Ethics, Professors, Indiana Jones, Switzerland, and Early (Very Early) Man
The issue of professionalism is critical to the definitive evaluation and validation of the assertions made in a report on any archaeological excavation. The UCLA Institute of Archaeology, which provides referral lists of
"minimally qualified" archaeologists, has established strict guidelines in compliance with the California Office of Historical Preservation. Although the excavation under the McMartin preschool was unique, common sense would not exempt it from meeting the same basic scientific and professional principles that apply to other types of excavations. The timely release of a completed report and all related documentation is vital to the scientific and other evidentiary
During a preliminary interview with the author (June 15, 1994), Stickel insisted that his contractual obligations with Jackie McGauley prevented him from releasing the report without her permission. Once again, this writer was solicited for a
"If the thing [report] isn't coming out in a timely way," Stickel suggested,
"maybe you should make a contribution [of money] to it . . . so it can get out."
Stickel agreed in principle to discuss the contents of the report in person in what would be a short interview with the author at a later date. However, he insisted on having
"control over what exactly is quoted" from the interview. That stipulation was turned down for obvious reasons. Numerous attempts to contact Stickel at the later agreed upon time period in order to renegotiate terms failed.
(A copy of the report was finally obtained in September through the kind assistance of Gerald Hobbs, a mineral prospector in Azusa, California. Hobbs actually began work on the parents' excavation project before Stickel took over and spent more time on site throughout its duration. Hobbs was interviewed at length, once by phone and once in person, without preconditions, and presented a copy of the report at no cost. His openness and assistance are greatly appreciated.)
Although Stickel agrees, without giving names, that some of the tunnel articles have been
"flagrantly unprofessional," he points out that he can't stop other writers from citing
it.107 But when asked about the ethics of his own tunnels pitch in the media and during a lecture/slide show at a San Diego child abuse convention in 1994 (Conference on Responding to Child Maltreatment
CRCM) where he summarized parts of the report to 600 child abuse professionals from around the
world,108 Stickel quipped,
"I'm not in the business of quote looking for the other side. I was just hired to do a job, and I did the job and I made the report."109 That attitude was reflected in caustic comments Stickel made at the convention, by obvious inference rather than by name, about Scientific Resource Surveys, Inc. (SRS), the archaeological
firm retained by the District Attorney's office in 1985 to investigate for tunnels at the preschool:
"Now they [DA's office] hired a local archaeological firm. But in my opinion, to put it mildly, they're the worst
firm in California . . . and they're not very scientific."110
In both his written report and video lecture, Stickel criticizes SRS for applying an
"inappropriate and inadequate" research design and methodology in its search for the alleged underground caverns. Stickel criticized the use by SRS of a
"terrain conductivity meter" as unsuitable for sensing potential secret caverns lodged beneath concrete
In contrast to Stickel's public references to Bob Beers (the geophysicist and SRS consultant who supervised the sounding survey on the property adjacent to the preschool building), in Stickel's report the same gentleman is referred to as
"a respected geo-physicist."112 When asked about the ethical implications of a one-sided public attack (ostensibly backed by unexaminable documentation) upon an unknowing colleague, Stickel answered that he had taken the
"very unusual" step of allowing SRS scientists to review the report's critique of their work, and that they did so
"in its entirety."
But Beers denied that anyone at SRS had ever seen or heard of Stickel's report before being informed of it by this
writer.113 Stickel even claimed that SRS had responded to his critique and that he had published their response in his report. A reading of Stickel's report reveals that the report contains no response from Beers.
In fact, Stickel has a history of creating, or permitting others to make questionable representations about his own professional background. Stickel allowed himself to be introduced at the San Diego CRCM conference as an archaeologist who
"teaches at UCLA," and later he spoke about his "graduate students." Stickel has taught an extension course at UCLA, but it is not graduate level and he is not officially affiliated with the faculty in any
way.114 References to Stickel's stature as a teacher show up in The Courage to Heal, which states that Stickel
"teaches at UCLA,"115 as well as in Spotlight and Paranoia which refer to Stickel as a
"professor" at UCLA.116
Lears magazine introduced Stickel as an
"internationally known archaeologist."117 Stickel introduced himself similarly at the San Diego CRCM conference, saying that he was still involved on a project in Switzerland and that he had
"recently" published the "largest remote sensing survey for archaeology ever conducted in Europe." The survey consisted of a search for Bronze age artifacts in Lake
However, an interview with Beat Arnold, the Swiss archaeologist who was in charge of the 1985-86 project (conducted under the auspices of the Muse Cantonal D' Archealogie
Neuchatel, Switzerland), suggests that Stickel exaggerated the scope of the project on which he worked as a technical
assistant.118 The original project was the work of about 70 people who, according to Arnold, were
"only one element of the mosaic of work we've done." The underwater sensing was done by Garrison, according to Arnold, with Stickel serving as a technical assistant. The project greatly aided the overall project, Arnold stated, but its importance was related to the supplemental work done by others.
"It is the work of a team, not the work of one people." Stickel's 1988 report on the remote sensing project (co-authored by Garrison) seems to confirm Arnold's analysis, stating that the lake survey was
"an unqualified success in both scientific terms and [the] international cooperation" of
The published report contends that the survey
"is the first extensive systematic underwater survey of a European lake by remote
sensing."120 But Arnold says that the survey was
"absolutely not" the largest one ever conducted in Europe; Garrison had done
"much more work earlier," without Stickel, he said.
Arnold noted that he was "very happy" with the combined work of Garrison and Stickel on the 1985-86 survey, but added that time and staff constraints forced him to put the project on hold. Garrison and Stickel returned again about two years ago, he added, but only for a short period of follow up work. There will be no more need for that type of work for another
five years, he added.
A bizarre rumor of another possible misrepresentation of Stickel's work history arises unexpectedly from a review of remarks made by Roland Summit during a lecture given on the same day the
final McMartin verdicts were read.121
"It may be of interest," Summit told his audience of child care professionals, as he showed a color slide of Stickel standing on the preschool site,
"that he [Stickel] was the consultant for the writing and production of the Indiana Jones series. So he may be the real life equivalent of Harrison Ford." A call to the George Lucus
film production headquarters in Northern California confirmed that Stickel had indeed threatened to sue the company, claiming that he had worked as a
film consultant. The apparent basis for the claim, according to Lucus spokesperson Lyn Hale, was that the
film company's researcher had sat through one of Stickel's extension classes as part of her normal background research for the
"She talks to lots of people and does a lot of research on lots of different directions . . . she attended one of his classes. He [Stickel] did not work on the movie." Nor was the movie based on Stickel's real life
In the first Raiders film fantasy, Harrison Ford's adventures as Indiana Jones led him into battle with an evil empire of satanic Nazis. That scenario is fantasy, of course, but my interviews with 18 archaeologists, located throughout California, indicate that the real world of archaeology plays out seemingly far-fetched dramas of its own. Fierce competition over scarce jobs sometimes incites equally
fierce political battles, many of these archaeologists say. Professionals in their
field are often as divided over issues of competence and credulity as are child abuse professionals. Ongoing disputes in both
fields often revolve around
"discoveries" of highly questionable validity that are used in attempts to reshape theoretical landscapes. The controversy among child abuse professionals over the existence of a ritual abuse conspiracy, for example, compares to the dispute among archaeologists over theories that man arrived in the Western Hemisphere prior to 12,000 years ago.
Most archaeologists accept 10,000 to 12,000 years ago as the approximate time man arrived in the New
World.123 But there have been attempts, largely discredited within the archaeological community, to establish dates going back as far as 200,000
years.124 Stickel made his own contribution to the list of archaeological
"breakthroughs" in the late 1970s with the announcement that he had found human artifacts dating back 40,000 years.
The "discovery" was made during an excavation of five sites associated with a highway development located in the southern portion of Northern California's Santa Clara
Valley.125 Stickel was retained by the California Department of Transportation (CAL TRANS) to excavate the project area amidst pressure from local preservationists who believed that the agency's preconstruction exploration plans, mandated by tough California historical preservation laws, were inadequate. He was awarded the project through a standard bidding procedure and reportedly signed a contract that provided additional fees for any unforeseen work that was required. CAL TRANS eventually replaced Stickel, in part according to an informed source within the agency, because of cost overruns and Stickel's failure to
finish the required report.
The contents of the final report written by Stickel's replacement raises questions about the methodology and judgment that led Stickel to connect the discovery in question with an artifact produced by human beings. Archaeologists generally agree that a proper dig would normally go down to about 3 feet before reaching a culturally sterile level. But many of Stickel's excavation units were well over 3 feet and some were between 15 to 23 feet deep, according to the
The 40,000 year old date, based on carbon-14 testing of a single small piece of charcoal from 5½ feet deep unit, was inconsistent with cultural artifacts found in the general area. In the view of other archaeologists who either worked on or were familiar with the site, that inconsistency could easily be accounted for by wildfire or mud slides (the site was located on an alluvial fan) that sometimes dredge up and redeposit old material. Since there was no known link between the charcoal and man made artifacts, the date was discarded in the
final report written by Stickel's replacement.126