The Red Crag Carved Shell: Found and Lost

In February 11, 2010, I flew into Dubai to attend the second International Conference for Ancient Studies, where I gave a lecture titled “Forbidden Archaeology: Archaeological Evidence for the Extreme Antiquity of Humans and Hu­man Civilization.” Some of the other speakers at the conference were Robert Bauval (The Orion Mystery), Graham Hancock (Fingerprints of the Gods), Robert Schoch (Voyages of the Pyramid Builders), John Major Jenkins (Unlock­ing the Secrets of 2012), and Andrew Collins (Beneath the Pyramids), among others. It was great meeting up with them again (over the years, I’ve met them all before). There were good conversations at the conference lunches and dinners in Dubai, including a dinner cruise on the Dubai Creek (an inlet from the Persian Gulf which passes through the center of the city). We also had fun wandering through Dubai’s spectacular downtown region, spiked with the world’s tallest building as well as extravagantly super-sized shopping malls. Videos about the conference will be avail­able on the conference website

In my talk at the conference, I first laid out the standard conception of the history of human civilization: Hu­mans like us first came into existence less than 200,000 years ago, existing as hunter-gatherers. The first signs of use of symbolic markings came less than 100,000 years ago. The first development of sophisticated art came less than 50,000 years ago, an example being the cave paintings of Paleolithic Europe. About 10,000 years ago, humans began to engage in agriculture and the domestication of animals. Settled village life supposedly began at this time, along with associated skills such as pottery making and weaving. Then I presented lots of evidence that contradicts these ideas, evidence showing that humans and human civilizations existed millions of years ago.

In this column, I will focus on one example of such evidence for extreme human antiquity—a carved shell from England. The shell has a simple but recognizable human face incised on its outer surface. Henry Stopes, a Fellow of the Geological Society, gave a brief report on it at a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Sci­ence in 1881 (the text can be found in the report of the fifty-first meeting of the BAAS, p. 700). The carved shell was found in the Red Crag formation at Walton-on-Naze, on the North Sea coast of England. The Red Crag, part of which is locally called the Walton Crag, is of Late Pliocene Age (as confirmed by C. O. Hunt in a paper published in The Journal of the Geological Society, 1989, vol. 16, no. 5, pp. 743-745). In his report, Henry Stopes said about the shell, “It was found in the Crag, properly stratified.” Stopes described the discoverer as “a gentleman having good knowl­edge of geology, who would not be unable to judge, or know the value, of marking well all the surroundings and exact position of the shell.” Because the shell was found embedded in a stratum of Late Pliocene age, it should itself be of Late Pliocene Age. That would make it 2.0-2.5 million years old.

That is extraordinary. According to current mainstream understanding, the first symbolic markings by humans occurred less than 100,000 years ago. One of the earliest examples recognized by mainstream scientists is the marked bones from the Blombos Cave in South Africa. These marked bones are about 77,000 years old. But the carved shell from the Red Crag shows that humans capable of symbolic markings existed about 2 million years before that.

What about the possibility that although the shell itself is genuinely old, the face was carved on it fairly recently? Henry Stopes addressed and rejected that possibility in his report. He noted that the shell was stained a reddish color and that the markings on the shell had the same kind and degree of staining. Stopes wrote: “Any shell now cut shows white and does not readily take the same colour.”

How was the report by Henry Stopes on the carved shell received by his fellow scientists? Marie Stopes, daughter of Henry Stopes and herself a geologist, wrote in an article in The Geological Magazine (June 1912, p. 285-286) that “in 1881 when it was brought forward by Mr. Henry Stopes at a British Association meeting, it was considered wrong to suggest that man could have been alive at so early a date” (p. 285). In this same article, and in several others, Marie Stopes, as a geologist, defended the extreme antiquity of the carved shell.

In one of these articles (The red crag shell portrait, Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society of East Anglia 1 (Part III), 1913, pp. 323-326), Marie Stopes gave additional details about the discovery and the reactions of scientists to the brief report given by Henry Stopes. She wrote (p. 324): “I have often much regretted that my father did not himself publish a complete and illustrated account of the shell years ago. But when he first brought forward his views regard­ing the antiquity of man and claimed the shell among other things as evidence of his opinions, he was so ridiculed and scorned by most of even the ‘advanced’ scientists of his day, that he was content to allow the matter to lie await­ing confirmation in the future.”

In a speech before the Dulwich Eclectic Club in 1887, Henry Stopes wrote (see M. Stopes, 1913, p. 324): “A geo­logical friend of mine found a shell, on which was rudely engraved a human face. Fearing the consequences to [Chris­tian] orthodoxy if it were proved that man really lived when this deposit was formed, he thought it best to destroy that shell. Luckily he did not. He consulted with me, with the result that I obtained possession of it, and it is here to­night. It was taken by him from the face of the Red Crag at Walton-on-the-Naze, on the Essex Coast.”

In 1913, the Prehistoric Society of East Anglia formed a special committee to study the carved shell. The commit­tee consisted of Dr. Allen Sturge (president of the Society), J. Reid Moir (Fellow of the Geological Society), W.G. Clarke (secretary of the Society), and W. H. Rowell (Fellow of the Linnaean Society). The committee had the carved shell to study, and Marie Stopes was also present to insure the safety of the valuable specimen. After its study, the members of the committee wrote that they “unanimously felt that the weight of the evidence was in favour of the Pli­ocene age of the human work on the shell.” They could not confirm this with absolute certainty, but that is the na­ture of scientific work, that it is always somewhat provisional, depending on further research.

Such further research would be greatly helped if the carved shell could now be found. Thus far it has proved im­possible to locate it. Along with researcher Richard Dullum, I have been trying to find out where the carved shell is now. I learned that a collection of artifacts from the collection of Henry Stopes had been given to a museum in Car­diff, Wales. Recently, a team from the archeology department of the University of Southampton in England has cata­logued this collection. I asked Francis Wenban-Smith, head of the team, if he had encountered the carved shell in the collection. He wrote back to me saying that he had not and does not know where it might be. Richard Dullum has been pursuing another lead. Harry Stopes-Roe, who is a son of Marie Stopes, is still living. He is current president of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, founded by Marie Stopes. Through the secretary of the IHEU, Richard Dullum has tried to contact Harry Stopes-Roe concerning the present whereabouts of the carved shell. As late as 1913, the shell was still in existence. We have a record of that. Given its importance to Henry Stopes and his daughter Marie Stopes, we are hopeful that the carved shell is somewhere in the Stopes family possessions. But up to the time of this writing, Richard has not received any reply from Harry Stopes-Roe.

In Dubai, I mentioned all of this to Andrew Collins, who after he heard my talk expressed some interest in the case of the carved shell. I have known Andrew for several years. He was the chief organizer of the Questing Confer­ence, a yearly alternative history conference held in England. Once he invited me to be a speaker at his conference, and we became friends. In Dubai, Andrew offered to help out with researching the location of the Red Crag carved shell. I am grateful for any assistance. If any readers of Altantis Rising have some leads to the location of the carved shell, they can contact me through my website

Henry Stopes wrote in 1887 (see M. Stopes, 1913, p. 325) that “man will certainly be proved to be as old as the Crag.” And even older, I say.

Michael A. Cremo is author, with Richard Thompson, of the underground classic Forbidden Archeology: The Hid­den History of the Human Race. His latest book is Human Devolution: A Vedic Alternative to Darwin’s Theory (see

By Michael Cremo

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