Today I’d like to follow up on two earlier posts. First, I’d like to discuss a bit more about the Westford Knight and the question of who carved the Massachusetts oddity and when. You will remember that in discussing the question of whether the carving of the sword handle was a modern one, I noted that Peabody Museum specialist David Schafer had indicated that he knew of documents in the Westford Historical Society that showed that the handle had been carved by some boys in the late 1800s. At the time I wasn’t able to confirm this, and I wondered if this were different than the claim reported in David Goudsward’s book on the Westford Knight that a woman had said her brother had carved a “peace pipe” on the rock ledge in the late 1800s.
Schafer did not respond to my requests to contact him, but a correspondent who is familiar with the Westford Historical Society holdings knew the source in question. It’s not quite as solid as one would hope, but for better or worse here it is: It was an article written by local journalist Gordon Seavey for one of the area newspapers and called “Light History: Folklore, Fact and Fiction from Chris Columbus to Crazy Amos.” It was published on October 5, 1989. I have not read the article, since I am not in Massachusetts, but my correspondent has. He says that in the article, Seavey recounts having been told in his youth by Addie Fisher Buckshorn that her brothers made the Westford carving in the late 1800s. This story seems quite similar to the claim Frank Glynn reported in 1954 that Lila Fisher said her brother Edward had carved the peace pipe seven decades earlier. Addie Fisher Buckshorn was Lila Fisher’s older sister. Over the haze of a century, there is too much time for memories to become clouded to make much of this, but for what it’s worth there was a source who, through secondhand memory, said two boys (the Fisher brothers) made the recognizable elements of the Knight in the late 1800s.
Archaeologist William Fowler, for what it’s worth, though that the sword hilt was meant to be a tomahawk, which admittedly it does resemble. But he thought it dated back to the French and Indian War. This seems difficult to imagine since the written records make no mention of either sword hilt or tomahawk down to 1883. However the locals of Westford tried to “improve” their “Old Indian” image, it seems they must have done so between 1883 and 1946, the first time the sword hilt was documented.
The second thing I’d like to follow up on is my mention yesterday of Arabic texts claiming that the stones of the pyramids were levitated into position by magic spell. Technically, the text doesn’t say anything about being levitated, only that the stones moved after being struck while in contact with a paper containing magic writing. They could have slid, self-propelled, jumped, or anything else; the text is silent on the details. However, what I didn’t say yesterday is that we have some evidence that the story was invented sometime between 900 and 1200 CE.
The levitation passage occurs in the middle of the Surid pyramid legend. The oldest version, that of Ibn ’Abd Al-Hakam, written before 871 CE, lacks this detail, while the version of the Akhbar al-zaman, from perhaps as early as the mid-900s to as late as 1200, includes it. Compare how the basic account has grown enormously by inserting new details in between the parts of the older account:
Throughout the two accounts, Al-Hakam agrees with the Akhbar al-zaman almost point for point (and usually word-for-word), and where they differ, the latter work consistently adds details rather than subtracts them, implying that it is an expansion from a more concise and less detailed original.
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.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter, The Skeptical Xenoarchaeologist, for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities, and subscribe to Culture & Curiosities, my Substack newsletter.
Terms & Conditions
Please read all applicable terms and conditions before posting a comment on this blog. Posting a comment constitutes your agreement to abide by the terms and conditions linked herein.