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Journal Article

Historical Aspects of the Calaveras Skull Controversy

Ralph W. Dexter
American Antiquity
Vol. 51, No. 2 (Apr., 1986), pp. 365-369
DOI: 10.2307/279949
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/279949
Page Count: 5

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Topics: Skull, Gravel, Mining, Geology, Ethnological museums, Anthropology, Humanity, Lava, Ethnology, Native Americans
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Historical Aspects of the Calaveras Skull Controversy
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Abstract

In February 1866, workers found a human skull deep in a mine in Calaveras County, California, believed at first to be of Pliocene age. It was passed through several hands before reaching J. D. Whitney, State Geologist of California and Professor of Geology at Harvard University. While some scientists accepted it on face value, other scientists and the public press refused to believe it and even ridiculed the claim. Some believed it was a "plant," while others had faith in the reports of the miners, which led to a long controversy. Apparently two skulls became confused in transmission from one person to another, but in the end they were identified as fossilized Indian skulls of modern type, and it was finally admitted that the one taken from the mine was "planted" as a joke.

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