Posts Tagged With: History Channel

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

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

Oak island Google Earth 2016

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

 

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

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

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

The Origins of Oak Island as We Know Them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is Just the Beginning for the Oak Island Saga.

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

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

Forty Feet Below.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Want more on this topic? Go to: The Oak Island Saga.
Comment below or send an email to ArchyFantasies@gmail.com

Resources :

Forks, J.P.

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

Crystalinks

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

McCully, J.B.

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

O’Connor, D’Arcy

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

Oak Island Treasure

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

Nickell, Joe

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

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

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

In Search of Sanity, er, I mean Aliens…

I’ve gone on about TV a lot on this blog, but I never really broke any one show down before. This is probably an issue since I do debunk pseudoscience and pseudoarchaeology and currently there are far to many shows on the air that fall deep into these categories. Ancient Aliens is in it’s 7th season, Diggers has its second season coming up (though I’ve been told it’s cleaning up its act a bit, no more illegal digging for them! I am a bit skeptical though), America Unearthed wrapped up it’s second season this spring and there is the newcomer to the scene, In Search of Aliens. With this rich smorgasbord of…entertainment… how could I resist?

Honestly, I don’t usually watch a lot of TV. I don’t really have the time, and when I do have the time I don’t like to waste it hurting myself. But then something hit me the other day when a coworker was asking me about something Scott Wolter said on America Unearthed. I realized these shows are what the average person is watching and where they’re getting their information. I need to know what they’re talking about so I know how to counter it. Which brings me to this new venture.

I’m going to watch these shows for you. I’m going to watch them and then fix them. I’m going to debunk TV, for you…

I figured I’d start with In Search of Aliens and the first season of America Unearthed. If I don’t have a misinformation induced stroke, I might get caught up before the next season of these shows start next year.

So that’s the plan anyway, stay tuned.

Want more on this topic? Go to Reviews: In Search of Aliens or Reviews: America Unearthed.

Categories: America Unearthed, In Search of Aliens | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Between the Nazca Lines: Evidence vs. “I Wanna Believe”

Well, we now know what a Cargo Cult is, and we are now up to date on the recent research into the Nasca Lines. What I haven’t brought you completely up to date on is the actual Ancient Alien Theory explanation of the Nazca lines. The History Channel sums it up pretty succinctly:

Great Images being deliberately misinterpreted by the History Channel.

“The Nazca Lines
 

Etched into a high plateau in Peru’s Nazca Desert, a series of ancient designs stretching more than 50 miles has baffled archaeologists for decades. Along with simple lines and geometric shapes, they include drawings of animals, birds and humans, some measuring more than 600 feet across. Because of their colossal size, the figures can only be appreciated from way up in the air—and there is no evidence that the Nazca people, who inhabited the area between 300 B.C. and 800 A.D., invented flying machines. According to ancient alien theorists, the figures were used to guide spaceships as they came in for a landing, and the lines served as runways.”[History 2011]

Never mind the screamingly obvious problems with the description, it does do a good job of summing up what most people think of the Nazca lines, inaccuracies and all.

(Trapezoid Line)

This idea that the lines were used as landing strips seems to come from the presence of the long trapezoidal geoglyphs and the supposed evidence of a leveled mountain top. Von Daniken mentions this in his books, but I haven’t found reference to it, or concern about it, in any of the research. Still, these ideas persist.So, the theory goes that the lines were laid either by man or alien in order to direct and provide a location for space ship landings. Tying this into the Cargo Cult connection; after the Aliens stopped coming to earth with their cargo, we humans began to build a religion around them, attempting to bring our alien saviors back to earth with misinterpreted ritual.

Websites abound on the Internet and even the History Channel, which has produced two seasons of a show called Ancient Aliens, tout belief in and even evidence of aliens. You can find lots of people who are ready to explain the Ancient Alien Theory and tell you all about the evidence supporting it. Not too surprising the Nazca lines fall into this category of evidence.

Even after the modern research mentioned in my last post, these sites still claim that the lines cannot be explained, that scientist still search for an explanation to the cause of the lines, even though this is not true. The reality is that we do have both really good explanations and building methods that require little more than a stick and some string.

(The actual Condor geoglyph)

Well known Skeptic, Joe Nickell, was able to reconstruct the geoglyphs in a remarkably short time using basic, simply reproduced, and most certainly available instruments for the time. Nickell’s, his two cousins, a friend, his 11-year old nephew, and father reproduced the 440 foot long Condor in just over a day and a half (baring time off due to rain) [Nickell1983]. They used merely a knotted rope, stakes, and a T-square they constructed from two pieces of wood. I really recommend the article; it’s a pretty good example of how the Nazca and their ancestors could have produced the geoglyphs without alien help.

(This is the Condor re-produced by Nickell et al. [Nickell1983])

So, now we know how the glyphs were probably made, we have a pretty solid theory onwhy the glyphs were made, we even know a fair bit about the culture of the Nazca (though I haven’t touched on that here). We’ve got the How, the Why, the When, and even the Where. At every point we know humans did this, and not once is an outside force required to accomplish any of it.

Nickell also makes a point about the whole “They can ONLY be seen from the SKY” statement:

“It is frequently asserted that the Nazca drawings are recognizable only from the air. That is not quite true, certainly not of the smaller figures, such as the effigy of a fish, which is only 80 feet long (Reiche 1976). Neither is it true of some drawings — attributed to the Nazcas’ predecessors — that are found on hill slopes (McIntyre 1975; Isbell 1978, 1980). Here, seemingly, is a clue to how the Nazcas could have been confident of the accuracy of their method of enlargement. Once a technique was found to be successful for producing large drawings on slopes, where they could actually be viewed from the ground, the same technique could be expected to consistently yield good results — wherever figures were drawn and whatever their size.” [Nickell1983]

This point was also made by The Nazca-Palpa Project in 2007 [Isla 2007], where they not only dated the geoglyphs and gave sequence order to the deposition, they remarked that the smaller glyphs could be seen from a short distance, like from a slope [Isla 2007].

I would hope at this point that I’ve provided enough evidence to remove aliens from the picture. I can show that the geoglyphs were most probably a cultural tool used to create a sense of community and possibly served ritual purposes dating from about 400 BC till sometime after 600 AD [Isla 2007]. I have shown that they could have been created using nothing more than a sketch, knotted rope, and T-square [Nickell1983], all of which was available in that time period. There is also the well known C-14 dates of the pottery sherds and burials associated with the lines, which help us put the lines into context [Isla 2007, Nickell1983]. There is no need to add aliens to the mix, they are unnecessary. They create a complication that is not needed since everything has a simple, human explanation.

As I say in all my presentations, if you are a True Believer, there isn’t a damn thing I can provide to change your mind. All the evidence in the world will be wasted on you, but if you came to this looking to have a few questions answered, I can help you there.

References:

The History Channel
2011 Evidence of Ancient Aliens? The History Channel website.http://www.history.com/shows/ancient-aliens/articles/evidence-of-ancient-aliens.Accessed Jan 25, 2011.

Nickell, Joe
1983  The Nazca Drawings Revisited: Creation of a Full-Sized Condor. Skeptical Inquirer MagazineVolume 7.3, Spring 1983.http://www.csicop.org/si/show/nazca_drawings_revisited/Accessed Jan 25, 2011.

Isla, Johny
2007 Nazca-Palpa Project: Photogrammetric Reconstruction of the Geoglyphs of Nazca and Palpa. January 2007 http://www.photogrammetry.ethz.ch/research/peru/index.html Accessed Jan 09, 2011.

Categories: Ancient Astronauts, Between the Nazca Lines, Cult Science, History Channel, Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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