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The Professor of Medicine Who Claimed to Have Found Sculptures Made by God Himself (1725)

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In 1725, Professor Johann Bartholomeus Adam Beringer, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Würzburg, found many pieces of limestone carved into the shapes of lizards, frogs, spiders on their webs, a fish-faced bird, suns, and stars on Mount Eibelstadt, Germany. Some of them were bearing inscriptions such as the Hebrew name of God in Latin, Arabic, and Hebrew characters. These pieces with peculiar forms, in his opinion, were stones carved by God himself while experimenting with the types of life that He thought to create.

Beringer also proposed several possible explanations for the supposed fossils, in addition to his own preferred interpretation that while some few of these stones might be dead animals (fossils), most were just “capricious fabrications of God.” He also considered the possibility that they were the carvings of prehistoric pagans, but he had to rule this out since pagans would not know the name of God. However, this evidence of sculpting only convinced him more strongly that the chisel was wielded by the hand of God.

In fact, he was the victim of a hoax perpetrated by his colleagues, the ex-Jesuit J. Ignatz Roderick, Professor of Geography and Mathematics, and Johann Georg von Eckhart, privy counselor and university librarian. Upon discovering the truth, Beringer took his hoaxers to court, and the scandal that followed left all three of them in disgrace.

Some of the stones are now on display at the Oxford University Museum and Teylers Museum in the Netherlands.


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