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Left: Father Crespi holding a metallic artifact that appears to contain a series of hieroglyphs. (Source). Right: Photographs of Crespi’s so-called ‘Metallic Library’. Credit: Ancient-Origins.net.

On the trail of the Father Crespi Collection – Part I


A desperately poor clergyman tends to a small South-American community. He teaches the children, and procures the schoolbooks for them. The people are poor and cannot afford medical assistance; therefore, the padre organizes aid as well as he can. Pious phrases are of no help to the children, the clergyman is well aware of it, but regular school meals are. The native population cannot pay their padre with money, but they give him gifts: to thank him they bring clay objects from ancient times, metal plates with peculiar inscriptions and drawings. They trust him and in this manner express their gratitude. The Indians give to the padre what archaeologists often search for in vain. And so comes into being a fantastic collection of archaeological objects—not in the hallowed halls of noble museums, but in the pathetic courtyard of a church in Ecuador!

Photo of artifact from Crespi Collection

Padre Carlo Crespi (1891-1982) came to Ecuador in 1923. He attempted to convey his religion to the people in the eastern part of the country. However, the poverty of the Indians deeply affected him, and he tried to alleviate their misery. Instead of hypocritically preaching charity—he lived it. In 1935 he opened a school in Cuenca. In the courtyard of the church of ‘Maria Auxiliadora’, the ‘helpful Mother of God’, he built a small private museum. Luc Bürgin, in his book Lexikon der verbotenen Archäologie ( Lexicon of forbidden archaeology ) writes: “There, he displayed the exhibits of the indigenous cultures, which he received from the friendly natives: ritualistic objects, ceramics, figurines of gods made from stone and wood, many other cult-related objects as well as items used in the daily life of the Indian tribes of Ecuador.”

Photograph of Father Crespi with some local children.  Crespi Museum in the  Universidad Politécnica Salesiana. Credit: Ancient-Origins.net

Archaeological Outsider

Swiss best-selling author, Erich von Däniken, became world-famous in 1968 with his book Erinnerungen an die Zukunft ( Chariots of the Gods? ). In 1969 followed Zurück zu den Sternen (Return to the Stars ). During his travels, von Däniken made the acquaintance of venerable Padre Crespi. In 1972 he introduced the padre’s collection in his book Aussaat und Kosmos ( The Gold of the Gods ).

Photo of artifact from Crespi Collection

Photo of artifact from Crespi Collection

Overnight, Crespi’s collection of artifacts was thrust into the spotlight of international publicity. The academic world reacted and its members unanimously declared their outrage! Padre Crespi, a modestly dressed, poor clergyman was supposed to have collected valuable archaeological objects? That was simply not true. Thus, the countless objects in the courtyard of the ‘helpful Mother of God’ were declared worthless junk, cheap forgeries without value.

Were the scientists gifted with supernatural powers? Obviously! What other explanation could there have been for their ability to evaluate the objects in Crespi’s collection without having travelled even near Cuenca in Ecuador? From thousands of kilometers away the scientists had delivered their crushing verdict.

Photo of artifact from Crespi Collection

Photo of artifact from Crespi Collection

Twenty years later, I travelled to Ecuador. I spoke about the clergyman to the people in the market of Cuenca—he had passed away ten years earlier. Without exception, the people expressed their admiration of him, and spoke with loving reverence about the man who had lived among them, and had shared their poverty. They venerated him like a saint, and in prayer asked for his assistance. They still placed flowers at his resting place. Repeatedly, I heard the mention of Padre Crespi’s many precious archaeological artifacts from ancient times.

Did the collection really exist? Was it valuable? Or did it in truth consist merely of worthless junk the poor Indians had palmed off onto unsuspecting Crespi? My research informed me that Padre Crespi had held the position of director at the gold museum in Cuenca for several years. Would he have collected worthless rubbish? That seemed very unlikely to me. Consequently, I went on a search for Padre Crespi’s collection. And I found it.

Finding the Collection

According to some rumors, the ‘Banco Central’ of Cuenca had bought Crespi’s collection. Critical voices were doubtful. During my preparations for the trip, I was told that a respectable bank would not purchase a worthless collection! Esteban Salazar, an employee of the ‘Banco Central’ explained this to me: It is true! The bank acquired a significant portion of the Crespi collection for US$433,000 after the clergyman had passed on!

Photo of artifact from Crespi Collection

Photo of artifact from Crespi Collection

Esteban Salazar led our small group of four travelers into the cellar of the ‘Banco Central’. Down there, we were simply astonished at the thousands of artifacts. We admired the ceramic objects diligently sorted on orderly shelves. I asked: “And these objects all came from Padre Crespi’s collection?” Esteban Salazar replied in the affirmative. The people of the bank had sorted the items according to shape and size: small dishes, bowls, and vases. I enquired: “Are these items old?” “Many are merely a few hundred years old, but others up to three thousand years!”

Obviously, the scientific distance-critics had prematurely dismissed Crespi’s collection as ‘worthless junk’. Padre Crespi had clearly owned thousands of genuine archaeological objects, which truly belonged in a museum. In 1982, Estefan Salazar hoped that at least some of these artifacts would ‘soon’ be displayed to the public in an exhibition. That has not happened to this day.

Harvard professor, Barry Fell, (6 June 1917 - 21 April 1994) distinguished himself by deciphering ancient texts. Prof. Fell, founder of the ‘Epigraphic Society’, intensively studied one object from the Crespi collection. The triangular tablet contains three rows of peculiar lettering. Above it, one can see an elephant-like animal. At the apex shines the depiction of the sun.

Prof. Fell came to an astonishing realization: The letters on the tablet are not at all nonsensical scribbles. They belong to a known writing, and are best compared to that used in the third century BC in Thougga, Tunisia. The writing was discovered, for example, on a monument for King Masinissa. Would forgers in Ecuador have played with an ancient script? Prof. Bell dismissed the notion. He succeeded in translating the short text: “The elephant that supports the Earth upon the waters and causes it to quake.”

Missing Artifacts

My summary on location: Padre Crespi’s collection contains thousands of artifacts that are unequivocally genuine. The ‘Banco Central’ acquired these valuable finds for a small fortune; they are stored in the cellar of the respectable financial institution.

Almost thirty years have passed since Padre Crespi’s death. Officially, the archaeological treasures have neither been catalogued, nor publicly exhibited to date! Why not?

Hundreds of figurines from Father Crespi’s collection.

Hundreds of figurines  from Father Crespi’s collection. Credit: Ancient-Origins.net

In 1972, Erich von Däniken triggered an international discussion about the Crespi collection. Metal objects, metal plates with mysterious images and inscriptions caused a sensation. Erich von Däniken had photographed many of the plates, and featured them in his book Aussaat und Kosmos . Twenty years later I went on my search. What happened to those plates after Crespi’s death?

[Read Part II]

Walter J. Langbein is author of some 60 non-fiction books on mysteries of the world, many of which have become bestsellers in Europe.

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Top Image: Left: Father Crespi holding a metallic artifact that appears to contain a series of hieroglyphs. ( Source). Right: Photographs of Crespi’s so-called ‘Metallic Library’. Credit: Ancient-Origins.net.

Unless otherwise noted, images courtesy author Walter J. Langbein.

By Walter J. Langbein

Translation: Marlies Bugmann

References

Bürgin, Luc: “Lexikon der verbotenen Archäologie/Mysteriöse Relikte von A bis Z”, Rottenburg, December 2009, Pg. 61

Fell, Berry: “America B.C.”, New York 1976, Pg. 184

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