The Brownsville Skull: Case Not Closed

The Forbidden Archaeologist

I discussed the Brownwood Skull in this column in Atlantis Rising #88 (July/August 2011). The partial skull and some other human bones were discovered near Brownwood, Texas, in November of 1932, by road construction workers who were using dynamite to blast a limestone ledge. After one set of explosions on a huge limestone boulder, the workers noticed some human bones in the limestone debris. The bones came from limestone belonging to the Pennsylvanian, a subperiod of the Carboniferous. The Pennsylvanian extends from 298.9 million to 338.2 million years ago. The Brownwood skull thus provides possible evidence for a human presence during that era.

The column inspired reactions from skeptics. On December 4, 2011, Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews wrote on his Bad Archaeology website: “What worries me about this is the idea that a skull can be blown out of a limestone boulder and still be recognizable.”

However, recognizable fossils have sometimes been blasted out of limestone, including one of the most famous in the history of mainstream archaeology—the first skull of Australopithecus, discovered by Raymond Dart in South Africa. The history of this discovery, recorded in my book Forbidden Archeology (pp. 661-662) is instructive. In 1924, Josephine Salmons, one of Dart’s students, saw a fossil baboon skull at the home of a friend. She brought it to Dart, who learned that it came from the Buxton limestone quarry near Taung, South Africa. Dart sent a colleague, geologist R. B. Young, to the quarry, where he observed a limestone wall. When sections of the limestone wall were blasted, Young collected fossils from the debris and sent them to Dart. One of them was the Taung skull, the first fossil of Australopithecus.

Fitzpatrick-Matthews then offered another objection to the Brownwood skull coming from a limestone boulder. He said, “In fact, if we go back to contemporary reports, we find a very different story.” He then reproduced a story (“Discovery of Skull in Texas Stirs Scientists”) from a local newspaper, the Kerrville Mountain Sun (Thursday January 5, 1933, page 2). The newspaper report said, “It was thought at first the skeleton was imbedded in solid limestone, but closer study showed the bones lay under a heavy ledge.” Accepting this, Fitzpatrick-Matthews wrote: “So, it was determined within a few weeks of the discovery that it wasn’t ‘blown out of a huge limestone boulder.’ Why do you think Michael Cremo doesn’t quote this element of the discovery?”

One clue comes from the Kerrville Mountain Sun article itself. Right at the beginning of the article, the author says, “A story on the find appeared in the current publication of Science Service, Washington, D.C.” Almost everything that follows in the Kerrville Mountain Sun article is either a rewrite or direct quotation from the Science Service publication. This includes the conclusion that the skeleton did not come from the solid limestone. I verified this by checking the Science Service publication, the Science News Letter of December 10, 1932.

Not all of the researchers who, according to the Kerrville Mountain Sun, came to the site agreed with the Science Service conclusion. The dissenter I am talking about was Cyrus Newton Ray, an osteopathic surgeon with an interest in archaeology. Ray founded the Texas Archeological and Paleontological Society in 1928. The timeline of his involvement with the Brownwood find is significant.

The discovery was made on November 14, 1932. The initial local newspaper reports were not dismissive. After reading such a newspaper report, Cyrus Newton Ray visited Brownwood to conduct an investigation. Ray (1933, p. 95), describing his research in Brownwood, said, “The facts were carefully gathered from the finders while the matter was still fresh in the minds, the site was visited in their company, the bones were examined and measurements of them were made.” Ray thought the evidence indicated the bones could be of extreme antiquity.

If the human bones were in fact millions of years old, this would contradict the ideas about human origins held by many scientists. Word of the Brownwood discovery soon attracted the attention of such scientists. On November 22, a few days after Ray’s visit, geologist Elias. H. Sellards and anthropologist James E. Pearce, both of the University of Texas at Austin, came to Brownwood. A dismissive account of the Brownwood find based on the opinions of Sellards and Pearce was published by Science Service in the December 10 issue of its Science News Letter. This publication was widely distributed by Science Service to newspapers, which then began to publish similarly negative accounts of their own.

When Cyrus Ray saw the Science Service report, he concluded, based on his own research at the site, that it “omitted some significant facts.” (Ray, 1933, p. 95). Ray therefore published his own report (“The Brownwood Skull”) in Bulletin of the Texas Archeological and Paleontological Society (1933, vol. 5, pp. 95-98). (Ray, p. 95) stated, “It appears that a road construction company was engaged in blasting away the face of a Pennsylvanian formation limestone ledge and crushing it in a rock crusher nearby. When the work was started there were some large detached boulders standing a few feet below the face of the ledge. One of the boulders that appeared to be of solid limestone and of an approximate size of twelve feet square was shattered into small fragments by numerous heavy charges of explosive. Shortly thereafter the truck drivers began to find bones amongst the limestone fragments as they were shoveled into the rock crusher.” This indicates that the bones did come from the boulder, and were not from the ledge. The bones included a femur, a lower jaw, and the frontal bone of the skull.

Ray inspected the bones. He found them to be “hard and heavy and to have a stony clink when knocked together similar to that of some fossil human skull bones from the Texas coast” (1933, p. 96). This indicated the bones were heavily mineralized, fossilized. Ray (1933, p. 96) added that, “their color was the same as that of the limestone and the hardness seemed as great or greater.”

Ray (1933, p. 96) stated, “The writer [Ray] pointed out to the finders the fact that scientists generally would not believe a story of human bones being blasted out of solid Pennsylvanian limestone but both adhered firmly and steadfastly to their first statements.” So when all of the facts are taken into account, it seems we have here a case of human bones from limestone over 298 million years old.

Furthermore, the motives of Science Service are not above suspicion. Early in the twentieth century, many scientists were concerned that newspapers and magazines were publishing articles that contradicted mainstream scientific views, including articles about astrology, paranormal phenomena, etc. In 1921, in response to such concerns, newspaper publishing tycoon Edward W. Scripps and biologist William E. Ritter, with the support of America’s leading scientific organizations, such as the National Academy of Science and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, founded Science Service. A good source of information about this is a 2013 doctoral thesis by Cynthia Bennet (Science Service and the Origins of Science Journalism, 1919–1950).

The main purpose of Science Service was to influence newspapers and magazines (and through them, public opinion) to conform to orthodox scientific views. This especially included orthodox scientific views on evolution. This became quite clear in 1925, the year of the famous Scopes “Monkey Trial.” The state of Tennessee had passed a law forbidding the teaching of evolution in the public schools. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recruited a high school teacher, John Scopes, to challenge the law. The case attracted wide public attention, partly because of the implications of evolution for our understanding of human origins and antiquity.

During the Scopes trial Science News Letter increased its publication of articles defending evolution. Science Service sent managing editor Watson Davis and senior biology editor Frank Thone to report on the trial (Bennet 2013, p. 240). But in addition to reporting, they began to actively help the pro-evolution camp. In fact, they moved from the hotel where reporters were staying to the hotel that served as the headquarters for the Scopes defense, headed by attorney Clarence Darrow. (Bennet 2013, p. 243)

Bennet (2013, p. 244) stated: “Having literally moved closer to the defense lawyers, Davis and Thone, along with other members of the Science Service staff, went to work compiling lists of scientists possibly willing to help the defense team, collecting information about their credentials, affiliations, and how to contact them. During the weeks leading up to the trial, Science Service then sent telegrams, signed ‘Clarence Darrow,’ to some of those scientists, asking them to come to Dayton to participate in the trial and testify about the validity of evolution.”

Given all this, it’s unsurprising that in 1932, Science News Letter, a publication of Science Service, would try to discredit a report of human bones from Carboniferous limestone.


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. (Visit:

By Michael A. Cremo •