Modern artwork from Mexico passed off as 'ancient Indian temple sculpture'

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An image that depicts what appears to be an ancient engraving of a person seated in front of a computer has been repeatedly shared in false posts that claim it shows a thousand-year-old temple sculpture carved by an Indian king. A Mexico-based illustrator told AFP the image shows an art piece he made 25 years ago using resin and acrylic, inspired by science fiction, fantasy and Mayan and Aztec culture.

"Lalgiri temple -- built by Pallava king Narasimha 1400 years ago -- has a computer and keyboard along with electric wire and all these made on a stone wall," reads part of the Hindi-language claim, shared more than 100 times here on Facebook on January 25, 2023.

The accompanying image appears to show a carving of a person in traditional clothing using a computer.

The post further reads: "While it is said that back then there was no electricity on Earth, no modern technical instruments, the proof is on the walls of our temples, but we do not go to temples anymore."

The Pallava dynasty ruled southern India from the early 4th century to the late 9th century. Narasimha -- also called Narasimhavarman I -- is one of its kings.

Screenshot of the false post, taken January 30, 2023.

The image was also shared alongside a similar false claim on Twitter and on Facebook here and here.

However, it in fact shows an art piece made 25 years ago by a Mexico-based illustrator.

A reverse image search on Yandex followed by keyword searches found the photo published by Strange Horizons, a US-based weekly magazine, on October 9, 2006.

The article credits the artwork to Mexico-based illustrator Raul Cruz.

"Raul's artwork, inspired by Aztec and Mayan art, mixes traditional elements with science fiction and fantastic themes," the article says.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the image shared in one of the false posts (left) and the photo published by Strange Horizons (right):

Screenshot comparison of the image shared in one of the false posts (left) and the photo published by Strange Horizons (right).

A further keyword search found a similar photo on the art platform ArtStation. The piece is titled "Memory of the Future".

Cruz's bio on ArtStation reads: "Futurist aesthetics and science fiction combined with Mesoamerican art directly influenced his work, mixing the past and the present with unpredictable futures."

Corresponding photos of the artwork were posted on Cruz's Instagram on September 5, 2018 and could be seen on the cover of the book "Cosmos Latinos: An Anthology of Science Fiction from Latin America and Spain".

Cruz told AFP claims linking his artwork to an Indian temple are false.

"That image is a work I did 25 years ago, first with pencil, then larger with resins and acrylic," he said.

"It has nothing to do with India, it's just a fantasy work like many I've done for many years, combining fantasy and science fiction with the Mayan and Aztec cultures of my country."