Date: January 3, 2005
To: Members of the Committee for Research and Exploration, National Geographic Society via John Francis, Vice Chairman
From: Betty Meggers, Smithsonian Institution
Subject: Unethical behavior of grantees Jonathan Haas and Winifred Creamer
Since the CRE has funded archeological investigations by Haas and Creamer on the Peruvian coast and may receive additional applications, I would like to brief the Committee on their unethical usurpation of the findings of Ruth Shady, also a CRE grantee, at Caral in the Supe Valley.
The most recent example is an article in Nature (Vol. 432, December 2004) in which they announce 95 radiocarbon dates obtained from sites in the Pativilca and Fortaleza valleys adjacent to Supe in the north, which “confirm the emergence and development of a major cultural complex in this region during the Late Archaic period” and “the early development of complex societies,” but reference one of their publications rather than any of Shady’s. They mention “extensive excavations in the 1990's at the Supe Valley site of Caral” and provide three references, but two are by them. Of the 17 references in their article, only two include Shady and one of these is co-authored by them. Careful reading of the text indicates that their contribution has been limited to mapping the sites in Pativilca and Fortaleza and making test excavations to obtain “suitable material for radiocarbon dating.”
A news article in the Washington Post on December 23 entitled “Earliest Urban Society in Americas Found at Peruvian Sites,” states “For several years, Haas’s team has excavated a site near the Norte Chico town of Caral.” It describes Shady’s work without attribution, but acknowledges that “All of these findings supported the early theory that the inland Norte Chico communities probably grew cotton and traded it for fish to coastal fishermen, who used the cotton to make nets.” Although archeologists are not responsible for errors by reporters, these are clearly the result of the failure of Haas and Creamer to acknowledge that their “discoveries” are the work of Shady and her team.
A more flagrant example of misrepresentation is included in the testimony of the American Anthropological Association to the Appropriations Subcommittee of the House of Representative in defense of the NSF appropriation for fiscal 2004, which describes seven anthropological projects being funded (link). Project No. 1 states that “Working in the north-central coast of Peru, Creamer and Haas have identified 25 major yet previously undocumented archeological sites in three adjoining valleys all dating to 3000 and 1800 BC–--the same time the pyramids of Egypt were being constructed.... Among these is the site of Caral, dated to 2627 BC, that appears to be the oldest city in the New World.”
Needless to say, Shady and her colleagues are distressed and incensed over the failure to acknowledge their work. Shady has summarized the history of the involvement of Haas and Creamer in coastal archeology, which includes other examples of misrepresentation. This document and a list of 32 publications authored by her that were available to them (which does not include numerous additional articles by Peruvian colleagues and students) has been sent to members of the Lista de Arqueología.
The fact that Haas and Creamer are accessible to the media and speak English has facilitated their usurpation of credit for identifying early urbanism on the coast of Peru, with its revolutionary implications for theories of the evolution of complex society. They deserve the opportunity to defend themselves, but the damage has been done. Since additional funding by the CRE will be interpreted as support for their unethical behavior, this should be taken into consideration in the event of future applications.