Today I thought I would share a gross and morbid thing I discovered in researching the Grave Creek Stone for my book on the history of the lost white race of Mound Builders. The Grave Creek Stone has a weird and checkered history. It was allegedly uncovered in an Adena mound on the Ohio River in 1839, but it was really a hoax created, in all probability, by a Dr. James W. Clemens, a local physician who had hoped to get rich quick by selling shares in the dig on the promise of finding the Mound Builders’ treasure. When no treasure emerged, he used an old Spanish book and scratched copies of Celtic-Iberian runes into a small stone and arranged for it to be found. Clemens wrote to the greatest scientific racist of his day, Samuel Morton, in the hopes that Morton would popularize the stone as the work of a lost white race. Morton, however, ignored Clemens, to the latter’s deep chagrin
Clemens turned next to Henry Schoolcraft, a great ethnologist but a romantic with a tendency to fall for hoaxes that supported the notion of a lost white race. This one was tailor-made for him, and after seeing a drawing of the stone, he became entranced. He solicited opinions from the great scientists of his day, none of whom agreed on what language the stone was written in. But Schoolcraft decided to go visit the stone in person, and that’s where the weird part comes in. The mound where it was supposedly found had become a museum. The owner, Albert Tomlinsin, had dug a cavern into the mound and made it into an underground rotunda where he displayed the bodies and the grave goods of the Adena that he had unearthed.
Here is Schoolcraft’s description of the museum from his report in the Transactions of the American Ethnological Society. Try to imagine the morbid horror of it all.
I visited the rotunda in the mound and took accurate impressions of the inscription During the time spent at this place, visits were made to all such objects in the neighborhood connected with its antiquities as I could hear of; and drawings taken of the various objects accumulated in the rotunda-museum. […] I found this curious relic lying unprotected among broken implements of stone, pieces of antique pottery, and other like articles. These were arranged for exhibition in the rotunda constructed under the centre of the mound, and at the termination of the horizontal gallery mentioned. This rotunda is twenty-eight feet in diameter, bricked around to the height of nine feet, and ceiled over with timbers and plastering. From its centre rises a circular hollow column of brick, which occupies the space of the shaft. Around the base of this column there is a circular shelf provided with wire cases, in which the bones, bead ornaments, and other objects of interest, found in the vaults, are arranged. The place was dark, or but dimly lighted with a few tallow candles, which cast round a sepulchral glare on the wired skeleton and other bones spread around. Silence added its impressive influence to the panoramic display of so profound and humid a recess. It was warm August weather, yet the damp and acrid character of the atmosphere in this area, were such, as sensibly to affect the respiratory organs. The candles used to render objects visible, burned heavily, in an atmosphere so evidently loaded with foreign particles. But the most striking display hung from the ceiling. On casting the eye upward, there was seen depending from the plastered ceiling a white exuded mass. This exuvia was very white, and extended over a large part of the wall. It appeared to be the result of rain water slowly percolating from the surface and summit of the mound through earth, which, it may be supposed, was surcharged with residuary animal matter. Globules of water, rendered brilliant by the rays of candle-light, studded this unequally depending mass with splendent points, which gave the scene a striking yet sepulchral appearance. This effect was further heightened by the large skeleton arranged against the walls, and by the other disentombed objects. Drops of this white mass fell frequently to the floor, during my several visits. On examination it had the appearance of phosphate of lime, yet in such a state of minute chemical solution, that when a moderate ball of it was dried, it left but a thin flocculent trace on the paper enclosing it. This exhibition of articles in the tumulus, is intended to gratify travellers, and hasty visitors, but it furnished an atmosphere deficient both in light and temperature, and by no means adequate to examine the various objects with care, far less to decide upon the character of the inscription.
A dark, dank hole filled with artifacts heaped haphazardly and skeletons nailed to the walls. Fat from dead bodies dripping through the leaking ceiling. It’s the kind of detail that reminds you that people in the past were kind of gross, to say nothing of disrespectful to the bodies they desecrated.
Tomlinson’s museum operated until 1844. At the point, it shut down and the Grave Creek Stone was sold off to the antiquarian Wills DeHass, who led the charge to have the hoax accepted as a genuine artifact of ancient European presence in America, a point on which he succeeded in 1858 when Ephraim Squier, the stone’s greatest scholarly opponent, conceded its authenticity when he was unable to prove that it was, as he rightly suspected, a hoax. It would be decades before scholarly opinion recognized Squier’s first instinct was correct.
5/3/2018 08:39:26 am
That Schoolcraft seemed to be part of gang of others that promoted similar things in that era. Good call. Its starting to come undone even more lately.
Graham Drugged out of my mind HandOnCock
5/4/2018 07:41:09 am
Hi I am Graham and I just reincarnated from the last Ice Age!
5/3/2018 08:50:50 am
Schoolcraft gained his fame through his appropriation of the work of his half-Ojibwa wife, Jane Johnston. She never got the credit. He eventually divorced her because she developed an alcohol/drug problem. His next wife was overtly racist, and there was conflict between Jane's children and wife #2.
5/3/2018 10:37:40 am
Never heard of it. Chalk one up for the good guys. Hopefully in 100+ years nobody will have heard of another particular hoax currently making the rounds.
5/3/2018 11:03:38 am
Hi Jason -
5/3/2018 12:11:22 pm
Ensayo sobre los alphabetos de las letras desconocidas (“An Essay on the Alphabets and Unknown Letters”) by Luis José Velázquez de Velasco, marqués de Valdeflores (1752).
5/3/2018 09:05:59 pm
Muchas Gracias. I always wondered if there was any publication that anyone could have gotten that character set from.
5/3/2018 11:34:30 am
". . . people in the past were kind of gross, to say nothing of disrespectful to the bodies they desecrated."
5/3/2018 12:09:52 pm
The museum had bodies tacked to the wall and fat from dead bodies dripping from the ceiling. That is straight out of a horror movie. Just because I write about horror doesn't mean I want to experience it in real life! Yes, they were more in tune back then with the natural process of decay, but I think there is a line between appreciating natural processes, understanding them, and visiting a dank hole in the ground full of putrescence, rot, and corpses and calling it a fun family trip!
5/3/2018 01:02:39 pm
I enjoyed the writing in the passage you quoted but see no basis for "fat from dead bodies dripping through the leaking ceiling".
5/3/2018 02:04:30 pm
Well, it certainly wouldn't be a fun family trip (although we pay for this sort of scare around Halloween at Field of Screams, etc.), and I sounds a bit bizarre, but they didn't have modern lighting and climate control in the mid-19th century so humidity and flickering candle light is what you got. To me a "wired skeleton and other bones spread around" and a "large skeleton arranged against the walls" doesn't suggest putrescence and a "body tacked to the wall." When I read the (admittedly evocative - almost Lovecraftian) quote I envisioned bones, etc., displayed on shelves or the ground. Methinks you at reading a bit too much classic horror movie set into the actual description.
5/3/2018 04:00:10 pm
He said that a skeleton strung together with wire was tacked up on the wall, though perhaps that wasn't in the paragraph I quoted. I don't mean that the body itself was putrescent. Schoolcraft said that the ceiling had white goo dripping from the ceiling and he thought it the fat from animal (or even human?) material still buried in the mound above. He was probably wrong, but it's still gross to have weird goo dripping from the ceiling.
5/3/2018 07:34:31 pm
Actually you said he said it "had the appearance of phosphate of lime".
5/5/2018 09:24:43 pm
"It appeared to be the result of rain water slowly percolating from the surface and summit of the mound through earth, which, it may be supposed, was surcharged with residuary animal matter."
5/3/2018 12:50:47 pm
Something like this was done later at Wickcliffe Mound in Kentucky. The owners turned it into a tourist site full of exposed burials and grave goods. However, the owners decided to re-arrange skeletons and goods to make the site more appealing. I didn't see the site until well after it had come under the control of professionals who attempted some damage control. So, don't know just how creative they had gotten in arranging bodies.
5/3/2018 09:09:24 pm
Well, Doc, we have the original excavation reports, such as they were. From those reports of the parts dug up, we know that they got pretty creative.
5/3/2018 09:34:51 pm
Uh, yes, we knew that the people running the site had gotten creative as I thought I had clearly stated. Thanks for the additional input on that issue, though.
I Don't Touch Kids
5/4/2018 01:07:17 am
MayB time 4 U guys to get a room.
5/4/2018 07:34:00 am
Well, Doc, Jason Jarrell and Sarah Farmer went through everything available, printed or written, paper, microfilm, or original, for their book for their book "Ages of the Giants". If you're polite to him, Jason will share with you materials on Grave Creek that were not published in it.
5/4/2018 08:38:25 am
Well, unless I am mistaken Jarrell and Farmer are self-described "avocational archaeologists." No problem with that, I rubbed elbows with such folks at various conferences and found many of them to be quite rational and knowledgeable. Well, most of them except for the one old gentleman whose presentation was based on the premise that the ancient Mayans were "negroes" because of the shape of noses on some statues. When the amateurs are wrong they tend to be REALLY wrong.
5/4/2018 11:17:13 am
All you have to go with is the data and those who are intimately familiar with it. For the Adena, it helps to speak with those who are either working Adena burials or are working with their physical remains. Jason and Sarah sought them out.
5/4/2018 11:48:40 am
Well, if any of those folks working on Adena burials or who are intimately familiar with data on this topic manage to get something relevant published in an outlet like the American Journal of Physical Anthropology or American Antiquity you be sure and let me know, ok.
5/4/2018 04:44:41 pm
Here ya go, Doc:
5/4/2018 07:33:50 pm
Thanks for the article. I took a quick look. Unless I misread things, the authors discussed a small sample size of skeletal remains with an estimated average height of about 5'9" for men and much shorter for women.
5/4/2018 07:44:19 pm
Show some respect! A fake Injun has told you something therefore the discussion is over.
5/5/2018 06:36:12 am
Hi Doc - Often times the extremes get hidden in averages.
5/5/2018 01:25:38 pm
People constantly pestering you with basketball scholarships?
5/5/2018 01:28:09 pm
Well, the author of the article was working with a small sample and I thought listed the estimated height range of all in the sample. I didn't see any significant extremes in height that were hidden in the average. My take on it is that you had a bunch of men in the roughly 5'6" to 5'11" (estimated) range that produces an average of 5'9"ish. Above average to tall for the time but not approaching giants, and not even noteworthy in the present.
5/5/2018 04:48:54 pm
Hi Doc - The absurd nonsense constantly generated by the fringe makes it hard for those archaeologists who actually have excavated "Adena" burials and those working through their genetics. It is hilarious to watch the insanity being generated.
5/5/2018 06:26:35 pm
I certainly agree that there is a lot of insanity generated on this topic, and that's probably not a minority opinion among my fellow professionals.
5/5/2018 08:07:10 pm
And to avoid getting drawn into another unavailing debate with those at the Kiddie Table, I will stipulate that my use of "intellectual antidote" is bit of flippancy. So, please, lets not take a discussion that is now winding down into extra innings because of feigned outrage over the perceived abuse of medical terminology.
5/6/2018 12:00:31 pm
Hi Doc -
5/6/2018 12:38:05 pm
I'm sorry but I didn't present myself as an expert on Adena culture. I simply asked for citations for published peer reviewed research that would support the existence of giants (as discussed by fringe theorists). You provided one citation for an article that used a very small sample to demonstrate that the men in that sample were above average to tall for the time. I'm not sure how that makes me foolish.
5/6/2018 01:57:13 pm
Have to side with Captain Drinky-poo on this one Chief. Your 5/6 (5'6" get it?) mention of B3cker is at this time the only one on the page. Bringing someone from out of left field with no first name and only your word that he is heapum published, well that's just Wolterish.
5/8/2018 09:30:50 am
"I am 100% confident that I could repeat my perspectives in any group of professional archaeologist without being deemed foolish."
5/9/2018 06:04:42 pm
Cat videos are always a hit! Thanks!
5/3/2018 02:41:58 pm
Negative Nancy! You didn't even mention the lack of a gift shop, certainly a plus for the place.
5/3/2018 02:57:57 pm
It was 12:50, Captain Drinky-poo was likely well into his cups.
5/3/2018 03:42:31 pm
Goober, aka Americanegro, an old gay white man, continues his insults.
Any Random Nazi
5/3/2018 04:27:18 pm
Your hatred of homos continues to complete me. Let's hate together, shall we?
5/3/2018 08:58:47 pm
Goober, aka Nazi and Americanegro, angry again. Goober. Judy Judy Judy goober
5/4/2018 01:48:23 am
In case it's unclear, when I say "Judy, Judy, Judy" I mean "JEW."
5/5/2018 04:58:32 pm
5/5/2018 06:59:51 pm
Why do you keep hitting yourself?
5/4/2018 07:47:06 am
I reincarnated from the last blog page!
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I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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