2002 dig at Roswell site, university’s role criticized as ‘pseudo-science’


Larry Barker reports from Corona, New Mexico, site of a 2002 excavation paid for by the Sci Fi channel in pursuit of evidence that a flying saucer crashed at the site in 1947. Originally aired Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010, on KRQE-13 in Albuquerque.

MYSTERY WIRE — Millions of people believe there is a vast government conspiracy to cover up the truth about the 1947 Roswell incident.

But if a flying saucer really did crash on a New Mexico ranch, shouldn’t modern science be able to find evidence?

Not many people know it, but a team of University of New Mexico archaeologists conducted an extensive search for exactly that.

Bill Doleman
Bill Doleman. (KRQE-13)

“Believe me, if you go to outer Mongolia and say Roswell, the response from people who don’t speak a word of English will be UFO,” says former UNM archaeologist Bill Doleman.

We talked to Dick Chapman, director of UNM’s Office of Contract Archaeology. How many research projects has he done related to UFOs and flying saucers? “This was the only one,” he says.

And Dave Thomas, a physicist at New Mexico Tech who heads up an organization called Science & Reason, which promotes the use of science in examining unusual claims, offers this: “Maybe UNM should consider changing the name of the College of Arts and Sciences to the College of Art and Science Fictions.”

Roswell Daily Record
Front page of the Roswell Daily Record in 1947. (KRQE-13)

You know the story. Aliens crash their spaceship near Roswell. The government secretly recovers the debris and a handful of dead extraterrestrials. Then, the whole thing is covered up. It’s either the most important event in human history or one whopper of a tall tale.

Did it happen? Sorry, but there is no scientific proof a flying saucer ever plowed into the New Mexico prairie. There’s no GPS, photos, recordings, debris, or little green men, for that matter. Zilch. Nothing. Nada.

It’s going to take more than faded memories of a few oldtimers to turn skeptics into believers. What the UFO community badly needs is scientific evidence. And that’s where the University of New Mexico enters the picture.

Dick Chapman
Dick Chapman (KRQE-13)

“We engaged in a highly credible standard archaeological investigation of a piece of landscape that has been warranted to be the location of a flying saucer event,” Chapman says.

You heard it right. UNM on the trail of Roswell’s aliens.

“I thought wow, this is a real hoot,” Doleman says. “This is going to be interesting.”

Doleman headed up the project, which was featured in a TV documentary narrated by Bryant Gumbel:

“Archeologists from the University of New Mexico have returned to Roswell with a unique new mission … to use the tools of modern science to prove or disprove what some claim is science fiction.”

Doleman says, “We are digging holes in the ground to look for physical evidence of an extraterrestrial vessel impact.”

excavation site
The site of the excavation in 2002 near Roswell, New Mexico. (KRQE-13)

Armed with shovels, trowels and backhoes, UNM dug up a nine-acre piece of prairie northwest of Roswell.

Chapman says, “The summed evidence from the hearsay level knowledge … really points to this spot as being a recognized potential crash site … of a UFO.”

UNM’s excavation was funded entirely by the Sci Fi channel. TV executives paid UNM thousands of dollars to put the alien crash site under a microscope.

“We did not go out there looking to prove the existence of a UFO crash at that location in 1947,” Doleman says. “We went out there to look for evidence of the events that were reported to have happened.”

excavation report
A University of New Mexico report on the 2002 excavation. (KRQE-13)

UNM probed the prairie in 2002. In May, 2010, the university published its final report. It’s a document steeped in controversy.

“I love science fiction,” Thomas says, “but that’s not what the research division of a university should be putting out.”

Dave Thomas
Dave Thomas (KRQE-13)

“I think they did get sucked into what basically was a massive exercise in pseudo-science,” Thomas adds.

The validity of UNM’s alien dig is predicated on the assumption that a UFO really did crash. And where it ended up is absolutely critical. If a flying saucer crashed over there but UNM dug here, then the entire exercise is pointless. So what’s the value of the excavation?

“Not much,” Doleman says. “Sci Fi channel really wanted to go dig at the Roswell crash site. Question is, as you put it, where is it?” Doleman explains that UNM didn’t choose the excavation site — the Sci Fi channel did.

UNM’s dig location was chosen by two UFO believers — Don Schmitt and Tom Carey — who acted as technical advisers to the Sci Fi channel.

Asked if he would rely on Schmitt to decide where to dig, Thomas said, “I sure wouldn’t. No.”

So how did Schmitt and Carey know that a UFO crashed precisely at the excavation site? They didn’t, and neither did UNM.

Gov. Bill Richardson
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, right, is briefed on the excavation. (KRQE-13)

“The digging was science. The choosing of the location was not,” Doleman says.

UNM’s research even caught the attention of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. In a briefing, Doleman explained how UNM’s archaeologists discovered a gouge in the prairie.

“Just finding a furrow at this spot near Corona in no way proves that an alien spaceship crashed there in 1947,” Thomas says.

Roswell dig
Workers at the site of the Sci Fi channel’s dig near Roswell, New Mexico, in 2002. (KRQE-13)

The Sci Fi channel paid UNM almost $26,000. The excavation lasted two weeks. Bags of dirt and artifacts were recovered for laboratory analysis. But when it was all over, UNM came up empty-handed.

Doleman says the UNM team didn’t recover a shred of evidence.

Thomas says, “I think they would have been wise just to say, we’re not going to do it, find somebody else to do it. That’s not what we do. Pseudo-science for hire.”

Doleman isn’t willing to give up on the aliens yet. He says the purported site needs further study.

But Thomas says, “I think the only thing that would convince the UFO community that nothing happened in Roswell would be for aliens to land on the lawn of the White House and come out and say, ‘Guys we had nothing to do with 1947, that wasn’t us.’ “

dig marker
A marker at the site of the 2002 excavation near Roswell, New Mexico. (KRQE-13)

According to the Air Force, the Roswell incident related to the crash of balloon-borne instruments, part of a secret government project to listen for Soviet nuclear tests. Despite that, thousands of New Mexicans still believe a UFO crashed near Roswell.

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