Posts Tagged With: America Unearthed

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

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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.

old-book

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.

au-s1e9-brandenburg-inscrition

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.

wolter-looking-at-rock

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.

tjs-apron

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.”

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I see what you did there. Tacky.

Summary:

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

 

Resources:

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

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

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

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

AU s1e6 1

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

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

Wolter goes on:

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

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

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

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

AU s1e6 2

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

He then makes another claim that caught my attention:

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

Couple of things her.

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

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

AU s1e6 4

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

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

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

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

But, we’re not done here yet.

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

What is this amazing evidence you ask?

Lines on a map.

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

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

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

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

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

Very scientific of you Wolter.

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

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

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

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

AU s1e6 baal stone

 

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

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

phonician alphabet

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

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

4233092_orig

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AU s1e6 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Summary

What you really wanted to read.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

References.

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

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

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

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

Wagg, Jeff

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

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

Categories: America Unearthed, Columbus was Second-ish: Who Discovered America Anyway, History Channel, Mystery Sties That Aren't, What the Phoenicians Weren't Doing in America | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What is Archaeoastronomy?

moon in the trees

This is a topic that’s been bothering me since I started watching America Unearthed. Though to be fair, it’s not the first time I’ve seen the term misused, it’s just the point that drove the issue home for me. What I want to do here is give people a working idea of what the concept of Archaeoastronomy is. Probably this post is going to be updated occasionally as new and creative fringe uses of the term pop up.

Archaeoastronomy is a word that gets abused by everyone in the pseudoarchaeology fringe. I’m not really sure if it’s that the word just sounds cool, or if those in the fringe get a basic definition of a word and then run with it. The reality of the word is that it describes a collection of techniques used by most ancient peoples and it describes a field of study in the archaeology community.

How is archaeoastronomy describe by archaeologists  vs. what is commonly touted as archaeoastronomy in the fringe community?

Scott Wolter likes to describe archaeoastronomy in incredibly simplistic and misleading ways in his show America Unearthed. He also likes to change his definition from show to show using things like “The ancient practice of aligning buildings with celestial bodies.” or “Archaeoastronomy: ancient use of the sun, moon, stars, and planets in architecture and design.” This is simplistic to the point of being incorrect.

A correct explanation of archaeoastronomy is as described by the Center for Archaeoastronomy (CfA N.d);

The study of the astronomical practices, celestial lore, mythologies, religions, and the world-views of ancient cultures.

It is the anthropology of astronomy. It is observing how ancient peoples interacted with astronomy and not just how they aligned buildings to the “celestial bodies”.

I hope the difference in these two definitions can be easily seen. America Unearthed and similar fringe groups are only concerned with a single trait of the overall practice of archaeoastronomy. They only see one type of the many different expressions of archaeoastronomy in the world and from this they draw some pretty narrow, and very misleading, conclusions.

As can be seen in the archaeologist’s definition, we can see that this field is firstly concerned with the culture of the people practicing archaeoastronomy. What are their beliefs, how did they express them, how did they relate to the world, how did they translate that into their experience of space, and so on. We try to answer these questions through the clues left behind by ancient peoples in their surviving mythology, the ceremonial artifacts and religious spaces left behind, and yes, through the megaliths and structures that still stand today.

Archaeoastronomy is observable in most ancient cultures around the world, most notably in the cardinal orientation of the Great Pyramid at Giza in Egypt, the alignments of some of the Ohio Mounds, the Venus alignment of the Maya Palace of the Governor at Uxmal in Yucatan, as well as the most famous Stonehenge. The effort put forth in the planning, building and use of these buildings and structures is of great importance not only to the people who built them, but to modern archaeologists who study them. We can learn a great deal from these structures, about the cultures of their peoples, and most interestingly about the development of science and cosmological thought from the ancient astronomies and surviving indigenous traditions around the world (CfA N.d).

Obviously, archaeology plays a huge role in this study, but it’s not the only part. Living peoples, descendants of the cultures being studied, are hugely important to this field. These same living peoples are often, if not always, discounted by fringe groups when the concept of archaeoastronomy is brought up. This is a major flaw. Aside from completely ignoring indigenous peoples and native cultures still alive today, it also disregards actual ancient cultures and their life-ways and accomplishments.

Also importantly, and aside from ancient cultures, the way Wolter and the fringe use their idea of archaeoastronomy elevates it to some kind of mystical mumbojumbo. It strips it of any actual meaning  and allows the fringe to apply it to whatever they want, whenever they want. Doing this allows them to make far-out claims that have no evidence or support, but now they simply apply a scientific sounding word and give a half-assed definition and voila! Instant cult science!

Wolter and the fringe try to muddle the idea of archaeoastronomy so as to make it appear that the use of it among ancient people is rare and mystical. That the mere presence of something that might align with the sun or moon is truly unusual and sticks out. The reality of ancient peoples use of archaeoastronomy is actually quite mundane. This is not to say the set-up for this is easy or simplistic. It merely means that it was a lot more commonplace than the fringe wants to believe.

Archaeoastronomy was a necessity for survival for many people. Especially, people who were dependent on seasonal changes for their prosperity. At its most basic core, archaeoastronomy created calendars and seasonal planners for the peoples that used them. Certain alignments and astrological occurrences were essential to knowing when to harvest, winnow, and gather in order to have successful food supplies and social interactions. It is completely understandable that nearly every culture shares markers for major seasonal events like the equinoxes and solstices as well as regular monthly occurrences like full and new moons. These are easily observable and simply common sense to keep track of. To find buildings and megaliths that aligning or track these events is not surprising, though still important.

Again, this is not dismissing the use of archaeoastronomy among ancient peoples. It was and is an important part of their cultures. It is no coincidence that buildings and structures dedicated to tracking important astronomical events are almost always sacred or important municipal places in ancient societies. It should not be a surprise that cultures that were so closely tied to nature and the elements would likewise make such places important to them. We as archaeologists recognize this and take this into account when such places are uncovered or shared with us. This is not the case with the fringe.

Not only do pseudo-researches like Wolter assign meaning where there is none, due to their misunderstanding or misuse of the idea of archaeoastronomy, they create connections that make no sense within archaeology. They use the idea of archaeoastronomy as evidence for their conclusions, and often times as the only form of evidence. Calling things like early American cider presses, “sacrificial tables,” and then linking them to Stonehenge via arbitrary lines on a map is not archaeoastronomy. It’s fanciful thinking, especially in the absence of any other form of evidence.

Using the concept of archaeoastronomy as the fringe often does, one could go out into any field and find any large stone and then claim that said stone is linked to some type of astronomical alignment. This is all that is required in the cult science of the fringe to prove authenticity. Fortunately in actual archaeology, much stronger requirements for evidence exist. There must be other things associated with said stone, evidence of human use, artifacts, evidence of habitation or long periods of camping, evidence of other structural alignments, ethnographic evidence among the surviving peoples associated with said rock, ethnoastronomy (the study of contemporary native astronomies), surviving myths or oral histories of said rock. In archaeology one can’t simply say a rock is a marker without proving it.

Though archaeoastronomy is one of the most misused and misunderstood concepts in archaeology, it need not be. It is not evidence of supper advanced uber-races or aliens, it not evidence of diffusionism, it’s not a rare occurrence among the ancients. It’s also not evidence of a conspiracy of roving Europeans in the New World or of Atlantans disseminating knowledge. It is not the random connection of lines on maps stretching continents and oceans. It is not the abused am misused idea that the fringe wish it to be.

It is a concept encompassing not only cultural practices of ancient peoples but also the study of said peoples. It includes the study of ancient mythologies, oral histories of surviving peoples, cultural traditions, artifacts, structures, and megaliths. It recognizes the work of ancient peoples and understands their connection to their land and nature.

Let us understand archaeoastronomy for what it is, and not be fooled when used otherwise.


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Want more on this topic? Go to: Concepts and Themes
Comment below or send an email to ArchyFantasies@gmail.com


 

Resources:

 

Johnston, Grahame
2012    Archaeology And The Study Of Archaeoastronomy. http://www.archaeologyexpert.co.uk/archaeastronomy.html. 12 Dec 2012. Accessed 2/8/2016

Ruggles, Clive
2007    Course AR3015: An Introduction to Archaeoastronomy. http://www.le.ac.uk/has/cr/oldrug/aa/a3015/lec1.html . Accessed 2/8/2016

Center for Archaeoastronomy. (CfA).

N.d    http://terpconnect.umd.edu/~tlaloc/archastro/archaslinks.html
Accessed 2/8/2016
N.d    http://terpconnect.umd.edu/~tlaloc/archastro/cfaar_as.html
Accessed 2/8/2016
N.d    http://terpconnect.umd.edu/~tlaloc/archastro/
Accessed 2/8/2016

Categories: Archaeology, Concepts and Themes | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

 

References:

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

 

Resources:

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

Jones, William

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

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

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

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

The Newberry Tablet

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

The Newberry Tablet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Examle of Cypro-Minoan via "Tablet cypro-minoan 2 Louvre AM2336" by Unknown. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tablet_cypro-minoan_2_Louvre_AM2336.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Tablet_cypro-minoan_2_Louvre_AM2336.jpg

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

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

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

Example of Hittite_Cuneiform via "Hittite Cuneiform Tablet- Cultic Festival Script" by Mr. Granger - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Zero, Public Domain Dedication via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hittite_Cuneiform_Tablet-_Cultic_Festival_Script.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Hittite_Cuneiform_Tablet-_Cultic_Festival_Script.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screen shot of the Newberry Tablet

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

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

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

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

So what do we have left with the Newberry Tablet?

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

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

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

Resources:

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

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

Pohlen, Jerome

2014    Oddball Michigan: A Guide to 450 Really Strange Places. Pgs 39-40. Chicago Review Press, Chicago, IL.  https://books.google.com/books?id=_qo2AwAAQBAJ&pg=PA321&lpg=PA321&dq=Fort+de+Buade+Tablet&source=bl&ots=ZJ8y_71P0t&sig=FkFTyFYK6kf8cNDyOAFywidg4MA&hl=en&sa=X&ei=VmGHVMGCMJCyyAS0gYLICw&ved=0CFsQ6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=Fort%20de%20Buade%20Tablet&f=false. Retrieved 12/09/2014

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

 

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

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

Time for Episode Two! Again, there is just too much to cover here, so if you’re just looking for a brief rundown feel free to skip to the In Summary section at the bottom, but don’t be surprised if you ask me a question later I tell you to read the whole post. That said, let’s get to this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The translation that Mike has given Wolter reads as follows:

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

Rough Hurech here

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

Rough Hurech’s body – fame and glory

Dust beyond Eden – Eden’s temple”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Either way the text message is this:

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

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

There could also be a connection there…
-Mike”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Summary:

The evidence listed randomly throughout the show is this:

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

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

Notes of Interest:

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

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

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

Categories: America Unearthed, History Channel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

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

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

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

Let’s start with Scott Wolter .

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

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

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

So, on to the actual show.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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