Are the Ica stones authentic?

By: Kate Kershner  | 
Trick of the tourist trade or authentic pre-Columbian art?

Key Takeaways

  • The Ica stones, engraved with images suggesting advanced ancient civilizations and humans coexisting with dinosaurs, have sparked debate over their authenticity since being introduced to Dr. Javier Cabrera Darquea by a Peruvian farmer.
  • The scientific community largely dismisses the stones as a hoax, partly because the farmer admitted to carving some of them.
  • The combination of admitted fabrications, lack of scientific validation and a mix of potentially authentic pre-Columbian art suggests the Ica stones are more likely a blend of hoax and genuine regional craftsmanship.

Let's pretend I call you up and ask you to come over right away. I've been digging in my backyard, I say, and I found something that is going to rewrite the timeline of human history as we know it. When you get to my place, I show you some old-looking pots -- still covered in dirt -- that have stylized pictures on them. One has art that depicts ancient-seeming people performing open-heart surgery. Another shows humans riding dinosaurs.

Is your reaction (A) "Why did you spend so much time creating such a dumb joke?" or (B) "Oh my, alert the authorities! Human civilization was far more advanced than I previously understood, and also they lived in harmony with the dinosaurs. Call all the archaeologists!"


If you were Dr. Javier Cabrera Darquea, you would choose the latter. He did have pretty much that reaction when a Peruvian farmer gave him a stone tablet, one of the first to be dubbed an Ica stone. Cabrera claimed that the stone showed a picture of a fish long extinct before humans roamed Earth. According to Cabrera, this meant that either aliens gave humans some inside info about extinct fish at some point or the extinction/human timeline is wrong as can be [source: Carroll].

Now might be a good time to note that Dr. Cabrera was a medical doctor. Not an archaeologist. Not a paleontologist. Not a naturalist or a scientist. Nobody has ever figured out what made him think the (highly stylized and thus unrealistic) depiction of the fish screamed "extinct" to him. Moving on.

Undaunted, Cabrera claimed to have found caves in the area with loads more engraved stones -- 100,000, even. But he never got around to telling people where that cave was so that dating could be completed on the stones. And again, the stones were carved with images from modern times: surgery! Astronomical inventions! Flying machines! Humans hanging out with dinosaurs [source: Fitzpatrick-Matthews]!

Now, note that the farmer who gave Cabrera the original stone did admit to carving some of them. And it's true there's a ton of them, at least, which could lead one to consider that the sheer number of them could be a compelling point. But it's also been posited that other people in the region have also used them to ply the tourist trade -- and that some of the stones might be at least somewhat authentic pre-Columbian art from the region [source: Fitzpatrick-Matthews].

All in all, the claims of the farmer and Cabrera (who died in 2001) just don't pass the scientific evidence test. So alas, the Ica stones, far more likely a product of an elaborate hoax (with a bit of pre-Columbian authenticity thrown in for good measure), will probably never be given a label of legitimacy by any scientific or academic authority.


Frequently Asked Questions

How do the Ica stones impact our understanding of ancient civilizations?
The Ica stones, largely considered a modern hoax, do not provide credible evidence to alter our understanding of ancient civilizations.
Are there any scientific methods to determine the age of the Ica stones?
Scientific methods like radiocarbon dating and analysis of patina could potentially date the stones, but no definitive tests have conclusively proven their age due to the controversy surrounding their origin.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Carroll, Robert. "The Skeptic's Dictionary." John Wiley & Sons. 2011. (Jan. 13, 2015).
  • Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Keith. "The Ica Stones." Bad Archaeology. 2014. (Jan. 13, 2015)
  • Ross, Sara. "The Ica Stones and Dr. Javier Cabrera." May 21, 2007. (Jan. 13, 2015)