Exposing a Skeptical Hoax

and Confirming the Archaeological Reality of Bimini’s Prehistoric Harbor

In 1968 an 1800-foot long, J-shaped formation of stone blocks was discovered about a mile off the west coast of North Bimini, Bahamas, by a Miami-based biologist, Dr. J. Manson Valentine. The formation was initially thought to resem­ble a collapsed wall or a road, and the unfortunate name “Bimini Road” (or “Bimini Wall”) was attached to it. The site was linked to a 1940 prediction made by the famous “Sleeping Prophet,” Edgar Cayce, wherein Cayce related that a portion of Atlantis would “rise” or be found near Bimini in 1968 and 1969. Sensationalized media coverage immedi­ately linked the site to Atlantis. But not long after its discovery, marine engineer Dr. Dimitri Rebikoff (1979) asserted that the Bimini formation was strikingly similar to ancient harbor works in the Mediterranean. That idea was simply ignored by skeptics who focused on the Atlantis idea and only archaeologist William Donato, writer Frank Joseph, and a few others have seriously considered Rebikoff’s harbor assertion.

The Skeptical Geologists Arrive

Shortly after the discovery of the Bimini Road, a Virginia Beach, Virginia, geologist, Wyman Harrison (1971), as­serted that two stones of the formation were limestone, leading him to conclude that the entire formation was natu­ral limestone that had fractured in place. Harrison added, “at no place are blocks found to be resting on a similar set beneath.” Harrison also examined 30 cylinder-like columns found near the site. He reported that two of the columns were fluted marble and the others were probably cement. He added that a chemical analysis showed that neither the marble nor cement cylinders were from the Bahamas or North America. He reasoned that the cylinder-like columns were probably dumped by modern or historic ships, but made no attempt to compare the columns to similar artifacts that had been discovered at ancient harbors in the Mediterranean. For example, a breakwater at the ancient Roman harbor at Cosa, Italy, is littered with identical cement and marble columns.

With funding from the National Geographic Society, which openly supports the idea that Thera was Atlantis, Ball and Gifford (1980) began by relating that Harrison had demonstrated the Bimini formation was completely natural— based on Harrison’s examination of the two small stone pieces. Ball and Gifford also observed that no blocks on the formation rested on other blocks and that no regular prop stones were present under any of the large blocks. In es­sence, they asserted that all of the blocks were either lying on bottom sand or the solid limestone foundation form­ing the seabed. In addition, they reported that no toolmarks or artifacts were there.

Another skeptical “geologist,” Eugene Shinn, reportedly spent a couple weekends at Bimini. Shinn had only a bachelor’s degree in biology and had worked a few years for the U.S. Geological Survey’s new field office in Miami. He published findings from 17 stone block cores he allegedly took at the formation in the obscure magazine Sea Fron­tiers in 1978. Shinn’s later reports (McKusick & Shinn 1980, Shinn 2004) claimed that all 17 of his 1978 cores “tilted toward deep water” proving that the formation began as a single piece of limestone that formed on an ancient beach. This type of limestone is commonly referred to as “beachrock.” Shinn is the primary skeptic promoted by those who assert that the Bimini Road is natural. However, Shinn’s actual 1978 findings are never cited by skeptics. Rather, the later summaries published in 1980, 1984, and 2004 are utilized. This fact is a key to understanding precisely how the skeptics have perpetrated a hoax at Bimini.

While the idea that Harrison proved the Bimini formation was completely natural limestone from only two sam­ples is absurd, the summary from Shinn is the critical component of the skeptics’ beachrock explanation. Following a May 2005 expedition to Bimini a detailed examination of Shinn’s actual 1978 results was made. As is fully document­ed later, Shinn’s actual 1978 results do not remotely match what he asserted in his later articles. Shinn alleged that a hoax was perpetrated at Bimini in all of his articles—a paradoxical statement that has now been confirmed. Archaeol­ogist Marshall McKusick published a 1984 article in Archaeology relating that the Bimini hoax was perpetrated to in­crease tourism at Bimini and to promote Edgar Cayce. McKusick’s article was a major turning point in academic ar­chaeology’s attack on what they term pseudoscience and cult archaeology. However, it is now clear that Shinn and McKusick perpetrated a hoax of their own utilizing pseudoscience and essentially a fabrication of the results they de­sired.

Interestingly, few archaeologists and geologists actually read Shinn’s original 1978 article because the obscure journal, Sea Frontiers, is difficult to find. Instead, skeptics cite Shinn’s later (1980, 2004) summaries of his 1978 work, which were published in widely circulated journals. For example, Kenneth Feder’s popular archaeology de­bunking textbook, Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology (Feder, 2006), asserts that the Bimini formation has been shown to be the result of “natural erosion processes,” citing only McKusick & Shinn (1980) and Harrison (1971). According to Feder (private correspondence), he had not read Shinn’s actual 1978 article and assumed the later summaries were accurate. Feder is now aware of the discrepancies and is examining the 1978 article.

Furthermore, another aspect of the skeptics’ hoax involves the marble and cement cylinders at Bimini, and Feder reports he is also evaluating that aspect of the reports. While Harrison (1971) reported that the fluted marble and ce­ment cylinders were identical in size and shape and that they did not come from the Bahamas or North America, the later geologists misreported and then falsified the description of them. In 1978, Shinn wrote that the cylinders “turned out to be cement barrels…” and described the two marble pillars as “lengths of marble…” In McKusick and Shinn’s 1980 Nature article, they simply wrote, “some submarine structures described as pillars were hardened con­crete originally stored in wooden barrels and dumped overboard in recent times at the harbor entrance.” They didn’t mention the marble columns—perhaps because they were a complicating factor in their hoax. In McKusick’s 1984 ar­ticle, he simply wrote, “temple pillars are merely hardened cement in discarded barrels,” again ignoring the marble columns. In Shinn’s 2004 Skeptical Inquirer article, he wrote, “(Harrison) showed that so-called columns on a site about two miles from the stones were made of Portland cement,” also ignoring the marble. But Harrison never wrote that the cement cylinders were Portland cement stating that they were formed in an over burnt limekiln process. In brief, Shinn’s 2004 Skeptical Inquirer assertion about Bimini is a fabrication and the descriptions of all the cylinders as Portland cement is a scientific misrepresentation—a hoax. The omission of the marble cylinders in these articles led to acceptance by the archaeological community—as fact—that all of the cylinders were cement. Proof of this is found in Feder’s (2006) archaeology textbook: “Analysis of the so-called columns shows that they are simply hardened concrete of a variety manufactured after A.D. 1800.” Feder (private correspondence) reported that he had not read Harrison’s report in some time.

The essence of the skeptics’ assertions about Bimini is that the formation is natural limestone (beachrock) that fractured in place. There are five critical components in their argument:

1. That nowhere at the site are any blocks resting on the top of other blocks—they assert that there is not even a single example of this.

  1. That all the blocks are laying on the bedrock bottom or on sand.
  2. That no prop stones are present under the blocks.
  3. That no human ancient artifacts—or toolmarks—are present on the site.
  4. That all 17 cores examined from the Bimini Road tilted toward deep water showing they had never been moved. Each of these assertions was directly and exhaustively examined during a May 2005 expedition to Bimini.

In May 2005, an extensive underwater and surface examination of the Bimini formation was conducted with con­stant film documentation. Archaeologist William Donato accompanied Dr. Lora Little, Doris Van Auken, two dive op­erators at Bimini, and the author on the expedition. Photos and video were taken both on the surface, in water, and underwater.

Over 14 hours of scuba diving was made by each of two divers (the present author and archaeologist Bill Donato) to examine various portions of the Bimini Road. All of these activities were continually videotaped by Dr. Lora Little while snorkeling on the surface. Over 1000 photographs were also taken supplemented by bottom videotaping.

Issue 1—Multiple Tiers of Blocks Resting on Blocks. Over a dozen multiple tiers of stone blocks were quickly found in direct contradiction to the geologists’ claims. These were found primarily in an area of the formation that has a large amount of coral and plant growth. Massive schools of fish were present in this area to such a degree that it was difficult to actually see through the many fish. Sharks are often present in this area of the formation, and it can be speculated that the skeptics may have avoided this area or simply viewed it from the surface.

Issue 2—All the Blocks Rest on the Bottom. The May 2005 trip was Bill Donato’s 17th Bimini expedition, while it was only our fourth. The two perspectives at the site (snorkeling from the surface versus diving on the bot­tom) yield vastly different views. In many areas, the surface view clearly showed that in all areas relatively clear of sand, there are many tiers of stone blocks present.

Issue 3—No Underlying Prop Stones are Present. Prop stones were used in the construction of ancient Medi­terranean harbors to level the top layers of blocks forming breakwaters. At Bimini, numerous cube-like prop stones were found under many blocks. Skeptics who have addressed the presence of these blocks have asserted that they were dumped by modern or historic ships. When these blocks were first encountered during the 2005 expedition, they were intriguing, but we immediately realized there was no proof where they came from or when they were placed there. In brief, the idea that they were dumped was initially the most logical explanation. However, during the time we inspected under massive blocks, we were astonished to find many of these rectangular slabs under the larger stones. In all these cases, the massive blocks visible from the surface were literally resting on top of the smaller rec­tangular slabs. In several cases, we found rectangular slabs literally stacked on top of each other essentially leveling the massive block on top of them. There is no way that these slabs could have been dumped from ships. It was one of the most important discoveries and totally contradicts the skeptics’ assertion that there are no prop stones present there.

• Issue 4—No artifacts—or Toolmarks—are Present at Bimini. A bottom surface search confined to small areas yielded many artifactual finds. A unique “u-shaped” mortise cut into a 3-foot square stone was discovered. It is possi­ble it could be natural, but a few ancient stone anchors found in the Mediterranean are virtually identical to it. In ad­dition, we discovered a 3-feet-long, plumb-bob-shaped stone with a large hole bored through its middle. On both ends groove marks were clearly discernable where a rope had been attached. The stone is identical to several ancient stone anchors that have been recovered at Thera. It was covered with a deep layer of coral and carbonate crust on the ex­posed side and was found just to the outside of the main J-shape, toward land. Lora Little also discovered another stone anchor within the main J-shaped formation. It was a large circular stone about 4 feet in diameter with a large hole drilled through the middle.

*Issue 5—That all 17 cores Shinn examined from the Bimini Road tilted toward deep water showing they had never been moved. To understand the geologists’ position on the Bimini formation—that it is a slab of natural beachrock that fractured in place—it’s necessary to briefly describe how beachrock forms. Beachrock forms rapidly in the Bahamas where constant wave motion and tidal flows push sand and small pebbles onto the gradually rising beach. The water has a high concentration of carbonate material in it, some of which settles onto the sand and pebbles that are accumulating on the shore.

In very simple terms, the carbonate material chemically fuses with the sand and pebbles creating a cemented stone that gets, as Shinn relates, as hard as iron. The stone is actually limestone, but on a beach it’s commonly re­ferred to as beachrock. Because the motion of the waves pushes the sand and pebbles upward onto a beach line, the forming beachrock almost always tilts toward the water. If the rock is cut, the interior of beachrock often shows a dis­tinctive bedding pattern of pebbles and sand layers that tilt toward the deep water. Consistent internal bedding of the sand and pebbles and the tilt of the internal layers toward deep water are the critical factors that are used to deter­mine if a beachrock formation is in its natural location or was moved. Shinn’s 1978 findings in Sea Frontiers— supposedly finding that all 17 of his cores tilted toward deep water—is the critical point in the geologists’ assertion about Bimini. If Shinn’s results actually did show that all 17 cores dipped toward deep water, it would be a powerful argument that the Bimini formation is completely natural.

In essence, what Shinn actually found is simple. In his 17 cores, Shinn found perhaps four (23.5 percent) that dipped toward deep water. The remaining 76.5 percent of his cores showed no dipping at all. Thus, the assertion that the 17 core results from the Bimini Road prove the formation is natural beachrock is essentially a hoax fabricated by a deliberate misrepresentation of the actual findings. As Kenneth Feder related, it is a “serious” charge.

The results of the 2005 Bimini expedition have been published in a 29-page Internet article (Little, 2005a) and a 73-minute DVD documentary. A two-hour documentary now in production by NBC will include these findings. But after the release of the article and documentary, a host of European, Canadian, and American archaeologists contact­ed the present author after evaluating the report. The vast majority agrees that the skeptics perpetrated a hoax and agree that Bimini was an ancient harbor.

Dr. Greg Little and his wife Lora are authors of several books on megalithic culture in the Americas, including their recent The A.R.E.’s Search for Atlantis.

BY DR. GREG LITTLE

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