We seem to have entered a time when fantasy has completely replaced reality, and it is rather disconcerting. History itself is starting to bend to the will of the propagandists. It was genuinely surprising to hear White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders yesterday praising Robert E. Lee for his “accomplishments” and suggesting that “compromise” could have prevented the Civil War. How, precisely, does one compromise over the question of whether some people deserve to own others? Whether intentional or not, such comments suggest that in their heart of hearts Kelly and the Trump Administration consider the very humanity of African Americans to be negotiable, and don’t really think about slavery or legally enforced segregation as a moral evil as much as an inconvenience. This is still shocking because Robert E. Lee himself once said “that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil,” though he added that it was “necessary” for the “instruction” of the racially inferior.
Meanwhile, many of you will have already seen that over the weekend former television personality Scott F. Wolter posted a blog entry asking whether a curvilinear carving on the so-called Overtone Stone is the signature of Juan Ponce de Leon during a heretofore undocumented excursion to Nova Scotia.
The evidence Wolter offers for consideration is laughably thin, even by his standards. The rock is covered with a number of inscriptions, ranging from a Christian cross to a leaf to Arabic numerals. One figure includes two curved figures formed from a single line. Wolter suggests an inconceivably stupid explanation for it:
While there is no known record of the famous explorer ever sailing as far north as Nova Scotia, but that doesn't mean he could not have. The symbol circled in the image of Juan Ponce de Leon's signature below is the reason I bring up the possibility. The "de" in de Leon's signature is strikingly familiar to the double looped carving on the Overton Stone. The only meaningful difference between the two symbols is the bottom end of the carved line on the far right bends to the left instead of the right.
That’s a pretty meaningful difference if your argument is that the figure represents the preposition “de” and not two d’s. Wolter does not address the even more ridiculous notion that Juan Ponce de Leon would abbreviate his name to the preposition in it and not any of the actual identifiable elements in it. The “de” means “of” and identifies him as a member of the Ponce family and as a descendent of the kings of Leon. It would be like Eric von Däniken calling himself “von” or Adam of Bremen calling himself “of.” It’s ridiculous. When challenged on this point in the comments to his blog post, Wolter restated his belief that the ligature form of “de” was unique to Ponce de Leon (it isn’t) and that he would have used it as a way to identify himself (he didn’t), even though he wrote it the wrong way on the stone.
But the warrant that Wolter hangs his claims upon is the fact that there are no good records for what Ponce de Leon was doing between 1493 and 1503. During those ten years, it is not clear whether he remained in the Caribbean or returned to Spain. Consequently, Wolter can interpolate into the silence of the records a “secret” trip to Nova Scotia, where he left no other record than to sign his name “of,” wrongly.
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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