression to the Mean: One of the Most Fundamental Sources of Error in Human Judgment; Political Obfuscation: Thinking Critically about Public Discourse. COLUMNS: The SkepDoc: Anti-Aging Claims: The Fountain of Youth is Still Only a Legend, by Harriet Hall, M.D.; The Gadfly: Can Working Memory Be Trained to Work Better? by Carol Tavris REVIEWS: “Three books about the Salem Witch Trials and their legacy: The Witches: Salem, by Stacy Schiff; In the Devil’s Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692, by Mary Beth Norton; America Bewitched: America Bewitched: The Story of Witchcraft After Salem, by Owen Davies JUNIOR SKEPTIC: Mammoth Mysteries! Part Two, by Daniel Loxton