My work is inspired by my studies in the Vedic literature of ancient India, especially the Puranas, the Vedic historical writings. The Puranas contain accounts of extreme human antiquity—accounts of humans existing much further back in time than most of today’s scientists are prepared to accept, many millions of years. My book, Forbidden Archeology, documents archaeological evidence that is consistent with the Puranic accounts of extreme
human antiquity. But the Puranas also mention another topic that interests me, namely the worldwide presence of Vedic culture in the deep past. I have not systematically researched that topic, but from time to time, I run across evidence that appears to support it.
My guru, Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896–1977), occasionally spoke and wrote about the worldwide presence of Vedic culture in ancient times. For example, in a lecture at a Christian monastery in Melbourne, Australia, on April 6, 1972, he said, “Somebody was telling me that in Australia also there is some [ancient] Shiva temple here. . . . So the archaeological investigation has found so many relics, and in the Vedic literature we also find the mention of all the islands, sapta-dvipa, seven islands. Seven islands means Asia, Europe, North America, South America, Africa, Australia, and Oceania. These are mentioned already in the Vedic literature. So it is not that the world was not known to Vedic culture. It was fully known.”
One of the Vedic religious practices is worship of physical representations of God in temples. These physical representations are called murtis (which means, literally, “forms”). In his book, Teachings of Lord Chaitanya, my guru, after listing some famous murtis (forms) in temples in India, said, “Many other forms are also situated in various places on the earth. . . . It is indicated that this earth is divided into seven islands, which are the seven continents, and it is understood that on each and every island there are similar forms, but at the present moment these are found only in India.” In other words, in ancient times, Vedic murtis (forms of God, or demigods like Shiva) were worshiped not only in India in Asia, but in all continents. That would include North America. With that in mind, consider the following account of a relevant discovery (my main source is the article “Update on the Mysterious Bell Found in Coal” by David Woetzel, published in Creation Matters, vol. 18, no. 6, Nov.–Dec. 2013).
In 1944, Newton R. Anderson, then ten years old, was shoveling coal into the furnace in the basement of his house in Buckhannon, a town in Upshur County, West Virginia. A large chunk of coal fell from the shovel to the floor and broke into two pieces. Part of a metal object protruded from one of the pieces of coal. Anderson set that piece of coal aside, and over the next few days worked to extract the metal object embedded in the coal. It turned out to be a bell, about seven inches tall. He showed it to his parents, who displayed it on a piece of furniture in the living room of their house. The bell became an object of conversation and eventually came to the attention of Christian creationist authors, who wrote about it in books and tracts.
David Woetzel did some research on the coal that Anderson was shoveling. In his above-mentioned article, Woetzel stated: “In the 1940s, a neighbor named Carl Hoylman delivered coal to the Anderson household. He negotiated with landowners to extract the coal, mined it, and delivered it. The bituminous coal found in West Virginia’s Upshur County is dated as Carboniferous Period and Pennsylvanian Epoch, which is supposed to have lasted from roughly 323 to 298 million years ago.” If the bell is that old, that contradicts the modern scientific understanding, according to which humans like us, capable of making a metal bell, came into existence less than 200,000 years ago. But the date is consistent with the Puranas, which tell us that humans like us have existed for hundreds of millions of years.
But here is a detail that is really interesting to me: the top of the handle of the bell is formed into a winged, kneeling, humanlike figure with hands clasped in prayer. Anderson initially took it to be some kind of demon. When I first saw a picture of the bell, I immediately recognized the winged figure as Garuda, the winged carrier of the Vedic deity Vishnu. The bell is exactly like bells used in temple worship in India. Other researchers have also noticed that the figure on the bell handle resembles Garuda. In his article, Woetzel stated, “The wings and kneeling position of the bell figurine are typical of Garuda.” So is this evidence for a Vedic presence in North America, specifically for the worship of Vedic murtis, hundreds of millions of years ago? It is a possibility I am willing to consider.
Of course, this is not the best-documented case. It would have been better if Anderson had saved the block of coal in which the bell was embedded and left some of the coal attached to the bell. That way, we would not have to rely simply on his word that he found the bell embedded in coal in 1944. Personally, from what is known of Anderson, I find him credible. And in 2007, David Woetzel arranged for Anderson to take a lie detector (polygraph) test. I know such tests are not perfect, but they are one factor to consider. L. Stan Fulmer administered the test. Fulmer asked Anderson: “Did you find the bell in question encased in coal as you described?” He responded, “Yes.” He was also asked, “Did you give false information as to how you found the bell in question?” Anderson’s response was, “No.” Fulmer concluded in his report, “Mr. Newton R. Anderson was truthful… No deception was indicated.”
Both Anderson and Woetzel are young earth creationists who believe the earth is only a few thousand years old. Their explanation for the bell is that it was being used by pagan worshipers in the Middle East perhaps four thousand years ago, just before the Biblical flood. During the flood the bell was carried to North America, with heaps of vegetation, which rapidly turned to coal. Skeptics disagree. For example, Gordon Hudson, in his article “The Mystery of the Bell Found in Coal” (published in Gordon’s Blog, accessed at http://www.escalpemos.org/2010/07/mystery-of-bell-found-in-coal.html), suggested the possibility that “the bell appeared to be in coal but was actually in a concretion of coal slurry and coal lumps hardened over time so that it appeared inside a contiguous lump of coal.” In other words, some years before 1944, somebody in West Virginia had a Garuda bell from India, and dropped it onto a coal deposit, into a mixture of coal dust and water that later hardened around the bell. Then this coal was mined, and delivered to the Anderson house.
I don’t agree with either Anderson’s four thousand year idea or Hudson’s recent concretion idea. The possibility I consider most likely is that over 300 million years ago, at a time when Vedic culture was spread all over the world, there was a Vedic temple in what is now known as West Virginia. The bell was used by the priests of that temple. Over vast periods of time, the temple was destroyed, but somehow the bell was preserved in plant deposits that turned into coal.
For many people, the idea that humans like us could have existed 300 million years ago in North America is hard to believe. But the Garuda bell is not the only interesting evidence found in coal in North America. In December of 1862, a scientific journal called The Geologist (London, vol. 5, p. 470) published this statement: “In Macoupin County, Illinois, the bones of a man were recently found on a coal bed capped with two feet of slate rock, ninety feet below the surface of the earth.” According to the Illinois State Geological Survey, the coal at that place is from the Pennsylvanian epoch of the Carboniferous period—the same age as the West Virginia coal that was delivered to the Anderson house.
And on November 27, 1948, Frank J. Kenwood, of Sulphur Springs, Arkansas, signed an affidavit in which he stated, “While I was working in the Municipal Electric Plant in Thomas, Oklahoma, in 1912, I came upon a solid chunk of coal which was too large to use. I broke it with a sledgehammer. This iron pot fell from the center, leaving the impression or mould of the pot in the piece of coal.” The coal, which came from the Wilburton mine in Oklahoma, is about 312 million years old.
What I find especially significant about the Garuda bell found by Newton Anderson is that, in my opinion, it provides possible evidence not only for the Vedic idea that humans like us were existing in the deep past but also for the idea that some of those humans, outside India, were part of a global Vedic culture.
Michael A. Cremo is the author, with Richard Thompson, of the underground classic, Forbidden Archeology: The Hidden History of Human Race. He has also written Human Devolution: A Vedic Alternative to Darwin’s Theory. (See HumanDevolution.com).