History Channel

Welsh Indians and Lewis’ Murder: America Unearthed S1Ep 9.


As with previous blog posts in this series, I’m going to summarize things at the bottom for you to make following all the claims in the show easier, but I’m driven to break this down. If you don’t want to read the whole post just skip to ‘In Summary’ at the bottom. Don’t be surprised, though, if you ask me a question, I refer you to read the whole post first.

Despite the horror film introduction and the warning of the graphic nature of the imagined suicide/murder of Meriwether Lewis, this show isn’t actually about any of that. The actual premises of the show is a buried a bit and is a little hard to swallow.

The apparent premise of the episode is that Meriwether Lewis, of Lewis and Clark fame, was killed to keep secret the truth of the things he found out while investigating the American frontier.

Now, there is a bit of a controversy on how and why Lewis died on his trip up the Natchez Trace. Many historians agree that Lewis killed himself during a depressive episode, and this news appearers to have made sense to close friends of Lewis’ at the time (SHSND 2017). However, the Lewis family insisted it must have been murder, but no inquest into the possible murder ever apparently happened. This is all compounded by the three conflicting stored from the night of Lewis’ death by attributed to Mrs. Grinder, the innkeeper where Lewis was staying at the time of his death.

There are even newer claims that Lewis was neither killed nor committed suicide, but rather died of malaria. This newer idea is outlined by co-authors Thomas Danisi and John Jackson, who explain this theory in their book, “Meriwether Lewis: A New Biography.” Published in 2009 (Hansen 2009). This particular theory, though not particularly popular among historians, isn’t completely discounted by the State Historical Society of North Dakota (SHSND):

“It should be noted, however, that there is the possibility that Lewis suffered from malaria, a disease that is known, in its later stages, to cause forms of dementia and erratic behavior.” (SHSND 2017)

Wolter does a good job of keeping up the ruse that this is the premise of the episode. We get a graphic recreation of Lewis’ death, we get a brief story about Lewis and Louisiana purchase, and we meet Wolter’s friend, Don Shelby who has some nice first editions books. One such book appears to be Lewis’ notebook from his expedition.


It’s around here that we start to veer from the apparent topic. Shelby tells us that Lewis and Clark didn’t record everything they saw on the trip. He claims there are missing pages from the journals, and no one knows what’s in them. But there could have been something that someone would want Lewis dead to keep secret!

So far this is in keeping with the apparent episode premise. Then Shelby drops a huge hint on us. He tells us that Lewis and Clark were instructed by President Jefferson to look for evidence of pre-Columbian Welsh in the Louisiana Purchase.

So here’s the interesting part about this bit of information. Jason Colavito on his blog took it upon himself to search through and read all of the Jefferson papers at the Library of Congress, the Monticello Museum, the New York Historical Society, and all of the existing correspondence to and from Lewis about the expedition (thanks for that BTW). What he came up with is a lot different from the prevailing story out there, bolstered no doubt by this show. Colavito comes up with an explanation that is a lot more rational.

“Jefferson wrote to Lewis on January 22, 1804 his only mention of Welsh Indians:

“In that of the 13th inst. I inclosed [sic] you the map of a Mr. Evans, a Welshman, employed by the Spanish government for that purpose, but whose original object I believe had been to go in search of the Welsh Indians, said to be up the Missouri. On this subject, a Mr. Rees of the same nation, established in the Western parts of Pennsylvania, will write to you.”” (Jefferson 1804)

Note that Jefferson is either uncertain or unconcerned whether Evans had been in search of Welsh Indians. Instead, his concern is to get Lewis a useful map that will help the expedition. It is reasonable to conclude from this letter that in order to obtain the map, Jefferson agreed to let Rhys write to Lewis about his pet subject, the Welsh Indians. However, Jefferson doesn’t seem at all interested in the subject, and is content to let Rhys write under his own name (i.e. unofficially) about any such inquiry.” (Colavito 2013)

Colavito then points out that neither Lewis nor Clark ever wrote about Welsh Indians in their journals. That was done by Joseph Whitehouse in his own journals that he apparently intended to publish (Colavito 2013). Whitehouse (1805a, 1805b) only mentions them twice and uses the descriptor of ‘Welch [sic]’ to explain their difficult language. Whitehouse makes no effort to express extraordinary interest in the group, or even to point out how these Natives were different from others they encountered beyond saying how nice they were (Whitehouse 1805a, 1805b).

I’ve read the above-mentioned letter from Jefferson (1804), and clearly, Jefferson is not telling Lewis to look for anything. He seems to be informing Lewis of why Mr. Evans has a map of the Missouri, and never mentions it again. Hardly a direct, or secretive, order to look for mysterious Welsh Indians.

So at this point you could be forgiven if you think that the premise of this episode is that Meriwether Lewis was murdered in order to keep the secret that there were Welsh Indians living in the Louisiana Purchase. You’d almost be correct too. Almost.


The show takes us to Brandenburg, KY to meet with Gerry Fischer, a retired archaeologist. He is there to present us with a new stone to add to our collection. This one is the Brandenburg Stone, and the show would have us believe it’s a land claim written in Welsh. Fischer tells us that it’s been translated by professionals, but doesn’t say who, and that he believes it’s real. Wolter is all about this stone, and tells us, that if the stone is real, then it will call into question the legitimacy of the US.

No, it really wouldn’t, it would have no discernible effect at all, but we need a little drama, so…

Wolter’s Ah-Ha moment is that the Welsh made it to America first and left this land claim stone, thereby giving them true sovereignty over the America’s. Also, that Lewis found this out through his interactions with the Welsh Indians and was killed to keep this a secret so that North America could stay firmly in the hands of the new US government. Native Americas need not apply for ownership of America, Europeans only.

And now you have the actual premises of the episode. Hidden in the attention grabbing murder mystery, is the claim that the Welsh were the first transoceanic travelers to make it to the Americas, interbred with the Native Americans they found here, and somehow that makes them the true inheritors of the Americas. Wolter and the show never come out and say this in plain English, but the claim is clear there once you realize what is being said.

The problem with this claim is that it requires two things to be true. One, that the Brandenburg Stone is authentic (it’s not) and two, that the Welsh Indians are a real people (they are not).

Wolter spends the next third of the episode trying to convince us that the stone is authentic, doing his usual “I can tell the carving is old, because reasons” routine followed by his “if I can find similar stone in the area, then it must be true!” shtick.


He tries to make a big deal out of the Oolitic limestone that the stone appears to be carved from, implying that finding similar limestone in the area somehow makes the Brandenburg Stone real. Problem with this is that according to the Kentucky Geological Survey, 50% of the surface rocks in Kentucky are limestone. There’s so much of it, that Kentucky actually exports it for use in road surfacing and making concrete. Basically, it’d be more impressive if Wolter didn’t find limestone.

As for authenticating the stone via carving. I have always had issues with Wolter’s 3D scanning magic that he never really explains or seems to understand. When I see the pictures of the scans, tool marks always look sharp and fresh to me, but Wolter always says they are eroded and weathered. And that’s assuming we even get to see the actual images and not just some weird, fast rotating 3D topo map that could possibly be anything from a ditch to a scratch mark. I know a little about 3D imaging, I don’t like what I see on this show.

All that said, it’s all basically irrelevant because of the alphabet used to create the message on the stone. According to Jon Whitfield, Baram Blackett, and Alan Wilson, the script on the stone is called Coelbren or Coelbren y Beirdd. It’s a Welsh script that supposedly shares characteristics with other ancient scripts like Etruscan, Pelasgian, and Nordic runes (Pennington 2012). The problem is that it’s fairly well documented that Coelbren is a made up language from the 1790’s (Museum of Wales N.d.). Edward Williams aka Iolo Morganwg created the runic-like language and claimed it was a druidic script (McCulloch 2010).

But to bring the show back around to what it was pretending to be about, we head out to Natchez Trace, Hohenwald, TN meet with Meriwether Lewis descendant, Keith Vanstone. Vanstone is also a proponent of exhuming Lewis’ body to have it examined by modern forensics to better determine the cause of death (Vanstone 2009, VOA 2010). This knowledge makes Wolter’s later suggesting to exhume Lewis’ body seem less shocking. However, the show doesn’t mention this so it just sounds like Wolter is being a ghoul on the show. Not sure what the reason for this editing decision was, but it was a bad one IMO.

Since we can’t dig up a 200-year-old American hero, we do the next best thing and examine the monument erected over the general area of his grave. Wolter acts surprised when he sees a Masonic grave symbol on the monument. Somehow this is a sign of a deeper conspiracy, as always. It’s not a secret that Lewis was a Mason, nor should it be surprising to anyone who knows history well. It would honestly be more surprising to me to find out that Lewis wasn’t a Mason, since pretty much every male of any public standing was in the 1800’s.

Vanstone mentions that Lewis’ Masonic apron supposedly has his blood on it and Wolter gets a new idea. If he can’t dig up Lewis, maybe he can test the blood on the apron and that would somehow prove there was a struggle. This isn’t how forensics works, but that’s not going to slow Wolter down.

We jet off to the Grand Masonic Lodge in Halana, MT. to meet Ried Gardiner, Masonic Grand Secretary and curator of the museum at the Lodge, and Thom Chisholm – Masonic grand Master of Montana. They show us Lewis’ very decorative apron. They tell us that there are traces of human and deer blood on it and that it has been tested before. They were not pleased with the former testing and that makes them reluctant to allow Wolter to test the apron now.


To his credit, Wolter is very nice and patient with the Masons, and they eventually agree to let him take swab samples.

While we wait for the DNA lab to get us results, Wolter talks with Don Shelby again. We get a translation from the stone;

“Toward strength (to promote unity), divide the land we are spread over, purely (or justly) between offspring in wisdom.”

Wolter decides this is a land deed, it sounds like gibberish to me. To be fair, most of the translations that this show produces sounds like gibberish to me. Shelby then explains the whole Coelbren being a fake language to which Wolter replies;

“Just because this isn’t real, doesn’t mean the Welsh weren’t here.”

Well, yah, it kinda does.

Wolter brings up John Dee again and suggests that he might be the originator of the whole Welsh in America thing. He pretty much admits there is no way to know if any of this is true.

So we end the episode in a DNA lab where the swabs Wolter took have been tested and we’re ready for the results. We meet Stephen Fratpietro, the forensic examiner. He tells us that none of the blood on the apron matches Lewis’, but there appear to be two individuals represented by the stains. He tries to explain that this could be a case of contamination.

Wolter’s not hearing any of it and begins to explain to everyone in the room how important a Manson’s apron is to him, and how a Mason would never have a dirty apron. Therefore the blood would have to have been deposited the night of the murder. He pulls his; “That’s all that makes sense to me!” thing that he does and begins to fabricate a story about how this supports his original idea that Lewis was murdered in order to keep the knowledge that the Welsh discovered America first secret. Everyone else in the room tries not to look uncomfortable, and we cut away to recap pictures and Wolter’s voice over telling us that he’s “blown a hole into history.”


I see what you did there. Tacky.


Despite the meandering of the episode and the show once again debunking it’s own evidence, the premise of the episode was that the Welsh were the first ones to make it to the Americas, interbred with the Native Americans they found here, and therefore are the true inheritors of the Americas. This is the typical white-washing of prehistoric America that I’ve come to expect from the show. I know a few readers don’t like when I point out this white-out tendency of shows and books like this, but I’m going to keep calling it out when I see it.

This episode is also a bit weird in that it pretty much debunks itself, but in order to beat a dead horse, we’re going forward.

1) Lewis’ Suicide/ Murder – Honestly, this is irrelevant to the whole episode. It was the attention-grabbing, click bait headline that made us all want to watch it. It doesn’t matter how Lewis died, though to be fair, there is some controversy over his death. Whether or not he was murdered, the show did not provide any reason for us to think it was to keep the Welsh land claim a secret.

2) The Brandenburg Stone – So fake the show debunks it, which is refreshing.

3) The Welsh Indians – Oh god where to start. Clearly, if you follow the reasoning behind this, you can see that the idea of the Welsh being in the Americas starts way back. It was a political move by Britain to secure their claims to the newly discovered Americas. It was then adopted by Welsh nationalists, and become popular in the 1800’s when Victorian ideals didn’t allow for ‘uncivilized’ Indians to be human enough to have any contribution to the past. It has roundly been debunked and isn’t even tolerated as a theory in academic, and decent, circles anymore. The mention of Welsh Indians to Lewis by Jefferson was clearly as a way of identifying an individual that would be sending an unrelated map to help Lewis and Clark on their expedition. It was not an order to look for them. Lewis never mentioned them in his own notes, that was done by an enlisted man on the expedition who was basically using it to say that the language of the Natives they were trading with was hard to understand.

Wolter’s use of this ‘Welsh Indians’ idea in modern times is incredibly troubling and should be seen a blatant white-washing. This show in general has an amazingly bad track record when it comes to acknowledging Native peoples. It constantly reimagines prehistory in a way as to remove Native Americans from the picture, commandeer their cultural achievements, and awarding them to a rotating collection of white, eurocentric, conquerors. Wolter’s and America Unearthed’s desperate need for there to be a white connection in America is blatant and tiresome. What’s worse, is they even often admit Native peoples were present at the time of these mysterious Europeans arrival, yet this never seems to matter. Whoever the White people were who were first to get here, they are the ones who are owed the land, not the folks who were actually here first.

4) Blood DNA – This is another one that is hard to deal with. Firstly, blood on the apron could never explain if Lewis’ death was a suicide or murder. Blood is simply blood. It can give you DNA, but without a lot more context, it can’t do much more. This particular blood was over 200 years old, had been handled by who knows how many hands, exposed to who knows what, and probably wasn’t kept in the best preservation conditions until recently. Secondly, the first DNA testing done on the apron told us there was deer blood on it, so some of that blood wasn’t even human. Take all of that and add in that the comparison sample came from decent 200 years removed, and you have a recipe for failure right off the bat. I don’t mean to say anything bad about Mr. Vanstone, but 200 years is a long time. Lots of things could have happened in 200 years that could complicate a genetic connection. Even if Vanstone is a direct genetic descendant (and I’m not saying he’s isn’t), the first and second complications alone are enough to pretty much guarantee DNA testing won’t work.

So did the show manage to prove either of its premises? No. All it did was speculate from start to finish, and then debunked its own physical evidence.


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Want more on this topic? Go to Reviews: America Unearthed.
Comment below or send an email to ArchyFantasies@gmail.com



Callahan, Jim
2000    Lest We Forget: The Melungeon Colony of Newman’s Ridge. Overmountain Press. p. 57. ISBN 978-1570721670. Retrieved 1/3/17

Colavito, Jason
2013     Did Lewis and Clark Seek Welsh Indians? http://www.jasoncolavito.com/blog/did-lewis-and-clark-seek-welsh-indians Retrieved 1/3/17

Hansen, Liane
2009    How Meriwether Lewis Might Have Really Died. NPR interview.
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=113712695 Retrieved 1/3/17

Jefferson, Thomas
1804    Jefferson to Meriwether Lewis, January 22, 1804.
http://jeffersonswest.unl.edu/archive/view_doc.php?id=jef.00033 Retrieved 1/3/17

1903    The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 10
By Thomas Jefferson 1903 The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association. Washington, D.C.
https://books.google.com/books?id=4dnSClToke0C&pg=PA441#v=onepage&q&f=false Retrieved 1/3/17

Jones, Mary
2004    Edward Williams/Iolo Morganwg/Iolo Morgannwg. From Jones’ Celtic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 11 June 2009 (only USA, see: WayBackMachine). Retrieved 1/3/17

Pennington, Lee
2012 Ch. 11: A Map of Pre-Columbian America. The Lost Worlds of Ancient America edited by Frank Joseph (2012). Retrieved 1/3/17

See, Larry Jr.
2008    Archaeologists gather to hear story of Brandenburg Stone”. (March 19, 2008). Meade County Messenger. Retrieved March 24, 2013. Retrieved 1/3/17

State Historical Society of North Dakota (SHSND)
2017    Was Meriwether Lewis Murdered or Did He Commit Suicide? Corps of Discovery. http://history.nd.gov/exhibits/lewisclark/suicide.html. Retrieved 1/3/17

Vanstone, Keith
2009    Letter to the Secretary of the Interior. http://www.solvethemystery.org/docs/vanstone_letter051909.pdf Retrieved 1/3/17

Voice of America (VOA)
2010    Mystery Still Surrounds Death of Explorer Meriwether Lewis
October 04, 2010
http://www.voanews.com/a/mystery-surrounds-death-of-explorer-meriwether-lewis-200-years-later-104375894/127388.html Retrieved 1/3/17

Whitehouse, Joseph
1805a    Journal Entry for September 5th Thursday 1805. Journals of the Lewis & Clark Expedition. https://lewisandclarkjournals.unl.edu/item/lc.jrn.1805-09-05#ln22090501 Retrieved 1/3/17

1805b    Journal Entry for September 6th Friday 1805. Journals of the
Lewis & Clark Expedition. https://lewisandclarkjournals.unl.edu/item/lc.jrn.1805-09-06  Retrieved 1/3/17

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Irish Freemason Ritual Bath-houses in Pennsylvania. America Unearthed S1E8.

AU s1e8 entrance

So after I had my rant about this episode, I decided rage quitting the episode was a bad idea. That said, I really am going to try and keep this brief, (for me).

I wanna jump into this episode and skip my usual critique of the art-film at the beginning. I want the readers to be aware of the BS that Wolter pulls in this episode.

In the beginning of the show, after we establish that Wolter is investigating a stone chamber that he thinks is made by the Masons, due to his ‘feels’, Wolter finds out that he specifically has been denied access to the property this site is on. That means that Wolter, his crew, and anyone associated with him isn’t allowed access to the property that the mysterious site is on. To get around this, Wolter convinces one of the men he’s supposedly helping to trespass for him, pretending to be hunting, while obtaining more pictures, film, and questionable measurements. This is unethical at best, and probably illegal. Wolter knowingly sent an individual, who himself was knowingly perpetrating fraud, into an area he knew he was restricted from. Then they filmed the whole thing.

My biggest problem, beyond the probable illegality of the whole incident, is the audacity Wolter shows here. After raging on about being denied access, he then displays his apparent belief that his personal desires and endeavors trump the rights and expected privacy of the lawful landowner. He blatantly goes against the wishes of the landowner and coerces others to perpetuate fraud with him, all in the name of getting useless ‘data’ to reinforce his own biased, preconceived notions.

Now, that all said, If you would like to skip the rest of this review and go straight to the In Summary section feel free, but if you ask me question that I covered in the post, I will refer you to read the whole post before answering you.

During the art-film intro we’re told that:

“There are more than 800 mysterious stone sites in the Northeast corner of the US. Their origin and purpose are unknown, Many are not open to the public, in 2012 a new site was added to the list. Experts believe that one ritualistic element sets it apart.”

The ‘experts’ he’s talking about can only be himself, as no actual archaeologist or historian believes these are anything other than root-cellars and spring-houses, and the ritualistic element he’s talking about is the water basin inside this particular spring-house.

The show stages him receiving an email from two gentlemen talking about a stone chamber they found in Western Pennsylvanian. The two men are puzzled as to what they found, and why they didn’t just go to the State Arch or Historical Society I have no clue, but they ask Wolter to tell them what it is. They send along pictures and Wolter is, of course, immediately excited and he rushes to call them back.

Next we see Wolter talking to the two men, who I’m not going to name here because I don’t feel it’s fair. These two really appear to be duped by the show and Wolter, and are used to do things that are probably not entirely-legal, at least that’s how it seemed to me. Anyway, Wolter immediately starts telling the two men that this is probably a religious site, most likely built by Masons, and there’s no possible way it could be built by Native Americans or by farmers looking to get water and store veggies. Keep in mind he’s never seen the site, and as we find out, he never will.

AU s1e8 mad

Apparently, the owner of the land in question, who is not one of the two guys, knows about Wolter, and refuses to let the man on their land. This of course sends Wolter into a furry and we get to listen to his usual rant about The Man keeping him away from solving mysteries and how this can only mean that the landowner is hiding something and is afraid of THE TRUTH!

Well, the real truth is that the landowner could be denying him access for any number of reasons including a desire for privacy, or to control the use of their own land. Either way, Wolter now cannot legally enter the property, and instead of going to the landowner and trying to talk with them about it, he hatches his basically illegal plan. He’s going to send one of the men onto the property, in bad faith, posing as a hunter. Then that guy will take all the measurements and pictures that Wolter thinks he needs to prove himself right.

This action does two things that pretty much ends the show here. 1) any information Wotler receives from this can’t be taken seriously. Despite the five second crash course Wolter gives the chosen man, there is no way these can be accurate measurements. 2) Wolter will never see this site beyond pictures and film. So unless he plans to do some fancy forensic photography with that (which he doesn’t apper to), he’s got nothing to work with here. Oh yah and 3) This is basically, if not actually, illegal.

So while one man is off ‘hunting’ in the woods, Wolter and the other man stay behind, and Wolter tells the woeful tail of how he’s had this happen before. He’s talking about the time he wasn’t kicked out of the Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest, but this guy doesn’t know that so he listens dutifully. Wolter also goes on about Freemasons and how this was a secret bathing chamber due to the spring, as it’s true because it’s the only thing that comes to his mind.

Now as I said above, this is clearly a spring-house, and this basin Wolter is all hot about is clearly the receptacle for the water, so you know, water can be drawn from it. Spring-houses were also know for being cool places, which made them ideal for storing food stuffs that you didn’t want to spoil. The reason there are so many of them all over the country is because they worked, and farmers liked to drink clean water and not eat spoiled food. However, it seems to Wolter, the average farmer is a myth, much like Native Americans in any aspect. Let alone the aspect of building stone structures. Which, contrary to Wolter’s blanket statement, Native Americans are actually known for. Maybe not this structure however, it is clearly modern. So Wolter gets some points for this one, kinda.

So anyway, the man who was off hunting returns with measurements and more footage. Wolter tells us that with this minimal data he’s going to tell us who built it, when and why. The measurements are exactly what Wolter wanted them to be, how convenient for him, and Wolter immediately launches into archaeoastronomy. I’m not even going to go into that here, just follow the link.

So now Wolter wants to build a model chamber just like this one so he can prove that the light of the summer solstice will illuminate the chamber. Then he gloats like he got away with something, and he takes his measurements and peels off. He calls Cari Merryman, a designer, while he’s driving (tisk tisk, Wolter). He wants her to build a model of the chamber from the measurements he just got.

AU s1e8 chamber

While we wait for that to happen, we head out to Groton, CT at the Gungywamp Archaeological Site. We meet Steve Sora, who the show tells us is a Gungywamp Researcher who retells the 800 stone sites thing.  Sora is a Knights Templar theorist and he takes us back to see a particular stone site. Sora claims that there are 27 stone structures that date back to 2000 BCE, long before the first colonist. He says no one knows who built them, and so it must be the Irish or Vikings. Native Americans need not apply.

The reality of Gungywamp is that Native American artifacts have been located all over the site, and there are known Colonist settlements there as well. Archaeology points to these stone structures either being Native American in origin or used as root cellars, or both. There’s no evidence to suggest that anything other than the obvious happened here.

Sora and Wolter get fascinated with one particular structure, claiming that it’s a Calendar Chamber and aligns with the twice yearly equinoxes. Wolter fails to mention that any given point on the ground can be made to align with the sunrise at any point in the year. He also fails to recognize that ancient Native peoples were more than capable of creating solar calendars, and did so frequently, such as  Woodhenge at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. Wolter does some stuff with his expensive compass and then declares the site evidence of the Irish, and to prove his point we fly off to Ireland.

AU s1e8 ship

We go to Craggaunowen Museum in County Clare, Ireland and we meet Tim Severin, who the show tells us is an adventurer. Severin is best known for his recreations of ancient maritime sailing feats. Don’t get me wrong, that’s cool! What it doesn’t do though is prove anything actually happened. But honestly, it doesn’t sound like Severin is trying to say it did, only that it could have. Which is acceptable.

But we’re here to talk to him about St. Brendan the Navigator, a 6th century Irish Monk who is said to have sailed to America. Now there is no evidence that St. Brendan was a real person, let alone that he sailed around the world in a skin boat. But in order for Wolter’s story to work, we have to assume this. Wolter thinks that because Severin recreated the famous voyage, it must have been possible. Severin did make it to Newfoundland, but none of that proves a) that Brendan was a real person or that b) he sailed from Ireland to America.

So next we go to Newgrange, County Meath, Ireland to talk with Alan Butler again, who this time the show tells us is a Megalithic Era Historian. Last time we talked with him in Episode 2, Butler was presented to us as a historical genealogist who helped us track down the non-existent Rough Hurech.  Now he’s trying to help Wolter make a connection between Newgrange and the stone chamber in Pennsylvania. There isn’t one of course, the two structures look nothing alike and moreover, there is a huge difference in the time scale that Wolter wants us to swallow. Again, foiled by maths! It doesn’t stop Wolter from getting all excited about the spirals carved on Newgrange, because in Wotler’s mind apparently, no one else ever could have come up with the spiral design.

All this globe trotting is done now though, as the model (remember that?) is now finished and Wolter takes us home to look at it. And I will say, it is a very nice model. I have thing for miniatures and this tiny spring-house is no exception. She even makes the spring water run, how cool is that? Wolter is likewise impressed, as he should be, and now he’s decided that this model made by ill-gotten means, definitely proves that Freemasons built it. Why you ask? Who knows. What did all that time spent in Ireland mean to all this here? Again, Who knows. Maybe Wolter just needed a vay-kay on History Channel’s dime?

AU s1e8 model 3

One last thing Wolter needs to do before he ends the show, and that’s to shine s flashlight down the entrance to see if it reaches the back of the chamber. He decides that since this does work, which should surprise no one, as there is no control here or anything to make this an actual experiment, this is evidence of Dualism. Why? Because the sunbeam is the representation of the fertilization of the male and it pierces mother earth where the spring come from. So the sun is like cosmic sperm, warm and spread over everything, and the water is like a woman, cold and wet? And somehow the sun is, um…doing…the earth to fertilize the water? Cause I’m most concerned when my water isn’t fertile….ok anyway.

Aside from my disturbing mental images, there is a lot wrong with Wolter’s recreation and interpretation. I honestly don’t have the space to get into it, but it revolves around using unreliable data to build an unreliable model to then shine a flashlight down at a random angle to ‘prove’ that it lines up with the sun. Then using all that error ridden not-evidence to say that this proves Freemasons built the chamber.

Wolter closes the episode by saying “Archaeoastronomy ties many cultures together throughout history.” To which I say, no it doesn’t. It doesn’t even mean what you’re trying to make it mean.

In Summary:

There’s not a lot to put here.

Really there are only two major points:

1) Wotler blatantly went against the expressed wishes of a Landowner and probably broke the law for no good reason.

2) This is a stream-house built by farmers to keep dirt and whatnot out of their drinking water and to create a cold storage location to keep food fresh longer.

That’s really it. All that was pretty much covered in the first 20 minutes of the show. Except for the kick-ass model reveal at the end, this was pretty much a waste of time.


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

*All picture are from America Unearthed S1E8 and are used under the fair use act.

For more on the topic see:

Colavito, Jason
2012    Review of America Unearthed S01E08: “Chamber Hunting”.  http://www.jasoncolavito.com/blog/review-of-america-unearthed-s01e08-chamber-hunting

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

Missing Colonists and Secret Colonies in North Carolina: America Unearthed S1E7

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

We open to creepy horror music and someone stringing red strings between Polaroids pictures and pins on a map. We soon see it’s Wolter and he’s writing things on the Polaroids like “Revenge”, “Have Mercy”, and “Murder”.  He steps back and looks satisfied with his work for a moment. We then get the standard intro where Wolter tells us history is wrong, and he’s going to get it all figured out for us.

AU s1e7 scott w map

We soon find out that today’s topic is the Lost Colony of Roanoke. The story is that in the late 1500’s, the 119 English colonists that had settle there vanish without a trace. Wolter tells us that there are 48 clues left behind that have been sitting ignored for a century. He calls them the ‘Dare Stones’

The name refers to one particular colonists, Eleanor White Dare, the daughter of John White, the colony’s governor. Supposedly, Eleanor Dare wrote 48 or so stone tables and left them like a bread crumb trail as a way of indicating where the Roanoke colony went when they left their original location. Why she chose to chiseled these messages in literal stone and then left them scattered about is never really addressed.

According to Wolter these stones began popping up during the Great Depression and were found over a period of four years. Wolter tells us that these stones are considered fakes by academics, but “academics have been wrong before so I’m going to study them myself.” Good thing we have his infallible research methods to save us all from the hap-hearted methods of ignorant, trained, professional academics.

First we go to Brenau University in Georgia to see the Dare Stone Collection. Here we meet Dr. Jim Southerland who was a professor of history (he’s retired now). As Dr. Southerland tells us about the story behind the Dare Stones, we’re shown images of sacred white people in pilgrim costumes being hunted by half-dressed, savage, Indian looking individuals. A favorite motif of this show. I guess at least in this episode we’re going to acknowledge the existence of Native Americans?

Wolter asks Dr. Southerland if the stones are real and Dr. Southerland shuts him down with a simple no. Dr. Southerland then says, in a perfect set up for Wolter, that if the stones were real, they would be in the history books, to which Wolter replies, well maybe they should be. Wolter never asks why the stones are not considered real, he also never tells us why he thinks they are real. We’re just observers on this journey and it doesn’t have to make sense to us.

au s1e7 orignial dare stone

So while epic music plays we watch Wolter examine a stone under the microscope and we’re given a weak definition of weathering. Wolter then tells us that “if Forensic Geology shows significant weathering, then the stone is authentic.” This is next to nonsensical as a statement. If Forensic Geology, or just Geology as the kids call it these days, find evidence of weathering, that really only tells us that the stone has been exposed to…weather. It doesn’t tell us who carved the stones, doesn’t tell us who the stone was carved by, doesn’t tell us where the stones  were carved, or anything really all that important about the stones. It most certainly doesn’t prove the stone is authentic.

After a bit of song and dance, Wolter produces a fun 3d image with colors showing the grooves and valleys of the surface of the stone. Again, other than looking cool, this tells us nothing of value, and Wolter says as much. He admits that the stone is not one that will give a nice linear age. Not that knowing the overall age of the stone will tell us anything. Wolter makes a weak argument for secondary deposits, which he claims formed as a result of weathering and are useful in creating a timeline for an artifact. Witch as usual is almost true, but fails to connect it to this situation.

Still, Wolter declares the stones real, despite being told they were in-fact, not. He wants to see the other stones, claiming that if he sees as much weathering on the other stones as he did on the first, they might be legitimate clues to the lost colony. He doesn’t explain how this is, it just is. He also likes the fact that the stones don’t match, it makes him feel they are more authentic because they were carved where they were found. Sure, we’ve got nothing to support this idea, but let’s run with it anyway.

AU s1e7 dare stones loc

While Wolter touches the stones with his bare hands, we’re shown a map showing the locations the stones were supposedly found in. The first stone being discovered some 60-80 miles from the Roanoke Colony. Also the stones were found scattered between the colony and Atlanta, Georgia. There doesn’t seem to be a real trail to them, just clusters that don’t even pop up until 60 miles inland. Why would the colonists even come inland?

AU s1e7 fort raleigh

Without answers and convinced that the stones are real, we’re off to Fort Raleigh, NC National Historic Site. We meet Rob Bolling, a National Park Service Ranger at the site.  Who gives us a run down of the history of the site, and tells us that the colonists from the Roanoke Colony probably assimilated in the local native tribes. We get to see the remains of the colony and we see the earth fortifications. Wolter gets all worked up over the shape of the fortification. I’m mildly supersized he doesn’t try to connect that to archeoastronomy.

AU s1e7 map to Croatan

After Wolter tries and sells his story to Ranger Bolling, we’re off to modern-day Cape Hatteras, NC. which was historically called Croatoan. We meet Scott Dawson the owner of the Hatteras Histories and Mysteries Museum. He tells us about the 2010 archaeology dig on the island and how he is convinced beyond a doubt that the missing Colonists came back to Croatoan when they left Roanoke.

While we’re being told all this, the show is rolling footage of Eleanor Dare being forced to leave by spear-point by dark-skinned savages. Nothing like a bit of racism to help a story along.

Wolter doesn’t like Dawson’s idea that the settlers came back. I guess he’s invested in the idea of native sages capturing and murdering innocent white settlers. Wolter begins to attempt to tear Dawson’s theory apart. Wolter says, “You’ve got a compelling story, you have documents and artifacts, but the Dare Stones stand in contrast to that.” I’m thinking Dawson needn’t be worried since Wolter is trying to trump Dawson with artifacts that accepted frauds by everyone but Wolter. Which Dawson quickly points out to Wolter. He calls out Wolter’s story as speculation and points out that no one agrees with him.

Wolter doesn’t handle people pointing out he’s wrong well, and this is no exception. He tries to bully his point to Dawson, who has none of it. Then he tries to change tactic and suggest a new theory that he’s been told is equally unlikely, and when that fails he claims to have factual evidence (which he doesn’t) and that all he can do is testify to it. Dawson is done at this point and the show sifts to images of calming waves and more footage of Wolter driving.

AU s1e7 dissapointed face 6

We end up in an airport terminal where we just happen get to overhear Wolter having a conversation with his wife complaining about how Dawson was mean to him, and how the man is keeping him down, and something about the establishment. He closes by telling us he’s not mad at Dawson, he’s just disappointed.

AU s1e7 Wolter ass faces 3

In order to cheer him up, Wolter’s wife gives him a new clue about a map. We see him open up to an article in his email, and after reading it he announces that he’s going to England!

We go to  Salisbury, Wiltshire, England to talk with a Dr. Stephanie Pratt who the show tells us is an art historian. They have a very convenient conversation about fakes and how they are both good at spotting them. After a bit of tea, Pratt tells Wolter about the  La Virginia Pars map.

au s1e7 map patch

The map was drawn by John White and on it there are two spots that have been covered up (British Museum). One appears to be a repair, and the other covers up a diamond-shaped fort in the bay of a waterway (Ambers et al 2012). Both of these are considered corrections and were common techniques for doing so (Ambers et al 2012).


Image via the British Museum, 2016. Number – 1906,0509.1.3, Description – Front:Middle Transmitted. Light image of the northern patch in “La Virginea Pars”. Image has been enhanced by scaling the lightness of the transmitted visible light image.

Wolter gets excited that this drawing matches his sketch for the earth fort at Fort Raleigh. He asks if the fort could have been where the settlers meant to move to?  Dr. Pratt agrees. Wolter wants to know why this would have been covered-up, and Dr. Pratt tells him it was for protection against Spanish competition in the area. Wolter then declares, “Both the Dare Stones and this map show that the colonists must have gone inland.” But why? Wolter’s own map shows no reason to think that.

So now Wolter seems to think that Raleigh actually had the colony moved secretly and then had the symbol for the fort on the map covered up to keep the colony secret.

AU s1e7 fort locations

So we’re off to St. John’s College in Cambridge England to talk with  Dr. Mark Nicholls a British historian, about Sir Walter Raleigh who was John White’s boss for the Roanoke Colony expeditions. Dr. Nicholls tells us a lot about Sir Raleigh and about a contemporary of Raleigh’s named Dr. John Dee. Dr. Dee belived that the British had been to the Americas before anyone else, and therefore had a prior claim to the land, this historically made it easier for Britain to claim the land.

Dr. Nicholls mentions sassafras as a possible cash crop that Raleigh might have been looking for. Wolter latches onto this, as he’s seen Sassafras around the Roanoke area. Dr. Nicholls mentions that Sassafras was thought of as the only treatment for Syphilis, and so Wolter accuses the then Queen of having Syphilis. This doesn’t go over well with Dr. Nicholls.

After some clever editing, Wolter launches into one of his weird “who asked” round-ups where he starts telling the random person he’s with his next steps on his journey, and what evidence he think’s he needs to prove himself right. These segments are always awkward, but I guess they need them to help keep the story on track.

Finally we are going back to America, looking for a place where the secret fort on the map, the sassafras, and the Dare Stones all come together. Wolter has decided that spot must be Scotch Hall Preserves Golf Course because it corresponds with the symbol on the map. We meet Jim Hughes the Scotch Hall spokesman. Walter launched into his newly revised story about secret forts and, Eleanor Dare running for safety to a place where she thought her father might have built a fort, and deadly natives, and sassafras. Hughes just nods politely through the whole thing, and then, in a very Southern way tell Wolter, “That’s a hell of a story, Scott.” Let it not be said that Mr, Hughes is a gentleman.

Wolter decides that he’s right to think this golf course sits where the secret fort of Sir Walter Raleigh used to sit. All he needs now it to tie the Dare Stones into it, however weakly, and so he declares, if he finds quartzite in the area then that ties the area back to the Dare Stones.How you ask? I have no clue, and I wager Wolter doesn’t either.

Quartzite is pretty much found everywhere and trust me the South-Eastern coast is lousy with it. So basically Wolter doesn’t have to look long in landscaped flower beds to find what he wants, and bam! ‘Proof’!

Wolter always tries to go out on a great quote, and this episode doesn’t disappoint. He wraps us saying:

“History ignored them because they didn’t fit into the story we were told, but now MY science tells a new story.”

Yes Wolter, Your science is best science.

In Summary:

Points for reading all this!

So let’s look at the not-evidence and not-clues Wolter tries to provide us.

  1. The Dare Stones.
    1. So for starts, the first stone is found almost 80 miles North from the Roanoke colony site. Which overshoots the supposed secret fort by 10 miles or more. The next set of stones don’t pop-up till 300 or more miles South and West in South Carolina.
    2. Secondly, No one thinks these stones are real. Most of these popped up quickly from 1937-1940 and none were found before or after. Also the language on the stones don’t match up to historical standards.
    3. Lastly, as Wolter presents it, are we supposed to believe that while being forcibly and violently abducted and marched south, Eleanor Dare had time to chisel 47 stone tables chronicling her story?
  2. The Covered Up Fort.
    1. This covering technique is a well know way to correct a map. So to see something like this shouldn’t be immediately suspect. However, being able to see under it to see the mistake is a neat trick. That said, this proves nothing. No one knows why this was covered up, and Wolter certainly didn’t provide any evidence. Even his chosen location didn’t pan out, so.
  3. Croatoan, aka Cape Hatteras, NC.
    1. This is the most likely place that the missing settlers went to. For starts they lived here prior to their migration to Roanoke. While here, they fostered close relations with the Coratoan tribe. It was also around 60 miles at the long end away. It just makes sense that they returned to the place they knew where there were still settlers and friendly Natives to protect them, as opposed to wandering off 80+ miles out of their way, in a direction they hadn’t explored yet, and knew there were hostile Native Peoples. The other direction, West and South towards Atlanta, Ga. Makes no sense no matter how you try to spin it.
  4. Sassafras
    1. Ok, the main reason this still here is because Wolter got stuck on this being a cure for Syphilis and that Queen Elizabeth I has the disease. There is no evidence that the Queen had it, but Wolter pursues this idea through the last part of the show anyway.
  5. Quartzite
    1. This stuff is all over the place, especially in the Southeastern reigns. So it’s rather easy to find in North Carolina. Now, in the show, Wolter hows himself looking for Quartzite in flower beds and in people’s yards. Not the first place I would have looked, but to each their own I guess. This also proves nothing of value to his argument. As we’ve said in almost every other show where Wolter has tried to use rocks as evidence of things, finding a random rock in a random location doesn’t link the rock you’re looking at to the rock you found.
    2. Also, all the science-y crap that Wolter tries to bamboozle everyone with amounts to Jack-and-… There is nothing in the weathering pattern of these stones that can tell us anything about the creators or the time periods of the stones. So all that examination and jargon is just window dressing to make everyone think something deeper is going on, when in reality it’s a shell game.

A Few Last Things.

The original topic of this show lacked any actual substance. As a result, the show quickly shifted from the topic of the authenticity of the Dare Stones to a quest to find the lost colony of Roanoke. When this didn’t pan out as well as the show seemed to hope, the show tried to turn to a weird secret conspiracy to hide the colony from possible Spanish competition.

We never really examine the Dare Stones, never look over what they say, or how they say it. Never look at the actual discovery locations, or who discovered them. We just hear the words repeated a lot in the show and are expected to know what they are, for no reason. This isn’t uncommon for the show, but given that these Stones are Wolter’s big trump card till he gets fixated on Sassafras and Syphilis, I would have expected them to spend a lot more time trying to convince me that they are real.

All said and done, I feel like the show knew it had a dud on its hands and tried to cobble something together. Well, it didn’t work to well, in my opinion.

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Want more on this topic? Go to Reviews: America Unearthed.
Comment below or send an email to ArchyFantasies@gmail.com


Ambers, Janet, Joanna Russell, David Saunders and Kim Sloan

2012    Hidden history?: examination of two patches on John White’s map of ‘Virginia.’  The British Museum Technical Research Bulletin.  Vol 6.  2012. http://www.britishmuseum.org/pdf/BMTRB_6Ambers-et-al.pdf. Accessed 5/17/2016

The British Museum Collection Online.

Categories: America Unearthed | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Origins of the Oak Island Saga Pt2: Smith’s Cove and Boobie Traps.

Smith's Cove

Oak island showing Smith’s Cove via Google Earth 2016

Despite the lack of treasure found on Oak Island, there appears to be something strange about the whole thing, and that’s enough for some adventurers. The Money Pit is far from the most intriguing thing on, or around rather, the island. Many think this possibly man-made feature is the reason for flooding in the Money Pit. Since the discovery of the Money Pit, six more companies have tried, and failed, to recover treasure from the island and many blame this watery obstacle for it.

What is this most dastardly foil of an obstacle?

Smith’s Cove appears to have come into the Oak Island Saga some time in 1965. Robert Dunfield agreed that the Money Pit was flooding due to some kind of boobie trap, and he thought the source was probably the beach (Oak 2015). He drew several diagrams, outlining what he thought had occurred to create a funnel system, starting at Smith’s Cove and ending at the Money Pit (Oak 2015). This idea caught on quickly with other treasure hunters and became part of the cannon of the Oak Island Saga.

When the Triton Company took over excavations in 1971 they made note of what they thought were man made structures:

“Historians and archaeologists who have worked closely with Triton throughout the operations believe that this structure is probably the remains of the original builders’ coffer dam[sic] erected during excavation of the flood tunnel and its underwater collector drains. Other discoveries made by Triton at Smiths Cove include: matted organic material identified by the National Research Council as coconut fibre[sic] (which is consistent with 1850 reports of masses of coconut fiber underlying the beach where it seems to have been used as a filter to keep the collector drains from clogging); the remains of a ruler or framing square; an unusual antique wooden box; and a wrought iron caulking tool.” (Oak 2015)

Now, a cofferdam is often constructed as a way to enclose an area in order to pump it dry so that it can be used as a staging ground of other work or other land use. It’s also a practice that’s been around for along time. So it’s not unusual to see something like this in action dating back to the earlier centuries, especially on an island that has a historical connection to shipping and fishing.

Much has been made of the artifacts found around Smith’s Cove, but as these were discovered as part of a treasure hunt and not an actual archaeological dig, thereby implying the context of these artifacts is completely gone, the reliability of these artifacts is questionable. Take for example Triton Co.’s interpretation of the wooden box found being used for rock removal during tunnel digging (Oak 2015). There is absolutely no reason to assume this based on what has been presented to us. The only evidence offered up by the sympathetic website, Oak Island Treasure, is that the movie ‘The Great Escape’ used what they assume is a similar process in a digging scene (Oak 2015). Not exactly convincing.

There are other issues with the idea of a flood system boobie trap.

An independent study was done by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) for Triton Co. and their results were not exactly supportive of this idea. Despite being very limited in their ability to collect data, WHOI, was able to do some testing.

The major issue WHOI encountered was Triton’s control over what they were allow to even look at. The chief researcher involved in the investigation stated that the researchers were led to the spot and handed material supposedly retrieved from under the sand (Joltes 2002b). No archaeological excavation was conducted and the WHOI researchers were not allowed to collect their own samples for comparison (Joltes 2002b).

Despite this, WHOI did a variety tests and looked at a few key points of evidence offered by Triton Co. The first of which was getting a C14 date for the coconut husks allegedly found on the island and inside the Money Pit. The dates obtained by the C14 tests indeed show a date of 1130, +/-70 years. The major issue here is that these samples were handed to WHOI and they were not allowed to collect comparative samples to make sure that these samples were legitimate and from the area in question. As we know from historical documents, Oak Island was used for shipping and fishing (O’Connor 2004, Bartram 2005), and many guess that it was used for pirate smuggling (Nickell 2000, O’Connor 2004, Oak 2008). These coconut husks could easily have gotten there as part of packing marital used in cargo shipping (Joltes 2002b). Or the dates could be compromised by mishandling or other contaminates. As WHOI couldn’t collect comparison samples, there’s no way to know or trust this date.

WHOI also poured a sensitive dye into Borehole 10-X, who’s water levels vary at the same rate as the Money Pit, and then monitored the coastline around the island to check for evidence of the dye (Joltes 2002b). No dye was detected emerging anywhere around the island (Joltes 2002b). They also conducted side-scan sonar studies of the area looking for any kind of channels between the Money Pit and the shoreline, finding nothing (Joltes 2002b). Thus concluding that:

‘no direct connection to the surrounding ocean was found during the study (Gallo, 2002).’ (Joltes 2002b)

So where is the water coming from if not the sea?

Well for starts the water in the hole and the Money Pit is not actually seawater. It’s ‘brackish’ indicating  a freshwater lens on the island (Joltes 2002b, Bartram 2005 ). Geologically this is possible as Graham Harris explains:

Geologically the island is a drumlin. Composed almost entirely of dense glacial till, it is a remnant of the last Ice Age. This till overlies anhydrite bedrock, with which is associated some minor limestone. Anhydrite possesses the dubious property of being exceedingly soluble, more so in salt water than in fresh. Paradoxically Oak Island is the only island in the region to be underlain by anhydrite. On the adjacent mainland, and on other islands in the region, sounder limestones and slates can be found at shallow depth.

…digging the first shaft through dense till into the underlying anhydrite is a simple operation fraught with little peril. But once the excavation fills up with water, drawn into it through systemic seepage paths within the anhydrite, these seepage paths will enlarge progressively. The greater the pumping activity the greater the rate of solution of the anhydrite and, of course, the greater the rate of inflow. Once started it is a vicious circle, and one likely to prove catastrophic as the solution passages enlarge.

Treasure-seekers centuries later would repeatedly attempt to dewater the workings by pumping – an exercise as fruitless as trying to pump the Atlantic Ocean dry! In recent years, massive sinkholes have developed offshore showing that the seepage paths radiating outwards from the base of the Money Pit have grown great indeed.

– Recovering the Oak Island Treasure, Graham Harris, C&G Association Journal, Spring 2002. (Bartram 2005).

If Smith Cove isn’t connected to the Money Pit via a drainage system, why are there man made structures there?

Aside from possible shipping use, there is another interesting and plausible suggestion for man-made structures in Smith’s Cove. The production of salt from sea water.
Salt was important back before the invention of refrigerated shipping for preservation of perishable cargo, especially fish  (King 2010). The first recorded owners of Oak Island were Gifford and Smith, two New York fishing agents in 1753 (King 2010). As salt was both an expensive and important part of the fishing industry, its perfectly acceptable that Gifford and Smith were also manufacturing their own salt. More support of this is in the shape and location of the five finger troughs that are found in Smith Cove (King 2010). There is also evidence of boiling pits used in the manufacture of salt and this whole process easily explains the presence of the artificial beach created by the cofferdam (King 2010).
Last and probably least, when Triton Co. brought in WHOI to examine their evidence, they showed the WHOI researchers a video. This enhanced CBC video, taken from the bottom of Borhole 10-X, supposedly shows a wooden casket and an severed hand. WHOI researchers were unable to see anything in the film. The water was so murky and the video so badly lit, that it was impossible to distinguish objects clearly (Joltes 2002b).

There is one last factor to consider here, Oak Island is irrecoverable compromised as a site.

Since the late 1700’s Oak Island has been a treasure hunters’ paradise, peaking in the 1960’s with as many as 40 active treasure pits (Bartram 2005). As such there are more holes on that island than in Swiss cheese. What little archaeological evidence recovered shows this to true. Not to mention all the stories about Oak Island’s Treasure are just that, Stories.

There are no known hard records for the discovery of the Money Pit or excavations of the Onslow or Truro companies from the 1800’s (Bartram 2005). There is, however, a strong oral tradition passed from McInnis, Smith and Vaughan that spawned several newspaper articles during the time (Bartram 2005). From these, the folklore of the island was born properly and has since been handed down as fact and evidence even when devoid of both.

The truly sad part of all this is that any actual archaeology that may have been on that island is now probably distorted beyond recovery. All in the name of some rumored treasure that no one is really clear what it might be. It really give new meaning to the terms ‘Fool’s Gold’ and ‘Wild Goose Chase’.

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 :

Bartram, John A.
2005     Appendix: On the claim for a flood tunnel. History, Hoax, and Hype: The Oak Island Legend.  CriticalEnquiry.org. Sun 19 of June. http://www.criticalenquiry.org/oakisland/floodtunnel.shtml  Retrieved 1/19/2016

Nd    Oak Island Mystery. Crystalinks.com. http://www.crystalinks.com/oakislandmystery.html Retrieved 1/19/2016.
McCully, J.B.
1862    Correspondence in the Liverpool Transcript. October 1862. Liverpool, Nova Scotia. https://web.archive.org/web/20080517112423/http://www.oakislandtreasure.co.uk/content/view/74/97/ Retrieved 1/19/2016.

Forks, J.P.
1857    Correspondence in the Liverpool Transcript.  20 August 1857 Vol. 4 No. 32. S.J.M. Allen Editor. Liverpool, Nova Scotia.  http://web.archive.org/web/20150106084107/http://novascotia.ca/archives/virtual/newspapers/archives.asp?ID=2941 Retrieved 1/19/2016.

Joltes, Richard
2002a    Oak Island Research. CriticalEnquiry.org. p. 1. August 2002. >http://criticalenquiry.org/wp/oak-island-information/ Retrieved 1/19/2016

2002b    The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute Report. History, Hoax, and Hype: The Oak Island Legend.  CriticalEnquiry.org.  http://www.criticalenquiry.org/oakisland/whoi.shtml.
Retrieved 1/19/2016.

King, Dennis
2010    A Solution To The Mystery Of The Oak Island Five Finger Drains. CriticalEnquiry.org. February 2010.http://www.criticalenquiry.org/oakisland/Dennis_King_Mar_2010.shtml. Retrieved 1/19/2016.

Nickell, Joe
2000    The Secrets of Oak Island. Skepitcal Inquirer. Vol 24.2, March/April 2000. http://www.csicop.org/si/show/secrets_of_oak_island Accessed 1/19/2016

Oak Island Treasure
2008    History. Oak Island Treasure.  https://web.archive.org/web/20080509165300/http://www.oakislandtreasure.co.uk/content/section/5/35/ Retrieved 1/19/2016.

2015    Smith’s Cove – a closer look at Oak Island’s artificial beach. Oak Island Treasure.co.uk. October 15, 2015.  http://www.oakislandtreasure.co.uk/smiths-cove-a-closer-look-at-oak-islands-artificial-beach/. Retrieved 1/19/2016.

O’Connor, D’Arcy
2004    The Secret Treasure of Oak Island: The Amazing True Story of a Centuries-Old Treasure Hunt. The Lyons Press. Guilford, CT. https://books.google.com/books?id=QLoZMFzjWtQC&pg=PA269&dq=O%27Connor,+D%27Arcy.+1988.+The+Big+Dig.+New+York:+Ballantine.&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwin2-WT877KAhWFpR4KHYyKCrwQ6AEIJjAA#v=onepage&q&f=false Retrieved 1/19/2016.

Woods Hole 10x dye test. Forum Discussion on the Oak Island Treasure forum. http://forum.oakislandtreasure.co.uk/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=3355&start=40 Retrieved 1/19/2016

Categories: Curse of Oak Island, Mystery Sties That Aren't, The Oak Island Saga | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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



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.


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.

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Want more on this topic? Go to Reviews: America Unearthed.
Comment below or send an email to ArchyFantasies@gmail.com



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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Origins of the Oak Island Saga and the Old Money Pit – Oak Island Saga pt 1.

Oak island Google Earth 2016

Oak Island showing approximate location of the Money Pit via Google Earth 2016.


The ongoing saga that is Oak Island is back in the news again. Mainly due to the current claims of finding an ancient Roman sword in a ship wreck off the coast of said island. Which isn’t entirely true, as we’ll discuss later in another post. Until we’re able to get to those posts I highly recommend that you go read Andy White’s excellent work on the Roman Sword and #SwordGate.

It’s also come to my late attention that there’s a TV show completely dedicated to the saga of Oak Island. Said show has managed to have 3 television seasons on the History Channel (not surprising). I’ve decided to start looking into these shows myself, but that’s another blog post as well. I will not be using the show as a reference here in this series of posts.

Here, I want to look over the actual history of Oak Island, as is documented, and examine some of the claims made about this highly disturbed piece of land. It’s a lot more interesting than it first looks, and covers a lot of ground, as you’ll see.

The Origins of Oak Island as We Know Them.

For those who don’t know, Oak Island is a privately owned island off the south coast of Nova Scotia, Canada. It’s only about 140 acres big, and is at max 36 feet (11-ish meters) above above sea level. It’s been the source of endless speculation for over two centuries, and one could say an endless money sucking and sometimes deadly disappointment for those who pursue it’s supposed treasures. Most recently, History Channel has thrown their hat into the ring of Oak Island spectators with their three year old show “Curse of Oak Island”, though I’m pretty sure it’s not as huge a money suck for them as it’s been for those in the past.

But what are these “mysteries” and “curses” that surround such a small piece of land? They really span quite a distance, being associated with everything from Captain Kidd to the Knights Templar to the Ark of the Covenant to pre-Columbus European visitors. Even Shakespeare gets thrown in just for fun!

The main focus of so many investigations on the island is the center around what is known as the Money Pit. One of the earliest accounts is mention in what is basically a letter to the editor from the August 20, 1857 issue of the Liverpool Transcript. After setting a somewhat defensive air, J.P. Forks (1857) gives a somewhat vague description of the excavation site on Oak Island and some detail is given about the excavations shafts themselves. There is a mention of the goal of this was to find a buried treasure of Captain Kidd, but unsurprisingly, this was unsuccessful (Forks 1857). Forks (1857) then goes on to talk about a different, haunted island that he’s going to visit in order to get evidence of real live ghosts. I guess he was over looking for the treasure for the time being. I know logically there must be an earlier account or story written in the Liverpool Transcript outlining the events that Forks is replying too, but I haven’t been able to secure it yet.

In a similar style as Fork’s letter, in 1862, J.B. McCully writes to the Liverpool Transcript, again with an air of justification, to explain why he and his company are on Oak Island digging. He gives a brief review of the the first setters in Chester who already had a tail of an old crew member of Captain Kidd’s crew saying that he helped bury a treasure of about 2 million pounds on some island (McCully 1862). What island this was is not clarified in McCully’s letter, but he then goes on to tell a now familiar story of of a Mr. McGinnis and his adventures. Probably most satisfyingly, he’s also the first person to use the term “Old Money Pit” in reference to the excavations done by his company (McCully 1862). It doesn’t seem to be flattering.

Many sources now retell McCully’s story and it’s really changed very little despite the game of telephone it’s gone though since first being mentioned in print in the Liverpool Transcript (Nickell 2000, O’Connor 2004, Oak 2008). New information has been added and fleshed out, we hope by facts. Though McCully gives no dates for McGinnis’ original discovery and subsequent digs, according to a website called Oak Island Treasure and others (Nickell 2000, O’Connor 2004), the real story starts all the way back in 1795 (Oak 2008). In this version Daniel McGinnis was out fishing one day and soon found himself inland under a old oak tree “bearing the marks of unnatural scarring (Oak 2008)”. He deduced that these were rope scars and it was somehow used as part of a rope and tackle system (think pulleys) used to move items up and down a shaft (Oak 2008) . Sure enough, there happened to be a roughly 5 meter diameter depression under said tree, and this was all McGinnis needed to realize that there was pirate gold buried under this tree (Oak 2008). Long story short, he went home, got some friends to come help him, and they began what would end up being a 10 ish year excavation to find bupkiss.

What we do know, thanks to land deeds, is that John Smith purchased the area where the Money Pit stood on June 26, 1975 from Casper Wollenhaupt and he held it for the next 62 years (O’Connor 2004). Daniel McGinnis either was a tenet farmer for Smith, or also purchased land adjacent to Smith’s and the two men worked at how to continue digging for the treasure as they farmed their land (O’Connor 2004).

This is Just the Beginning for the Oak Island Saga.

In 1803 the Onslow Company was founded, it included the original three excavators, McGinnis, Smith and Anthony Vaughan, plus the addition of Simeon Lynds (McCully 1862, O’Connor 2004). Lynds, fascinated by the prospect of a mysterious treasure, was able to raise moneys from some 30 businessmen from Onslow, Canada to fund further excavations (McCully 1862, O’Connor 2004). With this new infusion of money the new company set to digging.

Interestingly there was something to the shaft that the Onslow Co. was investigating. The ground had been disturbed at some prior point as it was much softer to dig than the surrounding dirt, and apparently pick ax markings could be seen in the walls as the workers dug down (McCully 1862, O’Connor 2004). Most interestingly were the wooden platforms found at roughly every ten feet to a depth of about 90 feet (McCully 1862, O’Connor 2004). This detail seems to become important later on, but for now, this is obviously evidence of the pit being intentionally created and not a natural phenomena. Even the descriptions given of the dirt, the clay, the stratification and the eventual water gain all sound completely realistic (McCully 1862, O’Connor 2004). All accounts of the excavations are fairly believable up to this point, until we get to one particular detail.

Forty Feet Below.

At some point apparently a stone was found that had a mysterious cipher written on it (McCully 1862, O’Connor 2004). O’Connor tells us that this stone is recorded in the Onslow Co.’s accounts and that it was supposedly seen by hundreds of people before it vanished in 1919 (O’Connor 2004). McCully also mentions the stone and that it bore an inscription:

“… and one at 80 feet was a stone cut square, two feet long and about a foot thick, with several characters on it. (McCully 1862)”

But he doesn’t mention if the inscription was translated nor does he provide a sketch with his article. It’s also possible that he never even saw the stone himself, just based the wording in his article. He’s apparently just relaying what he’d been told about it.

The stone’s adventures between the time it was discovered and the time it vanished are almost comical. First it was placed in Smith’s Fireplace as a curio piece (think detailed mantel piece), then it was taken by one A.O. Creighton, who brought the stone to Halifax while he was treasurer for a different Oak Island searching company as a way to raise funds (O’Connor 2004). Then the stone was apparently used to beat leather for book binding before vanishing in 1919 when the A.O. Creighton’s bookbinding business closed (O’Connor 2004).

As far as the inscription goes, it was never written down formally. It’s even dubious that the inscription existed. Harry Marshall, the son of Creighton’s bookbinding partner recalled the stone in an affidavit, but never remembered any inscription on it (O’Connor 2004). The only possible copy of said inscription existed as part of a supposed 1909 letter from a schoolteacher who apparently drew it in the letter she was sending (O’Connor 2004). O’Connor admits that the glyphs from said letter do translate to say “Forty feet below two million pounds are buried.”, but the code used for the cipher is so incredibly simple that it’s easy to doubt it’s authenticity (O’Connor 2004). O’Connor is very frank about the dubious nature of the inscription, and suggests that it was probably investor bait, if it existed at all (O’Connor 2004).

The apparent origins of the wording of the original inscription seems to have come from “True Tales of Buried Treasure”, a book by Edward Rowe Snow published in 1951 according to the Crystalinks website (Nd). Snow claims he was given the set of symbols by Reverend A.T. Kempton of Cambridge, Massachusetts (Crystalinks Nd). Kempton apparently appears for this one encounter, and has no further involvement with the story (Crystalinks Nd). Thus is the known history of the inscription bearing stone.

There is a good deal more to the mysteries of Oak Island, and we’re going to look at these in another post. For now let’s just process what has been presented here, and look forward to more about this kind of interesting place.

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 :

Forks, J.P.

1857    Correspondence in the Liverpool Transcript.  20 August 1857 Vol. 4 No. 32. S.J.M. Allen Editor. Liverpool, Nova Scotia.  http://web.archive.org/web/20150106084107/http://novascotia.ca/archives/virtual/newspapers/archives.asp?ID=2941 Accessed 1/19/16


Nd    Oak Island Mystery. Crystalinks.com. http://www.crystalinks.com/oakislandmystery.html Accessed 1/19/16

McCully, J.B.

1862    Correspondence in the Liverpool Transcript. October 1862. Liverpool, Nova Scotia. https://web.archive.org/web/20080517112423/http://www.oakislandtreasure.co.uk/content/view/74/97/ Accessed 1/19/16

O’Connor, D’Arcy

2004    The Secret Treasure of Oak Island: The Amazing True Story of a Centuries-Old Treasure Hunt. The Lyons Press. Guilford, CT. https://books.google.com/books?id=QLoZMFzjWtQC&pg=PA269&dq=O%27Connor,+D%27Arcy.+1988.+The+Big+Dig.+New+York:+Ballantine.&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwin2-WT877KAhWFpR4KHYyKCrwQ6AEIJjAA#v=onepage&q&f=false Accessed 1/19/2016

Oak Island Treasure

2008    Hisotry. Oak Island Treasure.  https://web.archive.org/web/20080509165300/http://www.oakislandtreasure.co.uk/content/section/5/35/ Accessed 1/19/2016

Nickell, Joe

2000    The Secrets of Oak Island. Skepitcal Inquirer. Vol 24.2, March/April 2000. http://www.csicop.org/si/show/secrets_of_oak_island Accessed 1/19/2016

Categories: Curse of Oak Island, History Channel, The Oak Island Saga | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

I’m going to try and reign these reviews in a little. As much fun as they are to write, they get a little epic. As usual if you don’t want to read through the whole break down, feel free to skip to the In Summary section at the bottom, but as always, if you have a comment or question don’t be surprised if I tell you to read the whole post first.

We start this episode with the opening to a bloody horror movie that accidentally got spliced into the show’s footage:

A man stands in a dark hole, the only light come from some wide spaced planks above him. Suddenly the man begins to scream as blood pours down over him from above. Just when we’re convinced we’re watching a Slasher Flick and not a TV show, Wolter’s serious voice breaks in to tell us how wrong history is and how he’s on a search for the truth.

As part of the setup for the show, Wolter tells us that there is a 500lb rock carving that was pulled out of the Arkansas River near Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2010.

After a lot of flashy buildup and random panning over the carving in question, we’re told that the carving is of a bull, which it clearly is, and then Wolter tells us that this is a cult symbol. Not just any symbol, it’s a symbol from *pause* Ancient Egypt.

So here’s where the Bull, um…, starts piling up.

The short art-school horror flick we were subjected to at the beginning of the show was actually the show’s interpretation of what a Mithric Rite might have looked like. Mithra was worshiped in Rome, by soldiers mainly. Egypt did have a very small Mithric cult. However, any bull symbol that would have been in Egypt would have probably been attributed to Apis or Hapis, the Egyptian bull god, who is not Mithra in any way, shape, or form.

Back in Wolter’s lab we get watch him examine the bull carving while he tells us how he gets all these “relics” all the time, but this one has vexed him for two years. This statement triggers a flashback to March of 2011 when Wolter receives the carving from it’s discoverer Nick Johnson.

Johnson admits that he was hunting for artifacts when he found this one. Which is always what I like to hear when people find ‘artifacts’ and then rip them out of context. Take pictures people, document things, don’t just snatch and grab things and then get cranky when no one wants to believe you. Probably though, there was no context for this rock carving anyway, so.

Wolter takes us back to his lab and tells us that the carving isn’t recent and has early signs of age. He says there is mineralization that overlaps the carvings. He doesn’t really explain much more as to what “early signs of age” are or why the mineralization is important. As always, we’re just supposed to take his word for it.

We do get a nice closeup of the carved lines, and there is obvious evidence of grooved tool marks, much like those left by modern metal carving instruments. These are not mentioned nor explained.

Wolter tells us about other cultures that have used bull imagery, but decides that this is Egyptian, specifically an Apis bull. Wolter is correct in in assertion that “it just doesn’t make sense.” That sentiment hasn’t ever stopped this show before, so on we go to peddle this not-Apis bull carving.

First, Wolter goes to talk with an actual real Egyptologist, Nigel Hetherington.

After being asked about it, Dr. Hetherington gives us an abbreviated history of the Bull in Ancient Egypt, leading up to the Apis Bull. Wolter tells us the Apis Bull is a sacred deity that symbolized the Pharaoh’s strength, and was a protector of the dead. Wolter isn’t completely correct here, but if he got corrected, that didn’t make it into this obviously heavily edited segment.

Wolter then shows his bull carving to Hetherington with much dramatic flair. Hetherington seems unimpressed, as he should. Hetherington tells us that it does resemble an Apis bull on the top, and then asks Wolter what he think the wavy lines are.

Screenshot of Wolter's Apis Bull

Screenshot of Wolter’s Apis Bull

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

Screenshot of an actual Apis Bull.

Screenshot of an actual Apis Bull.

Hetherington asks why Wolter thinks this is an Egyptian bull and not a Native American rendition of such? Wolter says Native American would have revered the Bison (all the Native Americans, everywhere, because it seems like in Wolter’s mind they are all one imaginary entity that never actually existed in America until recently). Then Wolter tells us how none of the actual archaeologist around him would accept the carving as real, but he thinks it might be just because there is weathering on it. Or maybe it’s because this carving shows signs of not being a real artifact? Maybe?

Wolter then asks if the ancient Egyptians coming to America would have carved a bull.

I like this question because it’s apparent there’s no doubt in Wolter’s mind that ancient Egyptians did come to America somehow, even though there is not evidence what-so-ever to support this belief. I also like that Hetherington tells him ‘no’ so quickly, then explains that they would have carved the Pharaoh’s name in a kartush. He then explains that they never would have sailed over here because they hated the sea. Hetherington tells Wolter that, as usual, there is no evidence for ancient Egyptians being over here. Unfortunately he makes a joke at this point, that maybe one individual got lost all the way out in Oklahoma, but that would be a long way to get lost wouldn’t it? He even smiles a little when he says it. Either Wolter doesn’t understand jokes, or he’s desperate to twist anything anyone says to fit his theory.

Wolter tells Hetherington that he’s decided that the carving is an Apis bull, despite being told two minutes earlier that it clearly is not. Then like a Bond villain he tells Hetherington what his next steps are in his plan to expose the TRUTH. I always find it funny when Wolter starts running down the list of things he’s going to do while talking to his guests, as if they had asked him what his next steps are, which so far they’ve never done, but maybe that was edited out.

Wolter tells us that he needs a sample of the rock the bull is carved on to find out if the rock was carved in Tulsa. This, I’m guessing, is an attempt to fill time because what difference dose this even make?  This will prove nothing about ether the age or the authenticity of the carving. If anything it will verify that the carving is recent and therefore not evidence of ancient Egyptians.

So we go back to Tulsa, Oklahoma somewhere along the Arkansas River. We meet Nick Johnson and Aaron Neighbors there. They tell us their discovery story about finding the rock in the water of the Arkansas River.

Wolter does point out to the men that water can erode rock quickly. Which is especially true about sandstone, the kind of rock that the bull was craved on. Still, we spend time looking for any random piece of sandstone to use as a control sample. So lets look over the errors here:

1) Random rock from random location that may or may not be related to the site of discovery of any artifact does not a “control sample” make. Actual control samples the way Wolter is using the term, are from known locations and are verified to be what we need them to be. We already know what they are, hence why we are using it for a comparison. If I have two random unknowns, as Wolter now has, I can compare them to each other, but that is all. They tell me nothing verifiable, and therefore are basically useless.

2) At this point we’ve been told by an expert that the Apis bull is not an Apis bull, there is no way that ancient Egyptians either came here or carved it, and now we know that all the evidence of age is actually water erosion.

But the show is randomly changing topics now, so let’s keep up.

We’re told here is a location in Turkey Mountain that has carvings on it. Wolter decides he needs to see this. So we all hike out to somewhere based on feels and epic hiking music till we find some rock outcroppings that are heavily scared with obvious modern graffiti. Despite this, Wolter decides that he can see some authentic Ogham and reads it to spell GWN, or the name Gwyne. Wolter decided right there that some Celtic explorer carved his name on the rock.

Screenshot of the not-Ogham not spelling GWYN

Screenshot of the not-Ogham not spelling GWN

Wolter tries to link a bunch of unrelated things together, saying that if a Celtic explorer started down in the Gulf of Mexico and then went up the Mississippi they then could have followed the Arkansas River to this area. Then they would have wondered into the land till they came to these rocks, and carved just their name into the rock, because reasons.

Actually, if you try to connect the two waterways that Wolter is trying to connect in this show, they don’t connect. Also, it’s over 350+ miles in a straight-ish line to get from Tulsa to the pan-handle of Oklahoma where the Anubis caves (spoilers) are roughly located. It’s considerably more than that by water since the local waterways don’t flow in straight lines and the major waterways don’t connect, you can see as much on a map. It’s just a very long distance is what I’m saying.

Screenshot of the distance between sites.

Screenshot of the distance between the sites.

Apparently, even though Wolter can read and translate Ogham at the drop of a hat, we still need to learn more about actual Ogham. So we fly all the way to Dublin, Ireland because History Channel’s got deep deep pockets and after some epic tourist music and vapid film of Wolter driving, we arrive at Trinity Collage to speak with Dr. Damian McManus, Professor of Irish Studies.

Dr. McManus listens carefully to Wolter’s assertion that there is Ogham in America, a claim McManus has clearly dealt with before judging by his reactions to this. He also tells us that  Ogham is exclusive to Ireland in the 5th to 7th centuries, which creates a linear time issue for Wolter, but we skip over that. McManus tells Wolter that the Irish definitively got as far as Iceland, but there is no evidence they got any further than that. He then shows us what actually Ogham looks like, which is nothing like anything Wolter has ever offered up as Ogham.

Screenshot of actual Ogham.

Screenshot of actual Ogham.

Wolter shows McManus the ‘Ogham’ he translated at the Turkey Mountain rock outcropping, and McManus firmly shuts Wolter down. Still, he encourages Wolter to keep looking, and then randomly tells Wolter to go check out a place in America called the Anubis Cave, which just so happed to be in Oklahoma as well!

So lets go over the Not-Evidence here before we finish this up.

  1. Wolter insists he has an Apis Bull carving even though he’s been clearly told he doesn’t.
  2. Wolter insists that said Not-Apis Bull carving is evidence of Mithra worship, completely ignoring that Apis is an actual god on his own, also that Mithra was a Roman god worshiped by Solders.
  3. Wolter insists that he’s got Ogham at Turkey Mountain, despite being told that he clearly does not and after seeing actual Ogham with his own eyes.

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshot of more not-Ogham

Screenshot of more not-Ogham in the Anubis Cave 2

Screenshot of not-Mithra carvings in the Anubis Cave 2

Screenshot of not-Mithra carvings in the Anubis Cave 2

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

Screenshot of carvings in the Anubis Cave 2

Screenshot of carvings in the Anubis Cave 2

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

Screenshot of not-Anubis carvings in the Anubis Cave 2

Screenshot of not-Anubis carvings in the Anubis Cave 2

We’re also ignoring all the other markings around these markings, small lines and circles, repeating motifs and such that overlap and intersect the lines we’re being asked to only look at. We’re also ignoring all the graffiti that can be clearly seen despite the carefully tight camera angels. This whole exercise is a lot like cloud gazing.

Leonard tells us that they’ve dated this to 3-500 AD, which is way more than 1500 years ago. Also, it makes this almost too old to be Ogham. So again, math is screwing with Wolter’s ideas here. Also, how the hell did they date this? You can’t date rock. Are there artifacts around that we’re not getting to see? Is there some organic material around that they aren’t mentioning? Or are they just making up a number they think might be interesting?

Once again Wolter invokes the mighty and ridiculously misused Archaeoastronomy, which Wolter is now passing himself off as an expert on now, and Leonard tells us about a very special event on the equinox, a Shadow play! We’re told that on the equinox that the light play over this set of carvings and tells the story of Mithra, where their soul came down from the heavens and then returned back to the heaven and their god Mithra. Which is spectacularly not true. Mithra has nothing to do with souls or reincarnation or anything we’ve just been told. Also there is no Celtic god Mithra but why let that stop us?

Wolter gets all excited about this and agrees to come back on the equinox to see the Shadow play. Which we do, and this time he brings Joe Rose, who is presented to us as a Comparative Religion Expert. Rose, from what I can tell, is/was a masterful book binder and a “Student of the Western Mystery Tradition” which is a branch of the Golden Dawn (the religious group not the Greek one). I had to use the Wayback Machine to find any of this out by the way.

Rose does try and reinforce Wolter’s whole Apis Bull = Mithra story, and we get to watch the horror flick from the beginning of the show again. We finally get the story behind the gore fest at the beginning telling us that this was a baptism by blood, which wasn’t that uncommon of a practice in ancient Rome. Several different cults at the time used similar practices, not all were attached to Mithra.

Wolter recollects his conversation with Nigel Hetherington where Hetherington wouldn’t translate the wavy lines on the not-Apis bull carving to be blood. Would Rose translate them as such? Why yes, yes he would.

At this point Wolter tries to make up some hypothesis that somehow Mithraism evolved out of Apis Bull worship, and Rose agrees again. Rose tries to tell us that Mithraism was a reforming of the Apis Bull of Egyptian Religion. But this completely not true. Not only are there no similarities between the two religions, there is no evidence to believe this is true.

Wolter however, sees how this can all make sense, and that is because the Celts craved the bull. Never mind that nothing we’ve seen so far looks anything like the incredibly distinctive art style known to be Celtic, or that this bull looks nothing like how the Celts depicted bulls.

Rose suggests that the Celts came all the way to Oklahoma to escape religious persecution by early Christians. This gets Wolter on a religious freedom and the U.S. rant and how awesome it was that people had been coming here for this reason for so long.

Wolter randomly mentions the rock sample he took from the river, and that it matched the rock that the not-Apis bull was carved one. Which should be a surprise to no one, also, it doesn’t prove anything. Wolter tell us that because of this match he believes the bull was carved somewhere near that site, why? There are several geologically different kinds of sandstone in Oklahoma alone, Wolter never even bothers to tell us what kind it is? As a geologist, shouldn’t he be able too? And why not share that information, it would only strengthen his argument, especially if it was unique kind of sandstone that was only found in the Tulsa area of the Arkansas River. This would in no way prove that the bull wasn’t a recent carving, but it would narrow the area that the raw material could have been gleaned from. Again, this doesn’t prove authenticity, but still would have been interesting.

Side note: Geological maps are hard to read, but you can give it a shot at the Oklahoma geological survey site. http://www.ogs.ou.edu/homepage.php

Back on the show Wolter just flat out says, “If it’s ancient, it has to be ancient Celts.” Why? What have we been presented with to make this statement true? He follows this up with “Someone was in those caves thousands of years ago.” This is true, but since Wolter and this show refuse to acknowledge that Native Americans exist, it couldn’t possibly have been them.

It’s finally time for the Shadow-Play. Rose just repeats what Leonard told Wolter the first time they met, nearly verbatim, which makes me wonder who wrote the script for this show? Rose also agrees that the cave carvings are clearly Mithric symbols, even though they don’t look anything like actual Mithric symbols.<

So lets talk about this “ Shadow Play” for a minute.

Yes, Archaeolastronomy exists, and it was practiced by just about every ancient culture because that was how they kept track of time and their seasons. This isn’t a grand mystery to anyone in the archaeological community. Also, yes, there were indeed religious connections to the seasons and religious overtures to buildings and earthworks that were aligned with seasonal markers, also, another given that is not a mystery. Yes, the effects are rather cool and frankly humbling to think about and experience, that was kind of the point aside form keeping track of time.

I can’t help but have major reservations on this particular piece of Wolter’s “Archaeoastronomy”, mainly because, after going on and on about how important these carvings are and how perfectly they align, the only part of the carvings that do align is the “head” of the “Sun God”. Now, I can’t personally attest to the alignment of the small circle that is the called the head and the placement of the sun. However, that is a really small piece of the overall “rock carving”.

It is far more likely to my mind that this is a coincidence. This suspicion is fed by the fact that nothing else that we are shown lines up with this event. Also, the size of this seasonal marker is rather small. Compare this one glyph to the massive and impressive earthworks that Native Americans, and even the Celts, are known to build to mark seasonal and astronomical events. Numerous Native American cultures worked these details into the placement of their very walls, making massive and quite noticeable structures and alterations to the landscape. If there are seasonal markers in these caves, we are not seeing them in this show, because Wolter is trying too hard to make something out of nothing.

Wolter wraps up this show with a quote that sums up pretty much everything and makes me wonder why we even bothered with this episode.

“The only reasonable people who could have done this was the Celts, I can’t think of anyone else.”


I’m sure the Shawnee, Apache, Caddo, Comanche Nation, Kiowa, Wichita, and other tribes and nations that I’ve missed think the same thing too.

In Summary

Admit it, you just skipped down here.

So let’s look over all the not-evidence Wolter bombarded us with this episode.

Egyptian Apis Bull Carving – We’re told early on by an actual Egyptologist that this is not an Apis bull.

Wolter also tries to make a big deal out of matching the type of rock up. I feel this is a huge red herring in the show. It proves nothing about ether the age or the authenticity of the carving, and Wolter never bothers to tell us if there was anything unusual or unique about the stones, thus proving some kind of connection. It’s such a non-deal that Wolter almost forgets to bring it up again at the end of the show.

Anubis Figure in the cave – Not an Anubis figure, doesn’t look anything like an Anubis figure. Without Wolter’s helpful lines, it almost looks like a figure standing on a horse’s back. Also, we must ignore all the other lines around it to make it look anything like what Wolter wants it to be.

Ogham in Turkey Mountain and Anubis Cave – Not only are we told that the Ogham in Turkey Mountain isn’t actual Ogham, but we’re shown actual Ogham in Ireland. Said actual Ogham looks nothing like the Ogham in the Anubis Cave.

An interesting note about “American Ogham” here. Apparently it’s a well known phenomenon with American Ogham that it rarely if ever has vowels. Actual Ogham does have vowels, but for some reason, when the ancient Celts or Irish or what have you, got over here to America, they forgot how to write vowels. Ogham in America enthusiast have for along time, been trying to get the academic community to accept American Ogham as a different form of Irish Ogham. The problem here is that none of the American Ogham can be proven to be authentic, missing vowels is one of many problems with it. Other’s include, gibberish, questionable translations (Barry Fell), and the fact that there is no evidence that ancient Irish peoples ever made it to America.

Mithra Connection – There is no connection that I am aware of between the Celtic/Irish people and Mithra worship. Mithra was a Roman deity worshiped primarily by Soldiers. Yes, there were temples to Mithra in Egypt and a few in England. These were built by the Romans, and used by such. The image of the Bull in Egypt is always connected to their own gods, Apis being a big one.

The Shadow Play – My reservations are above, and Wolter’s attempt to tie this into Archaeoastronomy is cringe-worthy. I’m not saying that this couldn’t be an example of Archaeoastronomy (I doubt it), but it’s definitely not they way Wolter wants it to be.

There is evidence of the use of the natural features of the caves to keep track of the seasons. The small tic marks that Wolter wants so badly to be Ogham, are a well know way that the pre-contact tribes kept track of the seasons by tracking the progress of shadow features along the cave walls. This is a type of Archaeoastronomy, but I doubt that Wolter would ever recognize it as such. Especially since Wolter doesn’t seem to recognize Native American tribes and peoples as real.

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



Tompsen, Lyle
2011    An Archaeologist Looks at the Oklahoma Runestones. In The Epigraphic Society Occasional Papers. Vol 29, February 2011. Pgs 5-43. https://www.academia.edu/2332282/An_Archaeologist_Looks_at_the_Oklahoma_Runestones_ESOP_29_2011_5-43. Accessed June 2015.

Categories: America Unearthed, Cult Science | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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

Screenshot of giant burials.

Screenshot of giant burials.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to the show.

Screenshot of 1888 newspaper.

Screenshot of 1888 newspaper.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshot of sword comparison.

Screenshot of sword comparison.

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

Screenshot of scratches on field stone.

Screenshot of scratches on field stone.

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

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

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

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

Screenshot of the interrogation.

Screenshot of the interrogation.

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

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

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

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

In Summary:

The chunk you’re all waiting for.

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

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

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

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

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

5.   The not-a-runestone foundation stone.

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


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

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

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

Thus begins our romp across the Michigan U.P.

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

newberry tablet pics

Sceen capture of the pictures of the Newberry Tablet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to the show.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Capture of the Copper Harbor Petroglyph

Screen Capture of the Copper Harbor Petroglyph

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screen shot of the Newberry Tablet

Screen shot of the Newberry Tablet

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

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

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

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

Screenshot of one of the underwater mounds.

Screenshot of one of the underwater mounds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Summary:

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

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

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

The evidence listed throughout the show is this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

Jones, William

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

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

Stuit, Martha.
2013    Show Examines Fort de Buade Tablet. St. Ignace News. http://www.stignacenews.com/news/2013-01-31/News/Show_Examines_Fort_de_Buade_Tablet.html  Retrieved 12/9/2014


Categories: America Unearthed, History Channel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 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.


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

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