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5 Outrageous Archaeological Hoaxes That Fooled the Experts

#2. Archaeoraptor

National Geographic

Heyyyy! Who's a pretty dinosaur? Who's a cute, stupid, chicken-looking dinosaur? Aw, let me just tickle you behind your ea- AAARGH IT'S GOT MY FINGER!!!

As silly as that picture looks, it's at least scientifically silly. At this point, science has established dinosaurs' relationship with birds (they're the grumpy old great-uncle who hogs all the meat at family dinners) so firmly, everyone but the staunchest of creationists probably at least recognizes the concept. This li'l guy came to light as the "missing link" between birds and dinosaurs, with its adorable birdy wings and slightly less adorable raptor-y murder appendages.

That would be fine and all if it wasn't for the fact that there are no missing links, or rather there are lots and lots of them. Evolution likes to work slowly, with tiny changes over long periods of time. It definitely doesn't decide to slap some wings on a motherfucker between generations -- if it worked like that, maternity wards would witness even more interesting discussions than they already do.

BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images
"Look, honey -- either you've been boning Nick from the basement floor, or we're
up to our ears in some seriously creepy X-Men shit."

Still, for the sake of argument, let's dissect what we know about the Archaeoraptor fossil. We know it was introduced in 1999. We know it is purported proof of a missing link species, settling once and for all the then hot-potato subject of the relationship between dinosaurs and birds. Oh, and we know it's from China, a country so noted for its creative counterfeiting that it's borderline impossible to order beef there and not wind up with a horror-stew of bat and fox meat summoning demons in your belly. Oh, and this groundbreaking discovery was also randomly found by some farmer guy, who made a good profit out of it.

Via Wikipedia
Seems legit.

Soon after its emergence and the obligatory "Holy shit, a new thing!" knee-jerk reaction from the scientific community, an international team of American, Canadian, and Chinese researchers found that the Archaeoraptor was actually a mosaic built from up to five separate species. Luckily, the members of the scientific community who had swallowed this "appropriate for ages 4 and up" level jigsaw fraud were soon able to swap their shame for barely contained rage, as it emerged that two of the fossils the fraudster had used in his puzzle turned out to be extremely valuable ... although they were damn near ruined by the forgery process.

#1. The Solid Muldoon

Via Toronto Sun

It is unlikely that the Solid Muldoon of the 1870s fooled many people in the scientific community. Hell, Charles Darwin himself was known to throw skeptical comments in its direction. Still, its sheer audacity makes it the only possible #1 candidate for this particular list.

The man behind the Solid Muldoon was George Hull: entrepreneur, trickster, and infamous creator of the Cardiff Giant, a "petrified giant" that had been making profitable sideshow rounds a few years earlier until someone pointed out that it was in fact just a stone statue. The Solid Muldoon was his second attempt at nude stone giants, and this time, it was personal. Hull wanted his new fake XXXL corpse to be as realistic as possible, so he commissioned an artist to fashion it from mortar, rock dust, clay, plaster, ground bones, blood, and actual meat, all kiln-baked to create that exact "petrified man" experience. Am ... am I the only one who's getting serial killer vibes from this?

Via Solid Muldoon
A man who commissions a 7-foot man-shaped sausage and lures people to see it is a man with a fridge full of faces.

Using different middlemen and securing endorsements from influential newspapers and bullshitter extraordinaire P.T. Barnum alike, Hull managed to convince the public that the Solid Muldoon was not only worth seeing, but totally the real deal, unlike that stupid Cardiff Giant hoax some absolute asshat had been scamming people with lately. According to some accounts, Hull even managed to fool scientists with his creation, because he had hidden a real skeleton and other human bits inside it. This, if true, raises a good few questions that will in no way haunt your dreams tonight.

decisiveimages/iStock/Getty Images
"You can tell by my halo that I barely ever murder anyone and hide their corpses inside giant mortar monsters."

The figure gained its nickname after a popular tune of the same name. It quickly rose from the talk of the town to the talk of half the country, to the point where P.T. Barnum himself started throwing money at Hull in order to acquire his 7-foot license to print money. Sadly, all good things must come to an end, whether it was because the meat in Solid Muldoon finally went too vile to handle or because Hull's business partner snapped and revealed the Muldoon as a hoax. Public interest waned, and that was that. In a totally-not-creepy-at-all move (considering that some suspect it actually contained human parts), the Muldoon was buried in a roadside grave in Beulah Valley, Colorado.

As for Hull, its creator, a man who built petrified part-meat puppets for fun and profit: He disappeared from the annals of show business history. He may have returned to his day job, or he may have continued his experiments in fusing stone and flesh into one never-quite-alive, never-quite-dead mass of anguish. Hell, he may even have tried the trick on himself, turning into an immortal stone-clay-flesh creature, hell-bent on increasing his ever-growing underground army of Solid Muldoons. But he's definitely not hiding behind your couch right now, slowly stirring a pot of mortar and ready to pounce. Ha, that would be insane.

Say, what was that sound?


Pauli Poisuo is probably not a forgery. Follow him on Twitter.

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