The Nampa Doll or Nampa Figurine still has proponents for its authenticity as a 2-million-year-old artifact that upends the generally accepted understanding of human history on Earth. Found in July, 1889 near Nampa by local businessman Mark Kurtz, the 1 ½ inch tall doll brought with it outsized attention since its discovery. Was it attention that Kurtz sought? He was a real estate man drilling a deep well to find water. Cynics reading this—I know you’re out there—might think Kurtz was trying to gin up interest in lots for sale.
What interested people was that the drilling operation brought up—seemingly from 320 feet below the surface—a tiny, fired clay figurine that had clearly been made by human hands. The little doll seems to depict a woman. Scratches in the clay may represent jewelry around her neck and on her wrists.
The excitement this stirred up in some, such as geologist George Fredrick Wright was as high as the well was deep. Wright was with the Boston Society of Natural History when the drilling crew found the doll.
In his book, Origin and Antiquity of Man, published in 1912, Wright wrote, “In visiting the locality in 1890 I took special pains, while on the ground, to compare the discoloration of the oxide upon the image with that upon the clay balls still found among the debris which had come from the well, and ascertained it to be as nearly identical as it is possible to be. These confirmation evidences, in connection with the very satisfactory character of the evidence furnished by the parties who made the discovery, and confirmed by Mr. G. M. Gumming, of Boston (at that time the superintendent of that division of the Oregon Short Line Railroad, and who knew all the parties, and was upon the ground a day or two after the discovery) placed the genuineness of the discovery beyond reasonable doubt.”
Well, that’s all very impressive, but famed explorer and geologist John Wesley Powell, writing in Popular Science Monthly, had a different take:
“Consider the circumstances. A fragile toy is buried in the sands and gravels and boulders of a torrential stream. Three hundred feet of materials are accumulated over it from the floods of thousands of years. Then volcanoes burst forth and pour floods of lava over all; and under more than three hundred feet of sands, gravels, clays, and volcanic rocks the fragile figurine remains for centuries, under such magical conditions that the very color of the burning is preserved. Then well-diggers, with a pump drill, hammer and abrade the rocks, and bore a six-inch hole down to this figurine without destroying it, and with a sand-pump bring it to the surface, to be caught by the well-digger; and Prof. Wright believes the story of the figurine, and places it on record in his book!”
Powell had been interested enough to visit the site of the drilling and examine the doll himself shortly after it was found. He noted that he had “jested with those who claimed to have found it,” and said everyone he talked with “passed it off as a jest.” Powell noted that he’d seen similar dolls made as toys by contemporary Indians.
Cruise the always reliable internet, and you can find numerous stories about the doll, including from those who are certain it was deposited by Noah’s Flood. One enterprising woman who claims psychic powers is selling a pendant inspired by what she “’saw” through the doll’s eyes through her psychic connection after viewing the artifact. Only $200!
The Nampa Doll is nearly a perfect focus for those selling alternate ideas about history, creation, and, apparently, jewelry. It is a real object found in an unexpected place. Insert your own theory here.
Why are archeologists skeptical? No other human artifact of this purported age has been found anywhere in the world.