The Coso Artifact! Now for your Ears!

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

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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 chris@archaeologypodcastnetwork.com and make sure to put “Show Editing” in the subject line.

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If you want to send us your questions or comments email us at archyfantasies@gmail.com.

Categories: ArchyFantasies Podcasts, Weird Archaeology | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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.

Resources:

Sybil Oldfield,
2004    Eckenstein, Lina Dorina Johanna (1857–1931)’,Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Sept 2014. http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/59940. 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 https://books.google.com/books?id=5QrnjT2NT5MC&pg=PA66&lpg=PA66&dq=Lina+Eckenstein+archaeology&source=bl&ots=hmB9kPvsE3&sig=GJUFUUhxm4gpmwB8iO07j9p6qCc&hl=en&sa=X&ei=tnP2VIO2JNCuogSMhYHQAg&ved=0CEYQ6AEwCA#v=onepage&q=Lina%20Eckenstein%20archaeology&f=false  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 Archyfatasies@gmail.com.

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Want more on this topic? Go to ArchyFantasies Podcasts.

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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.

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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.

DEBUNKING PSEUDO-ARCHAEOLOGY – EPISODE 1

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.

THE GENETIC DISK – EPISODE 2

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.

FRINGE ARCHAEOLOGY AND GIANTS – EPISODE 3

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.

THOSE MYSTERIOUS MOUND BUILDERS – EPISODE 4

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.

GLOBAL FLOODS AND NOAH’S ARK – EPISODE 5

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!

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If you want to send us your questions or comments email us at archyfantasies@gmail.com.

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 archyfantasies@gmail.com.

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

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Want more on this topic? Go to ArchyFantasies Podcasts.

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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.

Resources:

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: http://www.jstor.org/stable/534679. 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. http://www.stignacenews.com/news/2013-01-31/News/Show_Examines_Fort_de_Buade_Tablet.html  Retrieved 12/9/2014

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

Categories: America Unearthed, History Channel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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 - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tablet_cypro-minoan_2_Louvre_AM2336.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Tablet_cypro-minoan_2_Louvre_AM2336.jpg

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 - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hittite_Cuneiform_Tablet-_Cultic_Festival_Script.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Hittite_Cuneiform_Tablet-_Cultic_Festival_Script.jpg

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.

Resources:

Coe, Aabra
2012    Unknown Origin of Artifacts in St. Ignace Museum Piques Curiosity of Many. The St. Ignace News, 8/23/2014. http://www.stignacenews.com/news/2012-08-23/News/Unknown_Origin_of_Artifacts_in_St_Ignace_Museum_Pi.html?print=1. Retrieved 12/09/2014

Fort de Buade Museum
N.d    Newberry Stones. http://fortdebuade.com/newberry.aspx. Retrieved 12/09/2014

Pohlen, Jerome

2014    Oddball Michigan: A Guide to 450 Really Strange Places. Pgs 39-40. Chicago Review Press, Chicago, IL.  https://books.google.com/books?id=_qo2AwAAQBAJ&pg=PA321&lpg=PA321&dq=Fort+de+Buade+Tablet&source=bl&ots=ZJ8y_71P0t&sig=FkFTyFYK6kf8cNDyOAFywidg4MA&hl=en&sa=X&ei=VmGHVMGCMJCyyAS0gYLICw&ved=0CFsQ6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=Fort%20de%20Buade%20Tablet&f=false. 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: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

A 12th Century Englishman in Arizona : Unearthed America Episode 2

Time for Episode Two! Again, there is just too much to cover here, 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 we begin with thundering percussions and the images of two zombies, or wounded men, stumbling along in what could be a desert. The music turns creepy, further enforcing the images of zombies, then one guy drops, apparently dead, and the other guy hoists him up and carries him off. Eventually the surviving man collapse in a cave and is given water by a wide eyed and fully decorated generic Native Man. Then we see the surviving man covering the dead man’s hand with dirt, and then, finally carving runes into a piece of stone with a metal chisel and rock.

This riveting bit of silent cinema pretty much presents the whole premise of the episode, but not in any way that is intelligible. In order to make sense of the scene we just witnessed, we need Scott Wolter.

We met Wolter in episode one, and if you want to recap his creds and such, go back and read the first bit of that post. Unless something new develops, I’m not going back over all that.

So now in episode two we catch up to Wolter in the modern day in his research laboratory in Minnesota. The whole scene is set up like something from the Da Vinci Code movies complete with mysterious adventure music, further hinting at some great mystery that is about to be revealed to us.

Wolter is sitting pensively at his desk and is apparently opening his daily mail, where he receives a handwritten letter. The letter tells Wolter of another American Runestone, this time in Arizona, and could Wolter come look at it since he worked on the Kensington Runestone? Well, of course we can!

So now we’re watching driving footage of Wolter set to riveting music as dry grass and barbed wire roll past. We’re heading out to the Mustang Mountains in Sierra Vista, Arizona.

Once we get there we meet Paul Weishaupt and Jim Cardamone, two local rock climbers from around the area. Honestly, I want to say, these guys are hard core. They are easily old enough to be my grandfathers, and they are still rock-climbing like teenagers.

Wolter asks them how they found the location of the runestone and Weishaupt mentions an old story he heard from a rancher about a missing archeological site. Then one day he and Cardamone were looking for new places to rock climb, I assume because they’ve already conquered the known mountain range, and they came on a cave with rock art and decided this must be the missing site. While they were looking around they noticed the stone outside the cave.

Wolter wants to know when they are going to take him to see it, and they give each other a knowing look. They tell Wolter that they’re going to take him up tomorrow, in 99 degree weather, up a slope that’s known for shifting underfoot. Wolter is, understandably, a little apprehensive about it, but the next shot we get is a clear 5am morning scene of Wolter packing in for the long hike. Seriously, 5am, 99 degree weather, slidey rocks, these dudes are hard core, I mean that with all sincerity.

Anyway, today we add a person to the crew. Steve Ross, he is the State Land Department Archaeologist for Arizona. He’s in charge of all the archaeological resources in Arizona, or his department is, and if his department is like mine, he’s got his hands full with day to day work. So it’s really nice of him to take time out to do this, though from the look of him he’s not unfamiliar with the terrain. Basically, he’s there to make sure nothing happens to the actual archaeological site and Wolter et al are about to hike into.

Ross explains that the cave and its art was recorded in 1984, and has been known by the state since. Apparently, Weishaupt and Cardamone called him about it when they discovered the site, which is the responsible and legal thing to do in pretty every state in the Union, just FYI. Now all we have to do is climb up to the site, and again Weishaupt and Cardamone lead the charge with pretty much everyone else lagging behind. Dudes are machines.

As we approach the cave though, the music and cinematography changes from Lord of the Rings to creepy horror music. We do get our first really glimpse of the stone though, and even with the brief and quickly panning shots of the rock you can tell it’s new. You can see every strike mark from the chisel, the lines are so fresh you can still see the edges, there is no weathering on the stone at all. You can see the disappointment on Wolter’s face when he sees the stone. It’s going to be hard to pass this off as an actual artifact, but it doesn’t take Wolter long to recover. Wolter tells us he knows a guy who knows runes, and so he snaps a picture on his phone and emails it off.

Ross tells us that when the site was recorded in 1984, there was no mention of the runestone. This, I think is what gets Wolter fired up again. I’ve noticed he doesn’t like “academics” telling him things. So Wolter makes an accusation that whoever located the site, purposefully didn’t recorded the runestone. Ross patiently explains to Wolter that everything present gets recorded on survey, no matter how recent or weird, Wolter doesn’t seems convinced.

Since they’ve climb all the way up there, and I presume it’s getting hot, Wolter decides to look around and pretty much everyone seeks shelter inside the cave. We get to look at the rock art, and Wolter again insists that the nested circles are spiral and so the art must be a starmap, and he tries to say something about Archaeoastronomy again. Ross assures Wolter that he knows what Archaeoastronomy is.

While we’re in the cave Wolter makes a comment about the walls of the cave showing evidence of having material removed. Ross agrees and he points out that the floor of the cave by the mouth of the cave has been removed. He tells us that this is a common Looting practice. For those who don’t know, Looting is where people come to known sites and try to dig them up without permission in order to find artifacts they want to keep for themselves or sell on the black market. It’s illegal and all around a lame thing to do. Don’t be lame, don’t loot.

Back to the show, Wolter decided that the looting is good news, because that explains why the stone looks so new. It originally must have been buried and the looters must have uncovered it. Then the looters left it to sit in the open instead of trying to take it with them? It is a big rock, but then again, looters are known for taking stone cutting saws to rock art in ordered to cut it from the rock face in order to sell it, so why this would have slowed them down I have no idea.

Here is also where my issues with Ross start. I know he’s trying to be nice, he’s trying to deflect the weird, and I think he’s trying to not set Wolter off. He obviously doesn’t agree with anything Wolter is saying, or continues to say, but he is trying to be way too diplomatic when dealing with Wolter. Because of this he almost comes off as agreeing with Wolter on many occasions. I’m not sure how much of this is accidental, on purpose, or how much is editing after the fact. If anyone has connections with Ross I’d love to ask him if he’d be willing to talk.

Anyway, about the time Ross is trying to convince Wolter that the stone is not that old, Wolter gets an urgent text. The text that he cuts Ross off to check, is from Mysterious Mike (my nickname for him) who is telling Wolter that the stone is a memorial stone. Wolter begins to chant “memorial stone, memorial stone”, as he continues to look around. He gets on a roll and begins creating links between things that are clearly not connected. Ross tries to explain looting again, but Wolter’s on a tangent about Cultural Diffusion, which Ross tries to nix without success.

Further exploration of the cave reveals a small passage that no one but Cardamone can apparently fit into. So Cardamone crawls into it with a head mounted camera, and we find lots of bees in a narrow stone passage that goes upward at an angle. Cardamone crawls out eventually and Wolter ask Cardamone if he thought a body would fit in there, and since Cardamone had just fit in there the answer was, yes. Energized by the prospects of the memorial stone and a crawlspace that a body fits in, Wolter starts asking Ross if they could excavate in the cave for a possible body and if he could sift through the looter’s backdirt pile. These requests make me even more convinced that Wolter has no clue how archaeology works.

Fortunately, Ross does and he gives a decent, if brief, explanation of the Arizona Antiquities act of 1960 and how the RPA (The Registered Professional Archaeologist organization) works. Basically, most states have an Antiquities Act that date around the 60’s or 70’s which makes illegal the random digging of historical and archaeological sites. They lay out the need for preserving significant sites and set up a series of requirements in order to get permission to excavate a site in order to protect them. One of these is usually having an archaeologist who is registered with the RPA. The RPA regulates professionalism in the field of archaeology and makes sure that those who are registered are qualified to lead excavations and do proper research. There’s a great podcast over at the CRM Archaeology Podcast that talks about the RPA.

Well, basically being told ‘No’ on the excavation doesn’t sit well with Wolter. He begins to speculate about the discovery of a body and how if that body was a European man then that would be a historic discovery. And Ross agrees that it would indeed be such, assuming Wolter found anything of the sort. So Wolter starts to list off all the forms of not-evidence he’s accumulated in mere hours of looking around. 1) Evidence of looting, 2) the lack of weathering on the runestone, 3) a hole a body could fit in. Let me point out, none of this is evidence of anything. Wolter really just seems to be trying to create a mystery out of whole cloth, I’m not entirely convinced even he believes anything he’s saying here.

I also want to point out that I don’t think Wolter believes Ross about there being laws against random digging. I think Wolter believes that he should be able to dig wherever he wants, and Ross is just being mean, or trying to withhold evidence or something like that. We’ve watched Wolter literally laugh in Ross face all episode, so I really think Wolter thinks Ross is just trying to stop Wolter personally from excavating. This also furthers my belief that Wolter doesn’t understand how archaeology works, even though Ross has explained it to him. None the less, Wolter keeps trying to convince Ross to let him dig and Ross is not budging. Then Wolter suggests using ground penetrating radar, or GPR, to get a look at what is under the dirt without having to dig. Honestly this is a great idea, and Ross tells him he can do that since it won’t disturb the site. This seems to appease Wolter and we finally are able to leave the cave for the day.

The next scene finds us in Wolter’s hotel room at night. We watch Wolter use an entire piece of paper to write a two line appointment, and then he moves to check his email. Conveniently, the email browser is open to an email congratulating Wolter on his book, and then we see that we have an email from Mysterious Mike. From this email we learn Mike’s last name is Carr, but nothing else. The email, classily titled ‘HOLY SH*T!’, tell us “The Inscription…I’ve got a name.” Apparently the name is too heavy to send in a mere email. This prompts Wolter to call Mike on his cell. Mike apparently confirms that the runes on the stone are 12th century Anglo-Saxon runes. There’s no evidence to suggest that they were carved in the 12th century, or that there is a body associated with them, but whatever. We also don’t get to know what the name of said non-body is. We’re saving that for after the commercial break.

The next time we are back at the cave we have added to our party Brad Goforth with GPRS : Ground Penetrating Radar Systems, INC. He’s here to run the GPS and translate the results for us. First however, Wolter has breaking news on the Runestone front. Wolter tells us that “The last time we were here we thought we had a body”, which is not true, the only one who thinks there’s a body here is Wolter. Still, he gathers everyone around so he can read the translation that Mike has sent him.

Now, this part is going to take a minute because there is a lot wrong with this stone and it’s translation.

The translation that Mike has given Wolter reads as follows:

“The Body(in contrast to the soul) fits/lays

Rough Hurech here

He enjoyed (entertainment, joy, merriment) the secret stolen

Rough Hurech’s body – fame and glory

Dust beyond Eden – Eden’s temple”

And then there is a ‘cross’ stamped into the bottom.

This translation makes no sense. I mean, yes it’s a bunch of words that refer to a body and apparently a name, but beyond that what is it telling us? And here are the other issues with the ruenstone and this translation:

  1.  We’re told that the runes are 12th century Anglo-Saxon runes. But in the 12th century it would have been more common to see plain Old English, Latin, or French written with an alphabet that looks very similar to our modern English alphabet. As in, you could probably recognize the letters, even if you couldn’t understand the word they spelled.
  2.  As far as I can tell these are not Anglo-Saxon runes, 12th century or otherwise. These appear to be a mix of both the Elder Futhark and the Younger Futhark, seeing as the Sowal rune (the ‘s’ or lightning bolt shaped runes) is represented in both forms.
  3.  The runes themselves don’t spell anything. I, like a lot of people, have some experience with runes and runic translations and frankly, the ‘words’ that are spelled out on the stone are nonsense. The runes as I can see them are “ksils-ss-sudins-peiss-runsns-psshks-sst-msys-emens.” They don’t spell any words in Old English, Latin, French, or modern English for that matter. Also, there is no evidence of any word that would line up with the name Hurech on that stone.
  4.  Also there are 9 words on the stone compared to the 20+ Wolter reads off. I know that sometimes in translations one word can become two, but nine to twenty? That’s more than a 2:1 ratio.
  5. Who the hell is Mike? We are never properly introduced to him and Wotler never tells us why we should believe anything the man tells us via his cryptic emails and text messages. I did a brief search for Mike Carr, and yes there is a man who works at the University of Edinburgh and he has studied the medieval period, there is also a Michael Carr who is a Templar theorist who likes to push the idea that other Europeans made it to America before Columbus. Not to mention every other Mike Carr who lives around the globe.
  6. We’re also never given the Old English translation, just the modern one. Again, we just have to take Wolter’s word for things, there is no actual evidence presented.

Wolter gets all worked up over the name and Ross tries once again to bring reason to the conversation but Wolter just laughs at him and dismisses him, silly academics, what do we know?

Fortunately at this point we move on to the GPR, and Goforth explains how the GPR works. It’s a great explanation which is basically, the GPR unit projects radar waves into the ground. Those waves bounce back and the unit uses those to create an image of what’s below the surface. The images do take a bit of knowledge to translate, but even the untrained eye can usually see where the differences in soil density occur. Goforth does show us what the data look like after one pass, and tells us that more passes are needed. So we spend some time watching Goforth wrestle the GPR over the cave terrain accompanied by epic struggle music. I am a little leery of the results from the GPR, mainly because of how uneven the ground was that was being surveyed, that can affect things, but not so much.

After the initial demonstration we never see the GPR output again, so we have no clue what it looks like, but Wolter and Goforth do appear to find an anomaly. Ross seems to notice it in the data too. Wolter immediately  tires to argue that this could be the location of the body since it’s right under the runestone. Ross asks how big it is and we learn that it’s roughly 3 or 4 feet and is about 2 feet below the surface. It’s a little short for a full grown man and very shallow for a grave. Ross tries to point this out, but Wolter keeps trying to use this as a way to convince Ross to let him excavate. Ross tires to explain to him again how the excavation process works, and then Wotler gets another urgent Text message.

I know that the show is staging these texts and that they are trying to use them as a way to impart urgency, but really what all this does is make Wolter look incredibly rude for interrupting actual conversations to check information on his phone that could wait till he’s done talking to people. These are all staged texts anyway, I wonder if the producers didn’t time the texts on purpose to interrupt Ross so people couldn’t hear him explain to Wolter why he legally can’t excavate the cave? That’s me speculating though, don’t take that too deep.

Either way the text message is this:

“Soctt,
I traced the Hurech surname to medieval Staffordshire, England. If you go there, you might find more clues to the mystery.

One more thing…before you leave the southwest, you NEED to check out the Gila Mounds

There could also be a connection there…
-Mike”

To this new bombshell I say, Oh really? You traced an Anglo-Saxon surname all the way back to medieval England? No, Really? (Read the sarcasm.) This is one of the points where the misrepresentation in the show just really got to me. There is absolutely nothing special about finding an Anglo-Saxon surname ANYWHERE in Europe. Wolter, however gets all giddy about it, because English names in England are really …um…rare?

This pretty much wraps up our time at the cave. The current crew is dismissed and Wolter announces that we’re going to go to the Gila Mounds before we head to England. All I can think at this point is that the History Channel is rolling in the dough.

A few tidbits on the Gila Mounds. They are attributed to the Mogollon peoples who lived in these cliff dwellings from between 1275 and 1300 AD. These dates become important later on. The Gila Mounds are the only location that contains Mogollon sites. These dwellings are very impressive because they are built in and from the surrounding caves, and they look like miniature cities inside the cliffs, like ships in bottles. This is where we find Wolter after the commercial break.

While Wolter is examining the dwellings from afar we get to meet Steve Riley who is the superintendent for the Cliff Dwellings and he tells us a bit about them. They were used for about one generation and then apparently abandoned. Wolter tells Riley about the dead English man and Riley calmly tells him that there’s no evidence of European contact at the dwellings. The only connections the dwellings have is to the Native peoples of the area. Once we’re done talking with Riley we get lots of images of Wolter looking around the dwellings while pseudo-native sounding music plays in the background. However, when were done with that, we’re told that the connection between these sites and our dead Englishman is unknown. Never fear gentle reader, there will be a connection.

To find that connection we travel all the way to Kinver Edge, Staffordshire, England. We get to watch more footage of Wolter driving to epic music…we love watching Wolter drive. once there we meet Alan Butler who is the author of the book “The Goddess, the grail and the lodge”. Butler is a Knights Templar conspiracy theorist and apparently a close friend of Wolters, as we find in the awkward banter between them when they meet.

Now, Butler is apparently up to speed on what Wolter’s been up too with the 12th century English man and tells us he’s been doing some research at the records office. He didn’t find anyone named Rough Hurech, but he did find a Peter Hurech, and has concluded that they are the same man. Why? Honestly, there is no reason to connect the two, but Butler tries anyway. Butler tells us that back in the day people didn’t go by their birth names very much, they all had nicknames and those nicknames were often used in legal documents. What this has to do with anything, I have no clue. Butler goes on to tell us that Peter, who in his opinion must have been Rough (who knows why), got the nickname because he was one of the guys who wrestled buffalo with his bear hands. How do we know that? We don’t. Butler goes on to tell us that whoever was with Peter when he died in the cave in Arizona (again no evidence of this exists) that person must have only known him by his nickname, and so that was what he carved in the stone. Wolter loves all this and completely agrees with it and as with so many things on this show, hearsay becomes gospel and we all just have to accept it.

Butler also wants to show us something, and we hike along till we get to a very neat location. We see before us one of the famed Kinver Edge Stone Houses. These houses are famous and are simultaneously built into and out of the the sandstone cliffs surrounding them. Butler looks at Wolter as they arrive and says “look familiar?” Well, no, not really. One is carved out of the sandstone, one is built inside the cave. One is literally solid rock, the other is made of stacked stone and mud dab. The Gila Mound cliff dwellings were built in the late 1200’s, the Kinver Edge stone houses weren’t formally recorded until the late 1700’s , but we’re not told any of this in the show.

Butler does say that the houses only date as far back as the 1500’s but argues that it’s possible they were inhabited as far back at the 1200’s. That’s a significant margin of error and as I understand it currently, there is no evidence to support that claim. But Butler also doesn’t try to offer any, he just says it, therefore it’s true. Wolter does mention how the time difference in the dwellings bother him, but he concludes that it’s the academics who are wrong about the times, not him. Wolter then decides that it looks “so much like what we find in New Mexico” and launches into a flight of fantasy deciding that Peter “Rough” Hurech is now the one who brought the idea of living in caves to “the Natives” insinuating that the natives peoples couldn’t have been smart or creative enough to create these dwellings on their own, they have to be taught this by white men.

Butler has one more surprize for us, and takes us on another walk to what is apparently Peter Hurech’s old house. Which it must be noted is a traditional English manor style house turned into a pub, and is not part of the Kinver Edge rock houses nor does it appear to be built into any type of rock. It’s known that the rock houses passed from generation to generation inside of one family, so where is Hurech’s rock house? Fortunately the house is now a pub, and Butler and Wolter decide to have a pint. This is our wrap up scene where the two go over all their not-evidence to make the case that Peter Hurech was Rough Hurech, and Rough Hurech is buried in the Arizona desert. Just as we think there can’t be anymore not-evidence added to the growing pile, Butler gets an urgent text and it’s from the lady in the records office. We find out that there is no record of the Hurech family after 1200. I must ask at this point, does she mean just Peter Hurech’s line, or all Hurech’s everywhere just dropped off the planet in the 1200’s? What about a change in the spelling of the name? What about marriage out of the name? Butler doesn’t ask these questions, neither does Wolter, they just take it as the final piece of evidence that Peter and Rough are the same person.

The two men finally reminisce about all the coincidences in their not-evidence, even though I’ve seen no coincidences in any of this, and then ask why would Hurech go all the way to America? They settle on either he was prospecting minerals/metals or that he was just an adventurous guy. They don’t ask how he got there, who was with him, why there’s no other evidence of their travels, or any other relevant question. We’re left with this nugget form Wolter, “this bolder with his name on it is the only evidence we have that he made this trip.” and then we toast Hurech with a pint and we’re out.

Honestly, this episode is just simply astounding at the amount of unrelated randomness they try to string together. Not to mention, I got the feeling several times during the show that Wolter didn’t even believe what he was saying.

In Summary:

The evidence listed randomly throughout the show is this:

  1. Runestone with 12th cen runes. – As stated above, there might be a few 12th century runes sprinkled in the gibberish that is trying to get passed off as a runic inscription, but thats it. The inscription itself means nothing, it’s basically a bunch of ‘s’s with a few other letters added for show. It forms no words that are recognizable. Not to mention, if the stone was carved in the 12th century, it would be far more likely to have been written in Old English, Latin, or French and written with an English alphabet, not a runic alphabet. Also, the translation of the inscription is very suspect. It’s makes no linguistic sense, and what’s more, the translation has far to many words to have come from the nine ‘words’ that are visible on the stone. Also suspect is this Mysterious Mike guy. Who is he? Where does he come from? How is it that he got such a weird translation? Why can’t we see the original Old English translation before it’s translated into Modern English? How do we know he’s an expert? Why is he never properly introduced in the show? I get that he could be busy and not have time to make an appearance, but why doesn’t Wotler explain his credentials to us? Why is he always just, “Mike?”
  2. A name on the stone, Rough Hurech – As said above, there is no apparent word or words that matches up with the name Rough Hurech. Mike’s translation is dubious at best, possibly completely made up.
  3. A possible body – We’re offered two choices for the location of a possible body. One is shoved up the vertical shaft in the back of the cave, and the other is buried in a 3-4ft anomaly at the front of the cave. Keep in mind that anomalies correspond with a density shift in the surrounding soils. This can be caused by a variety of things and it takes someone familiar with the GPR to decipher what the anomaly really is. I’ve seen graves on GPR data, the very brief look we had the data didn’t look anything like a grave, but it was also incomplete and we were never shown the complete data in the show. I think it should be noted that neither Goforth nor Ross, who did see the data, said that the anomaly could be a possible grave. Ross did his best to tell Wolter that it was too small and too shallow. I think Wolter knew this, but tried to press his point anyway.
  4. GPR showing a small anomaly – See above.
  5. The Gila Mounds Cave dwellings of the Mogollon peoples – Here’s where things start to get weird, and I think Wolter and company begin to lose track of their dates. The Gila Mound cliff dwellings date from the late 1200’s to the early 1300’s. Now if you’re not paying attention, this sounds like it lines up with a 12th century English guy right? Wrong. The 12th century ranged in dates from the 1100’s up to the 1190’s. The cliff dwellings dates place them in the 13th century, and at the tail end of that century at that.  That’s a huge difference in time. Also, there is no evidence of any European contact, period.
  6.  Peter Hurech – I’m sure there was a guy named Peter Hurech who lived in the 1200’s. I don’t doubt his line died out for any number of reasons in that same time span. There is absolutely no reason to connect Peter to our imaginary Rough. 1) Unlike Peter, we have no evidence of Rough being anything more than fantasy. 2) Even if Rough was real, there is no reason to connect him to Peter other than a last name, and if Rough was real, there is no reason he couldn’t have been a sibling, a cousin, or just someone with a similar name. Also Peter lived in the 1200’s, which puts him in the 13th century again. This does line him up with the cave dwellings, but not with the 12th century runes.
  7. The Kinver Edge Stone Houses – These beautiful and impressive structures weren’t formally recorded until the late 1700’s. I’ll buy that they existed before that. I’ll even buy that there was some kind of structure there 200 years before they were recorded. But 500 years before? In their current condition? That’s stretching it a bit for me. Especially since there’s no evidence supporting that claim. Even Butler has to make an allowance just to get the dates to fit, and he’s already stretching the truth a bit to get them to 15oo. This is also another place where math gets us a little messed up. If we’re trying to say that Peter Hurech was the guy who took the knowledge of the stone houses over to the poor natives in America and is the same as the 12th century Englishman in the Arizona cave, we not only have to age the stone houses back an extra 600 years, we have to knock Peter back two centuries, and then explain why it took two centuries for the Mogollon peoples to decide to use the knowledge that Hurech apparently gave them to create the cave dwellings. It doesn’t add up. At some point both Wolter and the show began to confuse the 12th century with the 1200’s, and those two things are not the same.

Honestly, this episode was ridiculous and painful to watch. The only good things that come from it were the two Rock Climbers and the use of the GPR.  Everything else was completely irrelevant and not even remotely connected. That runestone was an obvious fake, and the translation was probably made up. The rest of the show was just drawing random lines that never actually connected. And this is only the second episode.

Notes of Interest:

Some of you may know that Jason Colavito also does review of the America Unearthed show, he’s been doing them far longer than I have so he’s more up to date on the show. That said, I do know they are out there, but I DON’T read them until AFTER I’ve written my own blog. I don’t want to be influenced by anything he may say or know that I don’t.

That all said, as I was reading his second review of the second episode, I was struck by the apparent non-existence of even Peter Hurech. I highly recommend you go read this post as well, it makes me dislike this show even more.

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

Categories: America Unearthed, History Channel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Mayans in Georgia: America Unearthed Episode One. **Now With Updates!**

** Update 11/2/14: From time to time we receive information after posting that requires us to update information. When this happens I like to make a noticeable “Update” tag. In this case the update regards Richard Thornton, you can skip down to it, look for the bold Update tag. **

Here we are, I got the first episode of America Unearthed watched, and wow, just wow. Where to begin exactly? This post is super long because there is just so much, um, stuff…in it. I’m going to summarize things at the bottom for you to make following all the claims in the show easier, but I really can’t not break this massive pile of…not evidence…down. If you don’t want to read the whole post just skip to In Summary at the bottom. Don’t be surprised though, if you ask me a question, I refer you to read the whole post.

Let’s start with Scott Wolter .

As the show will tell you, frequently, Wolter is a self proclaimed Forensic Geologist. Now, I personally was very excited to hear this, Forensics are a pastime of mine. Sadly, this show didn’t really show us much of what a Forensic Geologist does, maybe in another episode? Wolter however, presents himself as an authority on a variety of topics including pyramids, ancient rock carvings, and driving while talking on a phone.

His actual credentials are a Bachelor’s degree in Geology he received in 1982 from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He is an avid fossil hunter, and owns the company American Petrographic Services. Under the Services tab there’s a link that explains some about the forensics his company does, which is kind of cool.
Now there is some controversy over whether or not Wolter has an Honorary Masters Degree in Geology presented by UMD. Honestly, whether or not this is true is irrelevant. The only thing this reflects on is Wolter’s character, not his expertise. An honorary degree is not the same as an actual degree. Honorary degrees are symbolic and reflect a variety of things, including donations to the school, life achievements, and the gaining of credibility to the school by handing these degrees out to well known celebrities. It’s like getting a gold sticker because someone likes you. Sure it’s awesome, it’s probably really freaking awesome, but it doesn’t make you an expert in the field.

As to Wolter’s character, we can get a better feel for this by watching the show that’s basically about him, reading his blog, and seeing how he handles negative comments and criticism. Wolter addresses the current nonsensical controversy over his honorary degree by telling us about personal tragedy. I do feel sorry for him, but everyone I know has some deep personal tragedy in their lives, that’s not a defense against criticism. Also, his responses to legitimate criticisms about his methods are problematic at best, (see the comments section in this post), though to cut him some slack, the amount of anonymous posters in the comments section was annoying.

So, on to the actual show.

The intro gives us the creepy flashing pictures and eerie music one would except from a horror flick, or a Supernatural episode. We get a brief explanation about a mysterious archaeological site investigated in 2000 inside Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest. Then we’re given our first claim of the show, which is that “Controversial Evidence has since emerged linking the site to Mayan prophecy.”

We’re also told, as music swells and we pan to an angry Scott Wolter storming from the forest to his vehicle, that in “June 2012 federal authorities prohibit access to the site.” This becomes a recurring theme in the episode. It’s also not made clear why at any point, since the area Wolter was going to is a National Forest and therefore open to the public for free. A quick check of the Chattahoochee National Forest website, dealing specifically with this episode of American Unearthed, tells us that “Track Rock Gap is open to public visitation and no fee is charged. We have several suggestions to enhance your visit.” They even have hand downloads and directions to help you find the place. They do have a highlighted box there that explains what the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) is and what it does. One notable line from the box reads “If someone wants to conduct research, they must get a written permit from the USDA Forest Service after it has consulted with other agencies and Tribes. Careful guidelines and restrictions must be in place before the research begins.” So, if it is true that Wolter was asked to leave the Chattahoochee National Forest, it might have been because he was trying to work without proper permission. This is just a guess though.

So after a riveting scene of Wolter speeding away from the Forest while talking on his cell phone, we’re transported to Wolter’s lab in Minnesota where we meet Jon Haskell. He’s simply introduced to us as a photographer, but Haskell has also worked as a media producer creating work for the History Channel dealing specifically with the Track Rock Gap and trying to tie it to both Mayan and Totonac influences. After hearing Wolter’s story about how the Feds won’t let him into the Track Rock Gap site, he offers to show Wolter his footage from the filming he did there in 2011. When Wolter asks how Haskell got into the site to film, Haskell replies, “I had a permit”. We get a few fleeting glimpses of stacked stone walls, and nothing else. Haskell describes other structures, some ceremonial and some having to do with irrigation, but we’re not shown any of this, we’re just meant to take Haskells word on it, and we’re not told why we should trust him. How do I know I can trust his interpretations of the structural remains as a ceremonial structure? How do I know that he knows the difference between an irrigation system and a wall trench? Maybe he does know, but we’re not told why or how, or why we should trust him. All we know is that Wolter does, and when Haskell mentions a flat stone foundation, Wolter immediately suggests is a pyramid base.  Haskell for his part doesn’t seem convinced, but agrees anyway. This also seems to be a running theme in the show, people not sure how to react to the things Wolter says to them.

**Update 11/1/14**  Well, after not seeing much of whatever it is that Haskell wanted to show Wolter, Haskell suggests we go talk to a man named Richard Thornton. He is presented to us as a Maya/Georgia researcher and an expert on “Creek Natives of Georgia” (shows words), he is however, a member of the Perdido Bay Muscogee-Creek Tribe. From doing research online and via the links provided by Thornton’s comments below, Thornton is an architect and city planner, he’s worked with The State of Oklahoma to design Trail of Tears Memorial in Tulsa, he maintains a blog at People of One Fire, is a writer at The Examiner.com, and has an ebook for sale. This show is not the first time he’s made the claim that the Maya’s were responsible for native sites in Georgia, and it’s also not the first time his claims have been challenged by professional archaeologists. Johan Normark, a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Historical Studies at University of Gothenburg in Sweden who focuses on Mayanist research among other topics, took Thornton’s claims to task on his own blog. Normark has a lot of good information on his blog about the Maya/Georgia topic, also the comment section continues to poke holes in Thornton’s claims, and they do a better job than I have time for on this post.

So after some more footage of Wolter driving to epic music, we get some random shots of back country road signs and a ‘Beware of Dog’ sign posted on a random poarch. This again, is more like a Supernatural episode where the monster comes and eats you, than a documentary. Thornton eventually comes out and greets Wolter and straight off the bat tells him that there is definitely a Mayan/Georgia connection, and the Academics are trying to keep the truth from all of us by refusing to discuss it. This gets Wolter all riled up again about not being able to go to the Track Rock Gap site and they both have a moment of hate on the academic world. In these moments I think Wolter forgets that he’s trying to portray himself as part of that world, and that he’s got several connections in it with people I know. So I find these tirades humorous.

Eventually Thornton offers to show us some evidence of the Mayan/Georgia connection. The evidence that is provided is hearsay for the most part. He says there are cultural and linguistic connections, and similarities between the building construction. He even has some more pictures of the area where Wolter was not allowed to go. (Seems everyone but Wolter could get in, this makes me wonder what exactly Wolter did to get blacklisted, or did he even really try to go?)  This gets Wolter thinking, and he suggests Archeoastronomy. We get a quick blurb on the scren about what that means, and it’s not a complete definition. It’s much more indepth than just “The ancient practice of aligning buildings with celestial bodies.” There’s reason for ancient peoples to do so, and it concerned real world applications like agriculture, not just a random whim. We’re also told the site is radiocarbon dated to 1000 AD, but the significance of this is not given. Thornton seems to back up what Haskell said about ceremonial structures and then adds that there are agricultural terraces, but fails to mention the irrigation channels or the pyramid base slab.

Thornton doesn’t actually provide any real evidence of anything, at least on the show. Yes, he shows us a few pictures of possible stone walls, but it’s very brief and they really could be anything. He claims this is what Mayan sites look like before they are restored by architects like him, but even Wolter seems underwhelmed by Thornton’s evidence. Thornton then provides a 3d map of the area showing the locations of some structures and possible terraces based off elevation data that we don’t know how he got. Again, as neat as this image is, it doesn’t prove anything except that there is indeed a site of some sort there, and we already knew that. Thornton randomly says there are some markers that have to do with Archeoastronomy, which has become the word of the day, but makes no effort to show them to us or explain why they are markers. His crowning piece of evidence is a circle that he’s labeled ‘Spring’, and we’re told it feeds the terraces, but again, nothing is provided as explanation. To make matters worse, the 3d graphic the show begins to use here sets up the map to look like the spring has something to do with Archeoastronomy, which we’re never clear on if it does. **Update 11/1/14**: According to Thornton’s comments below there is some 8+ hours of tape that were never used in the episode. This only further leads me to believe that the show is participating in cherry-picking in order to create a narrative that is entertaining over informative. I understand that some editing must occur, however, they seem to leave quite a bit out that would have been more informative if left in.

So at the end of this visit Wolter again wonders why he can’t go see the site himself, and by now I am beginning to notice how much like Erich von Daniken he sounds like. Von Daniken has always resented that he can’t just walk into any archaeological dig he wants, regardless of safety or security issues. Wolter is beginning to sound the same, and I’m seriously doubting the validity of his claim at this point. But since Wolter can’t see the site with his own eyes, he’s going to do the next best thing, LiDAR!

At this point we’re 10 minutes into the show…just letting you know.

The LiDAR crew gets exciting and dramatic adventure type music as we soar over the area that is presumably the site in question in an airplane. Chris Guy and Jamie Young are our LiDAR experts, and Guy gets to be the one to explain how the machines work. He also gets to be the one Wolter explains to that there are Mayan Pyramids down there and that he’s sure the LiDAR is going to pick them up and prove him right. Also, he can’t go down there himself and look because the Feds won’t let him. Guy looks less than impressed with Wolter’s ideas, but manages to get through it.

Once we get back to the ground, Young helps us go over the data that was recovered by the LiDAR and sure enough, some structures start to pop up. Again, we already know there is a site down there, so the fact that we’re seeing man-made structures really shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. However, LiDAR images are really cool to look at, so we can forgive Wolter for being so excited by them. Wolter again explains the Mayan thing, and Young expertly doges the whole conversation, well done sir.

I’m also noticing how much money the History Channel has to throw around here, and I would really like them to give me a show where I can go head up a real archaeology dig and actually afford to use all the cool toys and get all the post excavation data analysis done. Seriously.

Anyway, we’re finaly at a commercial break here, and the show kindly sums up the evidence we have so far. 1) Piles of unidentified rock that could be anything, 2) Archeoastronomy, because things line up with stuff in the sky. Is it random? We don’t know, and 3) Terraces, which aren’t evidence of anything beyond the possible practice of agriculture.

We also randomly decide to go to the Forsyth Petroglyph in Athens, GA., because it’s a possible stone clue. Clue to what, I have no…ah…clue.

Anyway, while we’re here watching Wolter get really personal with a large chunk of rock (seriously, it’s a little creepy), we meet Gary C. Daniels, author of ‘Mayan Calendar Prophecies‘. Daniels appears to be another tv content producer who has worked with History Channel in the past on more Mayan Doomsday related stuff. Also, there was something about him doing a masters thesis for a website, but I’m pretty sure that was just poorly worded, since otherwise, it makes no sense. Anyway, both men agree they like the look of wet rock, and then discuss the meaning behind the rock, kind of. Daniels tells us that the rock is a Starmap that recorded an event in 536 AD which was apparently a comet impact. Also, the Maya and the Creek peoples used the same symbols to record the same event. Other than a few shots of nested circle symbols that Wolter insists on calling spirals for some reason, and a few shapes that look like teardrops (but we see them so briefly they could be anything,) we don’t get any explanation for the rock or the symbols on it. We’re just expected to accept whatever Daniels says without reason. I’d like to know how Daniels know the symbols represent a comet impact, which ones are the stars? WHich one the comet? and which ones look like Mayan symbols over not Mayan symbols?

The best description I can fond of the Forsyth Petroglyph is on the Eastern State Rock Art Research Association website.

Visitors to the University of Georgia in Athens will find two petroglyph boulders on the campus grounds. One is located next to the Museum of Art. The other is within an enclosed garden at the School of Law. These petroglyphs were removed from their original locations in the 1960s. The original location of the stones was near Cumming, Forsyth County, Georgia. The petroglyphs are carved on coarse crystalline granite. Design elements include concentric circles, stick figures, and cupules. Archaeologists believe that the petroglyphs were made by ancestors of the Creeks or Cherokees dating back to Late Woodland period (c. AD 1000).”

So the Forsyth Petroglyph actually predate the Creek culture, therefore the Creek and the Maya couldn’t have “used the exact same symbols to record the exact same event.”

Since we’re on a random tangent about petroglyphs, Wolter decides now is a good time to mention Mayan Blue. Not because he has any around, but because now seems like a good time. Daniels agrees that he knows what it is, and Wolter claims the Mayan’s were getting the clay used to make Mayan Blue from Georgia, because…we don’t know yet, and Wolter isn’t telling.  Just to keep on topic, Daniels mentions that he knows of a Falcon Dancer Plate that was found somewhere in Georgia and that it matches another relief in Chichen Itza. Also, somewhere in Georgia there is one skull that shows signs of cranial deformation, the practice of shaping the skull of babies to achieve a flattened look in adulthood, which was practiced by Mayan Elites, and also other peoples. This is a very random segment in the show where we’re just throwing things at a wall and seeing what will stick. In reality none of this is evidence of a Mayan connection, as most of it is again hearsay. To Wolter’s credit, he’s not claiming aliens for any of this, so points to him on that.

However, both Daniels and Wolter degrad into a tirade about academics and their evil pains to keep the truth from real researches, like him and Daniels. Daniels makes a joke about how science changes one death at a time, and Wolter exclams that he’s not going to wait for these guys to die off, he’s getting answers now! I’m forced to reflect on if Wolter has asked any questions yet? Mostly he’s just told us what he wants us to believe and paraded an array of unaccredited men in front of us, telling us to believe them too for no reason. Then he rants about ‘armchair’ academics who don’t agree with him or who constantly point out his lack of evidence. I’m forced to wonder if Wolter actually understands how archaeology works, and judging by his constant misconceptions and criticism I’m guessing he doesn’t. I find this weird because I know that he knows some very good archaeologists who have explained how all this works to him before.

But we’re off to Ocmulgee Mounds in Macon, GA., where we’re told we’re “visiting a related site.” Daniels shows us one particular mound that looks to be tiered. Wolter says its a spiral mound and Daniels makes a strange claim here that the only other one in the world is located in Xochitecatl, Mexico. Daniels also explains that the Creek peoples still practice their Snake Dance on this mound, where they walk around the mound in procession till they reach the top. Since we’re only shown the site from a forested trial, and bearly for more than a minute, and then it’s covered up by Wolter comparing it to a photo image, we can’t really tell where we are. Also, we don’t get very close to the mound either, and its a really bad angle. It makes me suspicious as to why they chose to use such a crappy shot of this spiral mound if it’s so special. But if we are where they say we are, then the mound they are looking at is part of the Lamar Mounds and Village Site, and the particular mound they’re looking at is Mound B. This mound is completely round in shape and has a spiral ramp going all the way up to the top. Dr. Mark Williams, the investigating archaeologist of this location, believes that the ramp plus other evidence suggest that the mound was in the process of being expanded when it was abandoned. What’s most important about this mound is that it, again, predates the Creek culture to which Wolter and Daniels need to it fit in order for their Mayan/Georgia idea to work.

We also spend some time looking at a reconstructed earth lodge that faces the rising sun. We’re told this is also evidence of Mayans because no one else ever in the history of the world would ever have thought to build a mound that faced the rising sun, ever. At this point the not-evidence that is being pushed as evidence is getting, as Wolter likes to say, Silly. This doesn’t slow Wolter down though. He decides if he can fly to Mexico and find one thing there that looks like something here, he’ll have proven the Mayan/Georgia link, academics be damned!

So now we’re off to Chichen Itza in Yucatan, Mexico. This time the drive footage is Wolter in the back seat, but we still get the epic adventure music.

Once we’re there we meet Alfonso Morales and actual Mayan Archaeologist. For real, this guy is an actual academic archaeologist with 30 years in the field. He’s also a huge debunker of the whole, Mayan Prophecies crap, so I have to wonder what the show told him in order to get him to be on it?

Well anyway, once in Chichen Itza, Wolter makes an almost profound statement. He say that “Many people think the Mayans died out completely, but they didn’t.” He’s right, the Mayan people still exist, they are a living, breathing, marginalized, ignored, and rightfully tick off people. Things like what Wolter is trying to do here, kind of tick them off, but no one ever goes and asks their opinions of this kind of stuff, so on with the show. Morales handles Wolter with grace and ease. Wolter tells Morales about his whole Mayan/Georgia connection thing and Morales agrees that it could be possible, which surprises Wolter so much he actually replies with “Oh, so you agree with the speculation, then?”

Wolter also mentions the LiDAR images to Morales and says it’s similar to what we sees here. I have no idea what that means, and from Morales look, neither does he, but rolls with it anyway. He seems to sum up his stance on Wolter’s idea by smiling and saying “Maybe if you could find a Mayan up there or we can find a Georgian down here.” He seems to be implying that Wolter needs evidence to back up these claims. Wolter goes on about the Forsyth Petroglyph, comparing the nested circles to the obvious spirals on the temples. Then Wolter brings up the whole 2012 thing and Morales patiently explains why Wolter is wrong.

One thing that is interesting is the Falcon Dancer and the Bird Man motif. Morales shows Wolter relief on one of the temples that looks similar to the supposed bronze plaque he got from Daniels. The reason for this is trade. There’s been known trade routes from Mesoamerica to America for some time now. Nothing direct, but slow, hand over hand trade moving goods and ideas from one end of the continent to the other, but I don’t think Wolter knows this.

Finally, Wolter brings up Mayan Blue and Morales takes him to see a sinkhole that is a sacrificial pit for children to the rain god. He explains to Wolter how the Ancient Mayans possibly painted the children blue, before sacrificing them to the gods. Thus there is a large amount of Mayan Blue clay at the bottom of the sinkhole, along with the remains of the victims. I’d like to point out here, the whole time Morales is explaining this to Wolter, we’re being shown images of ‘savage’ Mayans, killing and ripping out the hearts of other unidentified ‘savages’. It’s very predictable, disrespectful, and an extremly tired trope. Can we please move past this crap imagery of native peoples? Anyway, Wolter explains to Morales how he thinks the clay used for Mayan Blue comes from Georgia, and at this point Morales seems to be so used to Wolter explaining stuff to him, he just smiles and nods.

Once that was over, we’re magically back to Wolter’s lab in Minnesota, where Jamie Young is explaining LiDAR again. He shows us the data that his company recovered from the flyover of Track Rock Gap (remember that place?) and tells us how it matches up with Thornton’s 3d map. This shouldn’t be a surprise since Thornton’s map was created using elevation data, so all it really does is prove Thornton’s data was good data. Remember, we already know there is a site there, so this isn’t proving or telling us anything we don’t already know. There’s also data from a flyover of Mound B from the Lamar Mounds, but again, nothing new here.

So with all his not-evidence piling up, Wolter decides the linchpin in his assemblage will be proving that Mayan Blue is made with Georgia clay. We’re introduced to his young lab assistant Adam, and we spend several minutes watching Wolter make Mayan Blue while CSI style music blares in the background. During this time Wolter makes another claim, “If the Georgia clay in my samples matches x-ray results of real Mayan blue, then we have a hard geological link between the Mayans and Georgia.” Which, if I may say, No you don’t. The only thing this test is going to prove is that, chemically, Georgia clay is similar or identical to the clay used in making Mayan Blue. This is not the same as saying, Georgia clay is the only thing that could have been used to make Mayan Blue. You see, this is where a huge discussion about Soils and, soil composition and association should have occurred, but it didn’t. It is incredibly misleading to even suggest what Wolter is saying here and as a geologist, Wolter should know better. Especially after he admits that there are known sources for the clay used to make Mayan Blue in Mexico.

But we go to the X-ray Defraction Lab of the University of Minnesota anyway with a sample of the clay. At this point it becomes evident that we didn’t really need to make the Mayan Blue, because what we’re testing here is the clay itself, not the finished product. We meet Nick Seaton who is a Defraction Specialist at the University, and he doesn’t seem all that thrilled to have Wolter there. Wolter gives Seaton the whole Mayan/Georgia connection and the camera spends a lot of time not showing you Seaton’s face when Wolter is talking because Seatan is having a hard time not looking either board or ticked off. However, we do run the sample and compare it to actual Mayan Blue, and low and behold, it’s a match. I’m not even a little surprised, because again, this proves nothing except that the chemical makeup of the Georgia clay is similar to that of the clay used to make Mayan Blue. Again, this is not the same as saying that Georgia clay is the clay used to make Mayan Blue.  (I know this is going to be a sticking point). Despite all of that, Wolter is thrilled and immediately begins crowing about how he was right all along and how he’s proven academia wrong.

Thankfully at this point the show is over, and we’re basically wrapping up the not-evidence and as Wolter is going over his list he says there has to be a Maya/Georgia connection and “Whatever it was it must have involved archeoastronomy.” This is perhaps one of the most nonsensical things he’s said all episode, especially since he spent no time making any argument of the sort. It’s just a random throw away statement that proves to me that Wolter has not clue what archeoastronomy is, he just likes saying the word.

In Summary

The evidence Wolter provides thorough out the show is as follows:

1) Ruins – Before we go further, let’s understand that there is a known archaeological site in Track Rock Gap. It was examined by Dr. Mark Williams at the University of Georgia, and has been written and cited in several papers authored by Dr. Williams. Understand also, that the Track Rock Gap area is open to the public and is free to access, so basically anyone can got here. Wolter’s claim that he was denied access was either because he failed to get proper permission to be on a protected archaeological site, or he tried to sneak in and endangered the site. All other ‘evidence’ presented to support the site being of Mayan origins was hearsay, poorly presented, and never verified in the show. The singular exception being the 3d map provided by Thornton, which was made using elevation data, and all that happened there was the map was verified by LiDAR data. Nothing new was learned or provided.

2)  Archeoastronomy – It is clear to me after watching this episode that Wolter doesn’t understand the concept of archeoastronomy. I’m not sure what he thinks it actually is, as he never really provides us with any idea. He just throws the word around a lot and people just nodded when he said it. The one exception to this being Morales, and Wolter basically talks over him the whole time he is there. The reality is that archeoastronomy was used by most ancient cultures because they were agriculturalists and relied on knowing when the seasons were changing so they could get the best results from their crops. This translated into complicated religious cultures, with seasonal ceremonies and important buildings that aligned with certain celestial bodies during certain times of the year. This is common across almost all agricultural cultures and is not evidence of any one culture being the originator over another.

3) Terraces – What the hell did terraces have to do with anything Mayan? This is never explained. Yet it’s still touted as being evidence of something.

4) LiDAR – All the LiDAR data did was verify the location of the site and the validity of the data used to create Thornton’s map. As we don’t know where Thornton’s data came from, since the source was never provided in the show, this is all moot.

5) Petroglyphs – These predate the Creek culture, so as Wolter’s claims stand as presented in this episode, invalidate them as evidence. Also, they don’t even begin to match the Mayan symbols seen at Chichen Itza. Also, how does Daniels know how to read these glyphs?

6) The Falcon Dancer – First, the exact discovery location of the Dancer was never stated. It was ipled that it was found near Track Rock Gap area, but it wasn’t. Second, this is a very common image found all through the southern area. Third, and this should be of little surprise, there were well known trade routes reaching from Mesoamerica into the area. We know this, we’ve known this for decades. It’s kinda what archaeologists do. When we find similarities like the Dancer, we track them down and find out where they came from and how they got here, and most of the time it was trade. Please quit thinking of ancient peoples as being backward and ignorant. They were intelligent, resourceful, active people, who liked trading things.

7) Linguistics, Culture, etc. – Again, any evidence provided here was all hearsay and never presented in real life or verified. Most of it was mentioned in passing and never really looked at in the first place.

8) Mayan Blue – This was a massive red herring Wolter used to give a science-y edge to the show, complete with a Mr. Wizard meets CSI montage. It literally means nothing of importance and proves nothing of substance.

Overall, Wolter paraded a variety of men before us. Most of whom we’re meant to believe outright, without question. None of them provided any actual evidence, nor proved any actual controversy. That’s the most confusing part of this whole thing, there is no controversy. It’s never explained to us why we should care about this Maya/Georgia connection, we’re just told that we should. Who cares? What changes if this is true?

Finally, Wotler’s explicit disregard for the actual Creek, Cherokee, and Mayan peoples is simply shameful. The Creek and Cherokee even created a video helping to debunk the whole Mayan thing. And the Mayans? What does Wolter seem to think about them? I think the way he treats Morales and portrays the Mayan sacrifices speaks volumes.

**Updates 11/1/14** I have been contacted by both Haskell and Thornton after the posting of this article. Both of them have made it clear that there is a great deal missing from their statements to the show. I have offered Haskell the chance to clarify his position, and he respectfully declined. The offer stands should he change his mind, but I understand if he does not. Thornton, I feel, has made his position clear, and I have corrected the related sections appropriately. You can read his comments in the sections below, as well as follow the links provided in text to get a better idea of his claims and evaluate the evidence yourself.

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Categories: America Unearthed | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

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