Columbus was Second-ish: Who Discovered America Anyway

Hindu Corn Goddesses and Tobacco Mummies: New World Plants and Old World Trade.

IMG_20170115_061833_processed-01.jpegThe second article in The Lost History of Ancient America is titled ‘Plants Connect the Old and New Worlds’. It’s penned by Dr. Carl L. Johannessen (2017), a retired professor of geography from the University of Oregon.

Johannessen’s article is the longest in the first section of the book and claims that there are 14 plants that were present in both the Old World and the New before 1492. It’s obvious that this article was meant to be a powerhouse of evidence for the book, yet the evidence provided is less than convincing.

The article itself suffers from the same shortcomings as the rest of the articles in the book. There are no citations to back up the claims made or to document research. Everything in the article revolves around the unverified assumption that transoceanic travelers did exist and that they did participate in trade with pre-Columbia Peoples. Johannessen even goes on to assign value to certain commodities, declaring some “moneymakers”, and creating transportation methods for other “attractive” commodities. He muses that Annona was probably used to combat scurvy on long cross ocean trips and that beans and peas would have been good food stuff for these travelers because they could be dried and are high in protein.

Johannessen spends a lot of the article weaving an intriguing story about how and why “tropical sailors” would have been coming to and from the New World. He even references “new evidence of dated discoveries” (Johannessen 2017) that support the reality of these sailors, yet fails to provide any information about what these are or even provide citations in the article documenting them.

Johannessen then acknowledges the “evidence and contributions” of the Norse in pre-Columbian times:

“The fact that there is acknowledged genetic, artistic, cultural, and biological evidence for regular and repeated contact between these Nordic peoples and populations of the northeastern region of North America simply strengthens the hypothesis we are proposing about the tropical sailors of Southeast Asia, India, Africa, and the Middle East. (Johannessen 2017)”

This statement is not supported by any evidence that I am aware of, nor does Johannessen provide any. I can guess that he’s referring to the actual Viking settlement in L’Anse aux Meadows, and mixing in fringe theories such as the Kensington Runestone, the Newport Tower, and other various ‘Viking’ claims.

Johannessen then makes an appeal to authority by shoehorning a quote by Stephen J. Gould (1941-2002) into his article. With this quote, he is trying to set the groundwork for his argument of transoceanic trade by implying that the probability of an identical plant species evolving in two sperate places on earth would be astronomical. Therefore the only explanation would be trade. He then makes the correct observation that when people travel to new places they always leave behind traces of their presence and often bring back evidence of their travels. In this case, Johannessen argues the evidence is plants. What argues against Johannessen’s claim is the exact observation he made earlier, there is no physical evidence that any of the cultures Johannessen mentions interacted in any way.

There are also no shipwrecks to support pre-Columbian trade routes or massive shipping expeditions. There are no settlements that demonstrate massive (or any) transoceanic trade among pre-Colombian people. There are no artifacts here in the New World that can be traced directly to trade in the Old World that date to pre-Columbian times. Simply, there is no real evidence to support Johannessen’s claims.

Johannessen then mentions John Sorenson, a professor emeritus of anthropology at Brigham Young University. Sorenson is known for his insistence that the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) view the Book of Mormon (BoM) as a scientific document. (They rejected that request.) He’s also written several books and articles trying to prove the BoM to be factual. In one such project, Sorenson tried to catalog all known sources of available literature supposedly providing evidence of pre-Columbian transoceanic diffusion. It’s from this project that Johannessen appears to pull the majority of his claims and evidence for trade, but I can really only extrapolate this as there are no citations given.

Johannessen claims that there are an upwards of 97 plant species that could be used to prove transoceanic trade, but he narrows it down to his top 14 (Johannessen 2017).

These plants are:

  1. Tobacco
  2. Coca
  3. Marijuana
  4. Datura
  5. Prickly Poppy
  6. Corn (Zea Mays)
  7. Amaranths
  8. Agave
  9. Annona
  10. Peanut
  11. Kidney beans
  12. Lima Beans
  13. Phasey Bean
  14. Spice Basil

I’m not going to go over every one of these right now. I will fill them in as I have the time. However, I do want to go over a few that are of particular interest.

Tobacco, Coca, and Marijuana.

Using Johannessen’s list, we begin with Tobacco, Coca, and Marijuana. Johannessen brings up the mummy of Ramesses II. Legend has is that there is evidence for tobacco in the remains of Ramesses. However, Buckland and Panagiotakopu (2001) suggest, with cited documentation, that this is actually evidence of body preservation techniques in the 19th cen.

Radioimmunoassay showed that nicotine was generally distributed through the body, and it is probable that this reflects the application of tobacco water as an insecticide during conservation in the 19th century. This explanation is also probable for the group’s other findings from Central Europe (Parsche et al. 1993) and China (Balabanova et al. 1995), although the lack of care shown by many archaeologists and conservators even in the recent past makes contamination by cigarette smoke always a possibility. (Buckland and Panagiotakopu 2001)”

There is also the presence of an insect,  Lasioderma serricorne, or the tobacco beetle, that was supposedly found in association with wrappings that came from Ramesses’ mummy. Buckland and Panagiotakopu (2001) point out that L. Serricorne is native to the Old World and there is a fossil record in the Mediterranean to back this up.

“The third beetle from Rameses’ mummy, Lasioderma serricorne, has led to most speculation, inevitably, because of its vernacular names, all of which seem to refer to tobacco (Steffan 1985). Described by Fabricius (1798) from dried American plants (‘in Americae plantis siccatis’), it was assumed that the species was associated with Nicotiana tabacum, yet despite widespread earlier cultivation of tobacco, the species was first recorded in the United States in 1886 (Reed & Vinzand 1942), and has several congeners, largely feeding on thistles in the Old World (Steffan 1985); Hill (1994) regarded the species as of tropical origin. There are Mediterranean fossil records, which would support this interpretation. As well as Alfieri’s (1931) examples from the tomb of Tutankhamun, Panagiotakopulu (2000) reports the species from Bronze Age Akrotiri on Santorini in the Aegean, and has more recently [in press) found it in the midden deposits associated with the Workmen’s Village at Amarna in Egypt (Buckland and Panagiotakopu 2001).”

Buckland and Panagiotakopu also point out that this pest prevention is the most likely cause of the presence of Cocoa and THC, pointing out that Egyptian culture was more than aware of the narcotic properties of plants:

“The Egyptians were fully aware of the narcotic qualities of certain plants (cf. Emboden 1989), and Andrew Sherratt (pers. comm.) has drawn attention to the symbolism of alternating poppy, mandrake and lotus on the throne of Tutankhamun as an example, but it is surprising that the abundant archaeological, pictorial and documentary record from Egypt does not provide any evidence not only for the use of hashish, but also for the use of hemp fibres, derived from Cannabis spp., for ropes and fabrics (Germer 1985; Vogelsang-Eastwood 2000: 269). (Buckland and Panagiotakopu 2001)”

Wrapping up their paper Buckland and Panagiotakopu (2001) leave us with a warning about testing evidence out of context:

“Scientific techniques without context do not produce valid answers, and there is a real need for researching individual artefact biographies before each method is applied. Lack of information produces unacceptable stories, which often enter the literature as fact. Artefacts and their history have to be viewed as an entity, and the application of scientific techniques cannot be effectively carried out in fragments; each intervention has to be seen as a dialogue with the artefact  itself.” (Buckland and Panagiotakopu 2001)”

Corn/Maize

This one had me at a loss for a moment. It wasn’t that I believed Johannessen’s claim that there are images of corn cobs on Hindu temples. It was that I couldn’t readily discover what these cob like images were. However, it didn’t take too much research into the divine images on the shrines to finally find out what this plant is.

Johannessen says in his article that unnamed archaeologists have found evidence of corn stalks and seeds, along with peanuts and annona in an unspecified cave. As there is no citation for this discovery, we can set it aside. However, he does get a bit more specific when talking about the Hindu Temples. He mentions temples in Karnataka Pradesh, India that date to the fifth and eighth centuries. Though he provided no actual images in the article to compare his claims too, some unprovenanced images can be found on the internet (see below).

I was able to locate a few images on the internet that do seem to depict voluptuous women posing with what can be thought to be ears of corn. That said, the objects the women (and apparently some men) are holding can be identified in the context of the native plants in the area. The Muktaphala, or Whipcord Cobra Lilly, produces a vibrantly red cob of berries and are native to India, being known for their narcotic properties.

arisaema_tortuosum2_at corn3

Payak and Sachan (1993) explain how carvings, like the above images, found in Kesav Temple at Somnathpur near the city of Mysore, Karnataka State, India, couldn’t be corn. They point out that there is no connecting linguistic, religious, sculptural, archaeological, agricultural, or botanical evidence for this (Payak and Sachan 1993):

“The stone inscriptions associated with the temple list items or commodities used in worship, maize is not included. We find no evidence for maize figuring in any kind of religious ritual or worship. The word for maize used currently in the Kannada language is “Musukin Jola” which refers to a kind of millet resembling sorghum (“jola”). (Payak and Sachan 1993)”

“We hold that these temple sculptures do not represent maize or its ear but an imaginary fruit bearing pearls known in Sanskrit as “Muktaphala.” (Payak and Sachan 1993)”

It is far more likely that the cob like images in the hands of gods and goddesses on Hindu temples represent something familiar to the culture that was carving it. As there are no ancient references to corn in Hindu mythology, traditional food-stuffs, or anywhere really, it is highly unlikely that these cobs are corn. Rather, it is much more likely that this is the fruit of the  Whipcord Cobra Lilly, also known as Muktaphala. A familiar, traditional, and native plant to India.

Summary:

Though I didn’t go over all 14 plants mentioned, it’s clear to see a developing pattern in the presentation of this evidence. Mainly that, Johannessen falls back on familiar habits that the fringe often exhibits.

  • There are no citations or documentation of sources for any of the plants.
  • Johannessen tell us what ‘is’ and provides no specific evidence to back it up. At best we are given vague accounts of someone, often given a generic academic title, who might have found something, somewhere, that is evidence of his claim. Who these people are and where they found these things is often left out.
  • Johannessen’s transoceanic sailors must have been a very busy lot as well. They not only needed to be expert sailors, by master botanists, traders, and farmers as well.
  • Where are the sunk ships? Every culture that has ever done trade on the water has lost ships, so where are these? Where is the other evidence of trade? What were they paying for these plant stuffs with?

Most of the evidence that Johannessen attempts to supply is far from irrefutable. Its mear presentation makes it questionable, and the easy that inconsistencies can be found in his data points to issues with its validity. His evidence is neither clear nor rock solid and falls far from the mark of proving transoceanic travel and trade.


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References:

Buckland, P.C. and E. Panagiotakopu
2001    Rameses II and the Tobacco Beetle. Antiquity Vol 75 (2001): 549-56 http://www.geos.ed.ac.uk/homes/rgroves/panagiotakopulupub4.pdf Retrieved 1/14/17

Edlin, Duncan
N.d    The Stoned Age? A look at the Evidence for Cocaine in Mummies. The Hall of Ma’at. http://www.hallofmaat.com/modules.php?name=Articles&file=article&sid=45

Johannessen, Carl L.
2017    Plants Connect the Old and New Worlds’. The Lost History of Ancient America. Edited Volume Frank Joseph. The Career Press. Wayne, NJ.

National Museum of Natural History (NMNH)
N.D    Statement Regarding the Book of Mormon. National Museum of Natural History. Smithsonian Institution Washington D.C. http://www.lds-mormon.com/smithson.shtml Retrieved 1/14/17

Panagiotakopu, E.
2003    Insect Remains from the Collections in the Egyptian Museum of Turin. Archaeometry Vol 45, 2 (2003) 355–362 http://www.eeo.ed.ac.uk/globalchange/group5b/QuatEnt/Panagiotakopulu2003Arc.pdf Retrieved 1/14/17

Payak, Mukesh and J. K. S. Sachan
1993   Maize ears not sculpted in 13th century Somnathpur temple in India. Economic Botany 47(2). April 1993. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/257220756_Maize_ears_not_sculpted_in_13th_century_Somnathpur_temple_in_India Retrieved 1/14/17

Sorenson, John L.
1995     A New Evaluation of the Smithsonian Institution “Statement regarding the Book of Mormon”, (28 March 1995), Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute. http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/transcripts/?id=40 Retrieved 1/14/17

Wells, S.A.
N.d.    American Drugs in Egyptian Mummies. http://www.faculty.ucr.edu/~legneref/ethnic/mummy.htm Retrieved 1/14/17

Categories: Columbus was Second-ish: Who Discovered America Anyway, The Lost History of Ancient America, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

DNA in Archaeology with Jennifer Raff

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Episode 50 of the Archaeological Fantasies is live, and Ken and I were able to finally sit down with someone who knows quite a bit about the use of DNA and genetics in archaeology. Jennifer Raff, who’s covered all this wonderfully over at her own blog Violent Metaphors, was just the podcast guest I’ve been looking for to help us sus out all the ins and outs of genetic evidence in archaeology.

We’ve mentioned Jennifer and her co-author Deborah A. Bolnick’s work before when Ken and I talked about the Solutrean-Clovis hypothesis. Her and Dr. Bolnick’s paper really digs into the supposed genetics that are supposed to support this rather flawed hypothesis.

I’m not going to rehash all of this in this post, Jennifer has don the lions share on her blog and paper, and then again on the podcast. I suggest you go give it all a read and a listen . It really clarifies questions I had about ancient genetics and prehistoric DNA.


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Comment below or send an email to ArchyFantasies@gmail.com


Categories: Columbus was Second-ish: Who Discovered America Anyway, Podcast, Women in Archaeology | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

The American Stonehenge on Mystery Hill – America Unearthed S1, Ep 6.

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Yay! We’re about half way through the first season! I grossly underestimated how long it would take to review this series. There is just so much that needs to be addressed in each episode, it’s daunting. I am learning to break-up the posts into smaller posts that I can then link you too for more information. It’s still a lot of research and reviewing though, but I think it’s worth it.

As usual if you don’t want to read through the whole break down, feel free to skip to the In Summary section at the bottom, but as always, if you have a comment or question, witch I do welcome, don’t be surprised if I tell you to read the whole post first.

AU s1e6 1

We open this episode with a sepia toned film of a man getting his hair cut while listing to the old-timmey radio. An announcer is telling us, H.G.Wells style, about a mysterious collection of stone structures that has been discovered. We then see haircut man walking though the woods and stopping, awestruck, when he finds several piles of stone.

Wolter does a voice over here talking about Stonehenge, calming that it’s origins and meaning are still shrouded in mystery. This is not true in the way Wolter means it, but hey, we have to set a tone right?

Wolter goes on:

“Some advanced civilization that knew enough about the sun moon and stars to align theses stones in a very specific way.”

Yah, it’s called every ancient civilization ever, Wolter, seriously.

He then goes on to make the extraordinary claim of the the show, that there is a Stonehenge in America and that this henge and actual Stonehenge were built by the same people.

We start in Salem, New Hampshire at a place now called American Stonehenge, but what was once called Mystery Hill.  We meet Kenlsey Stone, son of the owner, who meets us at what is the central observatory of area. It’s a large covered gazebo. (Your +25 sword of BS slaying has no effect on it, and it’s not on fire.) There are small ‘standing stones’ that are arranged around the central point. It’s apparent from a casual glance that these stones were placed in a deliberate pattern and probably line up with something, probably solstices, equinoxes, and cross quarter days.

AU s1e6 2

Wolter correctly points out here that many ancient cultures all over the world made note of these points of the year. He then ruins it by throwing up a simplistic definition of  archaeoastronomy. He tells us that he saw archaeoastronomy in Georgia and that somehow connected Native Americans to the Mayans. (spoiler: he didn’t and it doesn’t)

He then makes another claim that caught my attention:

“The ancient practice of archaeoastronomy seems to tie many advanced cultures together.”…”and it also seems to tie them to America”

Couple of things her.

  1. Archaeoastronomy is a very common practice in most, if not all, prehistoric, ancient, and some modern cultures. It’s not a definitive sign of advance vrs not-advanced cultures. It was a tool necessary for everyday life, especially among agricultural societies. It was practiced in large scale, as seen in Stonehenge and the like, as well as on a small scale. My point here is it’s not a mystical magical unifying secret that only elite cultures were capable of understanding. It was part of basic everyday life, and was common because anyone can keep an eye on the sky and see that things change up there according to the seasons. It’s pretty much common sense.
  2. I think Wolter just made the claim that the  diffusionism of archaeoastronomy came out of America. I may just be confused here, but if that is true, this is a major deviation from his normal claims that everything was brought to America by white people.

Now we’re focusing on one stone in particular, and we get to watch Wolter rubbing it as epic music swells in the background. Wolter asks Stone what happens in the circle and Stone tells us that the sun rises in the middle of the stone, but that they think it might have risen at the top point of the stone at some point in the past. Wolter agrees and there is a fancy computer generated model to show us where the sun might have been in 1800BC. We’re not immediately told why this date is important, but hey, we’re building anticipation here!

AU s1e6 4

Wolter tells us that things can move the axis of the earth, like earthquakes, (or just the natural wobble of the planet), and we can use that for dating purposes. He then makes the claim that archaeoastronomy is more accurate for dating than C14 dating. This argument is, weird, and important for the story Wolter is trying to tell here and I’ll get to that in a minute.

Wolter tells us that the stones in the circle look weathered, which really means nothing. Any stone exposed to the elements will be weathered and Wotler has admitted as much in previous episodes of the show. I’m guessing he’s just talking out loud here.

Before we move on to how this henge is connected to Stonehenge, let’s recap a little here.

  • We are being grossly misled here by not being given the full story of Mystery Hill and Americans Stonehenge. I cover it detail in my blog post here, but to briefly recap:
    • The area known as Mystery Hill was once owned by Jonathan Pattee in 1837 (Gilbert 1907) and always had a bunch of natural caves and rock outcroppings. Pattee also built tons of structures on the land himself and these were commented on historically (Gilbert 1907, Starbuck 2006).
    • The land passed into the hands of William Goodwin in 1937 who dubbed the area Mystery Hill (Wright 1998, Starbuck 2006, Crystalinks N.d.). He then began to move and quarry the rocks and structures already on the land in order to “restore” what he thought was Irish monastery (Starbuck 2006, Crystalinks N.d.) completely destroying the context of the area.
    • Robert Stone bought the land in 1967 and the Stones have made a few improvements of their own (Starbuck 2006, Crystalinks N.d.). Adding a museum and changing the name to “America’s Stonehenge” trying to link the area to Stonehenge in England (Starbuck 2006).
    • Several archaeological digs have been done in the area. Of them, the one led by Gary Vescelius in 1955 recovered over 7000 artifacts, all of which were Native American or 18th and 19th century in origin (Starbuck 2006, Crystalinks N.d.).
    • What all this means is that American Stonehenge is completely out of context and even if it had been an actual ancient site, there is no way to ever know this due to the activities of Goodwin et al. Also, nothing has ever been found to suggest the area was ever settled by Ancient -Europeans.
  • Wolter makes a claim that archaeoastronomy is a more accurate way to date a site than C14 dating. He’s not entirely wrong, in some situations this can be correct. However, the reasons he’s making this claim isn’t because of these unique situations.
    • Mystery Hill has been excavated several times in the past, and one of the most recent excavations sent off charcoal samples to an actual lab to be c14 dated. The dates that came back do not support Wolter’s claims that the site dates back to  3800 ya. or 1800 BC.
    • Wolter is also neglecting to mention that you can make the sun line up with pretty much any single object if you just move around it till the sun lines up. You can probably witness something in your back yard (if you have one) lining up with the sun rise/set by chance. Or you can do what was probably done here, and deliberately put something there (see my note above about Goodwin et al).
    • Wolter’s computer generated model, though cool to look at, would only be valid if there wasn’t evidence that the stone he was using was probably moved and set up there intentionally by Goodwin et al.
    • Wolter appears to be trying to obfuscate the actual facts here in order to manufacture a mystery where there is none. Which is the show’s M.O., it’s just way more pronounced here this time.

But, we’re not done here yet.

After Wolter get’s done rubbing all the stones and making weird claims about archaeoastronomy, Stone tells us that he’s got more to show us. Stone claims that this evidence will tie America’s Stonehenge to the actual Stonehenge. Of course Wotler wants to see it!

What is this amazing evidence you ask?

Lines on a map.

Stone takes us to his computer and pulls up Google Earth, and then proceeds to draw a line between to points. What two points? Why, Americas Stonehenge and actual Stonehenge! Amazing!

Unless you remember your basic math and graphing skills here and remember that you can draw a straight line between any two arbitrary points.

To add to the drama of this magical line, Stone proceeds to show us that the line continues (as all lines do) and then “ends” in Beirut. Why does it end here? Because why not? There is no explanation as to why our arbitrary line between two arbitrary points must end in Beirut, it just does. That’s good enough for Wolter who immediately begins making up a connection for it. It has something to do with Phoenicians around 1200 bc, and the math is all bad, but whatever! We have our connection!

At this point we get to meet Dennis Stone, father of Kenlsey Stone, and we get a very brief and sterilized history of Mystery Hill. We’re told about Johnathan Pattee and how the area used to be called  Pattee’s Caves back in 1907. We’re even taken to what is possibly Pattee’s old house and Wolter makes his proclamation that Pattee couldn’t have made any of the structures on the site because:

“There’s no way Pattee could have built this, it just wreaks of being really old”

Very scientific of you Wolter.

Wolter tells us that if it’s old, it’s important. Not important enough to actually research, but hey, we’re busy building a mystery here. Wolter also dismisses Pettee’s ability to have built structures on his own land despite evidence that he in-fact did:

“He built massive stones walls when he had all these trees and he could have used wood? I don’t buy that”

Yes, it’s much more believable that Ancient Phoenician-European-Irish Monks came to New Hampshire in 1800 BC to build a monastery in the middle of nowhere so they could recreate Stonehenge and worship Baal. Oh wait, we haven’t gotten there yet.

So now Wotler is telling us that large flat rocks are like clocks and indicate the age of a structure. He doesn’t tell us how this works, but it apparently confirms something of his story. Stone tells us that there’s more on site to connect it to the Phoenicians and we’re introduced to the Baal Stone.

AU s1e6 baal stone

 

The stone, with it’s random scratching, was supposedly translated by Barry Fell back in the 1970’s and apparently is a dedication to the god Baal. Wolter makes a big production out of examining the stone, and eventually decides that the stone is old.

Personally, anything translated by Barry Fell is immediately invalid. Also the writing doesn’t look anything like the Phoenician alphabet. So I’m not going to beat this dead horse.

phonician alphabet

Phoenician alphabet. By Luca – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2311779

The Stones inform us that they have one more mega piece of evidence that connects the site to the Phoenicians, a giant sacrificial table.

4233092_orig

Image from Ken Feder during his visit to Americas Stonehenge in the 1990’s

The table is an impressive structure. It’s roughly 9′ by 6′ and has an inner groove running the perimeter of it. It appears to be set up on stone supports and the drainage groove feeds directly into what appears to be a chamber of some sort.

Wolter is suitably impressed and begins talking about Exfoliation Weathering, defining it as loss of stone surface due to changes in moisture and temperature. Basically the stone was exposed to the elements, as is clearly the case. He tells us again that such weathering can be used like a clock, but never really gets beyond the whole “looks old to me” thing.

What the table is supposedly set up over is what the Stones are calling the Oracle Chamber. It looks to  me like a natural chamber that was used as a cold cellar, probably by Pattee. The Stones explain that the table was purposefully set up over the chamber so that when a sacrifice was done someone else, a priest possibly, would stand below and speak. The voice that would come from under the table would have been a “god” voice.

Wolter makes a reference to his idea that ancient Celtic Egyptian Mithra Cults existed in Oklahoma, and then throws out a new buzzword; Archaeoacoustics which he says is the ancient architectural sound design that played a part in rituals. Which, as usual, is simplistic enough as to be misleading.

Well, needless to say, Wolter has decided that this site is now actually the handy-work of  Phoenicians, based on nothing, and we’re off to find more not-evidence to support this already decided conclusion.

Before we go though, I want to spend a moment with this new dump of information.

  • Things to remember about the Mystery Hill/American Stonehenge site.
    1. Goodwin et al moved things around. There’s actually pretty well documented evidence of this via pictures throughout the years. The website Mystery Hill NH, Americas Stonehenge provides a lot of this themselves. Whether they knowingly throw doubt onto the site or not, they have historical pictures that clearly show the progress of the changes at the site.
      1. Jason Colavito, also has an excellent show and tell of the changes started by Goodwin and continued into at least the 1990’s. His photos cover not only the movement of the the “sacrificial table” but also the renovation of several of the stone structures on the site.
      2. The pictorial sequence of the “sacrificial table” is of most interest here because you can see where it was originally located. It’s clearly set close to the ground, with perhaps enough space for a small jug or large bowl. Which is exactly what one would expect to see of a Lye Stone or Cider Press (more on that in a moment). In subsequent images you can tell that the stone has been moved and set up on legs, presumably over the so called “Oracle Chamber”, and that other stones have been added and subtracted over the years.
    2. It is well documented that when Johnathan Pattee bought the land there were numerous natural caves and rock outcroppings that he was known for using for storage and quarrying purposes.
    3. Of all the archaeological excavations that have been done on the site, none have ever found anything that was unexpected or out of place. All artifacts have been Native American or 18th-19th Century in origin.
  • Let’s talk about the Cider Press, aka the sacrificial table.
    • As stated above, the stone was obviously moved after Goodwin purchased the land and has been updated ever since.
    • Before it was moved, it was in the appropriate configuration to be what it actually is, a cider press or lye stone. It’s large size and square shape make me more comfortable saying it’s a cider press over a lye stone, but honestly the construction for both is similar and if you google cider press stones, you will see identical stones found all over the country.
    • Both cider presses and lye stones were a common household item in the 18th and 19th centuries. One was necessary for making soap, the other necessary for making hard cider, which is as American as apple pie.

But we’re off to Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA. to talk with Professor Mark McMenamin who is presented to us as a Phoenician Researcher. Dr. McMenamin is a professor at Mt. Holyoke College, but his field is geology and paleontology. Dr. McManamin dose however have an interesting hobby, and that’s proving Phoenicians made it to America before anyone else. His evidence? Seven unprovenanced coins found across the US. He’s published several books and articles touting support for his theory, but in the end, it falls short in the evidence category.

With this in mind though, it’s no wonder Wotler wants to talk to him. As we watch Wolter drive (he drives a lot) while epic music plays, trying desperately to convince us we’re not just filling time, Wolter provides a voice over. He’s still trying to tell us that the arbitrary line drawn through the two Stonehenges is legitimate and that the Phoenicians did it deliberately because they knew about the sky.

“If the Phoenicians knew about the Polaris star, chances are they knew about the rest of the sky too.”

Apparently, it was easy to not notice the sky back in ancient times. I mean, looking up was hard and all, so ancient man didn’t bother with it much. Unless they knew about one star in particular, then they might have noticed the rest of the sky was up there too, maybe.

Once we get to Dr. McMeanamin, he tells us about his idea that there is a map on the back of Carthaginian coins. He says the strange shapes found at the bottom of some coins are actually maps of the world.

AU s1e6 9

To make this true, you have to add squiggles where there aren’t any (Africa in the picture) and ignore bumps that are clearly there (between Sardinia, Sicily and Italy and again between Italy and India in the picture) Also why is everything so badly out of proportion? You’re telling me they can sail across an ocean, trek inland to Salem, New Hampshire, rebuild Stonehenge with perfect alignment with not just actual Stonehenge but also Beirut, but they can’t get land masses in proper proportion on their stunningly artistically detailed coins? Of which they apparently only brought seven with them?

But Wolter is A-Ok with all this and loves the whole idea of secret, nearly illegible, maps on coins. How would you even use such a tiny and imperfect image to navigate anyway? There’s so much wrong with this.

Anyway, since History Channel has more money than it know what to do with, it sends Wolter off to England to visit actual Stonehenge. We meet Dr. Henry Chapman and Wolter immediately launches into his hard sell that the Phoenicians built the American Stonehenge. Not only that but the Phoenicians actually built both Stonehenges! Wolter shows Dr. Chapman his line on Google Maps, and Dr. Chapman give him a hearty Nope.

Dr. Chapman points out several flaws in Wolter’s story, one of which being math. There’s an 800 year difference between the Phoenician culture and the building of Stonehenge. Dr. Chapman also brings up that we know Stonehenge is an ancient calendar and that it’s not surprising that since humanity is similar and is observing similar things, they would develop similar ways of tracking such things. Or what we call convergence in the field.

Predictably Wolter doesn’t like this answer, but Dr. Chapman doesn’t budge. So we cut that interview short and race back to America so we can watch the summer solstice at America’s Stonehenge.

We fade out around this point with Wolter’s insistence that these structures are built by ancient people. Wolter is now telling us that Stonehenge was somehow used for navigation, and that the people who came here were proto-Phoenicians. I guess at lest he’s adapted his story based on new information…kinda. Wolter makes a bunch of  “I believe” statements and says:

“Someone had to assemble those stones, someone with a vast knowledge of archaeoastromnomy”

Someone like Johnathan Pattee, William Goodwin, and the Stone family?

In Summary

What you really wanted to read.

There was a surprising amount in this episode, but most of it was easily debunked.

The two man cruxes of Wolter’s argument can be basically eliminated.

  1. The site known as Mystery Hill/Americans Stonehenge is out of context and comprised. This is documented by not only Goodwin’s own work but by historical photographs. Everything there has been altered, the Stonehenge, the Table, the Oracle Chamber. Walls have been built, structures have been renovated. And these changes have persisted up into the 1990’s. If there ever was a site there, it’s gone and there’s no way to get it back.
  2. Barry Fell is not a reliable translator and the Baal Stone is clearly not Phoenician. You don’t have to be an expert to see that.

Everything else about this place is just trimmings. It’s typical speculation with no evidence to support it. Even Wolter’s line through both Stonehenges is complete bunk since I can link Stonehenge with any other point on a map, two points make a line! Math!

What evidence there is consistently links the site to both Native American occupation and 18th -19th century occupation. There is nothing to support the presence of anyone else being there.

Wolter’s dismissive attitude towards the actual evidence in support of his own unsupported ideas is distressing, and is getting worse as the series goes on. Just something to keep in mind.


 If you’d like to support this blog, consider donating on Patreon.
Want more on this topic? Go to Reviews: America Unearthed.
Comment below or send an email to ArchyFantasies@gmail.com

 

References.

Crystalinks
N.d.    Americas Stonehenge. http://www.crystalinks.com/AmericasStonehenge.html. Accessed 1/15/2016

Feder, Kenneth
2010    Encyclopedia of Dubious Archaeology: From Atlantis to the Walam Olum.  pg 10 – 12 https://books.google.com/books?id=xmDnhPNLwYwC&q=mystery+hill#v=snippet&q=mystery%20hill&f=false Accessed 1/15/16

Gilbert, Edgar<
1907    The History of Salem, N.H. Rumford Press. p. 418 https://ia601403.us.archive.org/17/items/historyofsalemnh00gilb/historyofsalemnh00gilb.pdf Accessed 1/15/2016

Starbuck, David R.
2006   The Archeology of New Hampshire: Exploring 10,000 Years in the Granite State. pgs 106-109. University of New Hampshire Press. https://books.google.com/books?id=DcKQoMp9Qv0C&pg=PR4&lpg=PR4&dq=Starbuck,+David+R.+(2006).+The+Archeology+of+New+Hampshire:+Exploring+10,000+Years+in+the+Granite+State.+University+of+New+Hampshire+Press.+ISBN+978-1-58465-562-6.&source=bl&ots=5VH1937Wgk&sig=C1NVrWpFv_d_fXEYMAOl13xO0vw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiBpLnRhMbKAhVGNj4KHT-kAUEQ6AEIHzAB#v=onepage&q&f=false Accessed 1/15/2016

Wagg, Jeff

2009    “Lie Leaching”. JREF Swift Blog. James Randi Educational Foundation. July 24,2009. http://web.archive.org/web/20151005192537/http://archive.randi.org/site/index.php/swift-blog/647-lie-leaching.html Accessed 1/15/2016

Wright, Karen
1998    Light Elements: Yankee Doodle Druid
What were people in New Hampshire doing 4,000 years ago with a sacrificial table? Discover.http://www.discovermagazine.com Sunday Feb 01, 1998
http://discovermagazine.com/1998/feb/lightelementsyan1410 Accessed 1/15/2016

Categories: America Unearthed, Columbus was Second-ish: Who Discovered America Anyway, History Channel, Mystery Sties That Aren't, What the Phoenicians Weren't Doing in America | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Dubious Mystery of Mystery Hill and America’s Stonehenge.

image

Now dubbed “America’s Stonehenge” in Salem, New Hampshire, the location once known as Mystery Hill continues to draw tourists to what is touted as being evidence of pre-Columbian contact. Evidence of who is still up for debate.

The site itself is about 30 acres of land just off route 111 in Salem. It’s a sprawling complex of stone structures, walls, natural caves, and some would say Megaliths that are no taller than tree saplings (Wright 1998). It’s a well known tourist destination that is open to the public for a fee, and hosts hiking trails, llama pins, and an interpretive museum.

The site itself is supposedly shrouded in mystery as to it’s origins and purpose. It has multiple claims to it’s origins, all of which appear to be pre-Columbian in nature. Few even acknowledge the possibly that prehistoric Native peoples lived in the area before White settlers came. All of them ignore the documented history of the site, or the damage done to it by it’s prior inhabitants. So what is this mysterious hill all about?

The Known History of Mystery Hill.

We know the area was owned back in 1837 by Jonathan Pattee, and that he built most of the structures originally on the property (Gilbert 1907). We know at that time the area had a good number of natural boulders and rock outcroppings, and that there were several natural caves that Pattee used as storage (Gilbert 1907). We know this based on evidence including drill marks on the stone used to build the structures that match 19830’s quarrying practice (Starbuck 2006).

We also know that William Goodwin bought 20 acres of the land in 1937 and dubbed the area Mystery Hill (Wright 1998, Starbuck 2006, Crystalinks N.d.). The overall layout of the area was drastically altered by Goodwin who was convinced the area was evidence of Culdees in America (Starbuck 2006, Crystalinks N.d.). Goodwin apparently believed these Irish monks came over to America in the 20th century and constructed the caves around the site as part of their monastery (Starbuck 2006). Due to this belief, Goodwin and his supporters apparently further quarried the area and moved stones and structures around to what they believed were the ‘original’ locations in order to further support their ideas (Starbuck 2006, Crystalinks N.d).

In 1957 the land was leased to Robert Stone, and ten years later the Stone family bought the land (Starbuck 2006). The land still belongs to the Stone family, and they have made a few improvements of their own (Crystalinks N.d.). Adding a museum and changing the name to “America’s Stonehenge” due to the parallels that Stone sees to the great megaliths of Stonehenge in England and other Celtic sites (Starbuck 2006). There is still no evidence of ancient Celts in the area.

Several archaeological digs have been done in the area. One of importance was led by Gary Vescelius in 1955 (Starbuck 2006). His team recovered over 7000 artifacts, all of which were Native American or 18th and 19th century in origin (Starbuck 2006, Crystalinks N.d.). These artifacts were noting out of the ordinary for the area and line up perfectly with what is expected from the archaeology in the area. There was no evidence of anything related to Irish monks or Celts.

The Stone family still owns the land and it has become a bit of a tourist location. The museum there acts as an interpretation center for the site and offers a variety of ideas for the visitor to chew over, and appears to display the artifacts discovered during the actual archaeological digs done on the site.

What’s so Mysterious about Mystery Hill aka America’s Stonehenge?

To answer that we’d have to look a the variety of claims made about the site. They run quite the gambit, and none of them go for the ordinary or the everyday.

We already know of Goodwin’s belief that Irish monks made their way to America and picked this area as the site for their monastery. But there is also the belief that the site is far older than that. An idea put forth by Barry Fell in his book America B.C. claims that the site was occupied by Iberian Celts due to scripts he saw around the area (Wright 1998, Starbuck 2006, Crystalinks N.d). Fell claims to have found inscriptions that link the site to Baal worshipers as well (Wright 1998, Starbuck 2006). These scripts are only seen as such by Mr. Fell and no authority on Ogham, Phoenician or Iberian scripts believes them to be authentic in any way.

The current popular idea about America’s Stonehenge is that the site is actually a giant astrological calendar set up by Bronze Age peoples of unknown origin (Feder 2010, Crystalinks N.d.) The date commonly pitched for the site is 4,000 years old, and is claimed to have been gotten from retrograding the alinement’s of the sun with the standing stones (Wright 1998, Cryistalinks N.d.). The two major issues with this is the known relocation of most of the site by Goodwin and, presumably, the Stone family (Wright 1998, Starbuck 2006, Feder 2010, Crystalinks N.d.). Because of this, no reliable information can be gleaned from the positions of any of the stones, standing or otherwise.

The second major issue with this is that there is no physical evidence of Bronze Age peoples on or around the site. When Ken Feder toured the site, he noticed a lack of bronze artifacts. When he asked about their absence he was told. “You don’t think those ancient people would have left all those valuable bronze tools just laying around, do you? (Feder 2010).” Actually yes, that’s exactly what we expect. Bronze artifacts are found all over Europe, Africa, and Asia. It’s the reason we know there was a bronze age.

Other fun stories about the site come from David Starbuck when he visited the site in 1970 his guide told him that the whole site , stone chambers, trails, walls, and all were actually a giant representation of an Indian or Asian face wearing a peaked hat. This image was a ancient mental concept that had crossed the Bering Straights ten thousand years ago and that this image had been repeated in ‘Indian’ art all across American for thousand of years (Starbuck 2006). Starbuck rightly points out that “Every time another absurd theory is added to the mix, it becomes harder to accept any of the elaborate tails told about the site. (2006)”

So Where is the Evidence for Mystery Hill?

There are two major pieces of evidence offered up regularly. The first is a large flat stone carved with grooves set above an empty chamber that is called the “Sacrificial Table”, The second is a series of Carbon-14 dates. Unfortunately neither are terribly convincing.

The “sacrificial table” as it’s called, is clearly a cider press or rather large lye stone. Pretty much anyone familiar with 18th -19th century homesteading knows what these are as both were pretty indicative of everyday life. You can even Google either term and see lots of images of stones that are similar to identical to the “sacrificial table”. I can only assumed here that the owners of the site still call it that to drum up drama. As for the “Oracle Chamber” underneath it , it’s merely a happy coincidence that the chamber produces echoes. Obviously it was meant for liquid collection and probably storage as well.

The C-14 dates are a little more inserting. Normally C-14 dates would be good forms of evidence. Especially when taken with care and taken in context. Apparently however, the samples taken from the Mystery Hill site don’t quite fulfill this criteria. C-14 dates are taken from charcoal samples at a site, preferably taken from the feature meant to the be dated. According to Starbuck, the charcoal samples from Mystery Hill were taken randomly from the site with nothing of human origin in association with them. Meaning they were completely random samples of charcoal that had no known association with features. What this means in greater context is that the dates are meaningless. I have seen pieces of the testing results report created by Geochron Laboratories, Inc as linked on the Mystery Hill site. Irregardless of the date given, if the samples were taken willy-nilly from wherever on the site and nothing of context was associated with them, it really doesn’t mater.

Now, if we assumes that the samples are good, and were taken with care and context, the dates provided still aren’t that shocking. with a date of 2995 BPE +/- 180 years. That still puts the site well within the expected habitation for prehistoric Native peoples. It’s also still not evidence of anything European or Celtic in nature. As all of the archaeology done on the site backs up the presences of Native peoples on the site (Wright 1998, Starbuck 2006, Feder 2010, including at the quarry sites (Crystalinks N.d) there is no reason to think that these C-14 dates are indicative of anything out of the ordinary.

So What’s Left?

Not much really. Evidence shows that the Mystery Hill/American Stonehenge site is what it appears to be to the trained eye. A multicomponent site having both a prehistorical component and evidence of 18-19th century habitation. Which should surprise no one. There is even documentation of Johnathan Pattee owing and building on his land. Natural caves were known to exist there, as were natural outcroppings of rock. As we move forward there is documentation and evidence of William Goodwin et all moving and changing the site, thereby destroying any context the site had. There is even some suggestion that the alteration of the site continues to modern day, making it impossible to trust any interpretation of the site’s structures

There is no evidence of anything else.

Bob Goodgy, then president of the New Hampshire Archaeological Society, put it best when interviewed by Karen Wright in 1998:

“Goodby assured me that no reputable archaeologist took the pre-Colombian lure seriously. The inscriptions were bogus, and there was no other evidence that an ancient, old-world culture had ever occupied Mystery Hill: no signs of the food preparation, garbage disposal, living areas, or burial grounds that are associated with other megalithic sites. Although there is an unusual amount of stonework on the hill, he said, it doesn’t differ in kind from other structures built by New Englanders in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. (Wright 1998)”

Starbuck adds a few words of his own about the whole deal:

“The moment the first stone was moved to a new location by William Goodwin, the entire site lost any chance of being taken seriously by scholarly community.  … Yet site integrity is everything to an archaeologist, and this site is severely compromised. (Starbuck 2006)”

And

“If an early site truly has merit, it doesn’t require bizarre interpretations. (Starbuck 2006)”

 


 

If you’d like to support this blog, consider donating on Patreon.
Want more on this topic? Go to: Mystery Sites That Aren’t.
Comment below or send an email to ArchyFantasies@gmail.com

 

Resources:

Crystalinks
N.d.    Americas Stonehenge. http://www.crystalinks.com/AmericasStonehenge.html. Accessed 1/15/2016

Feder, Kenneth
2010    Encyclopedia of Dubious Archaeology: From Atlantis to the Walam Olum.  pg 10 – 12 https://books.google.com/books?id=xmDnhPNLwYwC&q=mystery+hill#v=snippet&q=mystery%20hill&f=false Accessed 1/15/16

Gilbert, Edgar<
1907    The History of Salem, N.H. Rumford Press. p. 418 https://ia601403.us.archive.org/17/items/historyofsalemnh00gilb/historyofsalemnh00gilb.pdf Accessed 1/15/2016

Starbuck, David R.
2006   The Archeology of New Hampshire: Exploring 10,000 Years in the Granite State. pgs 106-109. University of New Hampshire Press. https://books.google.com/books?id=DcKQoMp9Qv0C&pg=PR4&lpg=PR4&dq=Starbuck,+David+R.+(2006).+The+Archeology+of+New+Hampshire:+Exploring+10,000+Years+in+the+Granite+State.+University+of+New+Hampshire+Press.+ISBN+978-1-58465-562-6.&source=bl&ots=5VH1937Wgk&sig=C1NVrWpFv_d_fXEYMAOl13xO0vw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiBpLnRhMbKAhVGNj4KHT-kAUEQ6AEIHzAB#v=onepage&q&f=false Accessed 1/15/2016

Wagg, Jeff

2009    “Lie Leaching”. JREF Swift Blog. James Randi Educational Foundation. July 24,2009. http://web.archive.org/web/20151005192537/http://archive.randi.org/site/index.php/swift-blog/647-lie-leaching.html Accessed 1/15/2016

Wright, Karen
1998    Light Elements: Yankee Doodle Druid
What were people in New Hampshire doing 4,000 years ago with a sacrificial table? Discover. http://www.discovermagazine.com Sunday Feb 01, 1998
http://discovermagazine.com/1998/feb/lightelementsyan1410 Accessed 1/15/2016

Categories: Columbus was Second-ish: Who Discovered America Anyway, Mystery Sties That Aren't, Weird Archaeology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Andy White, Podcasts, and Debunking Roman Swords.

Here on the blog we’ve just started to dip our toe into the waters of Oak Island. However, there is one recent detail that has popped up that we just can’t wait to discuss. That topic is the Roman Sword that was supposedly found off the coast of Oak Island in a shipwreck.

According to the Daily Mail;

” Researchers, led by Jovan Hutton Pulitzer, claim they have evidence that Roman ships visited North America ‘during the first century or earlier.’ (Zolfagharifard 2015)”

Sounds cool! So what’s the evidence?

Pulitzer claims that he’s found a Roman sword that is “100 per cent confirmed (Gadd 2015, Zolfagharifard 2015)” and that is “the smoking gun to his theory (Gadd 2015, Zolfagharifard 2015)”.  He says that the sword was discovered in a shipwreck just off the coast of Oak Island, and apparently made this announcement on the History Channel’s show Curse of Oak Island (Gadd 2015, Zolfagharifard 2015).

It doesn’t take long for this claim to start unraveling though, and unraveling in such a spectacular way at that.

First, the discovery of the sword is not exactly well documented. In Pulitzer’s own words in his interview with the Boston Standard last year:

“Pulitzer explained: “Some years ago, a man and his son were scalloping off Oak Island, which sees them hang rake-like object off the back of their boat. When they brought this up, the sword came up with it.

“The father kept it for decades, and when he died it went to his wife, then his daughter. Then when she died many years later it went to her husband. It was he who came forward to the island and said ‘I think you should know about this and where it was found.” (Gadd 2015)”

This is not the way to find reliable artifacts. We’ve gone over this many times on this blog and on the podcast. Context is King, Queen, and God. In order for an artifact to be valid it must be documented. Pictures, diagrams, documents, etc. This doesn’t exist with this sword. Even if it was a true artifact, the value of it beyond being cool looking is lost and it is by no means viable as evidence of anything by this point. So, this is the first problem, and frankly, for me, it’s a death knell. But there’s more…

Andy White, friend of the show and blog, has been doing tireless research into the supposed Roman sword. He’s created a wonderful Hashtag #SwordGate and is publishing his research, investigation, and results of said work on his personal blog and on The Argumentative Archaeologist.

Andy also sat down with Ken Feder and I on the Archaeological Fantasies Podcast. He talked with us about his work and the blow back he’s received from Pulitzer as a result of Andy’s critical work on the authenticity of the sword.

One of my favorite things that Andy has done is gotten his hands on several other copies (he’s up to 10 now) of the exact same sword that Pulitzer has tried to put forward as 100% real. So far Andy has created a database of the copies, and made point by point comparisons showing that the swords are all related to each other. He’s created a time-line of sorts using the differences on the sword hilts. He’s made his research and findings accessible to the public at large, so you can go look at the work he’s doing to debunk this now famous Not-Roman artifact. Andy’s pretty much stuck a fork in the topic.

Pulitzer for his part has tried to offer up more “evidence” for Romans in Canada. The Boston Standard lists a few of these, so lets have a look shall we?

Pulitzer claims that the originating shipwreck is still off the coast of Nova Scotia and that it is undisturbed, which is clearly not true since he supposedly has an artifact from it. He says that his team have “scanned it” whatever that means (Gadd 2015) and that it is definitely Roman (Gadd 2015). He’s not released these scans to anyone to see, so we have to take his word for it. In the exact same paragraph though, he makes mention that the wreck hasn’t been seen first hand yet, because the Nova Scotia government is hesitant to send an actual archaeological team down there (Gadd 2015). I can only assume they are even more hesitant let treasure hunters down there.

Pulitzer also tries to used DNA evidence to prove his point, saying that;

” “The Mi’kmaq carry the rarest DNA marker in the world which comes from the ancient Levant (the eastern Mediterranean). You can’t screw with DNA.” (Gadd 2015)”

No, but you can grossly misrepresent it and not actually understand what’s being shown. Jason Colavito covers this pretty succinct on his blog;

” He [Pulitzer] also alleges that the Mi’kmaq have Levantine DNA, which is a claim based on the fringe history DNA Consultants’allegation that the Mi’kmaq’s Haplogroup X links them to the ancient Near East, something that DNA experts dispute. (Colavito 2015)”

The Mi'kmaq petroglyph showing what some believe to be Roman legionnaires marching Bostand standard 2015

Mi’kmaq petroglyph via The Boston Standard 2015.

Pulitzer also claims that there Mi’kmaq petroglyphs in the surrounding area showing Roman legionnaires (Gadd 2015). Just looking at the offered image it’s clear either those are the longest swords ever made, or their something more like spears. Which I’m sure the Mi’kmaq peoples were and are familiar with. See, we don’t need a legion of Europeans to explain Native petroglyphs, Native people are capable of explaining themselves. I wonder if anyone has bothered to asked them about their petroglyphs?

Just for good measure Pulitzer tries to tie in linguistics, which is almost never accurate when used by the fringe as Colavito points out:

” He [Pulitzer] further argues that the Mi’kmaq preserve 50 Roman sailing terms, though he identifies none. Since the Mi’kmaq have a long history of interaction with French sailors, and French is a Romance language, if there are Latinate borrowings, he would need to prove these were not mediated through French. (Colavito 2015)”

He’s also offered a variety of Roman items that are not found on Oak Island, but around Nova Scotia as a whole. None of which are particularly impressive and all of which are without context. They are neat to collect, but not actual evidence of anything.

Lastly, Pulitzer tries to argue that the Romans brought an invasive species of plant with them on their voyages to help them fight scurvy (Gadd 2015). Said plant is now found all over the area. But plant he points to is called barberry (Berberis vulgaris) and was brought by the Europeans during the colonial period (Colavito 2015). Which would make sense since all the shipwrecks in the area are dated between 18th and 19th centuries (Gadd 2015).

still waiting

Pulitzer has been proclaiming quite loudly that he’s going to produce a White Paper. No one has seen it, except maybe the Boston Standard. Much like no one has seen the shipwreck scan, or like how no one gets to see the “original” Roman sword for actual research purposes.

All and all, in my opinion, this issue is a modern fraud. I for one am glad to see how quickly archaeologists like Andy and his supporting community have risen to the clarion to debunk it.


If you’d like to support this blog, consider donating on Patreon.
Want more on this topic? Go to: The Oak Island Saga.
Comment below or send an email to ArchyFantasies@gmail.com

 

Resources:

Andy White’s Personal Blog
http://www.andywhiteanthropology.com/blog/

Andy the Argumentative Archaeologisthttp://www.andytheargumentativearchaeologist.com/

Archaeology Fantasies Podcast featuring Andy White.A LEGION OF ROMAN SWORDS – EPISODE 28

Colavito, Jason
2015    J. Hutton Pulitzer Alleges a Roman Sword Was Found Off Oak Island Several Decades Ago. Jason Colavito.com. http://www.jasoncolavito.com/ 12/17/2015 http://www.jasoncolavito.com/blog/j-hutton-pulitzer-alleges-a-roman-sword-was-found-off-oak-island-several-decades-ago Accessed 1/24/16

Gadd, Gemma
2015    Startling new report on Oak Island could ‘rewrite history’ of the Americas. Boston Standard. http://www.bostonstandard.co.uk/. Wednesday 16 December 2015. http://www.bostonstandard.co.uk/news/local/startling-new-report-on-oak-island-could-rewrite-history-of-the-americas-1-7118097 Accessed 1/24/16

Zolfagharifard, Ellie
2015    Did the ROMANS discover America? Radical theory claims sword found on Oak Island suggests ancient mariners set foot on the New World before Columbus. Daily Mail.com. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/. 17 December 2015. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3364818/Did-ROMANS-discover-America-Sword-Oak-Island-suggests-ancient-mariners-set-foot-New-World-Columbus-according-radical-theory.html Accessed 1/24/16

Categories: Archaeology, ArchyFantasies Podcasts, Columbus was Second-ish: Who Discovered America Anyway, The Oak Island Saga, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 5 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: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

When the Chinese Didn’t Discover America – Fusang.

1792 French Map indicating Fusang to be about where British Columbia was. Image via Wikicommons.

When examining the claim of the Chinese in pre-contact America, you quickly realize that all of the evidence to support this claim is interconnected in a way that, if you can prove one piece wrong, it pretty much proves all the evidence wrong. Still, we need someplace to start, and a mythical island somewhere in the ocean is as good a place as any. No, not Atlantis, though it might as well be, but a new land named Fusang.

Fusang has an origin story, as most myths do, and just by looking at this story I see several red flags. Keeping in mind, the legend of Fusang is part of Chinese culture, I cannot express strongly enough that we are not going to debunk Chinese culture here, it’s not even close to our intention. However, we are going to critically examine the myth and the modern claims surrounding it, and it’s those modern claims that we are going to challenge.

So, The story of Fusang begins with a mystical monk named Hui Shen (Feder 2011:126). No, I cannot find a mention of Hui Shen outside of a book from the 7th century called the Book of Liang by Yao Silian. In this book Yao recounts Hui’s explorations around the globe to known and unknown lands, where upon he finally returned to China and told of his discoveries to the royal court (Feder 2011:126).

And this is where the red flags start.

Red Flag #1: The Book of Liang was compiled in 635 and was mostly made up of Yao’s father’s accounts (Wiki). So at best this is a third hand account, and worst, who knows. It does sound a bit like the origin story of Atlantis though doesn’t it? The only account we have of Atlantis is in two of Plato’s stories, and then the story is describes as being handed down through several mouths till it’s finally written down. Not to mention it was also all part of a thought experiment where the students were asked to make it up…but I digress.

Red Flag #2: In the book Hui describes encountering a living people who we can classify as being well into the bronze age at the time of the story from the description given of them (Wiki). If Hui had made it to the Americas, as is claimed by some in the Cult Archaeology world, then he wouldn’t have encountered people who worked metal with the skill he mentions.

Red Flag #3: Traditional Chinese maps place the location of Fusang on the Chinese coast, as per Hui’s description of the location (Feder 2011:126). It doesn’t seem to have migrated off the coast of China until European mapmakers came along. Once that happened, Fusang began popping up everywhere.

Red Flag #4: Hui was said to have carried holy relics and texts with him and five other monks accompanied him as well (Wiki). They were kinda like missionaries in this aspect. That being said, why is there no evidence of them ever having set foot and encountering local Native American peoples?

Red Flag #5: Hui describes other cultural practices of the people he encountered in Fusang (Wiki), namely the domestication and milking of deer (a tradition known of the Mongolians and their reindeer) and the domestication of horses (which didn’t exist in North America until they were reintroduced after European contact, but did flourish in and around China).

So, if we take the account of Hui Shen at his word,  there there is no real reason to link Fusang with the Americas or any other location not in China, except for possibly, Mongolia.

That’s never stopped anyone has it?

The story of Fusang doesn’t stop there, like wine it gets richer with age, and new and mysterious details pop up every year, regardless if they are part of the original story or  not. These new details get forced into new shapes in order to support the idea that the Chinese made it to America first. Once you really look at them, however, they don’t hold up well. They do pop-up in a lot of places, being repeated over and over as if repetition alone could make them real. Let’s just examine a few. These are things I’m seeing a lot on random websites testifying to the reality of the Chinese discovery of America.

  1. Hypothetically there are ocean currents that move around the continents of Eurasia, and if you were so lucky as to hitch a ride on them you could, hypothetically, drift all the way around the world and back again.  Now, I know currents exist, and I know that sea fairing peoples were aware of them as far back as sailing was invented. That doesn’t mean that this scenario ever actually happened, or is actually possible given the technology of the day. I’m not even sure you could do it today, since most of these currents run deep in the ocean and aren’t usually accessible to the ships that float atop. But if you can prove me wrong here with actual evidence, feel free to. Do keep in mind however, just because you can do it, doesn’t mean it did happen.
  2. I see lots of vague and uncited accounts of “ancient Chinese artifacts” found all over North America and “known interaction” between the First Peoples and the Chinese.  None of these are reputable, and the few I can manage to find are either known fakes or actual artifacts being reinterpreted in a way to try and make them support the narrative. We’ll touch on a few of these as we go further in the series, but for now please be aware there are no authentic ancient Chinese artifacts found in America.
  3. I also see several attempts to identify the plant Hui calls Fusang, from which he named the area because of their abundance. There is no reliable way to do this, therefor, anyone telling you that they have identified the plant is wrong. They may have a convincing story or even a convincing set of “like” traits, but this proves nothing, and definitely does not identify any particular location as the location of Fusang.
So with that said, let’s wrap up a bit.

The original story of Fusang is ancient and is mostly a written account of an oral tradition. This alone should make it suspect.  Once we look over the accounts as it’s written we see that Hui is describing a living group of, at lest, bronze age people who have very similar traits to the Mongolian peoples. I’m not saying they are the same, I’m just that these cultural characteristic were not as foreign to Hui as we are lead to believe. The Chinese themselves located Fusang off their own coast and this location didn’t change until White Europeans got a hold of the story sometime around the late 1700’s early 1800’s. Combine all that with a severe lack of evidence of any actual archaeological remains, and Fusang becomes an important Chinese myth, that has nothing to do with America.

We’ll certainly be coming back to Fusang often as we move forward with our investigation of claims that the Chinese discovered America first. It’s a reoccuring theme that almost ties everything together.

Want more on this topic? Go to  Columbus was Second-ish: Who Discovered America Anyway? or When the Chinese Didn’t Discover America for more on this series.

Resources:

Feder, Keneth

2011    Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology. Seventh Edition. McGraw-Hill. New York, NY.

Wikipedia

Nd.    Fusang. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusang

Categories: Columbus was Second-ish: Who Discovered America Anyway, When the Chinese Didn't Discover America. | Tags: , , , | 33 Comments

When the Chinese Didn’t Discover America.

The mythical identity and legacy of Admiral Zheng He, a Chinese navigator and also supposedly a Muslim during the Ming dynasty, grows every time I look him up.

Another hopeful contender for the title of ‘First in America’ is the Chinese. This discovery is supported by a variety of evidence, including a Chinese Saga mentioning a land called Fusang, a questionable map showing the supposed coastline of California, a massive earthwork in the shape of a horse, and the an intrepid Admiral whose reputation grows everytime I look him up. Next time I Google him I bet someone claims he sailed to the moon first too.

We’ll look at each of these claims in detail, evaluating the claims. We’ll keep them all filed under the category When the Chinese Didn’t Discover America, for easy reference.

However, is there any actual evidence to suggest a Chinese discovery of America?

The short, and unfortunately the long, answer is, No.

There is currently no archaeological evidence to suggest the Chinese made it to America before Columbus or the Vikings. I know that’s a really unsatisfactory answer, but it’s all I got for you sadly. However, there is a lot of “evidence” offered up by the Cult Archaeology world, and we are going to delve into that with gusto in the upcoming weeks. Some of this evidence is just fanciful, but some of it gets close enough to fact that it can almost pass, and then some of it is just repeated over and over in the hopes someone will believe it. However, most of you have been here long enough to know how to spot red flags, and we’ll be testing those skills as we look at the fascinating stories of when the Chinese didn’t discover America.

Go to  Columbus was Second-ish: Who Discovered America Anyway? or When the Chinese Didn’t Discover America for more on this series.

Categories: Columbus was Second-ish: Who Discovered America Anyway, When the Chinese Didn't Discover America. | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Where the Vikings Weren’t – Wrap Up.

 

So what have we learned so far about the Viking presence in America?

Well, we’ve looked at all the past usual suspects:

The Newport Tower. – Where we discuss where the tower came from and why it looks so much like a Norse tower. The reality of this structure seems to be that it’s really a windmill built by Gov. Benedict Arnold in the 17th cen, and the passing resemblance to a Norse tower was a creation in the mind of Carl Christian Rafn gotten from looking over some poorly drawn images of the tower, and never actually seeing the tower himself.

The Vinland Map – One of my favorite hoaxes of all time! Not just because it deals with maps, for which I have a fondness, but because it’s so old a hoax, it’s practically a real artifact itself now. Granted Yale would probably be really happy if it would turn out to be the real deal somehow, but with all the tests that have been done over the years, the evidence is really starting to weigh against that chance.

The Kensington Runestone. – The Runestone Museum in Minnesota still sort-of touts this one as being a real artifact when all evidence points to it being a hoax. The most convincing of all includes a detailed confession of how the hoax was set up and a then there is the major lack of any supporting evidence that it is remotely real.

Wisconsin Viking Horse Skull – This one is interesting because it’s not really about whether or not the skull is that of a Viking horse or not (it’s not BTW), but over if the skull found was the skull that was planted by pot hunters, or a different skull actually buried with the human remains it was found with. 

Beardmore Relics – These are indeed Viking relics, but where and how they were found is the real question. Still, after confessions brought the truth to light, the Royal Ontario Museum still got the last laugh. They gamely put the relic’s back out on display explaining the whole situation, and showing that they could take a joke.

But with the dismissal of all of these fun, yet unreal, stories about Viking’s in America, lets not overlook the real evidence of their presence here.

Please let’s all ooh and aah over L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, Canada once more. Because, as I’ve explained many times, Vikings are cool, and we have evidence they landed here long before Columbus! Yay! Still as awesome as my beloved Vikings were, they were sadly not the first people to reach the new world.

So who were, you ask? Well, we still have several candidates out there. Mayhaps the Chinese?

Go to  Columbus was Second-ish: Who Discovered America Anyway? or Where the Vikings Weren’t for more on this series.

Categories: Columbus was Second-ish: Who Discovered America Anyway, Where the Vikings Weren't | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Where the Vikings Weren’t – Beardmore Relics

This week we have another puzzler, unlike the Wisconsin Viking Horse Skull, we know these artifacts are real. The question becomes, how did they get here?

beardmore relics

The Beardmore Relics. Image via Currelly 1939

In 1930 or 1931, a gold prospector named James Edward Dodd was prospecting just south of the Blackwater River (Elliott 1941a:254.) Dodd says while prospecting he blew up an old tree stump and a small clump of trees. When the smoke cleared he went to shovel the remains away and in the debris he says he found several iron objects (Currelly 1939:4, Elliott 1941a:254.)

According to Dodd, these objects were initially of no interest to him, so he left them there on the side of the ditch for a while. At some point he decided to go back for them, apparently in an attempt to see if anyone would buy them (Currelly 1939:4.)

As Dodd tells it, no one really showed in any interest for almost 10 years. He eventually took them to Port Arthur, Ontario and showed them to an Aaron Lougheed who then mentioned them to a John Jacob who went to Dodd’s home to see the bits of iron (Currelly 1939:4.) Lougheed and Jacob were so impressed by Dodd’s artifacts that they went to the local public library and through their own research they decided the artifacts were indeed Viking in origin (Currelly 1939:4.)

Armed with this conclusion, Jacob decided to contact C. T. Currelly at the Royal Ontario Museum of Archaeology. Apparently, nothing came of this call, and Dodd decided to again either throw away the iron bits or sell them to whoever would buy (Currelly 1939:5.) This time Dodd reached out to an Ontario geologist named E.M. Burwash, who again tried to contact C. T. Currelly, but again, this apparently went nowhere (Currelly 1939:5.)

Dodd couldn’t catch a break until one O.C. Elliott then at the Collegiate Institute in Kingston, Ontario saw the things Dodd was trying to hock, recognized them for what they were, and then sent a drawing of the items to Currelly personally (Currelly 1939:5.) At last Currelly got the message. He took one look at the picture, realized that they were indeed Viking weapons, and immediately had Dodd bring the artifacts in (Currelly 1939:5.)

Currelly judged the weapons to be a set, describing two bits of a sword, an ax head, and what could be shield grip (some say this is rattle). He concluded that the artifacts were made around 1000 A.D. and speculated that the weapons were part of a Viking burial. So impressed, Currelly purchased the artifacts for the Royal Ontario Museum (Currelly 1939:5), who still own them today.

This is where the story of the artifacts themselves ends. The Beardmore relics are real; they are over 1,000 years old; and the Royal Ontario Museum had them on display for about 20 years before they were removed due to controversy (Feder 2010:40.) However, the story of the Beardmore relics continues on in a massive “He said – He said” debacle.

From the beginning there were issues with Dodd’s story. Currelly’s peers began their own investigations and holes in Dodd’s story began to appear (Elliott 1941a & 1941b, Carpenter 1957, Godfrey 1955.) There were a number of discrepancies in the timing of Dodd’s discovery. Though he did have a few friends saying they saw the relics in Dodd’s possession after the discovery, many of these accounts can’t seem to get their dates to match up (Elliott 1941b, Carpenter 1957, Godfrey 1955.)

Also there were the signed affidavits of Eli Ragotte, J.M. Hansen and the Widdow of Jens Bloch stating that the relics really belonged to Hanson as collateral due to a loan he’d given to Bloch (Elliott 1941b: 278, Godfrey 1955:42, Carpenter 1957:877, Feder 2010:40.) Bloch came into possession of the artifacts by way of his deceased father, who had a collection when the Bloch’s lived in Norway. Bloch reportedly brought some of this collection to America with him, against Norwegian law (Elliott 1941b: 278.) Apparently, Bloch passed away before recovering the items, and Dodd, who rented Hansen’s house, helped himself to the relics.

Also in question was Dodd’s own character. Apparently, the man was quite the hoaxster and his knack for storytelling was well known in Port Arthur, Ontario. He was known at the local bar as “Liar Dodd” (Carpenter 1957:876) and would often ‘borrow’ high grade gold ore from his friends and then try to pass if off as ore he had found on his claims (Carpenter 1957:876.)  He was also frequently accused of “salting” his claim (Carpenter 1957:876.)

The most damming evidence turned out to be a sworn statement from Walter Dodd, the stepson of Dodd, stating that he had seen his father plant the artifacts before “discovering” them later (Feder 2010:40.) Walter had been present, according to Dodd’s statements, when Dodd discovered the items (Currelly 1939:4.) This final statement on the matter caused the Royal Ontario Museum to pull the artifacts from display (Feder 2010:40.)

But really all the evidence we have up to this point is really just one person’s word against another. Dodd is a dubious character, but that doesn’t mean that he couldn’t have really found these items. Still, sworn statements carry legal weight, and they shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. But what can the relics themselves tell us?

Let’s consider the type and condition of the relics here. T.L. Tanton of the Dominion Geological Survey, was familiar with the soil and geology of the Beardmore area and gave his professional opinion that iron relics, like the Beardmore relics, should not have survived 900 years buried in the ground beneath a clump of trees in that area (Elliott 1941a:261.) Arguments were made at the time, that there were lots of iron artifacts all over the world that survived long term burial. However, Tanton’s opinion here should hold some weight because soil acidity, salt content, and moisture content change from area to area, so it really all depends on where the artifacts are buried. Tanton, being familiar with the area around Beardmore would know better than anyone if iron could survive the soil there.

The sword in particular is of great interest. The design is that of an eastern Norwegian style that didn’t travel much outside of its origin area (Elliott 1941b.) Also, the sword apparently predates the rest of the relics by about a century, bringing into question the weapons being a set (Elliott 1941b, Carpenter 1957.)

The overall conditions of the relics at the time that the Royal Ontario Museum purchased them were pretty bad. Currelly (1939) mentions immediacy putting them through a preservation technique to prevent further erosion. Elliott (1941b) calls this fragile condition into question in light of Dodd’s apparent rough handling of them. Could they have really survived being blown up, shoveled aside, being left to the elements, and handled bare-handed by several individuals? Elliott didn’t think so, neither do I.

The Royal Ontario Museum tired to salvage their loss, changing the plaque next to the relics to a more ambiguous statement before giving up and putting them into storage in the 1920’s (Currelly 1941, Feder 2010:40.) Still, Walter Dodd’s statement was too much in the end. However, the Relics were given new life in the 1990’s.

In the 90’s the Royal Ontario Museum pulled the Relic’s out of storage and put them back on display, this time  not as evidence of Vikings in America, but evidence of an unfortunate hoax that the museum had unwittingly fell for (Feder 2010:40.)

In the end the story of the Beardmore relics was deemed fake, despite the relics themselves being authentic. An interesting twist in  the saga of where the Vikings weren’t.

Go to  Columbus was Second-ish: Who Discovered America Anyway? or Where the Vikings Weren’t for more on this series.

Resources:

Carpenter, Edmund

1957    Further Evidence on the Beardmore Relics. American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 59, No. 5 (Oct., 1957), pp. 875-878. Accessed: 05/11/2013

Currelly, C.T.

1939   Viking Wepons Found Near Beardmore, Ontario. Canadian Historical Review Vol. 20 No. 1 (March. 1939). Pp. 4-7. Accessed: 9/18/2013

1941    Further Comments Regarding the Beardmore Find. Canadian Historical Review Vol. 22 No. 3 (Sept. 1941). Pp. 271-275. Accessed: 9/18/2013

Elliott, O.C.

1941a    The Case of the Beardmore Relics. Canadian Historical Review Vol. 22 No. 3 (Sept. 1941). Pp. 254 – 271

1941b    Further Comments Regarding the Beardmore Find. Canadian Historical Review Vol. 22 No. 3 (Sept. 1941). Pp. 275-279. Accessed: 9/18/2013

Feder,  Kenneth L.

2010    Encyclopedias of Dubious Archaeology: From Atlantis to the Walam Olum. Santa Barbara, CA. Greenwood.

Godfrey, William S.

1955    Vikings in America: Theories and Evidence. American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 57, No. 1, Part 1 (Feb., 1955), pp. 35-43. 05/11/2013

Categories: Columbus was Second-ish: Who Discovered America Anyway, Where the Vikings Weren't | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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