William Niven

William Niven

name = William Niven

image_width = 200 px
caption = William Niven, mineralogist, circa 1895
birth_date = 6 October, 1850
birth_place = Bellshill, Lanarkshire, Scotland
death_date = June 2, 1937
death_place = Austin, Texas, United States
residence = Scotland, United States
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field = Mineralogy, Archeology
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known_for = Mineral discoveries; "Niven tablets"
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William Niven (1850-1937) was a mineralogist and archeologist noted for his discovery of the minerals yttrialite, thorogummite, aguilarite and nivenite (named after him), as well as a set of controversial tablets. Originally from Scotland, Niven came to the United States in 1879, where he became heavily involved in mineralogy and mining.

Mineral discoveries

Niven's first major contribution to mineralogy occurred in 1889 while he was on an expedition to Llano County, Texas, on behalf of Thomas Edison. Niven was looking for the mineral gadolinite, which was used as a street lamp filament. It was on this expedition that he discovered three new minerals, yttrialite, thorogummite, and nivenite.

In the 1890s, Niven discovered the mineral aguilarite while on an exploration trip to Mexico. He also found new deposits of rare minerals in New York and New Jersey.

The "Niven tablets"

The so-called Niven tablets are and have been surrounded by controversy since their discovery by Niven in 1921. They have been associated with Scandinavian petroglyphs as posited by Ludovic Mann and they have also been associated with lost continent theories. Their association with lost continent theories comes through James Churchward's interpretation of the symbols found on the tablets.

Niven eventually became interested in archaeology through his travels to Mexico and excavations being under taken there at the time. Niven began his archaeological work in Guerrero, Mexico but due to the Mexican Revolution of 1910 he was forced to move to the Valley of Mexico. This, for Niven, turned out to be what brought him fame throughout the world. 1921 brought the first discovery of one of the andesite tablets. The tablets were found with markings on them that Niven did not recognize. The interesting thing is that all of the tablets found had very similar markings and symbols.

James Churchward and the lost continent of Mu

James Churchward offered an interpretation of the tablets that caused even more disbelief in their authenticity. Churchward was a major proponent of theories regarding lost continents, specifically the continent of Mu. He believed that early in the history of the world there existed a continent which was called Mu. This civilization, according to Churchward and many others, was very technologically advanced but was destroyed due to natural disaster. After viewing rubbings of Niven's tablets Churchward strongly believed that there were a group of people that escaped destruction and migrated to other parts of the world spreading their culture and belief system. He believed that the symbols and markings found on the tablets had roots in the ancient culture of Mu. This furthered speculation that the tablets were a hoax.

The end of the tablets

Niven spent the good part of his life selling the tablets and trying to find out their origin and meaning. This was never accomplished. The tablets were interpreted by many people and many theories were posited, but to no avail. They were eventually lost during the latter part of Niven's life, during their attempted shipment from Mexico to the U.S.. The only remaining evidence, of which the location is known, are the rubbings that were taken from the actual tablets.


*Wicks, Robert S. and Harrison, Roland H. (1999). "Buried Cities, Forgotten Gods: William Niven's Life of Discovery and Revolution in Mexico and the American Southwest", Texas Tech University Press. ISBN 089672414X
* [http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/NN/fni6.html Handbook of Texas Online: William Niven] . The Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved on 2007-01-07;
*Lossing, Benson John (1915) "Niven, William (1850- )" "Harper's Encyclopaedia of United States History: From 458 A.D. to 1915" (New edition entirely revised and enlarged in 10 volumes) Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York;

External links

* [http://www.minrec.org/labels.asp?colid=345 Wilson, Wendell E. (2006) "William Niven" "The Mineralogical Record - Label Archive"]
*worldcat id|lccn-n98-102516

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