One of the traits of alternative history that we’ve seen time and again is the amplification effect. A fact, however carefully stated, inevitably grows into some monstrous chimera as it is repeated and distorted from one author to the next in a game of Chinese whispers (a.k.a. “telephone”) until it attains a sort of mythological status among believers. It’s how, for example, Ignatius Donnelly’s modest Bronze Age-level Atlantis morphed into the high-tech metropolis of modern myth, or the way the Zeno Narrative grew into the legend of Henry Sinclair and the Holy Bloodline.
That’s why I was flabbergasted to read this bizarre comment left on my blog yesterday, in response to Scott Wolter’s admission that his honorary master’s degree was a cup of coffee:
Scott, Just a few words of encouragement to keep up the work. I live outside Louisville, Ky and have always been fascinated with our own local legend of Welsh Prince Madoc, Sadly I recently ran across a statement that the state of Indiana has declared that any pre-columbian discoveries were not to be presented as such, Such a prohibition is ludicrous in the extreme, and sounds like the last shriek on the retreat against people like yourself who are attempting to uncover the truth, Stay the course,
That would be a truly astounding event if a state government passed legislation restricting how its residents could present historical evidence. Of course, like so many alternative history claims, this one is another game of telephone.
The most prominent online source is from 2009, when David Pratt wrote an article advocating trans-Atlantic diffusionism. He showed some pictures of Roman coins found in Indiana, which archaeologists believe are coins lost from Victorian-era collections—something that my own mishap nearly losing my own Roman coins to a careless clean-up renders quite plausible. Anyway, Pratt writes the following, which is almost certainly the warrant for my blog poster’s claim: “The coins were removed from public display in the Ohio Museum, because the museum belongs to the state of Indiana, whose archaeological policy is that there is no documented evidence of pre-Columbian contacts.”
This is not exactly the same thing, and a conclusion from facts isn’t really a “policy.”
Tracing back Pratt’s source from his footnote, we find that he derived the information from J. Huston McCulloch’s 2001 article on the coins, “A Few Coin Finds.” Here’s where it gets fun.
In the early version of McCulloch’s article cited by Pratt, McCulloch described secondhand information from Troy McCormick, the former director of a different museum, the Falls of the Ohio Museum, where the coins had been on display:
For several years, the Falls of the Ohio Museum had an exhibit about the find that displayed several casts of both sides of the two originals, so as to reflect the approximate number of coins originally in the hoard. The two original coins, depicted above, are in storage and were not on public display. McCormick has informed me that the exhibit has recently been removed from public display, because the Museum belongs to the state of Indiana, and the exhibit conflicted with the state’s archaeological policy that there is no documented evidence of pre-Columbian contacts.
From this article, Jeffrey Scott Holland repeated the claim in 2008’s Weird Kentucky, amplifying it this way: “Apparently, Indiana has a specific archaeological policy forbidding the suggestion that pre-Columbian contact with other cultures occurred…” Notice how McCulloch’s insinuation became Holland’s outright assertion, without facts to back it up. In 2011, Rick Osmon, using the same source material, in The Graves of the Golden Bear, simply plagiarized McCulloch, down to repeating the paragraph I quoted above verbatim as though Osmon had himself spoken with McCormick instead of McCulloch!
But take a look at the current version of McCulloch’s article, updated in February 2012, which presents a revised set of facts:
For several years, the Falls of the Ohio Museum had an exhibit about the find that displayed several casts of both sides of the two originals, so as to reflect the approximate number of coins originally in the hoard. The two original coins, depicted above, are in storage and were not on public display. I have recently (2/12) been informed that the replicas are still on display, despite an earlier report to the contrary, in the Interpretive Center as part of the Myths and Legends exhibit, and will remain there at least into 2014.
Well. It seems that McCulloch never checked with the museum before writing his first claim, based on secondhand information, and from that faulty fact other authors borrowed and amplified the idea that Indiana somehow officially declared pre-Columbian contact verboten.
I assume from the link McCulloch provided that the museum in question is at the Falls of the Ohio State Park, run by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. There is no evidence of any policy forbidding discussion of pre-Columbian contact, only the common sense fact that good science indicates no such contact took place in Indiana. I have an inquiry in to the park, and if I hear back I’ll update this with the information.
This is interesting to me, as it strikes close to home...and also away from home.
7/16/2013 10:58:26 am
The State of Maine considered the runestones to be forgeries, so they do not display them in a museum. This does not seem indicative of a conspiracy, this is what any respectable institution would do with artifacts they consider forgeries.
7/17/2013 08:48:17 am
Keith boldly says: "You are an amateur with a metal detector, an overactive imagination; and a deep set, proto-racist desire for white, Christian legitimacy in the New World."
7/17/2013 10:29:45 am
Oh Gunn, I am afraid you have seen right through me.
7/16/2013 01:24:41 pm
Gunn, Gunn, Gunn. Once again, you treat us to another repetition of the KRS and stone holes, then recount your own marvelous misadventures with "academia". Sadly, this is your evidence for saying that Wolter's assertions about suppressing the truth are fact!
7/16/2013 07:18:16 pm
I thought I'd been forgotten after all these years. If only I could have followed the seals along the ice shelf with those Solutreans Scott might have me on his show.
7/16/2013 09:01:56 pm
Sorry, PM. I think you might have a shot on Finding Bigfoot, though!
7/17/2013 08:36:19 am
Oh yeah, we can always trust the official story, especially when it is connected to government, a state government or a state museum. Everything is clear and golden...
7/17/2013 05:17:04 pm
Gunn, when the official story is changed, come back and talk to us.
7/16/2013 06:19:55 pm
Gunn,First of all,you can forget about the concept of "conspiracy" among scientists & academics.They are like the rest of humanity, they crave for attention,recognition,& ambition is more than often the strong element that motivates them.If a particular topic was subjected to "conspiracy"or cover up,another scientist would pick it up & exploit it for his personal gain. I cannot deny there is something which I call "bureaucrat museum mentality" among scientists & academics,Some of them are quite reluctant to accept new theories,question the Status Quo & make waves,but the beauty of science relies in the process of what makes science.If you have a crazy theory but are capable of demonstrating the veracity of your claim by using the scientific methodology,you win.But again this "bureaucrat museum mentality" reality cannot resist to personal ambition & personal motivation.Then you have to deal with the new generation gap.Nowadays,young scientists & academics are more open to the "real world".They use Twitter, Facebook & exploit the advantages of social networking,They are not afraid to speak their minds & respond to questions & criticisms.Public & open debate is now an essential element in academic life.The idea that academics & scientists are somehow lazy,is not a hype,but they only get lazy after obtaining honorifics or grants.Individuals (like Wolter & the rest of the mumbo jumbo peddlers) who constantly criticize scientists are utterly ignorant of scientific circles. It is far from being easy,a world of competition and challenge,a never ending environment of survival.You are unceasingly being tested by the establishment and by your peers.
7/17/2013 08:28:16 am
With all the attention on the Maine runestones, they should be on display, not hidden away. There is a good possibility the runestones are genuine, even though "officials" have determined otherwise.
7/17/2013 02:38:06 pm
Keith, how about just history for the enjoyment of history? Others here have tried to attach needless "whitey" nonsense to the debate.
7/17/2013 04:12:27 pm
Gunn, I'm not sure you understand how your language and tone are weakening your case. You keep saying "good possibility/may be genuine" regarding the runestones, yet you sneer at the "official" stance as to their authenticity. No one is suppressing alternative speculation; the fact you and so many others can and do support the legitimacy of the runestones attests to that. All anyone asks is for proof, not necessarily irrefutable proof, that the alternative theories have some basis.
7/18/2013 05:12:01 am
Only Me, I believe the public has a right to see the Maine runestones, not just professionals and alternative history folks with "credentials". We have read about phony credentials here. And why should we trust automatically the judgments of people with credentials? Look back and see what the RI official had to say about the recently recovered N. rock, before even studying it. He basically disqualified it already, without any research.
7/18/2013 08:48:28 am
So we've come full circle once again. Anyone with credentials is not to be trusted. That includes every profession from the accredited plumber to the family doctor.
7/18/2013 02:14:02 pm
Gunn.If you listen to these "alternative historian" jackasses, those amongst us who have academic-scientific credentials are not to be trusted, because we are supposed to be lackeys of "the system".Yet the same quacks and cranks never hesitate to use fake scientific credentials to boost their credibility.As far as I know, we are not the ones running in short pants,doing stupid things in front of a camera for a major production & distribution company.If you think we are acting particularly though on Wolter & the rest of these charlatans, take a big breath because this is kindergarten level, wait until Wolter submits his "researches" to academic peer review.
7/18/2013 03:31:16 pm
7/18/2013 06:38:34 pm
Gunn. Here is a deal for you.Because of privacy concerns I am not willing to give my personal email address over an internet forum & expose my credentials,but if you contact Jason off channel, he`ll tell you how to reach me.Get in touch with me,send me your artifact and I will have it tested & analyzed by experts at my faculty lab.
7/19/2013 04:18:38 am
Good luck, Tara. Thanks, but I can only suppose that the object is still in the custody of Al Lieffort, though I have asked that the Runestone Museum take custody of it--for one thing, so it can be examined. A simple metallurgy test would tell a lot.
7/19/2013 05:28:30 am
Medieval metallurgy is not my field of expertise (initially I have a Master`s in political science-history but I`m doing a Msc in ethno-anthroplogy now) but I know a couple of guys from the archeology department,I`ll ask them to take a look at your artifact.
7/20/2013 06:15:17 am
Thanks. Somebody somewhere may be able to identify it.
7/16/2013 08:15:38 am
Just to give you an idea of what the Office of the State Archeologist does here is a link to the last annual report.
7/17/2013 11:30:37 am
Gunn - There is a facebook group called Kensington Runestone International Supporters Club that likes to speculate about the subjects that interest you.
7/17/2013 02:30:22 pm
7/21/2013 11:04:28 am
Gunn- Keep up the good work and do not be distracted by others that just like to disagree. You may find at times you will have to go to the site to gather the facts that exist rather than watch it on the history channel or read it in books. The following examples may be of help. When I went to The Falls of the Ohio in January of 2013 the on site Archeologist was very helpful in showing and explaining the various theories on the coins as well as the metal head armor found at the site. She even stated the museum was improving the display this year. She is also working on a pre-Columbian fort in the area. Another example is the Kensington rune stone - When I studied the stone and made a 3D image of it to be used on the computer by students, I also took depth measurements of the mechanical wear line (ground line) which is .021 in. When comparing this wear with known dated tombstones in the same environment it is a fact the KRS is over 500 years old. It is also a fact that 500 years ago it set on the zero magnetic declination line which was the location the king of Portugal and Denmark told the land claimers where to place the marker. (West boundary of Vinland). When I studied the Newport Tower in R.I and made a 3D program, I found the local historical society was very helpful in showing the artifacts dug up in the 1948 Godfrey dig. All of my findings at the Newport Tower support the 1472 date when the Portuguese built the tower for a smoke house to process cod fish. When I found an egg shaped stone in museum in Bermuda which was the lodestone from Admirals Somers 1600 navigational tools was a replica of one in the New Hampshire museum. The curator of the Mystery stone of New Hampshire was delighted to have an explanation backed with facts. If you are serious in understanding the truth about these subjects I suggest you visit the (Migration and Diffusion) site on the web and read the three papers I have posted. I am not an author, just a retired engineer looking for the truth. (William Smith)
William, thanks for your information and encouragement...the latter being extremely rare here.
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