The Nampa figurine

The figurine from Nampa (Idaho, USA)
The figurine from Nampa (Idaho, USA)

A small clay figurine of a human was found in 1889 at Nampa, Idaho. It came from a well boring, at a depth of around 90 metres, where the clay geological stratum of the Glenns Ferry Formation dates to the Pliocene-Pleistocene transition, around 2 million years ago. This stratum is sealed by a basalt layer. It is about 37 mm long and appears to be a representation of a clothed woman. The surface had concretions of iron and patches of anhydrous red oxide. Clay balls were found at the same general depth, displaying similar iron oxide discolouration. American archaeologists at the time of the discovery believed that were similarities between this figurine and those of Upper Palaeolithic Europe.

The difficulties with an object of this nature are immense. The evidence as recorded supports the genuineness of the discovery and it is likely that the figurine had spent a considerable time below the ground at the site. However, we do not know how well sealed the clay layer was by the basalt at this spot; in other words, is it possible that the figurine is of much more recent date (as we would expect from our current understanding of how humans colonised the Americas)?

Explaining the find

There are numerous mechanisms by which the figurine could have worked its way into the Pliocene-Pleistocene clay (through fissures, through mining activity and so on). It need not have lain at the 90 metre depth reported, but could have been pushed there by the drill. It is also interesting to note the clay balls found at the same general depth, close to the solid bedrock. This might suggest that a variety of material had descended fairly rapidly through the deposit, by a mechanism currently unknown but by no means mysterious or supernatural, to end up at a boundary through which it could not pass. This is familiar enough at a much smaller scale in archaeological stratigraphy: worms are responsible for slowly burying objects ever deeper as they undermine them when burrowing.

The so-called Venus of Willendorf
The so-called Venus of Willendorf (Austria), a typical Upper Palaeolithic figurine

While this explanation may sound like special pleading, one important point does remain. There is not one other single artefact of human manufacture from the whole of North or South America that is anywhere near as early as this, by a factor of one hundred! If the Nampa figurine were genuinely as ancient as the claims for it, then there ought to be similar objects from the same geological era. Although there have been claims for such objects, they are mostly even less convincing than in this instance.

It is also not true that this figurine resembles figurines from the European Palaeolithic. As can be seen from the so-called ‘Venus of Willendorf’, the typical figurine of this type has exaggerated female sexual characteristics, with enlarged breasts, broad hips and enormous buttocks; others have prominent vulvae. Although there is considerable variety among the figurines, all of them have this exaggerated femininity and none has the stick-figure quality of the clay model from Nampa.

There is a good discussion of the object on C Feagans’ blog, A Hot Cup of Joe.

21 Replies to “The Nampa figurine”

  1. When drilling boreholes that have no scientific need for an intact rock core (such as a well), the only pieces brought up to the surface will very small rock fragments and chippings in the “flush” (Water pumped down the centre of the drill string to cool the bit).

    Where intact cores are brought to the surface they are of quite small diameter – often not more than 3 cm – hence the story that this object was bought up by a drilling team seems fairly unlikely. It does not have the damage one would associate with either method, nor does it seem physically possible to have extracted it intact from depth in the late 1800’s.

    1. In the 1800s it would have been a cable rig which a bailer would have been used to get cuttings out would have been able to bring anything this up

    2. I thought the same thing when I read this entry. However, I don’t know how sloppy the drilling technique was back then, or how much geological information was needed to warrant a different technique for the drilling. On the surface, I agree with you. The comment below about the book entry would confirm your view.

  2. It is still and always has been my belief that this continent was occupied much earlier than ‘current’ history and archaeological findings dictate. I believe with all my heart and especially my brain, that history has it backwards; and humans did not come to this continent via the Bering Strait as everyone seems to believe, but that they cam the other way, from the south via the South American continent. How, is still a bit up in the air, shall we say. But perhaps, as demonstrated in the 40’s and 50’s by the Kon Tiki voyage, it was the Polynesian peoples who made it here first. This is why we see such extreme similarities in the construction of Balinese architecture and South and Central American architecture especially. One needs only look at the entrances to temples in Bali and that region and then compare them with Mayan ( for example ) temple entrances. Also, the Gods seem to be very similar if not the same as well as the creation myths of both cultures. Floods, catastrophic volcano’s and tsunami’s. How about Lemuria and it’s legends. How about the ruins one finds on the islands of the Marquesas in French Polynesia and Easter Island? I think there really is something to this theory and it’s purposely being ignored. I mean, come on. I can’t be the only person who has thought of this. Still, I also believe there were already beings here on the North, Central and South American Continents before even the ancestors of the Polynesian/Balinese/Micronesian/Marquesan people’s ever made it here. This is why we find the Ooparts we do and why we find Caucasian bones in many of the mounds in the American east and midwest. Most of those have been destroyed and plowed over and hidden by certain elements in our government now, but the evidence is still there if one knows where to look. We don’t find Norse land markers where we do on the North American continent just because nor do we find evidence of Phoenician writing and sites where they did some blacksmithing work. Or Goldsmithing work, etc. etc. Why do we find coins from the Roman’s? From the Phoenicians once again? Or how about Ireland? How about ancient stone anchors off the coast of California that are Chinese? Well, that’s probably enough to think about for now. Don’t have such a closed mind. It does no one any justice. Especially yourself.

    1. It’s nice that you believe these things, but those of us that base our beliefs on evidence disagree.

    2. Well, its very interesting that you have researched and come to these conclusions, one should not that architecture does not determine relatedness, while certain region may have similar architecture shared by word of mouth, there really isn’t another way to successfully build stone structures than the ways used across the world without machinery. If you have 10 groups of one million people, completely Isolated from each other, and you give them one thousand years, the engineers of these groups of people, through trial and error, are bound to find similar results, as there are very few ways to build. Pyramids, are not evidence of relatedness, because humans model what they build off of what they can build with their hands. If you pile up some soil on the ground, you will find the rough shape of a pyramid (cone). Pyramids just work. It is extremely difficult for any society to build a massive structure with any other shape. The same goes for entrances. There are just a few ways to build an entrance out of stone, and it is entirely possible that different unrelated cultures came to the same conclusions of what is a good entrance. Floods are simply something that any human can be afraid of. Floods happen everywhere, and human religion is simply a system of being a suck up to what ever you may believe causes what you fear. A large bang came from the sky and lit up the night? What else can make banging noises and bright light? Humans? It must be a very powerful one: Maybe if we are nice to him or her, they won’t do that. Also, race is not something that can be determined by bones, there are the same bones in caucasians as in other humans. I’m not sure where your source for that is. I do appreciate your open mind. However, the ideas of an open mind become important once they are informed.

  3. At the depth of the well, this would have likely been an artesian spring, which would have forced the object to the surface. You don’t need a scientific core drilling for it to reach the surface.

  4. A Mr. McGee attacked the honesty of Messrs. Kurtz and Duffes. Mr. Wright repeats McGee’s assertions in his 1894 second edition of Man and the Glacial Period:
    ‘It is a fact,’ says Mr.McGee, ‘that one of the best known geologists of the world chanced to visit Nampa while the boring was in progress, and the figurine and the pretty fiction were laid before him. He recognized the figurine as a toy such as the neighbouring Indians give their children, and laughed at the story; whereupon the owner of the object enjoined secrecy, pleading: ‘Don’t give me away; I’ve fooled a lot of fellows already, and I’d like to fool some more.’ (pp. xix-xx).
    Wright, G. Frederick. 1894. Man and the glacial period, Second Edition. D. Appleton and Company. New York.

  5. 1) Guys drilling wells seldom have any big interest in foiling the angry scientists who want to believe one theory over another… All the people so ANGRY at this find, are creating a conspiracy theory of well diggers, AS IF…

    2) If you meet data with hostility, instead of continue to question until you KNOW the answer, you’re not a scientist, you’re an anti scientist..

    3) Hubris The same egotism which has led to new knowledge being challenged and suppressed, comes from the REAL wackos, the angry “scientists” who meet new information with rage.

    Maybe the theories of Darwin, someone without knowledge of genetics, who’s theories were based on mere superficial appearance of animals, rather than a contemporary understanding of genetics, or natural selection, or heredity, or mutation, are flawed? That suggestion alone causes all the anti scientists to react with RELIGIOUS RAGE and start their Spanish Inquisitions… Darwin’s theory was simplistic and flawed from the beginning. Deal with it religious zealots. You are the flat earthers… And your theory is a religion, not science…

    1. Darwin’s theory is strengthened by genetic understanding. Not flawed or weakened. Not sure you can say the same for your theory however. Try looking deeper in the mirror.

  6. What I think to often gets overlooked is some of the other research. I was taught in school that everyone that came to North America pre-Columbus came across the Bering Strait at about 14000 years ago. Now we know that the Polynesians came to South America via of all things research into chicken DNA. Chickens are not any more native than pigs are. Then there are the pre-clovis sites. And then there is Hueyatlaco, Mexico. This site was worked by many Scientists following proper protocols that supported an earlier civilization than could be explained by people crossing the Bering Strait. However, it went against the narrative of what the main stream believed. The site after several years of work was destroyed by the Mexican Government.

  7. I believe this is an authentic artifact, created many millions of years ago. On my own site, I have similar artifacts/effigies, which I believe are evidence that there existed, many years ago, very intelligent civilizations who created intricate works of art such as this. But for whatever reason, the scientific community seems hesitant to delve too deep into our ancient history.

    Macario Artifacts

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