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Some might say that the state of being “incognito” is a natural one for the youthful Michael Brass since he is still almost entirely unknown outside the world of vanity publishing and “skeptical” websites that he inhabits. His pamphlet The Antiquity of Man: Artifactual , Fossil and Gene Records Explored, released in 2002 by the US “print-on-demand” outfit Publish America (reviewed here at grahamhancock.com) has flopped in the absence of demand. His other main bid for fame takes the form of countless appearances as a poster on the Hall of Ma’at website (“weighing the evidence for alternative history”) where he comes across as a sort of Don Quixote of the debunking scene, flatulently charging at windmills on his donkey and fulsomely congratulating himself for “defending” orthodox archaeology from the “threat” of alternative ideas. Michael Brass was born in 1977, graduated in 1999 with a BSocSci in archaeology and history from the University of Cape Town, and claims to be “currently undertaking a Masters degree in archaeology”. The way it looks to us at grahamhancock.com, this student remains a little “light” on the higher qualifications, original contributions to knowledge, list of peer-reviewed publications and extensive work experience that would normally be required to win the status of a professional archaeologist. It seems our assessment must be wrong, however, since he is described unquestioningly in Archaeology magazine (which featured a flattering profile of the Hall of Maat in its issue of May/June 2003) as “South African archaeologist Michael Brass”. Clearly there is a name to be made for those like Brass who join the sacred fight to ensure the “triumph” of “scientific reason” (as Archaeology put it in its editorial) over “pseudoscientific speculation”.

Dr Anton Mifsud, a Consultant Pediatrician with a longstanding interest in Maltese prehistory, sent us the following report of an archaeological conference that Brass recently attended in Malta. In our view the report sheds an interesting sidelight on the goals, methods, character and questionable scholarship of self-styled “debunkers”.


Mission in Malta unaccomplished
Report by Anton Mifsud

Michael Brass was barely recognizable from his website photograph (below)


when he turned up “incognito” in the audience on 24 September 2003 at the St James Cavalier hall in Malta’s capital city Valletta for the four-day conference organized by the EMPTC (Exploring the Maltese Prehistoric Temple Culture). The conference featured 36 international speakers. These included six Maltese archaeologists, four from Cambridge, three from Catania, and one each from Vienna, Strasbourg and Athens. Participating at the opening were the President of Malta, the Minister of Tourism, the Minister for Youth and the Arts, The Minister for Gozo, the organizer Linda C. Eneix for the OTS Foundation, the Professor of Archaeology and Classics of the University of Malta, the President of the Archaeological Society of Malta, and the President of one of the main non-governmental organisations, Din l-Art Helwa. Malta’s senior archaeologist, David Trump spoke at the opening ceremony on "The Overseas Connections of the Maltese Temples", and he concluded the conference on Day Four with his impressions on the outcome of the convention.

Mark Rose, the chief editor of Archeology ,was also among the audience, but Brass’s constant companion at the conference was Ms. Isabelle Vella Gregory, a recent B.A. graduate turned journalist with the local Times of Malta. Over the past few months she has been utilizing this medium to wage a crusade against one of the local scholars for daring to suggest that a number of carvings on the rock face between two prehistoric temples on the southern coastline of Malta could be petroglyphs. Now this may seem somewhat strange, for dictionaries of archaeology, such as that by Paul Bahn (1992: 429, Harper Collins) define a petroglyph as a "carving made into the rock face." Furthermore David Trump dedicated page 153 of his latest publication "Malta Prehistory and Temples" (2002) to these same petroglyphs, and also included an aerial photograph. Ms Gregory’s actual relationship to Michael Brass – she is his fiancée – eventually surfaced at the conclusion of her presentation at the conference on Day Three. Her talk, entitled "Beyond Goddesses and Fertility: A Gender Archaeological Approach to the Temple Period," was an undisguised assault on the followers of Marija Gimbutas, in line with the direct antagonism of Joan Marler’s presentation the day before.

Brass’s own intervention came about on Day Two, during the Science session, and directly against two of the participants -- myself, Anton Mifsud (my talk was about the identification of a single-gene defect in a Maltese 5000-year-old adult and its implication on ancient population migrations) and the engineer Chris Micallef, who talked about the megalithic alignment of the Maltese Temples. Out of the 36 speakers at the conference Brass limited his offensive to just the two of us. Could this be because both Chris and I enjoyed a high profile in Graham Hancock’s latest bestseller Underworld?

Brass first attacked Chris Micallef during the panel discussion, contesting the validity of his astronomical alignments of the Maltese temples, to which Micallef answered to the satisfaction of the chairperson. Brass then turned his guns on me, and launched a barrage of statement/questions which occasioned the intervention of the chairperson and several members of the audience who urged him to lodge his queries one at a time.

Brass had evidently been misled by the title of my presentation, and accordingly had come armed with the wrong set of questions. He was also ignorant of the fact that I have carried out my research over several years at the Department of Palaentology of the Museum of Natural History in London, in liaison with Christopher Stringer, the Head of Human Origins there, and the chief protagonist of the Out of Africa II hypothesis. Brass’s attempts to embarrass me therefore proved fruitless as he quoted outdated articles dating back to the 1990’s, while I backed up my case with literature from this century, and this millennium. Because his references were out of context and totally unrelated to my main them, Brass also kept going off at tangents. For example he referred repeatedly to Franz Boaz, who worked at the beginning of the twentieth century, and to Alan Templeton’s 1993 article, which contested the 1987 mitochondrial DNA studies. However Brass ignored the subsequent research which debunked Templeton, such as Ayala (1995) in Science 270: 1930-6; Underhill, P.A.et al. (1996) in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 93: 196-200; Tishkoff et al (1996) in Science 271: 1380-7; Johanson and Edgar (1996: 42) in From Lucy to Language; Ruvolo (1996) in Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 5: 202-219; Underhill, P.A. et al (1997) in Genome Research 7: 996-1005; and Li, J. et al. (1999) in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 96: 3796-800. More significantly, Brass quoted Templeton’s 1993 article but ignored the same Templeton’s revised opinion in Nature (2002).

Brass also questioned the validity of two major and significant studies by Professor Howells (Howells, W. W.,1973, “Cranial variation in man: a study by multivariate analysis of patterns of difference among recent human populations, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University 67: 1-259; and Howells, W. W., 1989, “Skull shapes and the map: craniometric analyses in the dispersion of modern Homo”, Papers of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University 79: 1-189), preferring to quote instead from a study carried out in the 1920’s.

But what is truly remarkable for a supposed defender of science against “pseudoscience” is that Brass also ignored the most significant recent contribution, that by Tim D. White, in Nature of 12 June 2003 (African origins: Ethiopian fossils are the earliest Homo sapiens), and that by Christopher Stringer in the same issue. Even Scientific American (August 2003) had got hold of it and published the story, and so has Focus magazine in their latest issue. Has Brass therefore missed Nature, Scientific American and even Focus, or was the desire to debunk more important to him than paying attention to the relevant literature? I can only comment that instead of criticizing my method of investigation or the interpretation of my findings, Brass went off once again at a tangent and quoted what he had read on the Internet from a Metacrawler query during the coffee break. At one point I tried to reason with Brass that his references were over ten years old, whereas mine were the most recent and the most significant, but the point evidently did not sink in. He even claimed to be aware of an “article” I was referring but since the item in question was not in fact an article but a printed book I must conclude that he was bluffing.

Whatever his motives, Brass’s efforts at the conference were unsuccessful and he failed to impress the many archaeologists present who did not offer any support for him during or after his assaults. At the concluding address on Day Four by David Trump, it was evident that Chris Micallef’s presentation had been well received, for Trump declared that "I think that at last, over a long period of time, I have been convinced of the equinoctial alignment of the Mnajdra temple; this has taken some doing". And during the same address Trump selected two contributions out of the 36 presented as indicating what the road ahead should be like. One of these was my own. "DNA has been mentioned by Dr Mifsud in a specific context,” commented Trump, but there is a much wider need here, I feel, for studies on both the present day Maltese population, which would be comparatively easy, and more significantly for us… it ought to be attempted on ancient bone material.”

Despite all this Brass is still able to convince himself that he has made an impression. A few phrases selected from the various e-mails he sent me in a post-conference exchange of correspondence speak for themselves:

"My critique was mild because I was forced to be concise; in paper form I'd have blown it apart even further, the little that was left scattered".

"What I said was being mild compared to how academics can rip into each other's arguments".

"I had one academic ask, afterwards, whether I was a Ph.D student and who was laughing at the way you were dismantled by me not breaking a sweat."

"I'm very well aware from my private discussions what the reaction has been from the majority of the laypeople and all the academics present; even more so as I was aware of you not having talked to the majority of the academics there anyways for if you had been doing so you would have been standing next to me".

"I was afterwards made aware that you are well known for the poor quality research displayed at this international academic conference".

"Notice I didn't make comments on those papers I thought were decent or semi-decent in aspects. I would have made the same comments no matter who presented your paper, but if an archaeologist or an informed layperson had done so then I wager I would have been able to have had an informed and interesting discussion with him/her with mutual respect".

"Oh and I suggest that your ego isn't so easily bruised, or is it that you're just sore after the hammerings received for your pseudoscientific works".

What amuses Brass and what sort of respect does he have for other people? In one his emails he confided: "I was particularly amused, btw, to see you and your mistress turn your backs on me as I walked out of the toilet after washing my hands".

Brass admits that his criticisms deviated from the main theme of my presentation. "If you recall,” he wrote, “I posed no question on your diagnosis of that particular skull. I questioned other aspects of your presentation such as the mythical African Eve and why you even attempted to introduce a possible 43,000 year migration from North Africa into Malta". Yet real scholars disagree with Brass. As Christopher Stringer of the Natural History Museum commented in an email to me on 7 October 2003: "Anton, Thanks for this information, which I think would make an interesting publication … it would not surprise me at all if early Maltese came direct from Africa!"

I’ll close with one final characteristic quote from Brass in his emails to me: "You may reply if you wish; as far as I am concerned I have bigger fish to concentrate on".

All of you “big fish” out there beware. Don Quixote is on the loose once again.

Anton Mifsud
(email Dr Anton Mifsud, antonmif@synapse.net.mt)

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Subject Views Written By Posted
Don Quixote on the loose again... 631 Graham Hancock 10-Oct-03 14:25
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 196 modeldon 10-Oct-03 15:08
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 176 Jaimi 10-Oct-03 16:50
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 204 Bent 10-Oct-03 17:10
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 195 Nejc 10-Oct-03 20:21
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 187 Jerome 11-Oct-03 04:39
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 182 modeldon 11-Oct-03 05:02
Brass not banned here 189 Graham Hancock 11-Oct-03 07:23
Re: Brass not banned here 187 Jerome 11-Oct-03 17:09
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 180 Nejc 11-Oct-03 17:01
Correction for NEJC, and for shame to Graham. 173 W. L. Nixon 11-Oct-03 17:17
Re: Correction for NEJC, and for shame to Graham. 191 Robert Bauval 11-Oct-03 18:27
Since you've introduced the real subject matter 190 W. L. Nixon 11-Oct-03 18:53
Re: Correction for NEJC, and for shame to Graham. 168 lobo-hotei 11-Oct-03 20:15
Re: Correction for NEJC, and for shame to Graham. 172 W. L. Nixon 11-Oct-03 21:53
Re: Correction for NEJC, and for shame to Graham. 177 lobo-hotei 12-Oct-03 04:48
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 177 gene douglas 10-Oct-03 21:15
Hmmm ... 196 Ahatmose 10-Oct-03 23:05
Pamphlet 188 Richard Fusniak 10-Oct-03 23:16
Re: Pamphlet 189 Ahatmose 11-Oct-03 00:01
No sense of humour 173 Richard Fusniak 11-Oct-03 00:34
I have a sense of humor ... 193 Katherine 11-Oct-03 00:43
Re: Hmmm ... 175 Joe_S 13-Oct-03 04:47
So Brass got tarnished? LOL N/T 194 Alien 11-Oct-03 05:12
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 181 NephraTari 11-Oct-03 05:30
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 174 Claire 11-Oct-03 08:36
Missing urls 181 Claire 11-Oct-03 08:38
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 172 Claire 11-Oct-03 15:08
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 181 Robert Bauval 11-Oct-03 09:32
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 188 W. L. Nixon 11-Oct-03 17:21
The Man of LaMaata seems a tad upset 203 barrystutner 11-Oct-03 10:15
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 188 Robert Bauval 11-Oct-03 10:58
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 191 Mercury Rapids 11-Oct-03 12:19
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 184 M J Harper 11-Oct-03 12:22
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 176 W. L. Nixon 11-Oct-03 17:31
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 169 Bryan 11-Oct-03 17:43
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 162 Robert Bauval 11-Oct-03 18:31
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 179 Aton 11-Oct-03 19:22
In all honesty... 191 W. L. Nixon 11-Oct-03 19:50
A question for Dr Mifsud 173 Stephen Tonkin 17-Oct-03 06:38
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 171 Bryan 11-Oct-03 21:49
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 181 lobo-hotei 12-Oct-03 04:59
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 183 Bryan 12-Oct-03 12:29
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 90 Robert Bauval 12-Oct-03 17:21
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 195 Bryan 12-Oct-03 19:21
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 180 lobo-hotei 12-Oct-03 18:18
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 180 Bryan 12-Oct-03 19:04
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 165 Robert Bauval 12-Oct-03 07:37
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 185 Joe_S 13-Oct-03 04:56
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 166 Robert Bauval 13-Oct-03 08:36
finish the sentence... 178 W. L. Nixon 13-Oct-03 16:35
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 185 Joe_S 14-Oct-03 07:14
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 158 Robert Bauval 14-Oct-03 08:08
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 187 Joe_S 15-Oct-03 07:05
An archaeology student is not an archaeologist 199 Graham Hancock 15-Oct-03 08:32
Re: An archaeology student is not an archaeologist 200 Joe_S 16-Oct-03 06:13
Re: An archaeology student is not an archaeologist 169 Robert Bauval 16-Oct-03 11:55
Cleave ye not that rabbit 193 W. L. Nixon 16-Oct-03 16:29
Re: Cleave ye not that rabbit 182 Aton 16-Oct-03 21:18
Re: Cleave ye not that rabbit 191 W. L. Nixon 16-Oct-03 22:11
Re: Cleave ye not that rabbit 206 Aton 16-Oct-03 22:48
Re: Cleave ye not that rabbit 205 Stephen Tonkin 17-Oct-03 06:48
Re: An archaeology student is not an archaeologist 196 Stephen Tonkin 17-Oct-03 06:10
A simple question, Mr Hancock 182 Stephen Tonkin 17-Oct-03 06:12
Robert 192 Katherine 13-Oct-03 19:59
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 155 ananda 11-Oct-03 19:09
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 206 NephraTari 11-Oct-03 20:22
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 177 NephraTari 11-Oct-03 23:20
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 140 Aton 12-Oct-03 20:10
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 189 Graham Hancock 12-Oct-03 23:36
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 200 Joe_S 13-Oct-03 05:04
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 183 lobo-hotei 13-Oct-03 06:40
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 184 Robert Bauval 13-Oct-03 09:00
RE: E-mail privacy 193 Sherman Peabody 13-Oct-03 15:36
Which E-mail privacy? 181 G. VDC 13-Oct-03 16:14
opyright of private correspondence 191 Stephen Tonkin 13-Oct-03 17:04
Re: opyright of private correspondence 190 Claire 13-Oct-03 17:42
Re: opyright of private correspondence 198 W. L. Nixon 13-Oct-03 17:52
Re: opyright of private correspondence 194 Claire 13-Oct-03 17:58
Freudian illustration, then... 209 W. L. Nixon 13-Oct-03 18:07
What? 189 Claire 13-Oct-03 18:26
Re: What? 169 W. L. Nixon 13-Oct-03 18:35
Re: What? 185 Claire 13-Oct-03 19:13
So as I understand it. 191 W. L. Nixon 13-Oct-03 20:12
Re: So as I understand it. 180 Claire 13-Oct-03 20:25
Re: So as I understand it. 193 W. L. Nixon 13-Oct-03 20:42
Re: So as I understand it. 174 Claire 13-Oct-03 21:14
as I don't understand it. 181 lobo-hotei 13-Oct-03 21:29
I'm glad you asked... 177 W. L. Nixon 13-Oct-03 21:52
Re: I'm glad you asked... 183 lobo-hotei 13-Oct-03 22:18
Re: I'm glad you asked... 187 W. L. Nixon 14-Oct-03 15:47
Re: I'm glad you asked... 187 lobo-hotei 14-Oct-03 16:08
Re: I'm glad you asked... 208 W. L. Nixon 14-Oct-03 16:23
Re: I'm glad you asked... 191 Graham Hancock 14-Oct-03 16:42
Just out of interest 174 Claire 14-Oct-03 17:07
Re: Just out of interest 173 W. L. Nixon 14-Oct-03 17:11
Re: Just out of interest 188 lobo-hotei 14-Oct-03 17:54
Re: Just out of interest 194 Claire 14-Oct-03 18:15
Re: Just out of interest 187 W. L. Nixon 14-Oct-03 18:32
Re: Just out of interest 167 Claire 14-Oct-03 19:59
Re: I'm glad you asked... 168 Robert Bauval 14-Oct-03 18:31
Re: I'm glad you asked... 184 W. L. Nixon 14-Oct-03 18:37
Re: opyright of private correspondence 170 Stephen Tonkin 13-Oct-03 19:48
Re: opyright of private correspondence 202 lobo-hotei 13-Oct-03 19:20
Re: Copyright of private correspondence 179 Stephen Tonkin 13-Oct-03 19:55
Re: Copyright of private correspondence 185 Claire 13-Oct-03 20:35
Re: Copyright of private correspondence 201 Stephen Tonkin 14-Oct-03 03:03
Re: opyright of private correspondence 198 lobo-hotei 13-Oct-03 17:55
Re: Copyright of private correspondence 195 Stephen Tonkin 13-Oct-03 19:46
Re: Copyright or copy 180 lobo-hotei 13-Oct-03 21:42
Re: Copyright or copy 177 Stephen Tonkin 14-Oct-03 02:50
Re: Copyright or copy 207 lobo-hotei 14-Oct-03 06:21
Re: Copyright or copy 201 Stephen Tonkin 14-Oct-03 07:18
Re: Copyright or copy 202 lobo-hotei 14-Oct-03 15:55
Moderator help please 189 lobo-hotei 14-Oct-03 18:09
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 189 Joe_S 14-Oct-03 07:17
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 184 Robert Bauval 14-Oct-03 08:16
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 182 Joe_S 15-Oct-03 07:10
Ethics --- Say it aint so Joe 176 barrystutner 14-Oct-03 08:52
Re: Ethics --- Say it aint so Joe 178 Joe_S 15-Oct-03 07:16
thanks 167 lobo-hotei 14-Oct-03 15:39
Organized Smear Campaign? 192 barrystutner 13-Oct-03 17:35
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 176 Aton 14-Oct-03 15:35
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 144 Aton 14-Oct-03 15:39
Tit for Tat... 177 W. L. Nixon 14-Oct-03 17:01
Re: Tit for Tat... 185 lobo-hotei 14-Oct-03 17:34
Re: Tit for Tat... 183 W. L. Nixon 14-Oct-03 17:48
Re: Tit for Tat... 195 lobo-hotei 14-Oct-03 18:02
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 186 Aton 17-Oct-03 10:35
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 188 Stephen Tonkin 17-Oct-03 17:07
Moderator note 184 Richard Fusniak 20-Oct-03 01:42
Re: Moderator note 174 Stephen Tonkin 20-Oct-03 06:07
In answer to your question 166 W. L. Nixon 19-Oct-03 16:08
Re: In answer to your question 178 Aton 19-Oct-03 20:12
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 184 Aton 17-Oct-03 18:21
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 183 Stephen Tonkin 17-Oct-03 20:07
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 165 Bent 17-Oct-03 20:33
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 167 Stephen Tonkin 18-Oct-03 02:37
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 178 Aton 17-Oct-03 22:13
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 175 Stephen Tonkin 18-Oct-03 02:32
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 182 Aton 18-Oct-03 06:03
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 188 Stephen Tonkin 18-Oct-03 07:47
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 174 Aton 18-Oct-03 20:26
Re: Don Quixote on the loose again... 194 Chis 11-Nov-03 12:50


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