Just because my readers are so special, I have a special bonus post today.
And the hits just keep on coming. In chapter 3 of “Frank Joseph’s” anthology of Ancient American articles, Lost Worlds of Ancient America, Scott Wolter of American Petrographic Services, a company specializing in analyzing construction materials for failure assessment, declares the Bat Creek Stone—a century-old hoax—to be genuine for reasons that don’t make much sense to me. The first three are, in order:
The Bat Creek Stone was discovered in 1889, supposedly in a Native American burial mound. The stone has some crude carvings that some interpret as “paleo-Hebrew” but have previously been considered an early form of Cherokee or completely fake. The inscription on the stone is nearly identical to a paleo-Hebrew text appearing in a line drawing in an 1870 Masonic reference book, as reported in American Antiquity (2004). The key to mystery is that the 1870 drawing was an artist’s impression of paleo-Hebrew, not an actual text. Hebrew scholars found the Bat Creek inscription to be inconsistent with paleo-Hebrew or any historical version of the language. Even alternative scholars can't agree on how to translate the text. Wolter gives "For Judah" as the translation [update: following Cyrus Gordon], but the drawing it appears to be copied from means "Holy to the Lord" (Exodus 39:30).
Now we move on the “science.” Oh, wait, there isn’t any so far. The author presents a list of 11 numbered points, none of which speaks to the genuineness of the artifact, only to its history after its discovery in 1889.
Finally… the science. Wolter looked at the stone under a microscope in 2010 and concluded that because the edges of the carved letters were rounded and did not contain any quartz silt, they were therefore weathered and “had to have been made prior to the excavation of the mound by John Emmert.” I’m not sure I follow why it is that the utter lack of orange-colored silt in the carved characters is proof that the stone had been buried in a red clay mound for hundreds of years. The argument seems to be that a fresh carving would have broken into the stone’s orange silt interior and left debris, but that greatly underestimates the ability of a hoaxer to do such simple things as carve carefully and wash and polish the stone prior to burying it.
Wolter contradicts his own assessment by asserting that the stone had been polished prior to being deposited in the mound. The more parsimonious explanation is that the man who faked the stone gave it a good polish to make it look old prior to depositing it. This is partially confirmed by Wolter’s own analysis that only the side with the inscription is polished.
Well, we are 0-3 so far in "compelling evidence" of ancient visitors to America. I'll grant that this chapter was a bit more rigorous than others, but it still hasn't made a very compelling case. A rewrite to make the analysis a bit clearer might have helped, and I should probably also mention that New Page Books' poor proofreading and page design doesn't help either. In just this chapter we have missing italicization, dropped letters (the year 2010 is misprinted as 10s, for example), and other typographical errors. An earlier chapter had a page (p. 29) with a large blank section due to what appears to be a computer program's automated page layout issues. These issues are distracting and don't help with the book's claim to professionalism.
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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