Anyway, I opened the book at random, and the first thing I saw was from page 797, “Letters in Marble Block, Philadelphia,” which is as good an example as any of how Cremo and Thompson selectively reported bits of “evidence” to create false impressions in favor of Hindu creationism.
While this drawing does not look terribly scientific, Cremo and Thompson present a false drawing of the rock imaginatively redrawn either for or from W. R. Corliss’s Ancient Man: A Handbook of Puzzling Artifacts (1978), which implies to me that Cremo and Thompson never read the original report, only Corliss’s summary of it. The Cremo and Thompson drawing is rougher and more detailed, made to look like an actual archaeological drawing, including the texture of the stone, but based on no actual original observation. Here is the Cremo and Thompson version:
A later sketch, from May 1830, gives a slightly different look, with irregular lines rather than perfect geometrical lines and the letters in a completely different order. There was no real agreement on the artifact’s actual shape.
Ironically enough, the American Journal of Science report is dated April 1, 1830 but was mistakenly delayed in its publication because the editor had lost the letter. Had this been the only reference to the stone, I would willingly ascribe it to an April Fool’s prank, but it also appeared in the Pennsylvania Inquirer and the Pennsylvania Register. It is also worth noting that the journal’s notice is not in the form of a scientific article but a letter to the editor in the “Miscellanies” section at the close of the issue. Only a few years earlier, the editor of the American Journal of Science, Benjamin Silliman, fired the famed botanist C. S. Rafinesque, who would later go on to fake evidence for the Lost Race of Mound Builders, after a smear campaign by Caleb Atwater, who advocated for the acceptance of Hindus as the builders of America's ancient mounds, because Rafinesque had accused Atwater of plagiarism. Objectivity was not high on their list of virtues.
Cremo and Thompson accurately report the contents of J. B. Browne’s letter to the editor, though they attribute the remarks to the Journal itself. But this is the extent of their investigation. A cursory examination of news reports from the spring of 1830 shows that “several of the most respectable gentlemen” whom Browne refers to were not of the opinion, shared by Browne, Corliss, Cremo, and Thompson that the imperfection in the marble was the work of human beings.
The Register of Pennsylvania for April 1830 (vol. 5) presents the opinions of these respectable gentlemen, including the lawyer and amateur scientist Peter A. Browne, Esq.—whose relationship to J. B. Browne I do not know—which differ significantly from the Cremo and Thompson assumptions.
Neither Joseph Thomas nor Benjamin Bartholomew, two of the “respectable gentlemen,” ventured an opinion on the indentation. They merely confirmed that it was present when the marble slab was cleaved open in November 1829 and had not been added later.
Peter Browne gave the following account:
Various conjectures have been made as to the characters; one gentleman insists that they are Hebrew, and stand for "Jehovah;" another says that they are the Roman "in" and correspond to "Jesus of Nazareth."— Both these persons of course believe that they have at some ancient period of time been put there by the hand of man; but by whom, or how they could afterwards have become buried in the solid rock, especially as it is primitive, they cannot explain. Others, among which number I confess myself, believe it to be a lasus naturae…
This is undoubtedly the right interpretation, but it was not the most popular in the 1830s. This was the period when the nation was transfixed by the idea that ancient Hebrews—the Lost Tribes of Israel—were the first settlers of America. As a result, nearly all the early interpretations of the find focused on whether they were Hebrew letters, thus proving the Lost Tribes theory. Several different Hebrew suggestions were made, including “Yahweh” and “Piety and Truth.” This would have been a tall order, since the square form Hebrew alphabet was scarcely two thousand years old—let alone eight million. This did not stop the Columbia Star and Christian Index from reporting in May 1830 that the find demonstrated “the truth of Scripture” through “real science,” though it did dutifully report that a real scientist—a Dr. Mitchell of New York—was fairly certain the impression was an accidental crystallization.
Cremo and Thompson also fail to report that by the time of the compilation of Sherman Day’s Historical Collections of the State of Pennsylvania in 1843, the “freak of nature” hypothesis was uncontroversial enough that Day was able to claim the rock was little more than a lasus naturae without fear of contradiction.
As an interesting side note, in 1878 residents of this same town were quite disappointed upon finding another buried carving—a sandstone bust of a man—because the image was obviously a Native American and not a Hebrew of the Lost Race.
To conclude, here is a picture from c. 1910 of some quarried marble blocks in Alaska. As you can see, they are not the smooth, unblemished marble familiar from polished and finished construction. It is quite easy to see how blocks like these can contain imperfections, crystallization, or areas where the metamorphic action did not evenly apply throughout the limestone during its transformation.