A small group of hunters stalking deer cast their eyes to the sky, expecting the clouds to break open from the deafening thunder with a torrent of rain. But this wasn't thunder at all. A bright flash burst forth from the ceiling of clouds. The hunters realized this was not lightning. They had never seen anything like this before. A glowing orb streaked through the sky above their heads as they watched in dazed disbelief. The orb wobbled and veered as it fell, as if it were trying to fight gravity and keep itself from smashing into the ground.
The hunters readied their weapons, not knowing what threat this mystery from the sky might present. Suddenly the thundering roar stopped, and the orb made one final veer and a slight upward turn before slamming into the earth. The hunters were nearly knocked off their feet from the shockwave. The thing - whatever it was - hit the ground just beyond a line of trees, perhaps an hour's walk away, the hunters estimated. A cloud of dirt and leaves rose above the tree line. The hunters debated whether or not they should investigate. Each of them was afraid, but none was willing to admit it. Tightly gripping their weapons, they headed in the direction of the great thing from the clouds. They'd have to hurry; evening was drawing near. The sun had already set behind the mountains by the time they made their way through the sparse growth of trees.
Then, there it was before them. An indescribable thing, half as high as the trees and reflecting the remaining light of the day like a huge, wet, shiny rock. The hunters couldn't find the words to speak of what this thing might be - a shape completely alien to their experience. They stared at it, hesitant to move closer. Then ... a hole appeared in the side of the great shiny thing ... and something was moving inside. The year, by our calendar, was about 10,000 B.C.
Obviously, I have fictionalized the details of this story, but if the interpretation of an exciting discovery made in 1938 is correct, this is a true story. The story of the Dropa.
What the Professor Found
The story of the Dropa for us begins in the same place, but the year is 1938. The mountains are the Baian-Kara-Ula mountains on the border that divides China and Tibet. An archaeological expedition, led by Chi Pu Tei, has trudged into the barely accessible mountain range, and has happened upon some caves that had obviously been occupied by a primitive people long ago. But what he and his team find in these remote caves is something highly unusual and, if verified, could change everything we know about our distant past.
Not all of the facts of this case are clear and, as you'll understand later, difficult to verify. Some of the details are contradictory, fuzzy, or may have been sensationalized by imaginative writers. But even if part of this story is true, it represents one of the greatest discoveries of our age.
Chi Pu Tei, a professor of archaeology at Beijing University, was leading some his students on an expedition to survey a series of interlinking caves in the Himalayan mountains. According to one account, the caves may have been artificially carved, and were more like a complex system of tunnels and underground storerooms. The walls were squared and glazed, as if cut into the mountain with a source of extreme heat.
Inside the caves were several ancient, but neatly arranged burial sites, and in them the skeletal remains of a strange people. The skeletons, measuring a little more than four feet tall, were frail and spindly with disproportionately large skulls. At first. it was suggested by a member of the team that these might be the remains of an unknown species of mountain gorilla. Professor Chi Pu Tei is reputed to have responded, "Who ever heard of apes burying one another?" Yet, what kind of human was this?
Next page: The Disks