Ancient Celtic Egyptian Mithra Cults in Oklahoma – America Unearthed S1, Ep 5.

I’m going to try and reign these reviews in a little. As much fun as they are to write, they get a little epic. As usual if you don’t want to read through the whole break down, feel free to skip to the In Summery section at the bottom, but as always, if you have a comment or question don’t be surprised if I tell you to read the whole post first.
We start this episode with the opening to a bloody horror movie that accidentally got spliced into the show’s footage:
A man stands in a dark hole, the only light come from some wide spaced planks above him. Suddenly the man begins to scream as blood pours down over him from above. Just when we’re convinced we’re watching a Slasher Flick and not a TV show, Wolter’s serious voice breaks in to tell us how wrong history is and how he’s on a search for the truth.
As part of the setup for the show, Wolter tells us that there is a 500lb rock carving that was pulled out of the Arkansas River near Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2010.
After a lot of flashy buildup and random panning over the carving in question, we’re told that the carving is of a bull, which it clearly is, and then Wolter tells us that this is a cult symbol. Not just any symbol, it’s a symbol from *pause* Ancient Egypt.
So here’s where the Bull, um…, starts piling up.
The short art-school horror flick we were subjected to at the beginning of the show was actually the show’s interpretation of what a Mithric Rite might have looked like. Mithra was worshiped in Rome, by soldiers mainly. Egypt did have a very small Mithric cult. However, any bull symbol that would have been in Egypt would have probably been attributed to Apis or Hapis, the Egyptian bull god, who is not Mithra in any way, shape, or form.
Back in Wolter’s lab we get watch him examine the bull carving while he tells us how he gets all these “relics” all the time, but this one has vexed him for two years. This statement triggers a flashback to March of 2011 when Wolter receives the carving from it’s discoverer Nick Johnson.
Johnson admits that he was hunting for artifacts when he found this one. Which is always what I like to hear when people find ‘artifacts’ and then rip them out of context. Take pictures people, document things, don’t just snatch and grab things and then get cranky when no one wants to believe you. Probably though, there was no context for this rock carving anyway, so.
Wolter takes us back to his lab and tells us that the carving isn’t recent and has early signs of age. He says there is mineralization that overlaps the carvings. He doesn’t really explain much more as to what “early signs of age” are or why the mineralization is important. As always, we’re just supposed to take his word for it.
We do get a nice closeup of the carved lines, and there is obvious evidence of grooved tool marks, much like those left by modern metal carving instruments. These are not mentioned nor explained.
Wolter tells us about other cultures that have used bull imagery, but decides that this is Egyptian, specifically an Apis bull. Wolter is correct in in assertion that “it just doesn’t make sense.” That sentiment hasn’t ever stopped this show before, so on we go to peddle this not-Apis bull carving.
First, Wolter goes to talk with an actual real Egyptologist, Nigel Hetherington.
After being asked about it, Dr. Hetherington gives us an abbreviated history of the Bull in Ancient Egypt, leading up to the Apis Bull. Wolter tells us the Apis Bull is a sacred deity that symbolized the Pharaoh’s strength, and was a protector of the dead. Wolter isn’t completely correct here, but if he got corrected, that didn’t make it into this obviously heavily edited segment.
Wolter then shows his bull carving to Hetherington with much dramatic flair. Hetherington seems unimpressed, as he should. Hetherington tells us that it does resemble an Apis bull on the top, and then asks Wolter what he think the wavy lines are.
Screenshot of Wolter's Apis Bull

Screenshot of Wolter’s Apis Bull

Wolter tell us that it’s probably a decoration put on the bull, and then admits that without provenance or context there is no way to date the carving (or really to get anything useful from said carving). So basically, Wolter just admitted that there is no way to even begin to argue that this thing is real, but he’s going to anyway.
Screenshot of an actual Apis Bull.

Screenshot of an actual Apis Bull.

Hetherington asks why Wolter thinks this is an Egyptian bull and not a Native American rendition of such? Wolter says Native American would have revered the Bison (all the Native Americans, everywhere, because it seems like in Wolter’s mind they are all one imaginary entity that never actually existed in America until recently). Then Wolter tells us how none of the actual archaeologist around him would accept the carving as real, but he thinks it might be just because there is weathering on it. Or maybe it’s because this carving shows signs of not being a real artifact? Maybe?
Wolter then asks if the ancient Egyptians coming to America would have carved a bull.
I like this question because it’s apparent there’s no doubt in Wolter’s mind that ancient Egyptians did come to America somehow, even though there is not evidence what-so-ever to support this belief. I also like that Hetherington tells him ‘no’ so quickly, then explains that they would have carved the Pharaoh’s name in a kartush. He then explains that they never would have sailed over here because they hated the sea. Hetherington tells Wolter that, as usual, there is no evidence for ancient Egyptians being over here. Unfortunately he makes a joke at this point, that maybe one individual got lost all the way out in Oklahoma, but that would be a long way to get lost wouldn’t it? He even smiles a little when he says it. Either Wolter doesn’t understand jokes, or he’s desperate to twist anything anyone says to fit his theory.
Wolter tells Hetherington that he’s decided that the carving is an Apis bull, despite being told two minutes earlier that it clearly is not. Then like a Bond villain he tells Hetherington what his next steps are in his plan to expose the TRUTH. I always find it funny when Wolter starts running down the list of things he’s going to do while talking to his guests, as if they had asked him what his next steps are, which so far they’ve never done, but maybe that was edited out.
Wolter tells us that he needs a sample of the rock the bull is carved on to find out if the rock was carved in Tulsa. This, I’m guessing, is an attempt to fill time because what difference dose this even make?  This will prove nothing about ether the age or the authenticity of the carving. If anything it will verify that the carving is recent and therefore not evidence of ancient Egyptians.
So we go back to Tulsa, Oklahoma somewhere along the Arkansas River. We meet Nick Johnson and Aaron Neighbors there. They tell us their discovery story about finding the rock in the water of the Arkansas River.
Wolter does point out to the men that water can erode rock quickly. Which is especially true about sandstone, the kind of rock that the bull was craved on. Still, we spend time looking for any random piece of sandstone to use as a control sample. So lets look over the errors here:
1) Random rock from random location that may or may not be related to the site of discovery of any artifact does not a “control sample” make. Actual control samples the way Wolter is using the term, are from known locations and are verified to be what we need them to be. We already know what they are, hence why we are using it for a comparison. If I have two random unknowns, as Wolter now has, I can compare them to each other, but that is all. They tell me nothing verifiable, and therefore are basically useless.
2) At this point we’ve been told by an expert that the Apis bull is not an Apis bull, there is no way that ancient Egyptians either came here or carved it, and now we know that all the evidence of age is actually water erosion.
But the show is randomly changing topics now, so let’s keep up.
We’re told here is a location in Turkey Mountain that has carvings on it. Wolter decides he needs to see this. So we all hike out to somewhere based on feels and epic hiking music till we find some rock outcroppings that are heavily scared with obvious modern graffiti. Despite this, Wolter decides that he can see some authentic Ogham and reads it to spell GWN, or the name Gwyne. Wolter decided right there that some Celtic explorer carved his name on the rock.
Screenshot of the not-Ogham not spelling GWYN

Screenshot of the not-Ogham not spelling GWN

Wolter tries to link a bunch of unrelated things together, saying that if a Celtic explorer started down in the Gulf of Mexico and then went up the Mississippi they then could have followed the Arkansas River to this area. Then they would have wondered into the land till they came to these rocks, and carved just their name into the rock, because reasons.
Actually, if you try to connect the two waterways that Wolter is trying to connect in this show, they don’t connect. Also, it’s over 350+ miles in a straight-ish line to get from Tulsa to the pan-handle of Oklahoma where the Anubis caves (spoilers) are roughly located. It’s considerably more than that by water since the local waterways don’t flow in straight lines and the major waterways don’t connect, you can see as much on a map. It’s just a very long distance is what I’m saying.
Screenshot of the distance between sites.

Screenshot of the distance between the sites.

Apparently, even though Wolter can read and translate Ogham at the drop of a hat, we still need to learn more about actual Ogham. So we fly all the way to Dublin, Ireland because History Channel’s got deep deep pockets and after some epic tourist music and vapid film of Wolter driving, we arrive at Trinity Collage to speak with Dr. Damian McManus, Professor of Irish Studies.
Dr. McManus listens carefully to Wolter’s assertion that there is Ogham in America, a claim McManus has clearly dealt with before judging by his reactions to this. He also tells us that  Ogham is exclusive to Ireland in the 5th to 7th centuries, which creates a linear time issue for Wolter, but we skip over that. McManus tells Wolter that the Irish definitively got as far as Iceland, but there is no evidence they got any further than that. He then shows us what actually Ogham looks like, which is nothing like anything Wolter has ever offered up as Ogham.
Screenshot of actual Ogham.

Screenshot of actual Ogham.

Wolter shows McManus the ‘Ogham’ he translated at the Turkey Mountain rock outcropping, and McManus firmly shuts Wolter down. Still, he encourages Wolter to keep looking, and then randomly tells Wolter to go check out a place in America called the Anubis Cave, which just so happed to be in Oklahoma as well!
So lets go over the Not-Evidence here before we finish this up.
  1. Wolter insists he has an Apis Bull carving even though he’s been clearly told he doesn’t.
  2. Wolter insists that said Not-Apis Bull carving is evidence of Mithra worship, completely ignoring that Apis is an actual god on his own, also that Mithra was a Roman god worshiped by Solders.
  3. Wolter insists that he’s got Ogham at Turkey Mountain, despite being told that he clearly does not and after seeing actual Ogham with his own eyes.

This last part of the show is really where the meat is, it’s also where Wolter really tries hard to convince us that Egyptian Celtics traveled up the Arkansas River to practice their Mithric Religious Worship. There’s a lot here, So I’m going to try and get right to it.

We meet Phil Leonard, a retired medical researcher, who is presented to us as a “Cave Researcher”. Wolter gives Leonard his Celtic Egyptian Mithra cult spiel. Leonard not only agrees with all this but tells Wolter that this Anubis cave has all that and more! Leonard tells us that this is the best example of Pre-Columbian Celtic explorers in America.

We get a brief, and not quite accurate, explanation of who the God Anubis is and Leonard gives us a vague discovery story about the some “famous female researcher” who was brought to the caves and instantly recognized the Anubis figure.

I’m guessing he’s referring to Gloria Farley, who claims to be the discoverer of the Anubis cave on her website and books. Ms. Farley is also a proponent of the whole Supper Advanced Olmec culture story and supports viking rune-stones in America. I have no idea what her qualifications are, but as far as I can tell, she is not an archaeologist or authority in Egyptology. Apparently, any records she made of her research are inaccessible to the public (Thompsen 2011), so there is no way to verify what she has written in her numerous books.

Back on the show Wolter has launched into another pipe-dream telling us that we have Ogham (we don’t), evidence of Celtic religious practices (we don’t), and evidence of Egyptian iconography (still don’t have that either). Leonard takes us to Cave 2 and we see more scratching that again, looks nothing like real Ogham, and Wolter is fascinated.  Leonard tells us that all this was put here on the cave wall 1500 years ago by Celts to show their god Mithra (who is not a Celtic god).

Screenshot of more not-Ogham

Screenshot of more not-Ogham in the Anubis Cave 2

Screenshot of not-Mithra carvings in the Anubis Cave 2

Screenshot of not-Mithra carvings in the Anubis Cave 2

Wolter gives us a very basic breakdown of what Mitharism is, leaving out important details like, it was Roman god, and a favored religion among soldiers of the era, not explorers. It also has nothing to do with Anubis or the Celts.
Screenshot of carvings in the Anubis Cave 2

Screenshot of carvings in the Anubis Cave 2

We’re then shown a amoebic like carving that we’re told is the rising and setting sun, not sure what this has to do with anything, then a sun god with a rayed head and crown and he’s pointing at a second smaller amoebic looking carving, then we’re shown the Anubis looking thing and told it has a white crown and a flail stuck in it’s back “just like they do in Egypt.” No, no “they” don’t.
Screenshot of not-Anubis carvings in the Anubis Cave 2

Screenshot of not-Anubis carvings in the Anubis Cave 2

We’re also ignoring all the other markings around these markings, small lines and circles, repeating motifs and such that overlap and intersect the lines we’re being asked to only look at. We’re also ignoring all the graffiti that can be clearly seen despite the carefully tight camera angels. This whole exercise is a lot like cloud gazing.
Leonard tells us that they’ve dated this to 3-500 AD, which is way more than 1500 years ago. Also, it makes this almost too old to be Ogham. So again, math is screwing with Wolter’s ideas here. Also, how the hell did they date this? You can’t date rock. Are there artifacts around that we’re not getting to see? Is there some organic material around that they aren’t mentioning? Or are they just making up a number they think might be interesting?
Once again Wolter invokes the mighty and ridiculously misused Archaeoastronomy, which Wolter is now passing himself off as an expert on now, and Leonard tells us about a very special event on the equinox, a Shadow play! We’re told that on the equinox that the light play over this set of carvings and tells the story of Mithra, where their soul came down from the heavens and then returned back to the heaven and their god Mithra. Which is spectacularly not true. Mithra has nothing to do with souls or reincarnation or anything we’ve just been told. Also there is no Celtic god Mithra but why let that stop us?
Wolter gets all excited about this and agrees to come back on the equinox to see the Shadow play. Which we do, and this time he brings Joe Rose, who is presented to us as a Comparative Religion Expert. Rose, from what I can tell, is/was a masterful book binder and a “Student of the Western Mystery Tradition” which is a branch of the Golden Dawn (the religious group not the Greek one). I had to use the Wayback Machine to find any of this out by the way.
Rose does try and reinforce Wolter’s whole Apis Bull = Mithra story, and we get to watch the horror flick from the beginning of the show again. We finally get the story behind the gore fest at the beginning telling us that this was a baptism by blood, which wasn’t that uncommon of a practice in ancient Rome. Several different cults at the time used similar practices, not all were attached to Mithra.
Wolter recollects his conversation with Nigel Hetherington where Hetherington wouldn’t translate the wavy lines on the not-Apis bull carving to be blood. Would Rose translate them as such? Why yes, yes he would.
At this point Wolter tries to make up some hypothesis that somehow Mithraism evolved out of Apis Bull worship, and Rose agrees again. Rose tries to tell us that Mithraism was a reforming of the Apis Bull of Egyptian Religion. But this completely not true. Not only are there no similarities between the two religions, there is no evidence to believe this is true.
Wolter however, sees how this can all make sense, and that is because the Celts craved the bull. Never mind that nothing we’ve seen so far looks anything like the incredibly distinctive art style known to be Celtic, or that this bull looks nothing like how the Celts depicted bulls.
Rose suggests that the Celts came all the way to Oklahoma to escape religious persecution by early Christians. This gets Wolter on a religious freedom and the U.S. rant and how awesome it was that people had been coming here for this reason for so long.
Wolter randomly mentions the rock sample he took from the river, and that it matched the rock that the not-Apis bull was carved one. Which should be a surprise to no one, also, it doesn’t prove anything. Wolter tell us that because of this match he believes the bull was carved somewhere near that site, why? There are several geologically different kinds of sandstone in Oklahoma alone, Wolter never even bothers to tell us what kind it is? As a geologist, shouldn’t he be able too? And why not share that information, it would only strengthen his argument, especially if it was unique kind of sandstone that was only found in the Tulsa area of the Arkansas River. This would in no way prove that the bull wasn’t a recent carving, but it would narrow the area that the raw material could have been gleaned from. Again, this doesn’t prove authenticity, but still would have been interesting.
Side note: Geological maps are hard to read, but you can give it a shot at the Oklahoma geological survey site.
Back on the show Wolter just flat out says, “If it’s ancient, it has to be ancient Celts.” Why? What have we been presented with to make this statement true? He follows this up with “Someone was in those caves thousands of years ago.” This is true, but since Wolter and this show refuse to acknowledge that Native Americans exist, it couldn’t possibly have been them.
It’s finally time for the Shadow-Play. Rose just repeats what Leonard told Wolter the first time they met, nearly verbatim, which makes me wonder who wrote the script for this show? Rose also agrees that the cave carvings are clearly Mithric symbols, even though they don’t look anything like actual Mithric symbols.
So lets talk about this “ Shadow Play” for a minute.
Yes, Archaeolastronomy exists, and it was practiced by just about every ancient culture because that was how they kept track of time and their seasons. This isn’t a grand mystery to anyone in the archaeological community. Also, yes, there were indeed religious connections to the seasons and religious overtures to buildings and earthworks that were aligned with seasonal markers, also, another given that is not a mystery. Yes, the effects are rather cool and frankly humbling to think about and experience, that was kind of the point aside form keeping track of time.
I can’t help but have major reservations on this particular piece of Wolter’s “Archaeoastronomy”, mainly because, after going on and on about how important these carvings are and how perfectly they align, the only part of the carvings that do align is the “head” of the “Sun God”. Now, I can’t personally attest to the alignment of the small circle that is the called the head and the placement of the sun. However, that is a really small piece of the overall “rock carving”.
It is far more likely to my mind that this is a coincidence. This suspicion is fed by the fact that nothing else that we are shown lines up with this event. Also, the size of this seasonal marker is rather small. Compare this one glyph to the massive and impressive earthworks that Native Americans, and even the Celts, are known to build to mark seasonal and astronomical events. Numerous Native American cultures worked these details into the placement of their very walls, making massive and quite noticeable structures and alterations to the landscape. If there are seasonal markers in these caves, we are not seeing them in this show, because Wolter is trying too hard to make something out of nothing.
Wolter wraps up this show with a quote that sums up pretty much everything and makes me wonder why we even bothered with this episode.
“The only reasonable people who could have done this was the Celts, I can’t think of anyone else.”
I’m sure the Shawnee, Apache, Caddo, Comanche Nation, Kiowa, Wichita, and other tribes and nations that I’ve missed think the same thing too.
In Summery
Admit it, you just skipped down here.
So let’s look over all the not-evidence Wolter bombarded us with this episode.
Egyptian Apis Bull Carving – We’re told early on by an actual Egyptologist that this is not an Apis bull.
Wolter also tries to make a big deal out of matching the type of rock up. I feel this is a huge red herring in the show. It proves nothing about ether the age or the authenticity of the carving, and Wolter never bothers to tell us if there was anything unusual or unique about the stones, thus proving some kind of connection. It’s such a non-deal that Wolter almost forgets to bring it up again at the end of the show.
Anubis Figure in the cave – Not an Anubis figure, doesn’t look anything like an Anubis figure. Without Wolter’s helpful lines, it almost looks like a figure standing on a horse’s back. Also, we must ignore all the other lines around it to make it look anything like what Wolter wants it to be.
Ogham in Turkey Mountain and Anubis Cave – Not only are we told that the Ogham in Turkey Mountain isn’t actual Ogham, but we’re shown actual Ogham in Ireland. Said actual Ogham looks nothing like the Ogham in the Anubis Cave.
An interesting note about “American Ogham” here. Apparently it’s a well known phenomenon with American Ogham that it rarely if ever has vowels. Actual Ogham does have vowels, but for some reason, when the ancient Celts or Irish or what have you, got over here to America, they forgot how to write vowels. Ogham in America enthusiast have for along time, been trying to get the academic community to accept American Ogham as a different form of Irish Ogham. The problem here is that none of the American Ogham can be proven to be authentic, missing vowels is one of many problems with it. Other’s include, gibberish, questionable translations (Barry Fell), and the fact that there is no evidence that ancient Irish peoples ever made it to America.
Mithra Connection – There is no connection that I am aware of between the Celtic/Irish people and Mithra worship. Mithra was a Roman deity worshiped primarily by Soldiers. Yes, there were temples to Mithra in Egypt and a few in England. These were built by the Romans, and used by such. The image of the Bull in Egypt is always connected to their own gods, Apis being a big one.
The Shadow Play – My reservations are above, and Wolter’s attempt to tie this into Archaeoastronomy is cringe-worthy. I’m not saying that this couldn’t be an example of Archaeoastronomy (I doubt it), but it’s definitely not they way Wolter wants it to be.
There is evidence of the use of the natural features of the caves to keep track of the seasons. The small tic marks that Wolter wants so badly to be Ogham, are a well know way that the pre-contact tribes kept track of the seasons by tracking the progress of shadow features along the cave walls. This is a type of Archaeoastronomy, but I doubt that Wolter would ever recognize it as such. Especially since Wolter doesn’t seem to recognize Native American tribes and peoples as real.
Tompsen, Lyle
2011    An Archaeologist Looks at the Oklahoma Runestones. In The Epigraphic Society Occasional Papers. Vol 29, February 2011. Pgs 5-43. Accessed June 2015.

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The Problem with Isims: Afrocentrism and the New World

Episode 16 of the ArchyFantasies Podcast is live!

We tackle a rough topic in this one, Afrocentrism is more than just a flawed diffusionist hypothesis. It points out the very real racism that was part of anthropology and archaeology past, and also points out the glaring flaws in trying to point to any singular culture as being the “mother culture”.

This is a heavy episode for us since it deal so directly with race, but I hope you’ll all give it a listen anyway!


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The Coso Artifact! Now for your Ears!

The Archaeology Fantasies Podcast episode 10 is live, (so I might have skipped #9 by accident…oops)


This episode Ken and I chew over the Coso Artifact. It’s a fun episode since, as per the blog post on this topic, we already know what it really is. We still look over the origin story and the impact this little Oopart has today.

On an important note, The Archaeology Podcast Network is looking for people willing donate time to edit all of our wonderful and informative podcasts, including this one. If you’ve got the know-how to edit a .wav file and create a cohesive show out of our run-on sentences, drop Chris an email at and make sure to put “Show Editing” in the subject line.


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Lina Dorina Johanna Eckenstein – The Polymath of Egypt

Little is really known about Lina Eckenstein as an archaeologist, despite what could be considered her second most important contribution being her work with Hilda Petrie, her husband Flinders Petrie, and Margaret Murray working in Egypt.

Eckenstein was a vibrant woman, a religious skeptic, a rebel of her time, and described as a “New Woman” in the Victorian era (Oldfield 2004). She was born in 1857 to German immigrants to England, who manged to make a comfortable life for themselves and their three children as merchants (Oldfield 2004, Johnson 2006:55). Though there is no record of her formal education, it’s clearly evident that Eckenstein was well educated in her formative years, mastering several langues aside from her native English and German (Oldfield 2004, Johnson 2006:55). It’s also clear that aside from learning Latin, Italian, French, Middle High German, Middle English, and Greek, she had some familiarity with Egyptian Hieroglyphics, though not on the level of Margaret Murray (Oldfield 2004, Johnson 2006:55).

It’s plain from the little written about her that her first passion was Feminism and Women’s Rights. Everything she did managed to fold back onto this first love. In her early life she spent time intellectualizing on the aspects of sexual practices of ancient Romans and during the Reformation period in Switzerland, and the state regulation of prostitution (Oldfield 2004). Hardly what was considered appropriate fro young women in her time. She made a living for herself, proofreading, teaching, translating and being a research assistant to preeminent male researchers of her time (Oldfield 2004). This close relationship with the academic world allowed her to build strong friendships with influential benefactors. These friendships allowed her to travel widely and experience more than the average woman of today, let alone the late 1800’s.

After a stint as governess to Margery Corbett, no doubt influencing the future Dame Ashby to become a leading suffragist, she turned her focus for a time to the world of Egyptology (Oldfield 2004). Among Eckenstein’s caudry of friends was Hilda and Flinders Petrie, both well known and respected Egyptologists. Flinders, being more progressive than many of his contemporaries, frequently had women on his excavations, and as Eckenstein was a close friend, he routinely had her accompany him and his wife on their expeditions to Egypt.

Eckenstein was in charge of recording, preserving, and preparing artifacts for transport on the Petrie’s digs. She “took charge of the registration, mending and storing of objects and helped in the general running of the camp (Drower 2006:268)” at Abydos, Sethos, Saqqara, El Shatt, and Serabit (Drower 2006:268, Cool Root 2006:22). She also participated in protecting the sites from would-be vandals in novel ways. In one such incident she joined hands with Hilda Petrie and Margaret Murray and dance from the camp all the way to the dig site during an attempted nighttime raid (Oldfield 2004). The apparition of three women dancing freely in the moonlight was enough to scare the would-be-plunder s away (Oldfield 2004).

She and Hilda Petrie seemed to be good traveling partners. They were known to don whips, revolvers, and water bottles and travel via camel-back across rough mountain country and sandstone gorges (Oldfield 2004). Eckenstein and Hilda Petrie seem to be the backbone of the digs they attended. Hilda taking control of the workers and leading expeditions, and Eckenstein recording it all and making sure what was found made it safely to where ever it was meant to go (Drower 2006:268). Both of them defending the sites they excavated and interpreting the finds made there-in. They must have been quite the powerhouse of a team.

Eckenstein later retired from archaeology and drew from her experiences to write historical and imaginative stories about Egypt, ‘The moon cult in Sinai’ (1911), ‘A History of Sinai’ (1921), and a fable about Moses’s youth under the pharaohs (1924). She also wrote ‘Comparative Studies in Nursery Rhymes’ (1906) based on a scene she observed in the temple of King Seti that reminded her of the children’s rhyme of ‘The Death and Burial of Cock Robin’, which would have been written some 3000 years after the scene was painted (Oldfield 2004). This definitive work of Eckenstein would pre-date the Opies‘ authoritative work by 50 years (Oldfield 2004).

Eckenstein’s most lasting contributions came when she turned her attention to medieval Monastic Women. She resurrected the lives and writings of important historical figures like Hildegard von Bingen and Abbess Charitas Pirckheimer (Johnson 2005:60). Her most famous work on this topic was the still influential ‘Women Under Monasticism: Chapters on Saint-Lore and Convent Life between A.D 500 and A.D 1500’ published in 1896 (Johnson 2005:60). In true feminist fashion she not only brought their writings back to light, but also compared their lives with issues occurring in her own time. Because of her thorough and groundbreaking research, her contributions in Medieval studies are considered valuable today (Johnson 2005:60).

Eckenstein passed away in May of 1931 with two active projects that were later published after her death (Oldfield 2004, Johnson 2006:57). She was 74 and left behind her volumes of work that contributed to every field she chose to focus on. She could be considered a mother of several fields, but here we laud her work in Archaeology.


Sybil Oldfield,
2004    Eckenstein, Lina Dorina Johanna (1857–1931)’,Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Sept 2014. Accessed 3/10/15

Cool Root,  Margaret
2006    Introduction. Breaking Ground: Pioneering Women Archaeologists. ed. Getzel M. Cohen and Martha Sharp Joukowsky. University of Michigan Press 2004.

Drower, Margaret S.
2006    Margaret Alice Murray (1863-1963). Breaking Ground: Pioneering Women Archaeologists. ed. Getzel M. Cohen and Martha Sharp Joukowsky. University of Michigan Press 2004.

Johnson. Penelope D.
2005    Lina Eckenstein (1857-1931) Seeking Scope for Women. Women Medievalists and the Academy. ed Jane Chance. The University of Wisconsion Press, Madison, Wisconson. 2005. Chapter 4. pgs 56-66  Accessed 3/10/15

Categories: Mothers of the Field, Women in Archaeology | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Holy Newark Stones, Batman! The Archaeology Fantasies Podcast, Ep 7

A picture of “The Decalogue”, one of several artifacts associated with the Newark Holy Stones. J. Huston McCulloch. image via Wiki Commons.

Episode 7 of the Archaeology Fantasy podcast is live, and we’re talking about the Newark Holy Stones this time. Ken and I were able to pull in two experts in the stones, Jeff Gill and Brad Lepper.

They give us a new look at the stones. Gill and Lepper paint a picture of the stones that’s quite different from the ridiculous hoax and create an image that is actually quite noble. This podcast really changed the way I see the Newark Holy Stones, and I hope listeners can take that away too.

A picture of “The Keystone”, one of several artifacts associated with the Newark Holy Stones. J. Huston McCulloch. Image via Wiki Commons

Give the episode a listen and then send us a comment. Rate us on Itunes or Stitcher (or where ever), and send us your questions or comments to


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Non-Existent Giant Norsemen in Minnesota – America Unearthed S 1 Ep 4.

Screenshot of giant burials.

Screenshot of giant burials.

It’s important that before we get started with this episode break down that I make it very clear; this particular episode provides no evidence of anything in anyway. It so lacking of anything resembling evidence that the show doesn’t even use the word ‘Evidence’ to describe the desperate straws it attempts to cling to, instead everything is called ‘Clues’ this time. This tells you that even the show knew it was dealing with a big bag of nothing, but still had to fill an hour anyway.

That said, let’s dig in shall we? As usual if you don’t want to read through the whole break down, feel free to skip to the In Summery section at the bottom, but as always, if you have a comment or question don’t be surprised if I tell you to read the whole post first.

We open with the wind hissing ominously through color distressed trees and ominous music telling us a serial murderer is lurking in the woods…Sorry, no, it’s a man using copper rods to divine the location of something. Big something’s, and two of them. What does this all mean?

Well after Scott Wolter tells us that History is wrong and gives us the opening spiel we are told that “Conventional History holds that the Vikings explored North America as far as Newfoundland in 1000 AD.” This is more or less true.

Next we are dropped into the Saker Farm in Twin Valley, Minnesota. Where we meet Roger Saker. He seems like a nice old guy, and he’s got a story/confession to give to us.

He tells us that he was looking for gravel to fill his basement wall in with, and he didn’t want to go buy any because of his cornfield, so he decided to dig for it.

I’ve already got a few questions here, but I really don’t know that much about gravel and wall building.

Saker tells us as he was digging for gravel he dug up some bones. He tells us that he dug of the femur of one skeleton and ribcages of the other two. Apparently they were buried at the feet of the first individual. He figured they were human so he notified the authorities, as you should do. Once the authorities came out, including a bone expert, a Native American Representative, and someone from the State Archaeologist’s office, Saker tells us that the bones were identified as being those of three individuals, one male and two females. Saker tells us that the bone experts commented on how large the femur bone of the male individual was. Here, however, is where things begin to go south, according to Saker.

Saker tells us that once the stature of the male was described as “Unusually large”, suddenly the State Archaeologist wanted to cover everything up and re-bury the bones. This seemed fishy to Saker, and so he now believes that there is a conspiracy to keep this male individual a secret. Wolter of course agree whole heartedly and straight up tells Saker that what he found was probably a giant, and not just any giant, but a Norse Giant, you know, cause all Norsemen were giants…

So let’s break down this statement and examine other reasons the State Archaeologist probably wanted the human remains re-buried.

1)   Saker tells us a few things that really caught my attention, first that the area he was digging for gravel in was a known area for Native American Mounds. He mentions this briefly in the original statement at the beginning of the show, and then again when he shows the location to Wolter, and again later in the show. The last mention of this knowledge really got my attention because he admitted to knowing that the area he was digging for gravel in was a mound itself. This is all contradictory to the implied idea at the beginning of the show where he wants us to think he accidentally dug up human remains, the more that he tells this story, the more the story changes.

2)   Saker was plainly told that the human remains he found were Native in origin. He is completely willing to believe that the female skeletons are Native, but for some reason he won’t accept that the male was too.

3)   The language used to describe the skeletons is telling. Saker calls the females, tiny, petite, delicate, etc. He recognizes that they were placed at the feet of the larger individual, this obviously means something to him, I think he even suggests that they were sacrifices to the larger individual. When he talks about the male individual, his language is all about how big the guy was, how huge his bones were. The problem here is, if we are to take Saker’s account at face value, he only ever saw the ribs of the females and the leg bones of the male. These are not comparable bones for stature.

Firstly, our ribs are slender and delicate bones, they are flat and depending on the bone, rather small in comparison to our long-bones, to which our femurs belong. Ribs are not used to determine stature, or how tall you are. Long-bones can be, but there is a long, drawn out formula that I’m not going into. Basically, Saker is comparing two very different bones and trying to draw a conclusion that is not supported by that comparison.

4)   The language used in the rest of the show to describe the male individual is also of interest. Though Saker and Wolter referred to the female individuals as Native American, they refused to refer to male individual as such. Any time they mention him it’s often to call him “Unusually large male” or just “The man”. They remove the identity of Native American given to his remains in order to apply their own identity as a Norse Giant. Again, there is no evidence to support this reassignment of ethnicity, and as we see later in the show, there is ample evidence to support his identity as a Native American.

Back to the show.

Screenshot of 1888 newspaper.

Screenshot of 1888 newspaper.

Wolter tells Saker that what he found was probably a Giant, and he knows that because he’s got a copy of an article published in the St. Paul paper from 1888 saying there was once a race of giants found near a place called Clear Water, MN. The article says they were 7-8 feet tall. He asks Saker if his guy could be that big, and Saker agrees that he could have been. Based on what? I’m pretty sure beyond the point where he “tore through” the skeletons while digging for gravel, he never handled those remains again. He certainly didn’t run the formulas to get their statures, so he’s basically just guessing and agreeing to whatever number Wolter throws out there. He even agrees that the Giant has to be a Norseman, because he’s done research into Norse burial methods and “All this is Norse technology”. What is? Is Saker saying that all these mounds in Minnesota are actually Norse burial mounds? Surly not, but I can’t figure out what other technology he’s referring to.

Wolter asks if he can see the location where Saker “Tore through” the burials and we now are on an epic walk past cornfields and whatnot accompanied by music worthy of a Michael Bay movie.

Once we get to the location we immediately see fresh dirt, and Saker tells us that’s about where he dug up the burials. That’s really fresh looking dirt, and the amount is worrisome, but we really don’t get to see much of the area so it’s hard to put it all into context. Given this show’s established love of wide panning landscapes, it’s kind of odd to have this area be so tightly shot and so noticeable under shown. It’s almost like they don’t want us to see something. (See, I can make conspiracy’s too.)

Wolter asks where the head of the individual is located and Saker points out a softball sized rock on the ground. He calls it a marker stone, and Wolter proceeds to measure from the stone all the way back to where the feet are supposed to be with a tape measure. Using this highly scientific method, Wolter gets a measurement of 8-9 feet long. This is neither the proper way to measure a skeleton, nor the proper way to measure a grave. Also, two more things that are bugging me here:

Maybe it's a really big ant hill and not fresh dirt?

Screenshot of measuring the grave length. Maybe it’s a really big ant hill and not fresh dirt?

1)   Why is there fresh looking dirt where the feet of the burials is supposed to be? Did this just happen like a week before this show was shot? Why is it all mounded up like that?

2)   If this is a fresh dig, how the heck do we know where the head of the skeleton is? You can tell from the grass that the ground hasn’t been disturbed recently, so I’m left to conclude that either they never excavated the head of the burial, which would mean Saker is just guessing again, or this is an older occurrence and enough time has passed for the grass to grow back. If the second statement is true, why is there fresh dirt where the feet of the burials is supposed to be!?

About this point is where we get Saker retelling his story again with slight adjustments. When Wolter presses for exact statements, Saker gets really vague. We are really not given anything resembling a fact here, but we are told that Saker disagrees with the bone experts about this being a Native American site. He knows that there are “a lot of these people out here”, But he kept quiet about it when the experts were out. What people is he referring to exactly? Native Americans? Why yes, there are a lot of those people in Minnesota, there are a lot of those people all over the country, not that we are going to acknowledge that with this show. Maybe he’s referring to giants, specifically the Norse kind, that built all these mounds that are round here with their technology? That seems to fit the show’s agenda better, so we’re gonna run with that.

It also allows Wolter to invoke the Great Academic Conspiracy, where all of academia is trying to lie to the public by covering up not only the fact that giants are real, but that those giants are Norse! We are spared the usual tirade about how the man is keeping Wolter down this time thankfully.

Wolter finally get around to asking Saker knows how big this really big male is, and this is where the show just jumps the shark without blinking an eye.

Saker reveals to us he knows how big the male individual is because he brought out a friend who used divining rods to figure it out. Wolter is all over that, we even get a little dialogue box to tell us what “Witching” is. The dialogue box and Wolter’s voice over give us two very important tidbits.

1)   In the dialogue box the statement is made that there is no scientific explanation for how Divining rods work. This is just left to hang there hoping that the unwary individual will make the assumption that diving rod do work. The reason there is no scientific explanation for how they work is because they don’t. Every scientific test that Diviners and Divining Rods have been put through, and there have been several including the ones done by The Amazing James Randi, they fail spectacularly. They are not scientific in any way. Now, I know there are those who will argue this point, even among archaeologist (two individuals come to mind), but the flat reality of it is, when put to an actual, scientific testing, Divining fails every time.

2)    Wolter’s voice over tells us that “Even Einstein believed that it worked.” This is a blatant appeal to authority in the hopes of convincing the unwary of the validity of Divining. There is also the rather difficult issue of proving that Einstein actually believed this. Though it is easy to state, it is hard to find in writing any support from Einstein for Divining. Now, even if that evidence did exist, and it might, it wouldn’t change anything. Just because Einstein believed something, doesn’t mean they we should as well. Nor should we give it any more weight than it deserves. If it’s true that Einstein believe in Divining, then clearly he was wrong. And that is that.

Frankly from here on out this is just a desperate attempt to fill an hour worth of TV. Wolter has Saker bring out Leonard Engen who is a diviner and Wolter gives him a crappy test to see if Engen can locate Wolter’s knife that he sticks in the ground. Engen dose with easy, probably because he heard Wolter call out to him, and he could see the disturbed grass where Wolter stuck it. We discuss the not fact that there is a giant buried on the mound and since it’s a giant it can’t be a Native American (why not?), so it must be a Viking, somehow.

Wolter actually says something factual here, he says if there is a giant Norseman buried in the mound, then there must be other artifacts associated with it. This is true! Point to Wolter!

Wolter wants Engen to work his magic and find more Norse artifacts to dig up. Saker tells them that they can’t dig on the mound (while the cameras are rolling apparently), and he doesn’t want to disturb his corn, so they can go dig in his yard. Now, this is not exactly how one would go about finding artifacts that were associated with a site. As I mentioned, we have no context or scale for this burial, so we don’t know how far it is exactly from Saker’s yard, or even the corn field. It could be a few feet, it could be miles. Given this, we the viewers, cannot be sure of the context of anything that might be found. Context is how we know things are related to each other, so without it, we have no way of knowing if whatever Wolter et al will find will be related to the burial that Saker “tore through” earlier.

But we follow Engen around anyway, epic music playing in the background as he crosses and uncrosses his rods. Each time he points to something we put a pin flag down. Eventually we have a yard full of pin flags and it’s time for a commercial break.

As we come back from the break we are given our usual rundown of the evidence supporting the claims of the show, but this time it’s different. Instead of ‘evidence’ where calling everything ‘clues’. So far we have 3:

1)   Alleged Giant bones – These have been identified as Native American remains, but like most of Wolter’s shows, we are ignoring the fact that Native Americans exist.

2)   Old newspaper clippings – which BTW we are never really allowed to look at or read ad viewers of the show. We are just told what is in them and we have to accept that since we can’t read them ourselves.

3)   Anomalies in the ground – I’m guessing he means the spots that Engen said was where things were?

After some color corrected images of the landscapes set to riveting adventure-time music, we are told that we are conducting an archaeological excavation. This is very sudden, we never talked about getting permits or doing background research or anything.

We meet Michael Arbuthnot, who is a Registered Professional Archaeologist (RPA) and qualified to lead an excavation in the state of Minnesota, I’m guessing (that’s usually what RPA means). He also owns an underwater excavation firm, so he’s should know his stuff. He gets point for not laughing out loud when Wolter tells him that he wants Arbuthnot to help locate evidence of a buried Norse giant. Arbuthnot tells him about L’anse Aux Meadows and how we do have actual evidence of Norse in America, but there is no evidence that they ever made it to Minnesota. Wotler tells Arbuthnot that it doesn’t really matter if there is evidence or not, everyone in Minnesota believes that the Norse came here, so therefore it’s true. Arbuthnot pulls a survival tactic I’ve watch most of Wolter’s professional guests use, the Smile-and-Nod. It’s a way of deflecting the nonsense without seeming to be rude. Unfortunately, it sometimes gives the impression that they agree with Wolter.

We get back to the Saker farm and Wolter gives Arbuthnot the run down about how giant Norsemen and how they found all this via divining. Arbuthnot doesn’t laugh outright, but he does giggle a little and tries to explain how modern archaeologists have better technology now. This is something Wolter should already know since we were shown him using Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) in EP 2. Arbuthnot suggests using a simple metal detector, and proceeds to do things they way actual archaeologists do. Hey lays out a grid, marks everything down, and uses the metal detector to find actual anomalies. He flags these and records them.

We are never shown if Arbuthnot’s flags overlap with Engen’s flags, but dollars to doughnuts they probably don’t. However, we now have a grid and actual anomalies to investigate, and so Arbuthnot begins the dig. This is, well, it’s archaeology, and it’s methodical and repetitive, and takes longer than a few minutes to do. To spice things up we get to listen to Epic Digging Music and get random shots of various things that Arbuthnot is doing. At one point we find a bone, and everyone gets all excited.

Arbuthnot has already explained to us that finding human bone would be a very bad thing, despite the almost ghoulish way Wolter salivated over the hope of finding one now. It turns out to not be human and after that Wolter loses interest in the dig. Saker, then, comes over and tells him about a sword that was found in the 1900’s twelve miles from the farm. This seems to be the show’s M.O., Start with a shaky premises then spend the rest of the show pulling a National Treasure like goose chase to try and fill an hour.

Screenshot of sword comparison.

Screenshot of sword comparison.

There is really no point in going into the rest of the episode in too much detail. Basically the sword turns out to be mass-produced piece from the late 1800’s. The guy who tell us this is my Hero for the episode. Criag Johnson, a medieval weapons expert with the Oakenshot Institute in Minneapolis, MN., plainly tells Wolter there is no evidence to support the presence of Norse or Vikings in Minnesota. He straight tells Wotler the Kensington Runestone is fake. He even laughs right at Wolter. Gold star Mr. Johnson.

Screenshot of scratches on field stone.

Screenshot of scratches on field stone.

Along with the sword we are told about a possible runestone, so we have to go look at that, and there is a huge and pointless chunk of time dedicated to finding it. Turns out it’s not a runestone and is just a large fieldstone someone used for their house foundation. Even Wolter dismisses this one.

When we do get back to the dig on the Saker farm, Arbuthnot tries to show us the notes he’s taken, but Wotler wants to see the artifacts. Arbuthnot shows them to us, chert flakes, more animal bone, and lots of native pottery, thus supporting the State Archaeologist’s identification of the human remains as Native Americans. Unsurprisingly, there is no evidence for the presence of Norsemen or Giants. Yet we still have to go interrogate the State Archaeologist anyway.

Now, I don’t know the Minnesota State Archaeologist, Scott Anfinson, but I do know this man has massive amounts of restraint.

Wolter sets up this interrogation like something from a cop drama, lighting and everything. You can tell from the start that Anfinson is pissed. Wolter does nothing but be condescending, physically points his finger while accusing Anfinson of lying, smirks, and looks down his nose at Anfinson the whole time. He is simply stunning at how rude he is, I don’t know what kept Anfinson from telling Wolter where to stick it, but he did manage to keep his cool and answer Wolter’s stupid questions.

Screenshot of the interrogation.

Screenshot of the interrogation.

Wolter starts by stating that the bone expert wouldn’t talk to him (no, really?) and that she told Wolter to talk to Anfinson. So he accuses Anfinson of covering up the bones because they were so large. Anfinson tries to explain how evidence works to Wolter, and then states that the skeletons were not that large, they ranged in statures from 5’ to 5’8’. Hardly giant sized people.

Wolter then accuses Anfinson of calling Saker a liar. This isn’t even close to what was just said, and this is one of those wacky argument techniques used to throw people off the actual point of the argument. Anfinson doesn’t fall for it and again explains what evidence is, and that Saker probably does believe that there are giant Norsemen on his land, but it’s not supported by anything.

Then just to be contrary and prove that this conversation was a huge waste of everyone’s time, Wolter tells Anfinson that he didn’t really think that there are giants on Saker’s farm. So what was the point of this whole thing?

To end the show we go back to the Saker farm where Wolter basically tells Saker that Anfinson called him a liar (which never happened) and that Wolter still believes Saker (which he said earlier that he didn’t) and that Saker had to keep fighting the good fight. Then there’s the end credits with Wolter telling us that since everyone in the state thinks Vikings came this way, that makes it a fact, and we fade out to Wolter telling us how he proved the Kensington Runestone was real (it’s not).

In Summary:

The chunk you’re all waiting for.

Basically, this episode was a total waste of everyone’s time. We didn’t even start with an actual premises this time, just a bunch of fluff. Its so bad this episode that instead of calling our far fetched ideas “evidence“ this time, we called them ”clues“. Our clues are:

1.   Already identified human remains that are Native American. This is not only supported by the State Archaeologist, a bone expert, and a Native American Representative, but also by Arbuthnot’s excavations done on this very show.

2.   Old Newspaper clippings, from the 1800’s.

3.   Divining results that were unverified by either Arbuthnot’s use of the metal detector or by ground truthing, where the marked areas are excavated to verify the existence of anomalies or artifacts.

4.   The sword, which is no older than the late 1800’s.

5.   The not-a-runestone foundation stone.

I don’t even need to break these down further, Wolter did a pretty good job of debunking his own ideas this episode.


Want more on this topic? Go to Reviews: America Unearthed.

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The Archaeology Fantasies Podcast is Two Months Old! Get Caught-Up Now!

In January we launched the Archaeology Fantasies Podcast over at the Archaeology Podcast Network. It’s Co-hosted by Sara H. and Dr. Kenneth Feder, who is the author of Dubious Archaeology and Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries, and they deconstruct a variety of pseudoarchaeology topics. It’s been two months now and the show just continues to get better, if I may say so myself. Seeing that we’ve got several episodes in the can, I wanted to recap them and let all of you get a chance to get caught up.


The intro episode where we discussed what exactly pseudoarchaeology is and how Cult Science influences the average archaeology enthusiasts. We talk about how the media is out for ratings and not so much to inform, and how that is actually making it more difficult to correct misconceptions about archaeology.


Ken gets introduced to one of the more popular pseudoarchaeology topics on the internet right now in the form of the Genetic Disk. We discuss how pseudoarchaeologists try to lend validity to a fraudulent artifact by attempting to use actual scientists by quoting them way out of context. We show what happens when those same scientists find out their being misquoted, and we go over Ken’s check-list for how to spot pseudoarchaeology.


We delve a little deeper into the fringe and start to explore the world of Giants. There’s been a lot of talk about them lately so we thought we’d examine why they are so popular, and why there is exactly no evidence supporting their existence.


We examine the recent revival of the Mound Builder Myth. Ken walks us through the origins of the myth and how Cyrus Thomas proved the mounds were built by Native Americans. We discuss why there is a modern revival of the myth and what’s contributing to it. We also encourage everyone to take a mound to lunch and go visit your local mound parks.


We start to wade into the murky waters of the Creationism by tackling the global flood myth and the story of Noah’s Ark. We explain what kinds of geological and archaeological evidence we would expect to see if the global myth was true, and how we see exactly the opposite.

We’ve got a lot of great content coming up, including interviews with a variety of experts and researchers. With two episodes a month coming out on Mondays, there’s a lot to hear and learn. Get caught up now before you get too far behind. There’s not much more I can say except, Go listen and comment!


Want more on this topic? Go to ArchyFantasies Podcasts.

If you want to send us your questions or comments email us at

Categories: ArchyFantasies Podcasts, Creation Science and Intelligent Design, Those Mysterious Mound Builders, Weird Archaeology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ArchyFantsites, Now in Podcast Flavor!

In case you missed it Monday, we launched a new podcast!

In conjunction with the Archeology Podcast Network, we’ve launched an amazing podcast furthering the goals of this blog by making debunking pseudoarchaeology available to your ears as well as your eyes!

Not going to lie here, I’m pretty excited about this. I have an awesome Co-Host in Dr. Kenneth Feder, who is the author of Dubious Archaeology and Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries. Together we make a powerhouse of debunking might, and we’re tackling a wide variety of topics including OOParts, The Media, and professional archaeology. We’ve got lots of great interviews planned for upcoming episodes. We’re also open to email comments if you want to send us your questions at

There’s not much more I can say except, Go listen and comment!


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Mysterious Minoan Miners and the Missing Michigan Minerals – America Unearthed S 1 Ep 3

Well we’re back at America Unearthed, and on episode three finally. This one is a bit of a whopper, so if you’re just looking for a brief rundown feel free to skip to the In Summary section at the bottom, but don’t be surprised if you ask me a question later I tell you to read the whole post. That said, let’s get to this.

This episode opens with a similar scene of two men walking in an unspecified area, only these two appear to be doing better than the guys in Episode 2. They eventually find some trees and start chopping them down, it’s all very Art Film-esqu. Eventually, one of them finds what appears to be a plaque with squares and symbols painted on it. The two men look over the plaque and then the music swells!

Thus begins our romp across the Michigan U.P.

We start in Isle Royale around Lake Superior, Michigan, in the U.P. It says we’re investigating Michigan Copper Culture. Now, what Wolter means when he says this is not what most archaeologists would think. He’s not looking into Native mining and copper processing practices. He’s not looking into the peoples who lived in the area and mined and created beautiful and complex works with the copper. He’s not examining the engineering of prehistoric mines or copper working skills. He’s not even acknowledging that prehistoric native peoples existed or had these skills, other than to mention them in an a vague and offhanded way when seeing the mines themselves, and then it’s only to shift credit for these mines away from the native peoples to non-native peoples from Europe.

newberry tablet pics

Sceen capture of the pictures of the Newberry Tablet.

Wolter starts the episode by telling us about a mysterious tablet that was reportedly found in the late 1896 by two apparent lumberjacks while clearing some trees. The Tablet reportedly had 140 “cryptic” characters painted on it and Wolter tells us that this tablet is the key to unlocking an “Epic geological mystery.” He tell us that there were once massive copper deposits in the UP, specifically around the Isle Royale area. He makes the claim that at some point before Columbus arrived the copper disappeared. Wolter wants to know where the copper went, who took it, and why. Well, other than the obvious of course, actual evidence of prehistoric native peoples doesn’t count in this story.

The first person we talk to is George Twardzik, who is presented to us as an Isle Royale Expert. As far as I can find, Mr. Twardzik is a High School principal. I’m not knocking Principals, I’m just saying I can’t figure out how this makes him an expert on Isle Royale. But maybe that’ll come to light later on.

Twardzik tells us that as far as the missing copper is concerned, several billions of pounds of copper went missing from the mines. This is a fantastically large number, but it impresses Wolter who immediately knows where all that copper went to! It was used to fuel the Bronze Age in Europe!

So, there you have it, Wolter solved all his questions in the first 5 minutes of his show, all without ever looking at anything. Who took the copper? Europe. Where did they take it? Europe. Why did they take it? To fuel the Bronze Age in Europe! Bam! Done!

Oh but there’s still 40 minutes left in the show… Vamp Wolter, Vamp!

Wolter gives us an incredibly brief outline of the Bronze Age in Europe, complete with cinematic pictures of manly men in armor. He tells us that, even though there was and is plenty of copper in Europe, “some” people, we’re not told who or why we should trust them, think there wasn’t enough copper in Europe to supply the Bronze Age. We’re not told why we should agree with this idea, or what evidence there is of a shortage of copper in Europe. Wolter never even tries to make this argument. He just tells us that he’s one of the people who believe that the copper in Europe had to come from America, and this tablet is going to help him prove it.

Back from our cutaway, Wolter drops the tablet on Twardzik, or rather he drops pictures of the tablet. According to Wolter the table is the Newbery Tablet, and it has writing on it that Wolter believes is some kind of record keeping. I’m wondering why he thinks this, but we never really come back to this idea. He tells Twardzik the origin story, and then tells Twardzik that the tablet no longer exists. In a rare moment of honesty Wolter tells us that his story is all speculation, meaning there is nothing to back it up, but he brushes past that and plows on.

I also like at this point how he bemoans the loss of the tablet. “How many great artifacts that we know of are gone?” he laments. Yes, the world has lost many great artifacts, but the ones I suspect Wolter is morning are the kind that never existed or were fakes in the first place, but that’s my opinion.

And since we’ve come to a brief stop, let’s look at a few glaring issues that have already popped up in the first ten minutes of the show.

1)  Wolter insists on connecting the Newberry Tablet to the missing copper from Michigan. The main problem here is that there is no reason to connect the two. He’s given us none, and just looking at the tablet reveals no reason to connect the two. Newberry Michigan and Isle Royale are 250+ miles apart, it’s not even the closest point jutting out into Lake Superior. There were no artifacts used in copper mining associated with the tablet, no lost ship. The tablet was reportedly found in the middle of a field, not near the lakeshore. Seriously, there is no reason to connect the two things.

Not to mention the incredibly dubious history of the tablet itself. Found by two unnamed woodsmen in an unnamed field near Newberry, MI. The description at the museum where the tablet is held claims the marks are carved on, but the pictures of the tablet look like they were painted. Then there is the obligatory conspiracy theory behind it, that the Smithsonian tried to deny the tablet and marked it as a fake. Next the pictures of the tablet were translated by the controversial Dr. Barry Fell, all of whose translations are considered non-credible and unconvincing. Especially since the language supporters have settled on for the Tablet is Minoan Linear A, which to date is still untranslatable. Still Fell tells us that the tablet is instructions for obtaining good luck from the gods.

0726 La Canée musée linéaire A by Ursus - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - httpcommons.wikimedia.orgwikiFile0726_La_Can%C3%A9e_mus%C3%A9e_lin%C3%A9aire_A.JPG#mediaviewerFile0726_La_Can%C3%A9e_mus%C3%A9e_lin%C3%A9aire_A.JPG

Actual Minoan Linear A via 0726 La Canée musée linéaire A by Ursus – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

2)  The missing copper is not so much missing. Even if we do as the show is asking and ignore the fact that these mines were used by prehistoric native peoples, there is still not billions of pounds of copper missing. Dr. Susan R. Martin tackled this myth back in 1995. Martin is an actual expert on prehistoric copper practices, including working and mining, and the Lake Superior region in general. She wrote an article for The Michigan Archaeologist titled “The State of Our Knowledge About Ancient Copper Mining in Michigan”. On top of other topics that she address in her article, she tackles the idea that all this copper is missing. I am going to borrow liberally from her here, since she sums it up best.

“Now we turn to the second major theme in the copper culture myth, that of the dogma of the missing copper. Where did all the copper go? This theme is formulated on a calculus of mythic arithmetic, a prehistoric numbers game! The mythic calculations involve the numbers and depths of copper extraction pits, the numbers and weights of stone hammers, the percentage volume of copper per mining pit, the numbers of miners, and the years of mining duration. Ultimately, the mix of these numbers yields the alleged total amount of extracted prehistoric copper, that being in the range of 1 to 1.5 billion pounds. It’s difficult to attribute this branch of mathematics to any one individual, but if there’s credit to be given, it should be given first to Drier and Du Temple (Drier and Du Temple 1961) and then to a Chicago-area writer named Henrietta Mertz, who lays out her numerology proposals in a book entitled Atlantis: Dwelling Place of the Gods (Mertz 1967). In contrast, I propose that none of these numbers, save those related to the weight of the hammers, are actually knowable in an empirical sense.” (Martin 1995)

She quotes a section from Roy Drier and Octave Du Temple’s 1961 paper “Prehistoric Copper Mining in the Lake Superior Region.”:

“If one assumes that an average pit is 20 feet in diameter and 30 feet deep, then it appears that something like 1000 to 1200 tons of ore were removed per pit. If the ore averaged five percent, or 100 pounds per ton then approximately 100,000 pounds of copper were removed per pit. If 5000 pits existed, as earlier estimates indicated (and all pits are copper bearing), then 100,000 pounds per pit in 5000 pits means that 500,000,000 pounds of copper were mined in prehistoric times – all of it without anything more than fire, stone hammers, and manpower. If the ore sampled 15 percent, and if more than 5000 pits existed, then over 1.5 billion pounds of copper were mined (Drier and Du Temple 1961:17).” (Martin 1995)

The problem with these numbers, as Martin argues, is that they are basically made up. There is no way to accurately measure the missing material, and the estimations that Drier and Du Temple try to use are massively in error. This only compounds as you go further along in their “formula”. So not only is the amount of missing copper incredibly erroneous, it’s basically made up. But made-up ‘facts’ haven’t stopped this show in the past, why should we let it stop us now?

Back to the show.

Wolter is trying to convince us that the Newberry Tablet is connected to the missing copper and the “Mystery Miners” in Michigan. He thinks he can do this by comparing the purity of  “the Bronze Age Copper” with the purity of the Michigan copper. If they match, they must be the same thing, right? He tells us he’s planning on comparing the Michigan copper to copper recovered from a Bronze Age shipwreck. He doesn’t specify which one he’s talking about, but there are two really good candidates. One is the Cape Gelidonya wreck, excavated in 1960’s, and the more likely candidate, the Uluburun Shipwreck, excavated from the 1980’s till the 1990’s. Both were found to have copper ingots on board when they went down, neither are thought to be Minoan in origin. This will be important later, but for now let’s look at the obvious flaw in this current hypothesis.

Wolter thinks that comparing the purity of one copper to the other will produce a match and that match will prove they are the same type of copper. This is incorrect. First off, he is suggesting that he will compare unsmelted copper to smelted copper. These two types of copper are not equivalent. The process of smelting ore removes the base metal from the matrix and burns or melts off impurities. Smelted copper is going to be pretty pure stuff, regardless of how it started the process. Even if the Michigan copper turned out to be 100% pure, it doesn’t mean anything since Wolter will be comparing it to a substance that is processed to be pure. It’s apples to oranges, not apples to apples as Wolter seems to think, or as he’s trying to make us believe.

So let’s just recap here since we’re barely 10 minutes into the show:

The Not-Evidence so far of Mystery Miners in Michigan:

  1. The Newberry Tablet. – There’s no recorded of its finding, no way to verify it since it’s missing, it has a classic hoax-style origin story, and it’s either already been translated as a good luck charm or it’s untranslated and speculated to be records of something.
  2. Billions of pounds of missing copper – For it to be missing we must ignore the cultures of the native peoples. For there to be billions of pounds missing, we have to accept imaginary numbers used in a flawed formula.
  3. Comparison of the purity of the copper. – This will never work since we’re comparing smelted vs. unsmelted copper. These two things are not the same. You can’t even compare them chemically anymore.

So far we’ve completely dismantled Wolter’s argument, and we haven’t even gotten off the boat yet…So Onward!

Twardzik is apparently taking us to the Isla Royal island, and he gives us a brief history lesson about the island. Randomly, Wolter compares the missing copper to the slow extinction of the wolf population that lives on the island. How are these two things related? Wolter makes an effort to link the two by having Rolf Peterson, a wolf biologist, explain how he finds a lot of wolf skeletons in the bottom of the mines, suggesting they are falling into the mines and dying. Somehow these tragedies are evidence to Wolter of something. What it is, we’re never told, and personally I think it’s more than a little tacky to try and link the extinction of an endangered species with some unsubstantiated and unrelated conspiracy theory.

But now we’re watching the moon rise while eerie music plays, again horror movie style. (What is it with this show and the constant horror movie references?) The moon gives way to a Sun rise, set to creepy music, and pop-up telling us it’s Isle Royale in the day…thanks for that?

Today we’re going to McCargoe Cove to see one of the largest copper mines on the Island. Cue awesome adventure-time music and scenes of the boat on the water, the water behind the boat, Wolter gazing expectantly forward in the boat, spinning panoramic views of the water behind the boat, the view in front of the boat, a guy driving the boat, and finally the boat docks and now we watch Wolter walk down very well worn paths, and we’re walking….finally seeing a post telling us we’re near Minong Mine…

We get a brief history of copper, nothing to in-depth. Then we get the billions of pounds thing and the accusations that the tablet is connected to the copper vanishing again. Then we’re back to spinning panoramic and random pictures of the mines all while music swells and Wolter looks seriously at the rocks. Eventually, Wolter falls back to his, ‘if I could test the copper I can prove my point’ argument, and Twardzik tells Wolter that he can’t take samples from the island because it’s a protected site, and its illegal to do so. Wolter has a mini fit and tells us how he’s used to that kind of thing. Thankfully we’re spared the ‘academics are jerks and they’re trying to keep me down’ rant we’ve had to hear the last few episodes.

Now, I know if you are a researcher and you make an honest request, almost any State or Federally owned property will allow you to come and take samples for study. You simply have to go through the right channels and file the right paperwork. Yes, it’s tedious and takes time to process the papers and such. No, it’s not going to happen in a few hours, or even spontaneously. Either Wolter doesn’t know this, furthering my suspicion that he has no clue how archaeology works, or he did apply and was denied. Maybe even he did apply and the time needed to get the paperwork done wouldn’t have worked for the show’s shooting schedule, IDK, I’m guessing here.

Twardzik tells us that the dating of timbers found in association with a large piece of float copper at the mines puts them somewhere around 5000 – 6000 years ago. This comment is enough to convince Wolter that this is the copper from Bronze Age Europe. But the dates for the Bronze Age in Europe are from 2500 BC till 800 BC. which are not the dates you get if you do the math.

Here’s where math becomes an issue again. If we do the math and use this ‘date’ as a real number, that makes the mines active from at least ~3000 to ~4000 BC. A good 500 to 1000 years before the start of the Bronze age in Europe. Now the Bronze Age was going on in the Near East at this time, think Mesopotamia and Egypt among other areas, but Wolter isn’t talking about them, he’s talking about the European Bronze age.

Martin (1995) drives a further wedge into the misalignment of the dates:

“The duration of prehistoric mining is really much longer than this rough estimate. The dates and ranges of time for prehistoric copper use are really from about seven thousand years ago to protohistoric times. Suites of dates from the Upper Peninsula and nearby areas make it clear that the age of the use of copper lasts longer and extends farther than Sodders suggests. It does NOT extend as far as Phoenicia or the European Bronze Age, however!” (Martin 1995)

So currently our dates don’t match and since Martin has set the age of the mines back another 2000 years, who was using all that copper that was being mines for 2500 years before the European Bronze Age even started? We’re not allowed to think it might have been the local indigenous peoples, despite mountains of evidence to support that fact.

“The competent excavation of many prehistoric archaeological sites in the Lake Superior basin reveals the continuous use of copper throughout the prehistoric time range, in association with all of the other items of material culture (projectile points, pottery and the like) that are without a doubt the products of native technologies. Many of these sites have been dated reliably by radiocarbon means (Table 1). Clearly, copper-working continues up until the years of aboriginal contact with seventeenth-century Europeans. The speculators could at least acknowledge these facts rather than pretend that the association of copper with indigenous people doesn’t exist.” (Martin 1995)

But let’s not let math and facts get in the way of the show. Wotler has his conclusions, now he just needs a way to prove them.

Wolter can’t take a sample of copper from the mines themselves, but Twardzik has a suggestion of a place he can probably find one.

Judy Johnson of the Ancient Artifact Preservation Society (AAPS)  is the owner/curator of the 28 ton copper flow, loving referred to as The Copper. She’s presented to us as a Copper Researcher. She appears to be the voice of the AAPS, who work to preserve The Copper and to educated people on ‘copper culture’ and Pre-Colombian contact. It should be no surprise that when Wotler gives her his schpiel about the whole European Bronze Age thing, she readily agrees.

Wolter leadingly asks if there are any local Native legends that might support his story and she tells us that indeed there are! Once we lump all the Native groups in the Michigan area, low and behold! There is a vague, non-detailed story about fair haired, fair skinned people. Judging by the AAPS website, I think Johnson means Vikings here, but Woter’s talking something else, so wait for it.

Johnson tells Wotler that the Native Americans left behind writing about their visitors, and Wotler eagerly suggests the Copper Harbor Petroglyph. Never mind that Wolter himself dates the petroglyph to be only ~1000 years old. He can be flexible with his dates if it means creating non-existent connections  between unrelated things. Johnson confirms that is what she’s talking about and that it’s so different from “anything the Native Americans would have done,” again lumping. Wolter tells us that he has studied it and he’s conclude that it’s…here the big reveal…Minoan!

This is the first time in the show that Wolter mentions the Minoans by name, though he’s tried to allude to them all this time. First with his “Cryptic Symbols” on the Newberry Tablet, then with his European Bronze Age (wrong Bronze Age btw), and now with this Copper Harbor Petroglyph. He tells us that the Minoan Cultured existed from 3500 – 5000 years ago; still making them younger than the Michigan Copper mines have been active.

Screen Capture of the Copper Harbor Petroglyph

Screen Capture of the Copper Harbor Petroglyph

The Copper Harbor Petroglyph is problematic because the only place I can find any reference to it is on pages like Graham Hancock’s blog and other blogs that are referencing this episode. There is no credible scholarly work out there on the glyph, the state of Michigan doesn’t even mention it. The only true petroglyphs in the entire state of Michigan are Sanilac Petroglyphs, which are in danger of being eroded away due to natural and human processes. I was able to find one source of original material on a blog by Amanda Wais, a writer who lives in Michigan and keeps a slice of life blog called A Little Slice of da Harbor…. In her post from December 2nd, 2011 called The Petroglyphs: Fact or Fiction?, Wais shows us some images she took and that although it is said that the glyphs are thousands of years old she also adds; “I have also heard, however, that a couple old boys back in the 1970’s carved those in.” Not exactly academic, but it’s on par with the rest of the sites claiming it’s real.

The petroglyph isn’t the only issue with Johnson’s statement. The whole “Fair Hair people” Native legends thing is problematic as well. Not just because we’re asked to lump all prehistoric peoples and all current Native Tribes into one amorphous  blob, which they are not. We’re also asked to accept this vague possibility of a Native legend and ignore actual documented Ojibwa legends that tell about their tribe’s extensive use and mining of copper throughout the tribe’s history.

However we’re drifting away from the story the show is trying to sell us on.

Wolter asks Johnson if she knows where he can get a piece of copper to compare to the Bronze Age copper. She tells him that there’s just the place in the U.P. So we’re off, watching more shots of Wolter driving while accompanied by epic music. I wonder if this is just Wolter’s private soundtrack and it really does play every time he drives? Are all drives for Wolter epic? Either way, we get a voiceover rundown of all the evidence Wotler has seen for his story, which is a good place to recap the rest ourselves:

1)      The tablet – currently destroyed and exists only in pictures, also is untranslated or possibly translated, either way seems unrelated so far.

2)      The ship petroglyph – not an actual petroglyph as far as can be discerned, even if it was, its way too young to be connected.

3)      Bronze Age Mines – See what he’s done here? We’re not calling these Michigan copper mines or prehistoric mines anymore, now they are definitely Bronze Age mines even though we’ve been given no evidence to establish this in any way. Co-existence in a point in history is not evidence of anything.

4)      Billion pounds of Missing Copper – a number gotten through bad math.

5)      Copper Purity  – Comparing smelted vs Unsmelted copper is not the same thing.

Eventually we arrive at Da Rock Knockers Rock Shop in Ishpeming, MI and we meet the owner Jim “Hoolie” Decaire.

Decaire appears to be a very nice guy and he does two things for Wolter, beside listen to his story. He sells Wolter a piece of Michigan copper, and he tells Wotler that the Newberry Tablet still exists. Wolter gets very excited, but we don’t really get to see Decaire’s response as the show gets cut just as he might have responded, I mean, we have to go to commercial. When we come back and make it through more Epic Driving, we’re told that now that Wolter knows the Tablet still exists, it qualifies as a real piece of evidence, only it doesn’t. Whether or not the Tablet still exists physically has no bearing on its validity.

Still, we got to the Fort De Buade Museum in St. Ignace, MI. and we meet Connie Sweet, the Museum Curator. She tells Wolter about the tablet, and about Dr. Donald Benson, the previous owner of Fort de Buade, according to the St. Ignace News (Stuit 2013). Benson purchased the tablet for his own collection and when he passed away in 2007, his collection was purchased by the City of St. Ignace and placed in the Museum there (Stuit 2007). Sweet has the tablet and its associated artifacts laid out for him on an examination table.

Screen shot of the Newberry Tablet

Screen shot of the Newberry Tablet

The tablet is in rough shape. There’s barely anything discernable to it, what’s more, even as Wolter pulls out all his cool camera and computer stuff, none of which is explained to us, we never get to see the tablet full on. We get shots of the edges of the tablet, but never the tablet full on. This raises several red flags for me, especially since it doesn’t look anything like the pictures. From what we are allowed to see in the show, this tablet and the tablet in Wotler’s pictures in the beginning are two different things. Still, Wolter does his ‘analysis’ and apparently he can also identify Minoan writing, because he eventually tells Sweet that he was able to make out three symbols on the tablet, and they all match!

Sweet seems dutifully impressed, and tells Wolter that there is more Minoan writing in Michigan. This batch is at the bottom of a lake, and she can’t understand how it got there. To explain it to her Wolter tells us about Isostatic Rebound the rise of land masses during the last glacial period. The problem here is, Wolter says that because of rebound the lake bottom could have been exposed at one time, and then the rebound made it sink, which isn’t exactly how that works, but whatever. It sounds all scientific, and that’s all that really matters; throwing terms and concepts out there randomly in order to confuse and fool the general public into believing what this show is doing even resembles science, which it isn’t.

Wolter makes a solemn vow to Sweet that if there is Minoan writing in Michigan; he’s going to find it, even if he has to dive underwater to do it. Which brings us to Random Northern Wisconsin Lake in Confidential City USA. Seriously. The show doesn’t want to tell us where this location is, because reasons?

We meet Scott Mitchen, who is presented to us as a Treasure Hunter. Mitchen is actually a veteran diver of more than 30 years, and according to his website, “is known worldwide as an expert in using sophisticated detection equipment to locate lost shipwrecks, treasure and logs buried in lakes, rivers, oceans and on land.” His website is cool too.

Screenshot of one of the underwater mounds.

Screenshot of one of the underwater mounds.

Wolter tells Mitchen his story and Mitchen is on it. He shows Wolter drawings of what appear to me mounds under the water. He says they are 25’ or more underwater and he’s going to take us to see them. We get several minutes of diving footage, and we do actually get to see the mounds. They’re fairly good sized, and they look fairly modern too. This is confirmed by Wotler when they come back up from the dive. Mitchen agreeed warily, and after some noticeably bad editing, Mitchen tells us that the mounds have been tampered with since he first found them. But these mounds aren’t the reason he thinks that Minoans were in Michigan anyway. However, we never found out what else makes Mitchen believe that, because we got places to be!

More Epic Driving and we arrive at the University of Minnesota Lab in Minneapolis, MN to analyze our copper sample, finally. We’re taken to the Shepherd Lab and we meet Dr. Greg Haugstad, a senior researcher. He tells us about the Particle Induced X-ray emissions (PIXE Analysis) he’s going to do to Wolter’s copper sample.  Basically, the machine shoots an ion blast at the material, which creates x-rays, and those can be used to tell what elements an item is made up of. NASA uses it apparently, not sure why that’s relevant.

While we wait for the results Wotler tells Haugstad his Minoan story, which Haugstad doesn’t seem to be buying. Then the results come back and sure enough…its copper! Wolter asks how pure and Haugstad tells him its 99% pure. Wolter is ecstatic, though I’m really sure why. We’ve covered why this doesn’t matter.

So here is where Wotler compares it to the purity of a known sample of Bronze Age copper right? Like he’s been saying he was going to do the whole show, right? Right? …

Nope! Wolter never compares the Michigan copper sample to anything. Nadda, zip, zilch. So not only does this experiment mean nothing, it was never even carried out completely in the first place! Wolter ends the show crowing like he’s proven something, when the whole point of the show (testing the copper against Bronze Age copper) never even happens! The Hell? I mean, I know it was an irrelevant test, but you could have at least gone through all the steps for entirety’s sake!

And thus the show ends; with random flickering images of city nightscapes, water horizons, and Wolter in his lab. Music swells and sends us on our way, confused and ill informed.

In Summary:

I know this is the part all of you skip too, so let’s just get to the nitty-gritty.

After taking us on what was a scavenger hunt built on hearsay and wishful thinking, the show once again leaves us with no evidence and no reason to believe anything the show told us. It’s all a bunch of not-evidence haphazardly woven into a sort-of compelling story with very few details and a whole lot left out.

Wolter again completely dismisses that achievements of Native Peoples in favor of the Great White Man. Insinuating that Native Peoples were too incompetent to do anything so industrious as mine and work copper, even though we have actual evidence that they did. At least this time he had some women ‘experts’ in the show, and didn’t sneer at any ‘mainstream’ archaeologists.

The evidence listed throughout the show is this:

1)      The Newberry Tablet – So many issues with this. I’ve covered this in its own blog post, Here, but lets give a quick look over.

First we’re led to believe the tablet didn’t exist, and then when we did get to ‘see’ it, it looked nothing like the pictures. I strongly suspect that’s why we were never given a full look at it, I think even the show recognized that it was too different to sell as being the same thing. This is even before we look at the ‘translations’ of the tablet.

There are at least two different cultures that are supposed to be the writers of the tablet, the Minoans and the Hittites. The Tablet is both translated and not translated. Putting aside Wolter’s suggestion that it’s a record keeping item, we have Fell, who’s said the translation is a formula for good luck, or another translation telling how bird’s eat grain. The major problems here are that the scrip on the tabled doesn’t look anything like either Minoan Linear A or Hittite cuneiform.

This doesn’t even begin to examine the sketchy finding of the tablet or the questionable history of the item before it was finally purchased by the museum. It’s just one huge red flag.

2)      The Isla Royal Copper Mines – As Martin (1995) explains in-depth, these mines are known to be prehistoric copper mines used by the Ojibwa. We have artifact evidence, we have an oral history that supports the archaeological recorded,  we also have a living people in the modern Ojibwa Tribe. There is no reason to manufacture a history for these mines, and no need to whitewash it, ignoring the Native Peoples who mined here.

3)      The Missing Copper – As Martin (1995) points out, the amounts of missing copper are pretty much made up numbers based on bad math. So this idea of ‘billions of pounds’ of copper is just fiction and make-believe.

4)      Comparative Dates – Wolter’s math is off here, but it’s not the first time his math has been bad despite using it as a form of evidence.

5)      The Copper Harbor Petroglyph – I’m not saying the glyph doesn’t exist. Cleary it is a physical entity that resides in our world. However the validity of it as an actual prehistoric petroglyph is not supported in any way. Not only can people not decide if it’s a Viking ship or a Minoan ship, they can’t agree on an age. Wolter himself says he dates it to being only 1,000 years old. A far cry from being any form of evinced for Pre-Columbian contact. It is nowhere close to the only known site of prehistoric petroglyphs in Michigan, and it doesn’t look anything like those glyphs. There is nothing else in the area to suggest who might have carved them, and honestly, just looking at it, it’s pretty new looking anyway.

6)   Native Legends of Fair Hair and Skinned People – We’re not told the legends, or from what tribe they come. We’re just told that these legends exist. We’re asked to accept this as evidence, all the while ignoring documented Ojibwa lore clearly stating their tribe’s use of copper.

7)      The Purity of Michigan Copper – As stated, this is a moot point. The smelting of the ancient copper would have purified it. So comparing the purity of unsmelted copper to smelted copper is like comparing apples to pineapples. Yeah, they both have ‘apple’ in their names, but that’s it. This proves absolutely nothing, and it never would have. All Wolter did when he had the PIXIE Analysis done was prove that he had taken a piece of copper to the Shepherd Lab. In the end he doesn’t even compared it to anything anyway, so the whole thing was kind of a waste of time for all involved.

8)   Underwater Minoan Writing/Mounds – Even the show says these are a bust.

In the end when it comes to the whole idea of Pre-Columbian European visitors to prehistoric America, Martin puts it best:

“Why, in contrast to everyone else in world history, are these alleged Bronze Age people so neat, tidy, and garbage-free?” (Martin 1995)

Indeed. Where is the evidence that these traders were here and frequented the area? Where is their trash, their temporary camps, their wrecked boats, the trade items, their broken tools, or any other trace of their existence? A small handful of incredibly questionable items scattered, and in no discernable way related, is not evidence. Even one good site with indisputable evidence of Minoan occupation would be good. So until that’s offered up, this is just another fantasy.


Drier, Roy W., and Octave J. Du Temple
1961    Prehistoric Copper Mining in the Lake Superior Region. Published privately by the Authors: Calumet, MI 1961.

Jones, William

1916    Ojibwa Tales from the North Shore of Lake Superior. The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 29, No. 113 (Jul. – Sep., 1916), pp. 368-391. Published by: American Folklore Society Article DOI: 10.2307/534679 Article Stable URL: Retrieved 12/9/2014

Martin, Susan R.
1995    The State of Our Knowledge About Ancient Copper Mining in Michigan. The Michigan Archaeologist 41(2-3):119-138. Retrieved 12/9/2014

Stuit, Martha.
2013    Show Examines Fort de Buade Tablet. St. Ignace News.  Retrieved 12/9/2014


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The Newberry Tablet

While I was critiquing the 3rd episode of America Unearthed Season 1, I came upon a few new artifacts/concepts in pseudoarchaeology. One in particular caught my attention, because as I worked to debunk it, the red flags around it grew. I realized that it really needs it’s own entry into the blog, because there is a lot of well meaning buk out there, there are no attempts to explain why this artifact is a hoax.

The Newberry Tablet.

Screen shot of pictures of the Newberry Tablet from 1888, via America Unearthed S01E03 on The History Channel 2

Screen shot of pictures of the Newberry Tablet from 1898, via America Unearthed S01E03 on The History Channel 2

This artifact has a classic hoax origin story. It has multiple versions of the story, vague details, conflicting information, and no actual documentation to back it up. The story as per the Fort de Buade Museum and America Unearthed S01E03 (Wolter 2013), Two unnamed lumberjacks were working to clear some trees in 1896 in the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) near Newberry, Michigan, when they discovered the tablet. It’s not entirely clear how or where exactly the Tablet was when discovered. Another source, says the Tablet was found in 1897 on the McGruer farm near Newberry, MI (Pohlen 2014). This story tells us that the tablet was found after felling a tree where it was tangled up in the roots of said tree (Pohlen 2014). This sounds familiar to me, it’s almost exactly the Kensington Runestone origin story verbatim. Pholen’s version of the story says that stone figures were found with the tablet, and the Fort de Buade Museum supports this.

The St. Ignace News has a completely different story all together:

“The most common story of their discovery, according Fort de Buade’s curator, Bill Peek, takes place in 1896. Two hunters were pursuing a mink near Newberry that had run into the root area of a fallen tree. They grabbed shovels and began to dig, but hit stone. They dug up the three statues and tablet.” (Coe 2012)

The Fort de Buade Museum and America Unearthed (Wolter 2013) versions loose track of the Tablet around this point, only mentioning that pictures were taken of the the Tablet in 1898 (Fort N.d, Wolter 2013). Pholen’s (2014) version says that McGruer tossed the Tablet in his barn where it got broken. This could be where the whole idea that the Tablet was destroyed come from, as was thought at first in America Unearthed (Wolter 2013). The pictures were allegedly sent to the Smithsonian Museum who declared the Tablet a hoax. All sources of the story accuse the Smithsonian of not knowing what the 140 symbols on the tablet were. The Fort de Buade Museum and America Unearthed (Wolter 2013) versions accuse the Smithsonian of trying to cover up the existence of the Tablet by claiming to have lost the pictures they had been sent.

According to the The Fort de Buade website, the controversial Dr. Barry Fell, got ahold of the images in 1988 and was able to identify the writing as written in ancient Hittite-Minoan. He was able to translate it as being instructions for getting good luck from the gods. According to Pholen’s (2014) version the symbols were describing how birds ate grain that was scattered before them. America Unearthed (Wolter 2013) version says the tablet is Minoan script, and the it’s untranslatable, but Wolter speculates that it’s probably some form of record keeping for Bronze Age Copper Mining.

According to the Fort de Buade website and The St. Ignace News (Coe 2012), in 2007 the Tablet and it’s associated bits were perched from Dr. Donald Benson when he passed away. He had kept it in his private collection for 30+ years and the condition of the items had degraded significantly. However, they now reside in the Fort de Buade Museum in Michigan, and due to this, is sometimes referred to as the the Fort de Buade Tablet as well.

Now that we have the story, let’s break this all down.

We’ve covered the issues with the origin of the Tablet. It has multiple versions and conflicting information. It invokes the idea of conspiracy of a cover-up at the academic level, and most importantly, it has no documentation. It’s also interesting to me how closely at least one of the versions is to the Kensington Runestone, especially since the Tablet is being used to prove Pre-Columbian European contact.

The multiple translations of the Tablet are also problematic. If we set aside Wolter’s speculation, because he doesn’t offer a hardcore translation, we’re still left with three options. 1) It’s a good luck spell, 2) It’s about birds eating grain, or 3) it’s not translatable. The third option comes about because of what the writing is supposed to be, at least two of the possibilities have never been deciphered.

Hittite – Minoan Cryptic/Cuneiform. I have no clue what kind of writing this is supposed to be. There is Cypro-Minoan which post-dates Minoan Linear A, both of which are currently untranslatable, and there is Hittite Cuneiform, which has several dialects. As far as I understand, the Minoan and Hittite writing systems are not related, despite being part of the Indo-European language family. This language family is the largest in the world, btw, so this really shouldn’t be surprising.

Examle of Cypro-Minoan via "Tablet cypro-minoan 2 Louvre AM2336" by Unknown. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons -

Example of Cypro-Minoan via “Tablet cypro-minoan 2 Louvre AM2336″ by Unknown. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

0726 La Canée musée linéaire A by Ursus - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - httpcommons.wikimedia.orgwikiFile0726_La_Can%C3%A9e_mus%C3%A9e_lin%C3%A9aire_A.JPG#mediaviewerFile0726_La_Can%C3%A9e_mus%C3%A9e_lin%C3%A9aire_A.JPG

Example of Minoan Linear A via 0726 La Canée musée linéaire A by Ursus – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Example of Hittite_Cuneiform via "Hittite Cuneiform Tablet- Cultic Festival Script" by Mr. Granger - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Zero, Public Domain Dedication via Wikimedia Commons -

Example of Hittite Cuneiform via “Hittite Cuneiform Tablet- Cultic Festival Script” by Mr. Granger – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Zero, Public Domain Dedication via Wikimedia Commons

Also, none of these forms of writing look like what was presented to us as the Newberry Tablet:

Screen shot of pictures of the Newberry Tablet from 1888, via America Unearthed S01E03 on The History Channel 2

Screen shot of pictures of the Newberry Tablet from 1898, via America Unearthed S01E03 on The History Channel 2

So basically, the writing on the Tablet is not any of the scripts it’s claimed to be, and even if it was, the two most commonly picked candidates are unreadable anyway. All this tells us there is no way it could be translated to anything. It also negates the argument that the Tablet couldn’t possibly be a fake since it was found in 1896 and the Minoan civilization was not discovered till the 1900’s by archaeologists. It’s not Minoan, so that’s not a valid argument. It’s also clearly not Viking, Phoenician, or Hebrew, so no luck there either.

There is also the issue of the condition of the modern tablet.

Screen shot of the Newberry Tablet

Screen shot of the Newberry Tablet as it is currently  in the the Fort de Buade Museum via America Unearthed S01E03 on The History Channel 2.

When Wolter is shown the Tablet on America Unearthed (2013) it sets off red flags for me. It looks nothing like the pictures we’re shown from 1898. Yes, as the story goes the tablet was lost and not cared for very well, but again, there is no documentation for any of this. Personally, and this is all my opinion based on the pictures and the stories given, this modern Tablet and the Tablet in the picture do not look the same. Obviously, there is no way to prove this one way or the other, but it’s still a red flag for me.

There’s also the story of the how the Smithsonian was trying to cover up the existence of the Tablet. There’s no reason to believe this story, there’s no reason to not. Simple fact is, there’s no evidence other than hearsay that the images were ever sent, looked at, or lost. When the images were discovered again they apparently were in the Michigan Archives, according to the the Fort de Buade Museum. I suppose the Smithsonian could have sent the pictures back secretly and hid them in the Michigan Archives, since there’s no evidence one way or the other, or maybe the pictures were never sent in the first place. There’s no way to prove either story. Interestingly however, Pholen’s (2014) version of the story has the Smithsonian backing off their declaration that the Tablet was a hoax. He speculates that the Tablet is genuine but doesn’t go as far as to claim the Smithsonian thinks the Tablet is proof of anything. I’d like to know who he talked to in order to get that information, it would be nice to have better documentation on this Tablet in general.

A final thing to add here, there was, in the late 1880’s and early 1900’s a rush of fraudulent artifacts that were found in Michigan. Some 3000 or more hoaxes were recovered during this time, most were immediately dismissed, some still have staying power.  None of them are seen as authentic by professional archaeologists. I find it interesting that the tablet and its associated figures were somehow spared this examination, since they were ‘found’ in the same time period and the same area. I suspect, especially since all versions of the story have the Smithsonian declaring them frauds, that they were part of the Michigan Relic hoax, if not directly, indirectly. Again however, since there is a timespan of nearly 60 years where the tablet was missing, so there is no way to verify this.

So what do we have left with the Newberry Tablet?

What we can say for sure is that the tablet is not Minoan, Hittite, or any of the other cultures it’s supposed to be written by. Since it’s not any of those cultures, there is no way it could be translated. So any claims that the Tablet proves contact with Pre-Columbian peoples is not valid.

It is my opinion that the Tablet in the Museum is not the same Tablet as the one in the pictures from 1898. I base this on the images as they have been provided. It’s not the best way to evaluate them,  I admit that, which is why this is my opinion on the matter and not a fact of any kind. If evidence comes to light that can prove the Tablet’s existence and location over the 60+ year gap between photographing and being purchased by Dr. Donald Benson, then I would re-evaluate my position.

With all of that, I must declare this Tablet a hoax. Neither the facts about the Tablet, nor the speculation is convincing enough to say otherwise.


Coe, Aabra
2012    Unknown Origin of Artifacts in St. Ignace Museum Piques Curiosity of Many. The St. Ignace News, 8/23/2014. Retrieved 12/09/2014

Fort de Buade Museum
N.d    Newberry Stones. Retrieved 12/09/2014

Pohlen, Jerome

2014    Oddball Michigan: A Guide to 450 Really Strange Places. Pgs 39-40. Chicago Review Press, Chicago, IL. Retrieved 12/09/2014

Wolter, Scott
2013    Great Lakes Copper Heist. America Unearthed, Season 01 Episode 03. History Channel 2. January 4.


Categories: America Unearthed, America Unearthed, Columbus was Second-ish: Who Discovered America Anyway, History Channel, How Bronze Age Minoans Were Not in America., Weird Archaeology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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