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A creationist’s toybox: The Acámbaro figures


In July 1944, a German merchant named Waldemar Julsrud announced he had discovered several thousands ceramic figurines in Mexico, representing everything from supposed dinosaurs to peoples from all over the world. Julsrud had an impressive collection: Over 32,000 original pieces.

You can see a few of them here:

When I read about this story, I was instantly curious about what the actual origin of the figurines was. Very little is actually known about them, but some of the hints give a pretty colorful picture.

The story goes as follows. Julsrud was riding his horse around the area of Acámbaro, Guanajuato, in Mexico, when he supposedly came across a few of the figurines. He then proceeded to pay a farmer to dig up more of them, and the farmer must have been an archaeological prodigy, because he found over thirty thousand of them.

The scientific world was not particularly affected by the figurines, but decided to run a few tests nonetheless. First observations were not very promising: Their surface showed no signs of age, no hints of dirt and although some were broken, all pieces were still available, all signs in favor of a rather modern origin. When stratigraphy came in, and to nobody’s surprised determined that the hole from which the figures had come from was probably quite recent and filled with a mixture of archaeological layers, Julsrud was already sort of a popular character. Newspapers covered his story, but also the fact that he was a major proponent of the young-Earth creationist “theory”.

When you see it under this/his light, the figurines begin to make much more sense. Dinosaurs mixed with Egyptians, Sumerians, and “bearded Caucasians”? Sure! Although most of the dinosaur figures were supposed to be reptilian, almost all had mammalian hips, legs, and feet. Apart from the endless major anatomical mistakes, there were also fantastical inventions. To some, it didn’t really matter. The Acambaro figurines have been cited in several pseudoscientific books written by other young-earth creationists.

Eventually, thermoluminescence came to the rescue (not that evidence means that much to the defenders of the figurines). The first time it was used, when the technique was still in its early days, it gave an antiquity of 2500BC. However, a remeasuring fixed the date at 30 years prior to 1969.

There is little doubt now that the figurines are of recent date, a fraud and an anecdote in Mexico’s history. I do think, however, that the group of people who made them deserve some credit. 32,000 of them! And all different. I’m 100% certain there’s a better story there than in any dinosaur-riding humans tale.

Here are some pictures of the Julsrud museum and the infamous figurines:

Photos source: Wikipedia Commons


UX Designer and Anthropologist, hardcore gamer, obsessive reader and improvised artificer of crafts. I cheated on population genetics with graphic design and since that the three of us have been living happily ever after. I enjoy writing little pieces on practically anything that catches my eye, but I lean towards those occasions when art overlaps with science.

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