early November 1929, a work crew mining pea gravel from a quarry near
the little East Texas
town of Malakoff came
across a big ol' rock that wasn't like any big ol' rock anybody around
there had ever seen.
Aside from it weighing about one hundred pounds, somebody had apparently
gone to the trouble of carving ears, nose, mouth, teeth and eyes into
it. Or at least that's what it looked like. The obvious question was,
who carved the face of what archaeologists would dub Malakoff Man?
Geologist Elias H. Sellards took a look at the egg head and said he
believed it was authentic, meaning he thought somebody carved it a
very long time ago-it wasn't a fluke or a fake. In fact, Sellards
went so far as to say that the first Malakoff Man came from an Eocene
geological formation dating from 50,000 to 100,000 years ago, which
predates the first known occupation of the continent by the people
we now call Paleo-Indians. Some people say he went too far.
After the discovery of a second head in 1935, archaeologist Glen Evans
with the University of Texas assembled a crew to look for more Malakoff
Men. They found one in 1939. Despite dozens of other subsequent excavations,
the Malakoff Men remain a trio.
| If somebody
was going to find something from thousands of years ago in East
Texas, Malakoff would
be a likely place to find it, mainly because people have spent a lot
of time underground in and around Malakoff
for a long time. The discovery of lignite in 1912 kept as many as
eight hundred miners busy in underground Malakoff for thirty years.
But the find came as a result of a Malakoff's first and more lasting
Thomas A. Bartlett, owner of the Malakoff Pressed Brick Company, had
discovered how to produce an exceptionally durable white brick, a
discovery that won him a blue ribbon at the 1904 World's Fair. When
Bartlett decided to build a big house next to the plant, he used his
prize-winning white brick and reinforced it with steel rebar to withstand
shock waves from all the dynamite detonation his business required.
Quarry workers were blasting away to get enough clay to make bricks
when they found Malakoff Man staring back at them. The workers reportedly
put a hat on Malakoff Man and left the ninety-eight-pound head on
Archaeologists Evans and his collaborator, George Shafer, believed
Malakoff Man was authentic, agreeing that it was as old as the geologist
Sellards thought it was. Current-day believers consider the Malakoff
Men authentic, though not as old as Sellards and Shafter thought.
Skeptics insist that all three Malakoff Men are imposters.
Today, the Malakoff Men are housed together-for the first time-at
the Pearce Museum inside the Cook Education Center at Navarro College
in Corsicana. One of
the heads has been there for many years, but the other two formerly
resided at the Texas Memorial Museum and the Texas Archeological Research
Lab at the University of Texas, respectively, until a couple of years
Of the three heads, the third one, the one that Evans and his team
found, looks less like a face than the other two, and most modern
scholars now believe it's nothing more than a geological peculiarity.
Malakoff Man number two never had his head examined, so we don't know
much about him.
As for head number one, the one that really does look sort of like
a face, the Texas State Historical Association notes that "evidence
indicates that modern metal tools were used to carve head number one
and that it is a modern product."
But the Malakoff Men have their supporters. Pat Isaacson, former Malakoff
mayor and president of the Malakoff Historical Society and Museum,
told the Houston Chronicle that she believes the Malakoff Men
"I like to think they're real, and archaeologists came so close to
proving it," she told columnist Joe Holley. "They did carbon dating
and everything else, but the museum people decided 10 years was enough
time to work on it, so they pulled the archaeologists off."
The state historical association notes that even though scientists
have largely discredited them, "the Malakoff finds occupied a colorful
corner in the archeology of Texas for many years."