The Ahipara UFO photos: an investigation

Photos of a bright, slow-moving object over Northland caused quite a stir when they were published in the local newspaper last year, but some patient detective work has revealed the likely identity of this UFO.

Around sunset on 28 April 2007 Mr Wayne Ferguson took eight photos from Ahipara Beach, near Kaitaia, of an anomalous illuminated object in the western sky near the horizon. He used a Sony DSCF828 compact digital camera and took the photos over a time interval of about three minutes. He reported perceiving the object to be moving very slowly in a northerly direction to his right, and away from him, during the few minutes that elapsed while he was photographing it.

Some time later Mr Ferguson gave the photos, in electronic form, to UFOCUS NZ who published them on their website in August with a summary of Ferguson’s report of the circumstances, other witness reports, and an excerpt from an assessment of the photos by the well-known American UFO analyst Dr Bruce Maccabee.

Suzanne Hansen, of UFOCUS NZ, contacted the Northern News seeking publicity for this event, which she classified as an “unusual aerial phenomenon” (UAP). The newspaper published two of Wayne Ferguson’s photos with a front-page story on 29 August 2007. This triggered much public interest in the form of further witness reports and further coverage by the Northern News.

Of the eight Ferguson photos published on the UFOCUS website ( six were close-ups of the sky object with no ground references. The other two photos included ground features-a headland and sea horizon. These ground references allowed the possibility of geometrical analysis. The planet Venus was present in the northwest evening sky at the time of Ferguson’s photos, and aircraft vapour trails was another possible explanation. Establishing the photo geometry could well be a useful avenue for investigating these possibilities, so I determined to do some on-site measurements. The report posted on the UFOCUS website said that Air Traffic Control had confirmed there were no scheduled flights in the area at the time. I thought it worthwhile to verify this independently in the interests of thoroughness.


I visited Ahipara Beach on 6 September 2007 between noon and 4pm. I had not been able to communicate personally with Wayne Ferguson, but I had read the UFOCUS website report and taken my own prints of the photos from the website.

I located Mr Ferguson’s camera position by looking for the viewing angle of the westward headland that revealed the exact headland profile as in Ferguson’s photos. Using my own camera I took replicating photos of the same sight line at a variety of zoom settings (Figure 1, 2).

From this location I then took a compass bearing to the north end of the headland where it met the reef. Applying the appropriate magnetic-grid-true adjustments I plotted this bearing on the topographical map with a protractor and it yielded a true bearing (horizon azimuth) of 284°. The distance from the camera location to the end of the headland derived from the map scale was 2.25 kilometres. I derived the latitude and longitude of the camera location from the map grid coordinates using a coordinate conversion tool. The ephemeris sunset azimuth for that date, viewed from that location, was 287°, and sunset time 5.49 pm NZST (rounded values).

I then estimated the angular altitude above the sea horizon of the anomalous sky object in Ferguson’s photos by reference to the object’s proportionate spatial relationship to the headland in the photos, but taking the measurement by sighting to the actual headland. It was necessarily an estimate because the object was, of course, not there in the sky when I was taking the measurement. (It would have been methodologically improper to take this measurement within Ferguson’s photo because of the unknown telephoto factor). I estimated the altitude of the object to be about five degrees. My measurement technique for this was cruder than that for my azimuth measurement. I didn’t have a navigator’s sextant or other precise altitude instrument, and there was no sky object to fix it on anyway, so I made do with the backyard astronomer’s favourite way of roughly measuring sky angles by sighting finger widths at arms length-previously calibrated with a clinometer and by reference to well-known star separations. The potential error of this method would be less than five degrees, which I deemed not critical for this measurement. Because the angular separation of the object from the headland and horizon was so small I also ignored the small errors inherent around the edges of the photos from the focal-plane distortion of scale caused by camera lenses.

Using the measured azimuth of the end of the headland I then estimated that the azimuth of the sky object was 283° in one of the headland photos, and 284° in the other headland photo, by reference to its obvious different azimuthal alignment with the headland in the two photos (Figure 2). In other words, the sky object in Ferguson’s photos had apparently moved about one degree of azimuth northward in the short time that elapsed between the two photos. If the camera location was the same for the two photos this change could only be real motion of the object itself. If the camera location was different for the two photos the change could be accounted for by parallax shift (apparent motion) due to the change in the observing position, and not real motion of the object. At the measured distance between the camera and the headland (2.25 kilometres) an apparent motion of about this magnitude due to parallax shift would result if the camera were moved as little as 50 metres laterally right (Figure 3). So far, my efforts to contact Mr Ferguson for clarification have failed. Meantime I assume that he did not move his camera position significantly and the object itself moved about one degree of azimuth northward in less than three minutes. This is consistent with Ferguson’s own description of his observation reported on the UFOCUS website.

Although the six close-up photos had time tags logged by the camera clock, unfortunately the two photos containing the headland did not. I assumed that the two photos containing the headland were taken within the same time window as the close-ups, but I have no way of verifying this at present.

It was not Venus

At the time of Ferguson’s photos the planet Venus was at magnitude ­-4.1, and approaching its maximum brightness. At this magnitude it is visible in broad daylight in the middle of a sunny day and becomes a conspicuous object in the western sky a few minutes after sunset. No other astronomical body except the Sun and Moon matches the brilliance of Venus when it is at this magnitude. It becomes this bright about every 19 months and maintains it for many weeks. This is why it frequently triggers UFO reports by people unfamiliar with the behaviour and motions of planets and stars, and this is why I investigated it in this case. Venus would have been visible in the northwest quadrant of the sky when Ferguson took his photos. However, my measurements of the photo geometry conclusively ruled out Venus. The azimuth of Venus from Ferguson’s camera position at the time was 323°. The camera line of sight was around 284° azimuth. So, on the telephoto zoom setting used, Venus would have been more than 30° outside the camera field of view northward. This is corroborated by the altitude geometry-the altitude of Venus above the horizon was 19° and the estimated altitude of the anomalous object in the photos was about 5°.

Was it vapour trails?

The next likely explanation was a vapour trail of a high-flying jet aircraft. In some of the sharper of Ferguson’s photos the object seems to be divided into two elongated parts with slight curvature. It was no doubt this feature that led American UFO investigator Dr Bruce Maccabee to suggest, as quoted on the UFOCUS website, that the object might be “a jet contrail viewed end on.” The website noted, “However ATC has confirmed that there were no scheduled flights in that area at that time.” Further scrutiny of the photography and checks on air traffic records were called for.

Photography analysed

The clock in Wayne Ferguson’s camera indicated that his photos were taken around sunset. However, the camera clock gives certainty only for the time interval over which the photos were taken, not for the actual time of each photo, unless the clock error at the time of photography is known. If the clock error is known it can be added to, or deducted from the clock reading to determine the actual time of the photo. In this case the clock error would have to be more than five minutes fast or slow to have a critical effect on the analysis. Since I was not able to ascertain Ferguson’s camera clock error I assumed the camera clock was reading within plus or minus five minutes of the correct time. Greater precision than this is no advantage in this case because, although sunset time for a particular location can be calculated to an accuracy of seconds, the actual time when the Sun is seen to disappear below the horizon can differ from the calculated time by up to two minutes due to the refraction of the atmosphere at the horizon on the day. Camera autofocus systems do not handle difficult light conditions well. The classic problem situation is where there is a bright light source in the middle of poorly lit surroundings. In these situations the autofocus system is likely to misread the distance to the object and it will be blurred. The use of manual focus mode is essential in these situations.

Digital zoom tools hugely increase the telephoto effect of the optical zoom capabilities of the lens to the extent that camera shake has a blurring effect on the image. It is essential to use a tripod, or steady the camera on something rigid, when using the digital zoom tool on a digital camera.

Since I don’t know the specifics of Ferguson’s camera settings I have to make some assumptions based on the nature of the images. His six close-up photos have obviously been taken on a high telephoto setting given the tiny relative size of the object in the other two photos. It is possible the images were cropped and enlarged further in computer photo-editing software. His camera features a ‘Smart Zoom’ tool in addition to the optical and digital zoom tools. This feature can extend the telephoto zoom effect to 36×, but only at the lowest resolution. Such a large telephoto effect will considerably reduce the image definition, especially if the image was further cropped and enlarged in photo-editing software. At the maximum telephoto setting on this camera these definition defects would be compounded further by camera shake if the camera was not steadied on a tripod. These considerations dictate caution in reading too much into the detail of the illuminated sky object in the images.

If you use your imagination you can see in Ferguson’s close-up images the hint of an oval hat-shaped object. The most blurred image of the six especially gives this impression. (Notably it was this image that UFOCUS supplied to the Northern News.) In my opinion this is an illusion caused by a random trick of the light combined with the poor definition of the image. This is a similar kind of illusion to the so-called “ambiguity” illusions, such as the well-known outline of a duck’s head that can also be perceived as a rabbit’s head. All eight of Ferguson’s photos were quite low resolution, which fosters the illusion. Although we could not rule out the possibility that the object was a hat-shaped moving craft of unknown origin and technology, it was more likely something quite ordinary. Such an ordinary explanation presents itself quite conspicuously in this case.

Flight EK 433 was there

I browsed the commercial airline flight schedules and found that Emirates Flight EK 433 leaves Auckland for Brisbane every day, all year round. Its scheduled departure time is 4.55 pm. I requested the air traffic record for this flight from Airways Corporation of New Zealand. Mr Ken Mitchell replied:

“I can confirm that EK 433 departed Auckland at 5.12 pm NZST on 28 April 2007, and would have been approximately 75 nautical miles west of Kaitaia at 34,000 ft at 5.45 pm.” (Personal communication dated 25 September 2007).

At this altitude and distance the aircraft would have been still in sunlight at the time. If it generated vapour trails the light of the setting sun would have lit up the trails brilliantly. But, at a distance of 75 nautical miles (139 kilometres), the aircraft itself would not have been easily visible.

A simple trigonometric calculation shows that an object 139 kilometres away at an altitude of 34,000 feet (10,370 metres) would be seen at 4.27° above the horizon by an observer at sea level. This figure is impressively within the margin of error of my estimate of the angular altitude above the horizon of the illuminated sky object in Ferguson’s photos. The direction is also consistent with Ferguson’s camera line of sight.

The rate of movement of the object reported by Wayne Ferguson during the three or four minutes he observed it was consistent with my own finding that the object moved about one degree of azimuth in the short time between the two headland photos. This apparent rate of movement is consistent with an ordinary commercial jet aircraft flying at cruising speed at 34,000 feet, 139 kilometres away, on a course obliquely away from an observer. Such aircraft commonly generate vapour trails that disappear at the trailing end as they are formed at the leading end, giving the impression that the trails are following the aircraft in unison with its motion. This explanation fits the photographic, geometric and eyewitness evidence very well.

If the object in Ferguson’s photos was not Flight EK 433 but some other unidentified craft, it seems a remarkable coincidence that the unidentified craft was on a similar course at a similar time travelling at a similar speed as Flight EK 433. We could invent far-fetched scenarios to support this possibility (perhaps the unidentified craft was shadowing EK 433?). But we are dealing with probabilities here. Which is the more likely scenario? The far-fetched one or the ordinary one? The complicated one or the simple one? The scientific approach is to accept the more probable explanation-the ordinary simple explanation-until proved otherwise. In the absence of hard evidence to the contrary, the simple explanation is preferable in terms of the principle of parsimony-also known as Occam’s razor. This well-known principle in science states that one should not introduce more hypotheses than are necessary to explain the data.

What would constitute hard evidence of the extraordinary explanation in a case like this? It would need to be more than a collection of distant photos of a blurred point of light. Extraordinary claims demand extraordinarily good evidence.

Even if the remaining uncertainties constrained us to continue holding this case in the ‘unidentified’ category, this would not necessarily mean it was something extraordinary. The absence of a fully proven explanation does not mean the case totally defies explanation. It just means we don’t have enough information to clinch it.

Agenda-driven history

Claims about pre-Maori colonisation of New Zealand refuse to go away.

There’s one born every minute. Former Act MP Muriel Newman appears to be the latest convert to the view that New Zealand was colonised thousands of years ago. Nowadays Newman runs a website-based forum called the New Zealand Centre for Political Debate (, for which she writes a weekly column called the Newman Weekly. In January this year she posted an article called “History in the Making” arguing that recent alternative interpretations of world history challenge the view that Maori are Tangata Whenua. She wrote:

Claims have been made that New Zealand was discovered from as early as 600 BC by Phoenician, Indian, Greek and Arab explorers. In fact claims of their visits help to explain the existence in the South Island of the fossilised remains of rats that have been carbon dated at 160 BC — more than 1000 years before Maori! There are further claims that before Maori arrived in New Zealand settlements had already been established by the Waitaha, the peace-loving fair skinned ancestors of the Moriori, by Chinese miners, and by the celts.

Newman has obviously been reading the fanciful inventions of Martin Doutré (she lists his website as a ‘useful’ reference), Barry Brailsford and Ross Wiseman, whose writings have no credibility among historians and scientists and have been roundly debunked in the NZ Skeptic and other journals (see NZ Skeptic 68, 72 and 73).

Newman also cited Gavin Menzies, the author of the best selling book 1421 which argues that the Chinese mariner Zheng He discovered America in 1421, 71 years before Columbus. She quoted Menzies’ remarks that:

The New Zealand Government possesses several skeletons carbon dated to centuries before the Maori claimed to have reached the North and South Islands. These skeletons should have their DNA examined … however, we need the consent of the New Zealand Government who, as might be expected, have passed the buck by saying we need Maori consent.

Newman also cited an article in the Economist which discussed Menzies’ claims.

Muriel Newman’s agenda is not hard to discern. The burden of her song is that if evidence emerged that non-Polynesian people settled in New Zealand before the Maori it would negate the Treaty of Waitangi. She cited claims (not sourced, but clearly echoing Martin Doutré) that the New Zealand Government and officials censor the historical record by refusing to allow alleged non-Polynesian human remains to be carbon dated and DNA tested. The intended implication is that the New Zealand Government is deliberately suppressing an alternative version of New Zealand history that would rewrite the New Zealand history books to better fit with Muriel Newman’s dream of a New Zealand without the Treaty of Waitangi. Newman is clutching at straws and her arguments fall apart as soon as you examine the detail. Let me elaborate.

She misused the Economist article. That article was entitled China beat Columbus to it – perhaps (12 Jan 2006) and was about a 1763 map of the world thought to be (but not yet authenticated as) an accurate copy of a 1418 Chinese map. Newman cited this article as support for Gavin Menzies’ belief that Chinese colonies existed in New Zealand hundreds of years before Maori arrived. The Economist article said no such thing. It was about historical events in the early 1400s and only referred to possible Chinese visits to New Zealand in the twelfth to fifteenth centuries (when New Zealand was already settled by Maori forebears). Newman read what she wanted into the Economist article.

She misconstrues, or misunderstands, the Treaty of Waitangi. Evidence that non-Polynesian people inhabited New Zealand before Maori would certainly be an exciting discovery (no hard evidence exists yet), but it would not negate the Treaty of Waitangi, which was between the British Crown and the large population of Maori tribes inhabiting New Zealand in the early 1800s. The validity of this treaty is not dependent on who inhabited New Zealand prior to AD 1000, it is dependent on who signed it in 1840. Treaties are between the signatories.

In another non sequitur Newman said, “The testing of Maori DNA … would go a long way towards confirming or refuting these claims, but sadly many Maori appear to be opposed to its use.” She adds that some Maori were unwilling to participate in the National Geographic Genographic Project. Exactly what point she was trying to make here escapes me. Since Maori DNA can only indicate where Maori originated (the whole point of the Genographic project) it is not going to tell us anything about whether non-Maori were in New Zealand earlier.

Newman appealed to Gavin Menzies’ writings as if they are exciting new evidence that rewrites history. They are not. They use the same methods as other fringe theorists – misrepresentations of other authors, unverifiable conspiracy theories about suppressed evidence, logical fallacies, long strings of speculative argumentation, uncited sources, invented evidence, impressive-looking long lists of supporting evidence that fall apart when subjected to expert scrutiny, and contempt for mainstream scholarship. (See historian Robert Finlay’s detailed critique of Menzies’ book at See also David Riddell’s review of Menzies’ book in NZ Skeptic Number 67, Autumn 2003.)

You don’t have to read very far in Menzies’ writings to detect the fanciful and far-fetched. Thirty Chinese ships containing 7000 people, trained otters (to herd fish into nets) and thousands of horses (to stock the Americas) visited almost every part of the world including Antarctica in the three years between 1421 and 1423, establishing scores of colonies and metal mining operations along the way? As Robert Finlay demonstrated, such an absurd scenario never happened. As is well documented in the contemporary Chinese records, and in the substantial scholarly literature on the subject, of the seven expeditions of Zheng He’s fleets between 1405 and 1433 only one occurred between 1421 and 1423, and its ports of call were confined to the Indian Ocean. The rest is a figment of Menzies’ imagination.

Muriel Newman’s innuendo that the New Zealand Government is deliberately suppressing a possible alternative view of history by refusing to allow alleged carbon dated pre-Maori human remains to be DNA tested is a gross distortion she has picked up from Martin Doutré. Doutré is obviously driven by his own agenda to prove that Maori are not Tangata Whenua. He has complained in his writings that efforts by him and his friends to have human remains radiocarbon dated have been blocked by the protocols in place at laboratories requiring human remains to be appropriately documented to verify where and how they were obtained and who authorised the laboratory analysis work (which sometimes requires destruction of the sample). Doutré thinks that when some wandering amateur finds a European jaw bone in a remote cave it is essential to have it carbon dated in case it proves his pet theory that non-Polynesians inhabited New Zealand thousands of years before Maori. Archaeological methods demand somewhat more rigour than this to reach valid conclusions, not to mention the need for human remains to be suitably respected and for police interests to be eliminated.

There are, of course, hundreds of human remains stored in New Zealand museums. Many of them have been there for more than 100 years and they have arrived in the museums by all sorts of routes – some proper, some improper, some innocent, some dubious, some unknown. In recent times those whose origins have been authenticated have been rightly released to their Maori owners when requested. These skeletal remains have always been available to science via the proper channels and protocols, which are quite rightly strict. Dr Philip Houghton published definitive textbooks in the 1970s and 1990s based on his scientific analysis of the skeletal remains of over 90 human individuals in New Zealand repositories. His work clearly identified the earliest inhabitants of New Zealand as Polynesian. Over the past 100 years archaeologists have excavated hundreds of human occupation sites throughout New Zealand yielding thousands of artefacts and hundreds of radiocarbon dates. All this archaeological, genetic and phenotypic evidence indicates that these inhabitants came from the Pacific Islands. From a scientific viewpoint this body of evidence is overwhelming. As yet, no evidence of human settlement of New Zealand has been found earlier than about AD 1000. Such evidence may be forthcoming in the future, but meantime the speculations of Martin Doutré, Gavin Menzies, and other wishful alternative theorists, should be treated with great suspicion and certainly don’t constitute evidence of the sort useful to science. (For a succinct and well-documented overview of the current understanding of the human settlement of New Zealand read KR Howe, The Quest for Origins.)

Muriel Newman waxes indignant about the suppression of alternative views of history and the dire implications of this for freedom of expression. Yet a cursory glance at the mass media confirms that crackpot theories get aired even more than orthodox ones because people love a juicy yarn. The Menzies book has been on the New York best seller list for a long time. Doutré, Wiseman and their bedfellows have self-published their books without any prior expert evaluation. Like Muriel Newman they have their own websites where they can write what they like for the whole world to read. Newman should be grateful for such freedom to peddle distortions.

Ring Around the Moon

Neither theory nor observation support claims that lunar cycles can be used to forecast the weather

Ken Ring of Titirangi is New Zealand’s best known proponent of the idea that the Moon is an accurate weather forecasting tool. He publicly scoffs at official forecasters and climate scientists for ignoring the lunar effect, and the news media love him.

In 1999 he self-published a book expounding his theory (Predicting the Weather by the Moon). He willingly addresses community groups. He has his own website,, where he sells forecasts and peddles his theories, and he publishes an annual Almanac of daily weather forecasts for the coming year for 57 New Zealand towns. His theory can be summarised as follows: It is well known that the Moon’s gravity causes tides in Earth’s oceans and these can be predicted with great accuracy. There is some evidence of comparable tides in Earth’s atmosphere. Like the ocean tidal bulges, the atmospheric tidal bulges occur at points in the atmosphere roughly in line with the Moon, and like the ocean bulges, they sweep around the Earth daily (really Earth sweeps under them) due to Earth’s axial rotation. These atmospheric tides cause predictable changes in the weather due to the gas laws. Therefore the Moon’s position can be used to predict the weather.

The theory claims that monthly perigee (Moon closest to Earth) and fortnightly syzygy (Moon, Earth and Sun aligned at full and new Moon) cause atmospheric tide maxima sufficient to cause predictable bad weather at these times, in the same way that they cause the well-known weekly spring neap component of the ocean tides.

To anyone with the average hazy understanding of astronomical processes this would sound like very convincing science. But it is not as it seems. On scrutiny Ken Ring’s understanding of gravity and tidal force is poor, as is his understanding of astronomy and atmospheric science. On scrutiny his weather forecasts are no more successful than orthodox ones. It is obvious his book has not even been proofread let alone assessed by experts in astronomy and atmospheric science. It is riddled with typographical errors, careless mistakes, confusing sentences, muddled astronomical explanations and outright contradictions. Like its New Age stablemates it is a misleading mixture of correct and garbled science, folklore, astrology, misrepresentations of other authors, and hints of trickery and bluff. His attempts to match Moon events with weather events are amateurish with no analysis of statistical significance (this would not be possible with his crude data anyway).

According to Ring, “The weather is nothing more than the Moon pulling the atmosphere around.” What is wrong with this theory?

Firstly, the physical forces invoked could not have the supposed effects — they are so weak that they would be completely overridden by other more powerful forces. Secondly, the claimed correlations between weather events and Moon positions are spurious.

As any good weather textbook will detail, the behaviour of the atmosphere, both on large and small scales, is governed by the laws of thermodynamics driven by the Sun’s heat, which is vastly more energetic than gravity. There are also significant influences from Earth itself — its shape, axial rotation, the Coriolis effect, the orientation of its rotation axis to the Sun, its oceans and land masses, its ability to absorb and reflect heat, the composition and structure of its atmosphere, its own gravity (which exerts about 10,000 times more force on the atmosphere than the Moon’s gravity), and an array of chaotic factors associated with these influences, all of which combine to make weather prediction an inexact science at the best of times. The effect of the Moon’s gravity on Earth’s atmosphere, although it exists, comes a very distant and feeble last in the list of forces associated with the weather.

The tides are weak

The feebleness of tidal forces can be seen from the magnitude of the ocean tides. The tidal force from lunar gravity raises Earth’s oceans only about half a metre. (This is the calculated magnitude in mid-ocean due to the Moon only — the Sun adds a small fraction at syzygy. The tides we notice at sea coasts vary worldwide from 0.1m to 18m in bays, estuaries and coastlines due to the “slosh” effect around land masses). A half metre tidal bulge in Earth’s oceans is a minuscule amount in terms of Earth’s diameter (12,000,000 metres) and in terms of the depth of the oceans (about 4000 metres mean depth). A parallel tidal bulge in Earth’s atmosphere would not be detectable due to the mobile and less dense nature of gases. The mass of Earth’s atmosphere is about 300 times less than that of its oceans.

As Newton taught us, gravity is a function of mass and distance. The mutual gravitational force of attraction between two masses is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. This relationship dictates extremely weak forces in the case of small masses or great distances. Tidal forces are even weaker because they are a function of the difference between the gravitational force at the centre and that at a distance from the centre of the body being tidally influenced. These forces can be calculated by well-understood formulae and agree with measurements.

It is true, as Ken Ring tells us, that the Moon’s distance from Earth at perigee is significantly closer than at apogee — about one eighth closer. It is also true that the perigee tidal force of the Moon on Earth is about 50 per cent stronger than that at apogee. However, this translates to a tidal bulge in the ocean of 0.45 metres at apogee and 0.67 metres at perigee. This is a minuscule variation in terms of Earth’s size. A comparable variation in atmospheric tide would not be detectable and could not possibly contribute to the weather because it would be overwhelmed by the much more energetic thermodynamic processes.

The detection of atmospheric tides is problematic. Unlike ocean tides they could not be observed easily as a height variation because of the diffuse and mobile nature of gases. The upper boundary of the troposphere (the bottom layer of the atmosphere where the weather happens, and where 85% of its mass is located) cannot be defined more accurately than to the nearest kilometre. Its height is usually given in the range of 12-15 km at the equator and it is several kilometres lower at the poles. Its height varies, due to thermodynamic forces, by an amount far greater than any tidal bulge in the atmosphere due to lunar gravity — likely to be only a few centimetres.

These facts alone make detection of atmospheric tides problematic. The scanty evidence that exists comes indirectly by extrapolation from measurement of factors other than height. They have been identified as the cause of small barometric pressure variations observed as daily cycles above the equator. One study (Hutchings and Gellen, 1988) analysed about 30 years of daily sea-level atmospheric pressure readings from 16 stations on Pacific Islands in the tropical latitudes north of New Zealand. The authors determined the magnitude of the twice daily lunar tide component of sea-level atmospheric pressure at a maximum of about 0.1 hPa. This is much too small to affect the weather — it would be overwhelmed by the typical 20 hPa pressure variations associated with weather systems. There is also evidence that these observed barometric tides are partly caused by forcing of the sea-level atmosphere by the ocean tides.

Ring’s arguments are always directed at making the theory fit the known weather patterns. But any theory that atmospheric tides cause the weather must explain the absence of any regular weather pattern cycling twice daily in step with the tides (two tides a day, as with the oceans, from two tidal bulges on opposite sides of Earth). Ring’s version of the theory relies mostly on the long period tide cycles caused by the orbital motion of bodies, ignoring the twice daily cycles due to Earth’s axial rotation. The orbital period tides, such as the lunar syzygy quadrature spring neap tides and the perigee apogee tides, are only small components of the daily tides and their maxima are located at different latitudes on Earth. Occasionally Ring paradoxically refers to the daily tides with statements like, “If the Moon is in the sky there is less likelihood of rain.”

Supporting Evidence

By way of supporting the existence of atmospheric tides Ring lists in his bibliography a few journal articles on the subject but he doesn’t discuss them. Harry Alcock of the Waikato, the author of an earlier book expounding the theory (The Lunar Effect, 1989), described an experiment he conducted to test for the existence of atmospheric tides. Using a filtered photographic exposure meter aimed at the Sun he recorded the readings on cloudless days. He also recorded the Sun angle and Moon phase for each reading. He seems to have expected high atmospheric tides to allow less solar radiation through the atmosphere. He didn’t give any of the data, but simply declared, “The brightness readings under similar conditions, but different Moon phases, varied by an amount which suggested the atmospheric tide could alter by as much as 25 per cent.”

The naivety of this exercise will be obvious to anyone with a nodding acquaintance with scientific method. But Ken Ring swallowed it whole, recounting the experiment in his book and announcing the 25 per cent atmospheric tide as if it were established fact.

Long term Cycles

Ken Ring claims that weather patterns repeat over long term Moon cycles enabling you to predict the weather many years ahead for a specified location to the day. To support this claim he presents a table of eight serious droughts in Britain between 1853 and 1976 which purports to show that they fall into pairs separated by the length of the Metonic cycle — 19 years — or multiples thereof, give or take a year or two. But the pairs have been selected nonchronologically. When you put the eight drought years into chronological order none of them are separated by 19 years. The separations vary randomly from three years to 46 years. Furthermore, two of the pairs are repeated on the table, feigning seven pairs instead of five. Three of the drought years are used in more than one pairing, and two of the pairs are achieved by selecting conjoining drought years from the same drought (some of the droughts lasted up to two years).

To support his claim that the lunar perigee brings disasters Ring gives a table listing 11 disasters which occurred between 1931 and 1999. Two of them are earthquakes, one is a volcanic lahar, and the rest are weather related. Eight of them occurred in New Zealand and three elsewhere. Part of Ring’s theory is that earthquakes are also triggered by Lunar gravity maxima.

The table employs a cunning device. To increase the hit rate the definition of a hit is made as broad as possible. Five of the disasters are said to have occurred “in the same week” as perigee. The date of the disaster is deemed eligible for coincidence with perigee if it occurred within four of five days. This, of course, is approaching half way to apogee (seven days) when the lunar tidal force is on its way to its minimum. The table also has several errors and significant omissions. Three of the events are tropical cyclones that reached New Zealand, but he doesn’t attempt to determine when they formed, which is the crucial fact needed to validate his theory. On my count there are only five out of the 11 disasters on Ring’s table with convincing perigee coincidences (within a day). You could expect such a result by chance given that lunar perigee happens once a month.

Other Lists

He has more comprehensive lists on his website giving the date of every perigee in the previous year with a list of world disasters that happened around each. He notes that some disasters happen around apogee, but that doesn’t faze him. He simply invents a mechanism to make it fit, waffling on about potential energy being stronger than kinetic energy at apogee because the orbital speed is slower, and appealing to astrological talk about the Moon “giving its energy” to the Earth.

A recent study on earthquakes (J Vidal et al, 1998) analysed 13,000 earthquakes over 25 years from 1969 to 1994 along a section of the San Andreas fault. It found that when lunar tidal forces “favour” earthquakes the rate of quakes is only, at most, 2% higher — a statistically insignificant correlation with no predictive value.

Isobaric Maps

An intriguing feature of the annual Almanac is the isobaric maps drawn for every day for a year ahead. Ring implies that he generates his maps “using algorithms derived from past Moon cycles.” This sounds very impressive, but he doesn’t reveal the algorithms. I’ve compared his maps with Met Service maps over several months and never found more than superficial similarities. Some are glaring mismatches. Occasionally there is a mildly convincing chance hit.

He employs an engaging trick with his maps. He publishes two maps for each day, deliberately drawn very differently (using “lunar orbital calculations” of course), and invites you to select the one that matches the reality best. Now wait a minute. Aren’t these maps supposed to be a prediction? Or is this a matching exercise after the event?

Ring obligingly provides hints in his Almanac for doing your own forecasting. Some are akin to hints for fortune telling — couched in terms so general that virtually all possibilities are covered. Some don’t follow the principles of his own theory. For example, he says, “When perigee or apogee is close to new or full Moon, then a dry weather period can be expected (less than 36 hours between). When perigee or apogee is more than two days apart from the nearest new or full Moon then a wet period may be expected.” This contradicts his main argument that perigee and full and new Moon are the lunar positions strongly linked with rain.

The Bottom Line

Are Ken Ring’s weather predictions accurate? You don’t have to look hard to find evidence that they are not as impressive as he wants the world to think. Curiously, he has deemed it prudent to admit this in the disclaimer he attaches to his work: “The forecasts in this work are the result of best-of-ability endeavour. They represent the opinions of author and associates and no claim of 100% accuracy is made.” This rather dampens his claims about the superior forecasting capabilities of his theory. He also insists that we allow a three to four day latitude when interpreting his predictions. This nicely covers most of the possibilities, given New Zealand’s well known average three day high-low cycle, but negates his claim to be a reliable consultant for choosing a day to make hay or have a wedding.

I have found many cases where his predictions failed. For example, from January to July 2004 he predicted dry weather almost everywhere around the dates of six major rain events including the Manawatu floods in February. In the same period he also predicted widespread rain events which didn’t eventuate in two prolonged dry spells. I also compared his monthly rainfall estimates with actual rainfall and found that in only 18 of 78 cases did his estimate come anywhere near the actual rainfall.

It is hard to escape the impression that Ken Ring achieves his claimed 80 per cent forecasting success by a combination of luck and educated guesses based on known weather patterns. Nothing in his writings constitutes evidence that Moon positions are a useful weather forecasting tool, or that they are related to weather at all.

This article is condensed from two articles first published in the Auckland Astronomical Society Journal, October and November 2004, and published here by permission of the society. The full versions can be read at the society’s website,, in the Journal section.
Bill Keir is an amateur astronomer of Hokianga who has published many articles on astronomy.

Invent Your Own History of New Zealand

Ancient Phoenicians in New Zealand? A recent book makes the claim, but the evidence doesn’t bear scrutiny.

Ross Wiseman’s book, New Zealand’s Hidden Past (Discovery Press, 2001), is his personal analysis of over 100 inscribed rock drawings on Mount Tauhara near Taupo. He claims they are evidence that Phoenicians from the Mediterranean lived beside Lake Taupo before the Taupo eruption, dated around AD 200. He declares confidently that 2000 years ago there were nine Phoenician settlements spread around New Zealand from Northland to Otago comprising at least 1000 people whose forebears arrived around 600 BC in a fleet of about 10 square-rigged ships. They built pyramid-styled houses and hunted moa with bows and curved throwing sticks. They established a centre at sacred Mount Tauhara and had a charismatic leader called Ishmun (the name of a Phoenician god).

Wiseman extrapolates all this detail and more from the Tauhara rock drawings and similar drawings at other sites around New Zealand. Notable amongst the drawings are detailed maps of the world and New Zealand which he argues must be dated before the Taupo eruption.

These are extraordinary claims. We would be entitled to insist on a bit more hard evidence than a collection of peculiar rock drawings. In the large corpus of New Zealand archaeological evidence from hundreds of excavations over the past century or more we could expect to find some hint of such a significant group of inhabitants. Where are their dwelling sites, bones, artifacts, tools, food rubbish middens and other paraphernalia of domestic life? Where are the site-specific radiocarbon dates? And where are their present-day descendants with the appropriate genealogical traditions? So far, no carbon dates from archaeological sites have identified human habitation in New Zealand older than about 1000 years.

Sixth century BC Phoenicians had metal tools, coins and a written language with an alphabet similar to that of classical Hebrew, Arabic and Aramaic. We could expect such people to leave easily identifiable linguistic inscriptions associated with their art and practices, and easily identifiable settlement sites with abundant artifacts including metal and its related technology. Maybe we have just not found them yet. If we do find them it will be very exciting. But a collection of enigmatic rock markings is not enough.

How has Wiseman arrived at these elaborate conclusions? You don’t have to look far into his book to find the answer: a vivid imagination, heavy doses of fanciful speculation, flawed methodology and argumentation, and careless, amateurish procedures masquer-ading as careful science. On detailed scrutiny his case falls apart.

For a start, he dates the rock drawings by a method he invented himself from his own dubious theory of the erosion rate of Rangitaiki ignimbrite (the type of rock in which the drawings are inscribed). After having two geology academics tell him that such a method would be too difficult he forged ahead anyway.

Interestingly, he obtained an age of 2000 years for the rock drawings, but only by misplacing a decimal point in the crucial calculation. This aside, his dating method is intriguing for its naivety. He took silicon moulds of the cut depths of two examples of rock markings. One was a less distinct specimen found on a ridge exposed to the weather; the other was a more clearly defined example found under an overhang protected from the weather. Wiseman carefully measured the difference between the cut depths of the two samples at 3mm and assumed this difference to be due to the erosion rate of ignimbrite from weathering since the cuts were made.

Unquantifiable Variables

The unquantifiable variables in this comparison are obvious at a glance, not the least being the whim of the carver at the time he determined the cut depths. Then there is the question of whether protection under an overhang is a guarantee of zero weathering. Then there is the question of whether the two samples were inscribed by the same artist at the same era. It is crucial to establish this independently, otherwise the argument is circular. The date of the drawings is what you are trying to establish, so you can’t assume both samples were made at the same date and then derive a date from that assumption.

He then determined an average erosion rate of ignimbrite over 30 million years to be 450 metres. He determined this figure by a geological argument I found incomprehensible, involving changes in the height of the volcanic plateau over 30 million years. Then, when he applied the figure he bungled the arithmetic. He concluded, “If it takes 30 million years to erode 450 metres of average hardness rock, this is equivalent to an erosion rate of 1.5 mm per 1000 years.” I’m afraid not. The arithmetic yields 15 mm per 1000 years. Either Wiseman didn’t check his maths, or he has incorporated some factor he didn’t tell us about.

When he applied the figure of 1.5mm per 1000 years to the 3mm difference between the cut depths of his two samples he got an age of 2000 years for the drawings. If he had applied the correct figure of 15mm per 1000 years he would have got an age of 200 years.

Although this is amusing, the dating method was so crude that it could not have produced an indicative age in any case.

He then presented evidence that he claims corroborates the 2000-year-old age. He identified a rock drawing which he deemed had been buried under the Taupo eruption ash layer and exposed by a slip in the 1970s. This led him to the conclusion that this drawing must have been done before the Taupo eruption. His analysis of the strata comes from the exposed sides of the slip, not from the location of the rock drawing in the centre of the slip, so the stratigraphy cannot be applied to the rock drawing. Also, he offers no evidence to rule out the possibility that the rock drawing may have been covered by more recent slips subsequent to the Taupo eruption and prior to the 1970s slip. In an erosion-prone area we could expect slips to occur more than once in 1800 years.

In support of his dating he also cites Dr Richard Holdaway’s 2000-year-old carbon dates for rat bones found in Nelson and the causal link between the presence of rats and human visits. Although Holdaway’s carbon dates are important, they are not site-specific to the Taupo rock drawings and so can’t be linked to them. Even if humans visited New Zealand 2000 years ago to bring the rats, no conclusions can be drawn from this about the age of the Taupo drawings.

More Supporting Evidence

Another piece of evidence Wiseman offers to support his theory is a marking found on a rock at Whakaipo Bay about 15km west of Mount Tauhara and reproduced in his book as a line drawing. He declares that it is an “exact” drawing of the seven stars of the constellation Ursa Minor (the Little Bear) commonly called the Little Dipper. “Each star has been incised as a deep circular hollow in the rock, with a small mound remaining at the centre,” he tells us.

Since this constellation is only visible in the northern hemisphere, Wiseman takes this marking to be evidence that the rock carver had knowledge of northern hemisphere stars. This would only be remarkable if it can be shown that the drawing predates already known visits to New Zealand by people from the northern hemisphere, and Wiseman has certainly not demonstrated that.

Correspondence Exaggerated

In any case, a cursory comparison of the drawing with actual star configurations reveals that Wiseman’s claim of “exact” correspondence is an exaggeration stemming from his own excitement. The rock marking can only be described as a very rough rendition of this constellation at any time in the last 3000 years. By joining the points in different ways I could also produce rough renditions of the Southern Cross-Pointers group and the Pleiades. Both these groups are visible from the southern hemisphere and both contain seven stars. You could probably find other approximations if you looked — star configurations are arbitrary and in the eye of the beholder. It seems not to have occurred to Wiseman that, in the absence of additional clues, the drawing might not represent stars at all.

We could dismiss Wiseman’s theory on the spurious dating alone, but there are other glaring flaws in his work. The material presented in his book consists of reproductions of the rock markings from silicon moulds, selective chalking, “enhanced” photographs, and third-generation scanned copies. Such practices clearly risk accidental contamination or modification of the evidence, or simple misinterpretation. He admits that some of the field work was done by his young children unsupervised.

I have not yet seen the Tauhara drawings for myself, but I was able to check the “Pakanae” map of New Zealand. This is a key ingredient in his case because the map includes Lake Taupo configured in a shape Wiseman believes is close to its shape before the Taupo eruption and therefore evidence that the map originated before that time. This map is reproduced in his book as a line drawing. He says it is to be found etched on a large stone hauled from the Hokianga Harbour in the 1950s. This stone now stands at Pakanae Marae as a memorial to Kupe.

The Stone Examined

Recently I examined the surface of this stone carefully and found that the only obvious engravings on it are initials carved in very recent times. On one side there are some natural raised humps on the surface which, with imagination, might be interpreted as a very rough shape of the North Island, or probably any other random shape you wanted to see in it (a hat or a boot?). The rock is covered in lichens which either help or hinder your search depending on what you are looking for. I could see nothing which could possibly yield the detailed shape in the drawing in Wiseman’s book, and certainly nothing which could justify the detailed conclusions he drew from it.

This looks to me like a classic case of a vivid imagination at work assigning great precision to something that is essentially impressionistic and therefore inherently imprecise. My experience in checking just this one item of Wiseman’s evidence makes me very cautious about accepting his other evidence at face value. Much of his analysis of the drawings displays this tendency to attribute precision to images which, in many cases, were obviously little more than artistic doodling and never intended to be definitive. On Wiseman’s own admission, the lack of clarity of some of the images makes it difficult to distinguish between natural and artificial marks. Yet there are several cases where he reads extraordinary symbolism and detail into the slightest scratch.

Another case in point is the map of the world reproduced as line drawings in his book and featured on the book’s cover in the form of a photo (“slightly highlighted,” as he puts it) of the actual Tauhara rock marking. In fact, the line highlighting on the photo is so dominant that the rock marking itself can’t be seen and therefore can’t be evaluated. His 9-year-old daughter had done the chalking unsupervised, and he didn’t notice the map himself until he later examined the photos of the chalking job.

A Convoluted Scenario

Putting these problems aside, let us assume that some artist drew a rough map of the world on this rock, and let us assume that Wiseman’s rendition of it in his book is faithful to the original. It is unmistakably a map of the continents of the world as we know them today. The inaccuracies are of the sort that I could create myself if I tried to do a freehand drawing of the world’s continents from memory.

Wiseman’s interpretation of this map is a convoluted scenario which dates it around AD 100 and attributes it to an artist descended from a group of Phoenician seafarers who sailed from the Mediterranean to New Zealand in the seventh century BC and eventually settled at Lake Taupo. He attributes the map’s accuracy to the assumption that the Phoenicians in the centuries before Christ were familiar with the entire map of the world because of their global trading and exploration voyages. The map includes, we should note, Antarctica and the Arctic coast of Canada, but excludes Britain, Scandinavia and the arctic coast of Russia and Siberia. Wiseman’s frantic attempt to make these facts fit his theory expresses awe at the Phoenician’s amazing knowledge of the world, oddly combined with the conclusion that they did not know about Britain! Did he consider the possibility that the artist just didn’t finish the drawing? Apparently not.

Another Explanation

The more obvious and prosaic scenario seems to have escaped Wiseman, namely, that the map’s detail virtually guarantees that it was drawn by a moderately well educated person in the last 200 years, or maybe even within the last 100 years by a person with a primary school education. A well known rule of thumb in this kind of inquiry is that if there is a choice between a complex and a simple explanation, the simple one is the more likely.

Wiseman often prefers the far-fetched version, and it gets him into difficulties. One drawing (which he dates before the Taupo eruption of course) seems to depict fallen trees, which he takes to be the flattened forests caused by the Taupo eruption. In fact, the content of the drawing is so ill-defined that you could read almost anything into it. Wiseman’s analysis is that, because the drawing was done before the Taupo eruption, it foresaw the Taupo eruption. Now hang on a minute. Here we have Wiseman arguing that because his dating of the drawing can’t be wrong the artist must have foreseen the Taupo eruption. Would not a drawing depicting an event be conclusive evidence that it was drawn after the event? Not for Wiseman it seems. Such contrived manipulation of the evidence to fit a strongly held theory, especially by resort to the paranormal, is grossly unscientific. But Wiseman dug himself into this quagmire by allowing his preconceived ideas to dictate his findings, and by reading detail into the rock markings that is simply not there.

Geometrical Shapes

Wiseman makes much of the geometrical shapes he finds in many of the rock drawings and reads extraordinary symbolism into them — a diamond symbolises life, a trapezium death, a circle materiality. He uses two such drawings to construct an abstruse symbolism depicting an ancient theory of the universe to support his theory of Phoenician origins. In these two drawings he identifies two-dimensional representations of cubes, dodecahedrons, a stellated dodecahedron and an icosahedron (the latter term he confusingly interchanges with the term stellated icosahedron). He concludes that the drawings “indicate that the Phoenicians knew of the existence of all 10 regular polyhedra and the symbolism behind them”, and that their knowledge in this field preempted western knowledge by more than 2000 years.

This sounds very impressive but is mathematically and historically garbled. A regular polyhedron (solid) is defined as one that has identical (congruent) regular polygons forming its faces and has all its polyhedral angles congruent. There are only five possible regular convex polyhedra: the tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, dodecahedron, and icosahedron. Euclid defined them, Plato knew of them, and the Pythagoreans and probably all the early Middle Eastern mathematicians knew of at least three of them. The so-called stellated dodecahedron and stellated icosahedron are really examples of concave regular polyhedra.

As for the two drawings which feature these figures, on Wiseman’s own admission they are not well defined. The copy in his book of the figure he identifies as a stellated dodecahedron could as easily be identified as a stellated pentagon (a two-dimensional plane figure). The figure he identifies as an icosahedron (possibly he means a stellated icosahedron) can only be described as a confusing jumble of irregular triangles and other shapes from which it would be reckless to conclude anything. It is hard to escape the conclusion that Wiseman has constructed a complicated historical theory from a few casual geometric doodlings by someone who took pleasure in artistic creativity with no mathematical pretensions at all.

There can be no denying that the Tauhara rock drawings are tantalising, and it would be nice to know who made them. Although Wiseman is prone to fanciful interpretation of the slightest scratch, broad interpretation of some of the drawings is possible. One is a convincing line sketch of activities during a moa hunt. The moa is easy to identify, and the stick-figure hunters with spears certainly seem to be ambushing it. Moa feature unambiguously in several of the drawings, which cannot be surprising because archaeological excavations have produced evidence of moa hunters, dated about 600 years ago, in the lower layers of Whakamoenga Cave about 13km west of Mount Tauhara. Wiseman ignores this rather conspicuous clue about who might have made the moa drawings.

Sailing Vessels

Three drawings feature clear sketches of sailing vessels with yardarm or boom rigging. Wiseman seems to read more detail into these than is reasonable. There is certainly no imperative that they depict 2000-year-old Phoenician ship design as he argues. They are typical of the rough impressionistic sketches a school child might do on the back of an exercise book with no intention to be accurate. They could have been done at any time in the last 1000 years by anyone familiar with Polynesian craft, or within the last 200 years by anyone familiar with European craft. Artists often create a unique stylised version of an object applying artistic licence by economising on the detail or embellishing it.

Another example features a line drawing of a house which is not difficult to see as a high-walled, hip-roofed bungalow on wooden piles complete with a square window. Taken with the human and animal figures in the drawing it is possible to see the whole image as a New Zealand colonial farmyard scene. To Wiseman it is the Ishmun family home of AD 100 with a “new improved design of dwelling”. He even identifies which member of the family each stick figure represents, identifies one of the trees as a fruit tree, identifies a rectangular shape as a storage box, and identifies the animal as a milking goat.

Contrary to Wiseman’s assumption, it is entirely possible that the drawings on Mount Tauhara were not all done in the same era. Some may be 600 years old, and some may be only 50 years old – we probably won’t ever know for certain. Successive generations of humans may well have left their marks on the same group of suitable rocks. Humans are well known for following trends, fads, or a catchy idea. I have been known to scratch a cryptic image on a mountaintop myself.

Lateral Thinkers

Wiseman sees himself as part of a growing brigade of “lateral thinking amateur researchers” breaking through the barrier of the blinkered orthodox view of New Zealand history to reveal “the truth”. He complains that the media and mainstream academics invariably try to suppress anomalous “discoveries” such as his.

I find this ironical. I made a cursory analysis of media coverage of these fringe theories over the past 10 years and found they get at least as much coverage as orthodox theory. It is not an exaggeration to say that the media is hungry for sensation and pounces on a good mystery. They will especially jump at the chance to publicise maverick researchers challenging orthodox theory, and they especially love conspiracy theories claiming that mainstream science has suppressed scientific information. Expert refutations are often relegated to brief addenda, or reluctantly presented later with less prominence, because they are perceived as boring.

A classic case was the media frenzy about the Kaimanawa stone wall in 1996. (It needs to be repeated that geologists confidently declared it to be a natural rock formation, but the credulous still believe it is man made).

Wiseman was completely free to make his self-published book available to the world through book shops and libraries without restriction and without any prior critical assessment or expert evaluation.

Even if the book is total fantasy the citizens are free to read it uncritically and swallow it whole if they want to, and many will. What more could Wiseman ask for? If the book is scientifically substandard, he can’t be surprised if mainstream researchers don’t want to waste time dialoguing with him.

Probabilities and Certainties

Theorists such as Wiseman seem to have little understanding of how science works. Much science relies on probabilities rather than certainties with conclusions expressed as confidence levels based on the abundance of the evidence. Archaeological investigations can never give full coverage to all the possibilities and must be done by prioritising representative samples or targeting highly suggestive clues based on current knowledge and known patterns.

The current corpus of evidence of human settlement in New Zealand is already substantial enough to be indicative to high confidence levels. We are talking here of a body of evidence from hundreds of excavations, hundreds of carbon dates and thousands of artifacts.

Of course, the discovery of revolutionary new evidence is always possible. Wiseman is obviously convinced that archaeologists have not looked in the right place to find the evidence that would prove his theory. Maybe so. But the archaeologists are the most competent people to assess that. Every archaeologist would love to be the first to find evidence of 2000-year-old human habitation in New Zealand. I don’t think Wiseman’s book will help them much.

It is difficult to find any scientifically redeeming features in this book. But speculation is socially acceptable if it is not claimed to be anything else. Wiseman claims to have made “the most significant archaeological discovery in New Zealand history.” Time will tell about that. Richard Holdaway’s rat bone datings indicate that humans made at least casual, itinerant or accidental visits to New Zealand 2000 years ago.

But it is much more likely that such visitors were from the Pacific Islands than from Europe, given the well-documented facts that these islands were only about 20 days sailing time from New Zealand and were inhabited by accomplished seafarers 2000 years ago. And we could not rule out the possibility that humans actually settled here 2000 years ago (by “settled” I mean dwelt and bred successive generations). But no hard evidence exists for this at present. Wiseman’s book does not constitute such evidence. It is little more than pseudoscientific credulity, and a blind alley that will mislead many gullible readers.