• Gunung Padang: Open Letter to Danny


    Dear Danny,

    I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my comments on Gunung Padang (here and here). Naturally, your comments have raised a number of further questions on my part. I’ll be addressing the points you brought forward, and quoting in part from your comments; if you feel at any time that I am cherry-picking or unfairly taking your words out of context, please let me know.

    A clarifying note: I am not disputing that the surface structures on the terraces constitute an archaeological site, including much of what is inside the fence. At issue are your dating of those remains,  your claims of multiple megalithic building levels going back twenty thousand years or more, and a “stepped pyramid” structure composed of terraces of horizontally laid andesite columns.

    And now, to your comments.

    I am a bit upset to see my data has been going out wildly in the internet without proper descriptions and explanations and of course without my consent since we have not been published them yet (in scientific journal), so it is supposed to still be considered confidential. But it is inevitable in this case, and on the other hand, I should be grateful also to see many people around the world got interested regardless of negative or positive comments. Of course, anybody would easily miss the real picture if only based their analysis on unauthorized pieces of information on the internet.

    I tried to be pretty thorough before writing my critique of your work at Gunung Padang. I sought out every morsel of information I could find that you had released on the net. I watched a number of videos where you were interviewed, or where you toured the site with visiting alternative scholars, like Andrew Collins, Robert Schoch, and Semir Osmanagic of Bosnian “Pyramid” fame.  I surveyed a wide sample of media reports  and articles about your findings, both credulous and skeptical. Now, you say we should not make judgments or criticisms until your findings have been formally published—but your reservations do not seem to apply to the Atlantis True Believers who have been merrily building great towers of speculation on exactly the same data as I had access to. In effect, you have handed control of the Gunung Padang narrative over to the lunatic fringe, while telling those of us with any professional expertise to shut up and wait for the data. There’s something wrong with that picture.

    Why you are putting yourself as a geologist who really knows about the nature of columnar joints and the columnar joints in Gunung Padang? You are misunderstood that columnar joints always vertical in nature; in fact, they could be oriented in any direction but they will always perpendicular to the cooling surface (which is about similar to the rock layer/bed).

    Well, it’s true I’m not a geologist, any more than you’re an archaeologist. But that is, in fact, exactly what I said. Instead of ‘splaining it to me, you could perhaps point it out to Graham Hancock—who, as I previously quoted, believes that “…columnar basalt in its natural state is found only in the vertical formations.” Or you could even explain it to geologist Robert Schoch, who has this to say: “A key point is that these natural columns form vertically, and that is how they remain if not rearranged by humans or tilted en masse by geological processes.” And yet you later say in your comments:

    Many geologists who came to the site including Robert Schoch have similar thought with me.

    Okay. Who?  Which geologists? I’m not terrifically impressed at Dr. Schoch being trotted out as an authority.  On the one hand, a junior-college-level science instructor who is also a True Believer in some boringly fringe stuff, and apparently knows less than even I do about columnar jointing; and on the other hand—hey, not a vulcanologist, either. Which brings me to my next reason to continue being skeptical.

    You are a seismologist, and (I understand) a good one. But why is it that your vulcanologist colleagues, whose major expertise lies in interpreting volcanic deposits, are (a) unimpressed by your stratigraphic reconstruction, and (b) see nothing particularly unusual about the horizontal jointing at Gunung Padang? You have claimed they did not bother to examine your remote sensing results, but I do not find that credible. I do not want to argue from authority, but that is a major red flag for me.

    Which brings me to a question. I am both unclear and dubious about the surface distribution of the horizontally jointed andesite, which you interpret as the artificial “skin” of a step pyramid. How fully have you mapped it? You uncovered an area on the eastern side of the hill, but I could see no mention that you had found traces of your artificial “skin ” on the north or west faces. And I know you didn’t find it on the south, because that’s where you posit an artificial embankment of earth and river cobbles. The artists’ bold reconstructions of your Atlantean step pyramid are assuming too much, I think.

    In this connection, I would be interested in your comments on the “other” Gunung Padang, the one in Cilacap. The outcrops look strikingly similar, and I see your colleague Ali Akbar has already declared this to be an ancient megalithic site similar to Gunung Padang Ciajur, only with more advanced stoneworking techniques (i.e., the so-called “locking joint.”) But can you really look at the outcrop below and deny that it is a natural formation?


    Next, we’ll move on to the carbon dates. Here is what you said:

    Now about the carbon dates. We have sampled and dated more than you have pointed out in your article. Most of samples were sent to BETA Analytic for the analysis.

    You have radiocarbon dates that have not been published—fine, I look forward to seeing them in your formal publication, as I already said in my previous article. But I actually did, with much effort, manage to find six more dates—in screen caps taken from a slide show presented by Graham Hancock. I’d quite like to know where he got them…anyway, they’ve been added to the table, with asterisks.

    However, they do little if anything to help your case; they are still wildly scattered, inconsistent, too few for reliability, and fatally flawed in a way I shall discuss below.  I am also wondering about the three “new” dates that form pairs with dates I had already seen, the samples at 3.9m, 7.5m, and 11.3m: are these replicate measurements of the same samples?

    We have four carbon dates associated with Layer 2 that suggest an age of about 7 ka consistently, though we still don’t know exactly the nature of the organic remains but I think it is fair enough to assume that the organic carbons that we dated comes from bio-organisms activity that occurred during the constructions or after, and we have sampled them carefully not to be contaminated by recent bio-organic activities. The carbon dates of Layer 3 (older) varies from, 13 ka to 25 ka, so we don’t know the more precise date but it seems to be Pre-Holocene (it means at the time before civilization that we knows of).

    Are those the four dates shown on my revised table? If so, they do not look impressively consistent to me, especially if two of them are replicate measurements. But it is the second part of your comment that blows away your whole house of cards. No, you cannot reasonably make that assumption. I said this previously, and I will say it again: if you do not know what you are sampling—if you do not know the cultural relevance of what you are sampling—then it does not matter how carefully you collect your samples, and it does not matter how professional the lab is: your samples will be worthless. Your dates will be meaningless.

    Now let’s take a quick look at how these dates have been presented by the Atlantis crowd, without drawing any objection or clarification from you. I quoted Graham Hancock in a previous post:

    Hancock: First the drill cores contained evidence – fragments of columnar basalt – that man-made megalithic structures lay far beneath the surface. Secondly the organic materials brought up in the drill cores began to yield older and older dates – 3,000 BC to 5,000 BC, then 9,600 BC as the drills bit deeper, then around 11,000 BC, then, 15,000 BC and finally at depths of 90 feet and more an astonishing sequence of dates of 20,000 BC to 22,000 BC and earlier. (Magicians of the Gods, 2015: 36)

    Now, you know this is nonsense—you know this is a gross misrepresentation of the C14 dates. Your very own data indicate you ran into the top of the natural andesite body at 15m depth; and yet Hancock implies you were taking culturally relevant C14 samples at nearly twice that depth. It is this kind of misrepresentation that you have allowed to go unchallenged, to the point where blatant and baseless nonsense has become the default narrative about Gunung Padang.

    I’ll be addressing more of your comments in the next part of this letter. Just a personal note to end this part: Danny, you really disappointed me. When I first heard the rumours about Gunung Padang, I was excited and intrigued; I hoped it would be another fabulous groundbreaker, like Gobeckli Tepe. Instead, as I looked at what evidence was available, it began to look more and more like another “Bosnian pyramid”—that is to say, it began to look more and more like a hill.

    Category: FeaturedScienceSkepticism

    Article by: Rebecca Bradley


    1. In the above article, you quoted:

      “Graham Hancock—who, as I previously quoted, believes that “…columnar
      basalt in its natural state is found only in the vertical formations.” Or you
      could even explain it to geologist Robert Schoch, who has this to say: “A
      key point is that these natural columns form vertically, and that is how
      they remain if not rearranged by humans or tilted en masse by geological

      As a geologist myself of over 30 years experience, all I can say is that neither
      Graham Hancock nor Robert Schoch are correct. The fact of the matter
      is that these natural columns form perpendicular to the cooling surface
      regardless of its orientation as stated in your article. The cooling surface
      can be the sides of a dike, feeder vent, or paleovalley.

      Go look at the pictures in:

      Geology Word of the Week: C is for Columnar Jointing Posted by
      Evelyn Mervine, AGU Blogsphere

      and Dikes, Colorado Geological Survey

      “Horseshoe Gulch – This dike in Horseshoe Gulch has unusual
      horizontal columnar jointing.”

      Also, a zone of non-vertical hexangonal curvi-columnar (fanning) joints,
      which is called the “entablature,” often forms within multi-tiered basalt
      lava flows. This is discussed and illustrated in:

      Long, P.E. and Wood, B.J., 1986. Structures, textures, and cooling histories
      of Columbia River basalt flows. Geological Society of America Bulletin,
      97(9), pp.1144-1155.

      and Lyle, P., 2000. The eruption environment of multi-tiered columnar
      basalt lava flows. Journal of the Geological Society, 157(4), pp.715-722.



    2. One can simply stroll over to https://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images;_ylt=AwrSbnAVsCdZRGkALblXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTEyYTN1MDl1BGNvbG8DZ3ExBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDVUkyQzNfMQRzZWMDc2M-?p=columnar+basalt&fr=tightropetb

      and get a good feel of how columnar basalt can be oriented in non-vertical positions that can result in deceptive “steps”, “ladders”, “plazas” and tight fitting joints that appear man-made. The fact that these have folkloric toponyms like “Devil’s Causeway”, “Devil’s Postpile” and are attributed to anthropomorphic powerful beings illustrates how deceptive these can be. Natural processes can produce form that seemingly “must be made by man”. In any case, one must first thoroughly investigate the “natural” prior to making extraordinary claims about human or supernatural causation.

    3. Dear Rebecca,
      I hope I have a wrong impression that you just want to argue and attack, not really want to have discussions. If you are really serious about finding the truth about what’s happening in Gunung Padang, I think you really have to come to the site and I would be happy to explain all about it or answers all the questions you have .
      You posted many important and critical questions here, but it would be impossible to answer them clearly here . For now, let me clarify things that you said:
      – I have a Ph.D in Geology from Caltech, not a seismologist
      – You are asking about columnar joints in Cilacap: I have not visited the site, but judging just from several pictures that I have (including yours), it seems to be a natural columnar-joint rock formation.
      – You said “Okay. Who? Which geologists? (who agree with me)”…Well strange questions, I am not sure what you are asking Rebecca. I have been asked several times to lead groups of geologists and geophysics who visited Gunung Padang (from Indonesian Association of Geologists and Indonesian Associations of Geophysics). And do you aware that I am not working alone in Gunung Padang but with an great team of archeologists, geologists (including volcanologist) and geophysicists?
      – You said “why my volcanologist colleagues do not agree with me”… Well, as far as I am concern, only ONE volcanologist who never done research in Gunung Padang but somehow he persistently against me as he was team-up with a group of archeologists who against research in Gunung Padang.
      – More about columnar joint rocks, Bill Birkeland above has also explained similar things to what I said. I am sure Robert Schoch also understand columnar-joint very well, perhaps you misquote what he said… anyway, not my business.
      Okay, that’s for now. If you’d like to continue discussing about Gunung Padang please let me know by email so I will be aware about what you wrote…
      Thank you for your interest in Gunung Padang and our research.

      Kind regards,

    4. Furthermore about columnar joint rocks (in Gunung Padang). Site of pictures that posted by Jerry Drawhorn’s is excellent examples of natural columnar-joint rocks. To understand whether the columnar rocks is still in natural state or have been arranged by human, people not only consider their position (i.e. vertical, horizontal, or dips) but also need to see the orientation of the layer. In natural rock formation, if the orientation of the columnar rocks is horizontal, than the layer must be at right angle to it or vertical, and vice versa. Beside the layer, we should also exercise the “fabric” of the columnar rocks. In natural rock formation, the surfaces of each columnar rock is packed a very tight in the surrounding other columnar rocks. No other materials or (fine-grained) matrix in between the rock columns. Hence, their sizes, or diameters are generally similar. Columnar rocks in Gunung Padang are clearly not having these natural properties, e.g. the layering is horizontal but the orientation of columnar rocks is also horizontal, each columnar rocks have been cut about 1 meter in average (not a continuous columns bounded by the tops and the bottoms of the layer), the surfaces of rock columns are not interlocked and there is fine grained matrix in between piles of rock columns, the size of columnar rocks in a stacks are not always similar but can also be extremely different ( a 10-cm-diameter column can be placed right next to 50-cm diameter column), etc. And there are lots of rock artifacts (rocks that have been chisseled) among the stacks of the columnar rocks in Gunung Padang. I wish I can attach photos here to show an example …

      1. Danny: As usual, it will take me some time to reply – partly because of the press of other work, and partly because, out of respect to you, I want my responses to be well-researched and thoughtful. So please bear with me. I’m responding now just to say: if you wish to attach photos, email them to me, and I will be very happy to put them up.

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