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No, These Rock Formations in Nevada Are Not Ancient Pyramids

Nor are they made of "stucco."
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It’s very in vogue now for people to make wild archaeological claims with barely a shred of evidence. In fact, do it well enough, and you might get your own misleading Netflix special. (Ancient Apocalypse has been roundly criticized by scientists and archaeologists all over the globe.) It seems like harmless entertainment, but unfortunately his trend dovetails nicely with misinformation and conspiracy theories about a a flat Earth, Biblical floods, and other ahistorical and unscientific thought systems, which can have problematic real-world applications.

And it inspires nonsense like this, where people with little geologic or archaeological know-how claim to have found evidence of pyramids in cracks in a mountain.

Some amazing discoveries have indeed been made by amateurs. Janet Stephens, hairstylist, was able to recreate the hairstyles seen on Roman busts that had stumped the experts. Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico were discovered by a teenage ranch worker named Jim White. Plenty of good work is being done by curious people out in the field.

This is…not it. In this video, a woman, spurred on by conspiracy videos she’s seen on YouTube, visits Red Rock Canyon outside of Las Vegas, Nevada to see if they are really “pyramids sprayed over with stucco.”

Red Rock Canyon is a gorgeous site of great geological significance. The “stucco” she claims to be pulling is weathered sandstone. It crumbles because it’s sandy, weathered sedimentary rock (it’s made of ancient sand dunes), and the red color is iron oxide (i.e., rust).

What she is calling “bricks” in these videos are nothing more than stress fractures on the rocks. They break in straight lines due to the way the crystals are formed, or—for sedimentary rocks—the way the layers of sediment were originally deposited. Mechanical weathering can cause some pretty “regular” looking formations, but they are not bricks.

Ironically, there are pyramid structures belonging to ancient people in the United States, and not many people are aware of their existence. The city of Cahokia, near what is now St. Louis, Missouri, thrived in the pre-Columbian era of around 1000 C.E., at the peak of what is known as Mississipian culture. The ruins are in terrible shape, due to development and construction. 

an aerial shot of a mound in Cahokia, an ancient human mound city in the midwest of the U.S.

Additionally, the ancient Puebloan people, in the same period of time, are known for building astounding adobe structures in the sides of rocky canyons and along plateaus. Their ruins can be seen all over the American southwest.

These ruins and artifacts do exist, and should be preserved and studied. We don’t need to make up others

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