The Discovery
The Dropa Disks were discovered in 1938 in the Baian-Kara-Ula mountains on the border that divides China and Tibet. In that year, an archeological expedition led by Chi Pu Tei (a professor at Beijing University) happened on some caves that had been occupied by primitive people. The caves themselves appeared to have been man-made, rather than natural.

Inside, the archeologists found an ancient burial site that contained some very intriguing remains. The skeletons were only about four feet in height, quite frail and supported skulls that seemed far too large for such delicate bone structures. It was initially suggested that the remains be that of apes, but that was easily discounted because only humans ritually bury the dead. On the walls around the graves were carved pictograms of the heavens: the sun, the moon, the stars, and the Earth with lines of dots connecting them.

The team found the most interesting discovery of all half buried in the dirt: stone disks, nine inches in diameter and three-quarters of an inch thick, with round three-quarter inch holes in the middle. Etched into the surface was a fine groove spiraling out from the center to the rim. The disk was obviously made by a human, or some other intelligent being.

The Facts
The disks (seven hundred and sixteen in total were found) were dated to be between 10,000 and 12,000 years old. Physically, the granite stones contained high concentrations of cobalt and other metals, making them very hard. When testing a disk with an oscillograph, a surprising oscillation rhythm was recorded as if the disks had once been electrically charged or had functioned as electrical conductors.

The continuous groove in each disk was not just a carved line, but a row of tiny hieroglyphics of no known language. The writing was allegedly deciphered by a Chinese scientist (Dr. Tsum Um Nui) in 1962. What he claimed to have found was considered so earth shattering, so controversial, that the Prehistory Department of the Beijing Academy prohibited the public release of the translation. Eventually though, it was published under the title "The Grooved Script Concerning Spaceships Which, as Recorded on the Discs, Landed on Earth 12,000 Years Ago."

The Story
The disks tell of a space probe from a distant planet that crash landed in the mountains. The occupants of the craft (the Dropa) took refuge in the mountain caves. The intentions of the Dropa were misunderstood by members of the Ham tribe who were occupying neighboring caves. These humans hunted the aliens and even killed some of them. A translation of one of the passages says: "The Dropa came down from the clouds in their aircraft. Our men, women, and children hid in the caves ten times before sunrise. When at last they understood the sign language of the Dropa, they realized that the newcomers had peaceful intentions...." The Dropa could not repair their spaceship and were then stranded on Earth.

Were the Dropa truly visitors from some distant planet, or is their story merely a creation myth imagined by a primitive culture? This question remains, for now, unanswered.

Interesting Side-note:
The area where the disks were found is actually inhabited by two groups of people that call themselves the Dropa and the Han. Anthropologists have been unable to categorize either tribe into any other known race; they are neither Chinese nor Tibetan. Both groups have an average height of about four feet. They have yellowish skin, are delicately boned and have heads that are disproportionately large for their bodies (very much like the skeletal remains found in the cave). Their eyes are not Asian in aspect, and have pale blue irises.

An ancient Chinese tale also tells of a small, yellow skinned, slender peoples who descended to the Earth from the clouds, and who were shunned by everyone because of their ugliness.

This information was excavated from:

Slipped Disks: the story of the Dropa Disks

The "story" of the Dropa Disks is interesting and fascinating and the implications astonishing—as long as one accepts it without scratching the thin veneer of plausibility and looks into the actual "facts." If nothing else, it is a textbook example of just how easy it is for pseudoscience to be disseminated and accepted as valid by those who don't look behind the "extraordinary claims" or who have such a willingness to believe they refuse or simply ignore the disconfirming evidence (or lack thereof).

On the surface, it does sound plausible. It has scientists, technology (both "ancient" and modern), unclassifiable "ethnic" groups. It also has adventure and the exotic: remote areas of the world, mysterious artifacts, cover-up and conspiracy, and—of course—ancient astronauts. If the last item didn't set off your version of Carl Sagan's "Baloney Detector" (a less profane version of what the Clash listened to in their "garage"), it should. If one has a familiarity with the subject, a certain name may have popped into mind. We'll save that for later. On with the story.

As the story goes, in 1938, a Chinese archaeologist named Professor Chu Pu Tei (of Beijing University) was on an expedition in the Bayan Kara Ula—with at least two other spelling variations I've found, plus occasionally hyphenated—on the border between China and Tibet. The problem, of course, is that one will not find any such place on a map (feel free to try—part of the point is to verify these sorts of claims). There is a small range of mountains called Bayan Har Shan in the same area where the story allegedly takes place. Yet none of the many sites mention it except one that debunks the whole thing. Perhaps the storytellers made a mistake. Or we have numerous scientists and archaeologists that are just plain sloppy. And there seems to be no mention of the professor anywhere except in association with the story. This will be a reoccurring phenomenon.

On this expedition to this remote area where the people lived rather primitively, Professor Tei and his crew found some caves that the locals apparently avoided for some superstitious reason (perhaps they just couldn't find them). In those caves the expedition found a group of neatly arranged rows of graves. In some versions, the caves are "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" (

On the walls of the caves were pictograms of men with bulbous heads and representations of the sun, moon, and stars. The intrepid explorers proceeded to dig up the graves and found similar-looking skeletons: about 1.2 m (four feet) tall with "unnaturally spindly bodies" ( Thinking at first that they were some unknown species of ape, the professor apparently said something along the lines of (this phrase and its variants appear over and over in the online "literature"—often with the same typo making "whoever" two words) "Whoever heard of apes burying each other?" Mysterious—but it gets better.

Inside those caves was something else—a stone disk that was approximately shaped like a record album (remember those?). In fact, it not only was shaped and sized similarly, it had a hole in the center and a spiraling groove (later said to be tiny hieroglyphs). Further expeditions reportedly unearthed 716 of these disks. Unfortunately, no one could decipher the "writing."

Translation, please
That is, until another professor enters the picture, a Tsum Um Nui—also from a prestigious Chinese university ("Academy of Prehistoric Research in Beijing"). Sounds pretty impressive. For a Chinese person whose name seemingly cannot be Chinese—apologists suggest that it may be a "phonetic conversion of a Japanese name" (; "Japanese" was uncapitalized in the source). There seems to be no record of his existence outside of the Dropa tale, either. In 1962 (note the date for later), Professor Nui revealed his findings.

One version of Nui's words has him describing what's written on one groove:

The Dropas came down from the clouds in their aircraft. Our men, women and children hid in the caves ten times before sunrise. When at last they understood the sign language of the Dropas, they realized that the newcomers had peaceful intentions....

Or if you prefer:

The Dropa came down from the clouds with their airgliders. Ten times the men, women and children of the Kham hid in the caves until sunrise. Then they understood the signs and saw that the Dropa came in peace this time.
(ibid., from the Saitzev paper mentioned below)

Finally, we have the arrival (pun intended) of the mysterious Dropa—which you can find while searching only appears in association with the story and not listed in any reputable anthropology or ethnology source. Even if one uses the variant spelling Dzopa, which (we are told) is a result of that second consonant being pronounced like a sound midway between the two.

It is also the arrival of the second tribe, which is sometimes referred to as "Ham," "Kam," or "Kham." This also appears not to be listed anywhere—I didn't search as hard so it might be some obscure tribe, though I found a source (; unrelated subject) that mentions "Kam" as a Mongolian word for a shaman or extraordinary person. It certainly wouldn't be the first time other cultures and belief systems were plundered to give "support" and "plausibility" to the stories of others: there is nothing "new" about "new age."

These ancient astronauts arrived some 12,000 years ago, which we are told was determined by scientific dating techniques (given the "quality" of the science found in the story, they'd probably say the stones were carbon dated). Their "aircraft" or "airgliders" crashed-landed and they were unable to send out a distress call. Stranded far from home, the Dropa were forced to become earthlings (sounds like something from the Weird Tales rejected manuscripts pile). And as is common in pulp science fiction, these enlightened, technologically advanced (despite their Flintstones-style talking disks) strangers who had come in peace scared the primitive earth people, who in their fear hunted down many of the extraterrestrials (recall that they ran and hid in the early part of the story).

It's also claimed that these two tribes exist (with possible interspecies mating) and have always baffled archaeologists and scientists as to their origins. Which must explain the absence from non-disk related sources. They are described as both short of stature and of indeterminate racial origin. The existence of these tribes is accepted without question as is the fictional Bayan Kara Ula region. So is the supposed local folklore of "small, gaunt, yellow faced men who 'came from the clouds long, long ago'" ( Unsurprisingly, the descriptions fit with the alleged skeletal findings.

It was so important and such a bombshell of a discovery that Nui's work was immediately suppressed and he was ridiculed (supposedly resigning from the university and living out his years in Japan, where he may or may not have spelled his name differently). Of course the "truth must be heard," and he went ahead and published his findings. It got the attention of Soviet scientists and several of the disks were sent to Moscow to be studied.

The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming
It is there that some of the other amazing properties of these disks bubble to the surface. Supposedly, the scientists made scrapings from the rocks (said to be made mostly of granite), finding that it had quite a bit of cobalt among other metallics. I'm not sure about the area, but cobalt was known to China—perhaps not 12,000 years ago—so I don't know if this should be so surprising. That is shows magnetic properties and is sometimes found in small amounts in meteoritic material might be why this is supposed to sound significant. One source gives as part of the story that the element is mined in the region. If true, then it shouldn't have been that much of a surprise.

In 1968, a report was published in a Soviet (the story seems to favor referring to them as "Russian," possibly to utilize them as experts without the taint of being "dirty communists") magazine named Sputnik by a Dr. Vyatcheslav Saitzev (Saitsew or Zaitsev, sometimes the first spelled with a "W"). It related more of the fascinating findings of the "Russians." According to him, "when testing a disk with an oscillograph a surprising oscillation rhythm was discovered, just as if the disks with the groove-writing had once been charged or had functioned as electrical conductors" ( Usually when his little text is credited in the sources, it is accompanied by "The above text is a translation of the original paper written by W. Saitsew and has not been altered in any way." So it must be true.

Later appearences
The next mention of the disks comes in the following decade. In 1974, an Austrian engineer (therefore, an "expert" scientist) named Ernst Wegener found two of the disks in a museum in China (the Banpo Museum in Xian—which does exist, by the way). They had begun to "deteriorate" (finally, after 12,000 years?) and the curator knew nothing about them. Wegener was allowed to touch them and take a Polaroid picture—this alleged picture does exist, though its source is indeterminate except to true believers, since Wegener is another apparent "ghost." Sometimes it is proffered as some sort of "proof" that the disks not only exist but are what they are claimed to be.

Hartwig Hausdorf, a member of the Ancient Astronaut Society and writer of such classics as Die Weisse Pyramide ("The White Pyramid," known as The Chinese Roswell in the English translation), became fortunate enough to visit certain areas of China—looking for these "fabled" pyramids. According to him, he asked to see the disks at the museum, but they were gone. He explains on his website ( that within days of Wagener's viewing them, they "were removed and nobody knows where they are hidden now."

One more facet of the story remains. In 1979, a book was published under the title of Sungods in Exile. Another "ghost" is the writer, a Dr. Karyl Robin-Evans (some think it was actually written by the editor). It describes a certain Polish Professor Sergei Lolladoff (continuing in the "ghost" tradition) who showed her one of the strange disks right after World War II. This is where the "Dzopa" variation comes from, apparently. In 1947, the good doctor made an expedition to the region (even claiming to have gained an audience with the Dalai Lama).

When arriving in the disputed region, Robin-Evans lost his Tibetan carriers—something about the mysterious Bayan Kara Ula area frightened them away. Persevering with his stiff upper lip, he managed to arrive at the location. There he was taught about the D(z)ropa language and history (information that would have been highly valuable to anthropologists and others, but apparently never passed on). He learned that they had come from the Sirius system (a very popular one to come from) and had come on two missions of exploration, the first being 20,000 years ago (unsure if it was a typo or the book has an 8000 year discrepancy). The second occurred in 1014, when there was a crash, stranding the aliens. No attempt was made to explain the 1014 date in comparison with the 12,000 date.

A picture was produced allegedly showing the ruling couple, claimed to be 101.6 cm (40 inches). Robin-Evans died in 1974 and could not be reached for comment. According to Hausdorf, he was contacted by a Ukrainian scientist who said it was science fiction.

Well, no. There was a news article, supposedly published in 1995 from the area describing "120 people of a previously ethnologically unclassified tribe" ( of dwarves matching the heights Robin-Evans claims. I managed to dig up a possible copy of the story as it appeared in USA Today in 1997 (unsure if it actually did, I was unable to find it in the online archives). According to it (as quoted at "High levels of mercury in the drinking water of the village Huilong in Sichuan province are responsible for sixty cases of dwarfism in the village, according to Chinese officials. No new cases have been reported since the village received a source of pollution-free drinking water."

Apologists charge that there is no evidence for significant genetic change, which would be necessary to create a "tribe" of dwarves, from mercury poisoning. On the other hand, pollutants and contaminants, along with poor medical care/nutrition could be responsible for people short of stature without a genetic component.

Intriguing? Maybe. Proof of anything? Not really. The article doesn't mention any "ethnologically unclassified tribe."

Since most of the principal characters in this tale are missing in action or never existed at all, what about the sources that brought us this point? The original source of the story, according to Hausdorf in The Chinese Roswell, is Sputnik. It was also picked up by a Belgian UFO magazine and (I love this) a German publication called Das Vegetarische Universum, which supposedly used both Soviet and Japanese sources.

Unfortunately, in the sources given for the chapter, the earliest listed is from a Soviet magazine called Russian Digest, the article titled "Were Alien Visitors on Earth?" Here is where things fall apart. The date on the article is 1960 (two years prior to Nui's translation). Further, the date for the German magazine is 1962, all well before the "original" publication in Sputnik. Even Hausdorf admits that many of those Soviet magazines were sensationalistic, not unlike American supermarket tabloids. The Belgian and German articles were basically copies of the earlier article.

King of the Ancient Astronaut theory
Then there is the next source following Sputnik, which is of note. It is a little 1970 book titled Gods from Outer Space by Erich von Däniken (English translation of the 1969 Zurück zu den Sternen or "Back to the Stars").

According to von Däniken, his source was a conversation in 1968 with a Soviet writer named Aleksandr Kazantsev. In an investigation by Gordon Creighton (hardly a skeptic, he writes for Flying Saucer Review) spent a lot of time working on tracking down sources for the story (not finding much). Not only couldn't he find any Chinese professors or scientists who could confirm it or who had even heard of it, but when he asked Kazantsev about the conversation, Kazantsev claimed that he had gotten the story from von Däniken.

In an article from a 1973 issue of Australia's The Advertiser, the writer, doing research on von Däniken and his claims, contacted the Soviet Embassy in Canberra for information on Kazantsev (spelled Kassanzev in the article which can be found at They could provide him with no information on the man. So

I asked Mr. von Daniken what kind of books Kassanzev wrote. "He is writing both scientifically," he replied, "and science fiction."

When asked about any new information on the disks, von Däniken told him "I am sure there will be. I received a letter from the Cultural Institutes in Peking just before I left Zurich. I left it with the Chinese Ambassador to be translated."

Perhaps he should have gotten the eminent Tsum Um Nui. Of course he was dead. Or nonexistent. Just like a lot of things in this story.

(Sources:, and ufos...aa032601b.htm,,,,; plus a lot of reading of the repetitive variations on the story elsewhere)

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