High in the mountains of BayanKara-Ula, on the borders of China and Tibet - a team of archaeologists were conducting a very detailed routine survey of a series of interlinked caves.
Their interests had been excited by the discovery of lines of neatly arranged graves which contained the skeletons of what must have been a strange race of human beings; strange because they had unnaturally spindly bodies and large, overdeveloped heads.
At first, it had been thought that the caves had been the home of a hitherto unknown species of ape. But as the leader of the team - the Chinese archeologist, Professor Chi Pu Tei - pointed out, "Who ever heard of apes burying each other?"
It was while studying the skeletons that one of the team stumbled on a large, round stone disk, half buried in the dust on the floor of the cave.
The team gathered round the discovery, turning it this way and that.It looked, absurdly, like a kind of 'Stone Age Gramophone record'. There was a hole in the centre and a fine, spiral groove radiated to the rim.
Closer inspection, however, showed that the groove was, in fact, a continuous spiralling line of closely written characters.
The object was a 'record' ... in more ways then one. Only nobody at the time - the year was 1938 - possessed the key to its incredible message. The disc was labeled and filed away among other finds in the area. Even those who knew of its existence knew nothing of its meaning.
Many experts tried to translate the hieroglyphics in the 20 years the disc languished in Peking. They all failed. It was not until another professor Dr. Tsum Um Nui broke the code and started to decipher the 'speaking grooves' that the extraordinary implications of the disc were realized.
Realized, that is, only by only a select few. The outside world remained in ignorance. For the professor's conclusions on the meaning of the disc were so shattering that they were officially suppressed. The Peking Academy of Pre-History forbade him to publish his findings.
Two years later, in 1965, the professor and four of his colleagues were finally given permission to reveal their theory. It appeared under the longwinded but intriguing title, "The Grooved Script concerning Space-ships which, as recorded on the Discs, landed on Earth 12,000 years ago".
The 'records' - 716 of the grooved discs were later uncovered in the same caves - told an astonishing story of a 'space probe' by the inhabitants of another planet which came to grief in the Bayan-Kara-Ula mountain range.
The strange, spiral script told how the peaceful intentions of the 'aliens' had been misunderstood and how many of them were hunted down and killed by members of the Ham tribe, who lived in the neighboring caves.
According to Tsum Um Nui, one of the lines of the hieroglyphics read, "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."
Another section expressed 'regret' by the Ham tribe that the aliens' spaceship had crash-landed in such a remote and inaccessible mountains and that there had been no way to building a new one to enable Dropas to return to their own planet.
In the years since the discovery of the first disc, archaeologists and anthropologists had learned more about the isolated Bayan-Kara-Ula area.And much of the information seemed to corroborate the bizarre story recorded on the discs.
Legend still preserved in the area spoke of small, gaunt, yellow faced men who 'came from the clouds, long, long ago'. The men had huge, bulging heads and puny bodies and were so ugly and repellent that they were hounded down by local tribesmen on horseback. Strangely, the description of the 'invaders' tallied with the skeletons originally discovered in the caves by Professor Chi Pu Tei.
On the walls of the caves themselves archaeologists had uncovered crude pictures of the rising Sun, the Moon, unidentifiable stars and the Earth...all joined together by lines of pea-sized dots. Along with the discs, the cave drawings had been dated around 12,000 years old.
The cave area was still inhabited by two semi-troglodyte tribes known as the Hams and the Dropas, themselves extremely odd in appearance. The frail and stunted tribesmen averaged only about five feet in height and were neither typically Chinese nor Tibetan. "Their racial back-ground," said one expert, "is a mystery."
But even with the publications of Professor Tsum Um Nui's amazing translation, the story of the 'space discs' was not over. Russian scientists asked to see the discs and several were sent to Moscow for examination.
They were scraped free of rock particles which had stuck to them and then put through chemical analysis. To the surprise of the scientists, they we found to contain large amounts of cobalt and other metallic substances.
That was not all. When placed on a special turntable - according to Dr.Vyatcheslav Saizev, who described the experiments in the Soviet magazine Sputnik - they vibrated or 'hummed' in an unusual rhythm as though an electric charge was passing through them. Or as one scientist suggested, "as if they formed some part of an electrical circuit." At some time, they had clearly been exposed to extraordinarily high voltages.