Fact Check

Is Greta Thunberg a Time Traveler?

We traveled back to the 1800s to check, and, no, Greta Thunberg is not a time traveler.

Published April 22, 2021

A photograph from 1898 shows 21st-century environmental activist Greta Thunberg.

A photograph from 1898 that features a young girl who bares a striking resemblance to 21st-century environmental activist Greta Thunberg is frequently circulated on social media along with the claim that Thunberg is a time traveler:

The image on the left is a genuine photograph taken in 1898. It does not, however, feature Greta Thunberg.

When claims about Thunberg being a time traveler first went viral in 2019, the University of Washington Library, which has the physical copy of this 1898 image in its archive, published a blog post about the photo's origin.

The library reported that this photograph was real and Thunberg's image was not digitally added, as some internet users claimed.

One of the images within UW Libraries Special collections has garnered a lot of media attention lately regarding the resemblance of a young girl in a photograph from 1898 to 16-year-old Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg. Several creative theories abound from time travel to how Greta’s image may have been inserted into a historical photo, which is most definitely not the case.

The photograph was taken by Eric A. Hegg and shows "three children operating rocker at a gold mine on Dominion Creek" in the Yukon Territory of Canada circa 1898, according to the library.

While the identity of the person in this photo is not known, it is not a younger (older?) time-traveling Thunberg.

We have looked into several similar time-traveling rumors, involving doppelgangers (such as the case above), satirical stories (time travel did not aid this investor), political attacks (Michelle Obama wasn't hula-hooping during the Great Depression), images that supposedly show people using futuristic technology (prayer books can resemble cellphones and portable cameras have been around longer than you might realize). None of these examples, however, featured real time travel.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.