Subject:      Re: "America B.C." -- anything to this?
From: (Yuri Kuchinsky)
Date:         1997/11/13
Message-ID:   <64fj1v$8kg$>
Newsgroups:   sci.archaeology,sci.anthropology,sci.lang

As for some of the valid (or valid to a certain extent) claims by Fell,
here's an old discussion that is relevant. This goes to show that some of
the transatlantic connections hypothesised are not quite the product of
Fell's imagination.

Hu added a new post to this thread already, but these old posts by him
also answer some of the critics like Ross.



[begin quote:]

[I edited this post a little for clarity]

Subject:      Re: Shang script among Olmecs
From:         [22] (Hu McCulloch)
Date:         1996/12/03
Message-ID:   <[23]>
Newsgroups:   sci.archaeology.mesoamerican,sci.archaeology


[RE: the Bat Creek inscription, found in the Bat Creek Mound in Tennessee.
See Biblical Archeology Review, July/Aug 1993 for the article "Did Judean
Refugees Escape to Tennessee" by J. Huston McCulloch.]

See also P. Kyle McCarter's critique, immediately following my article,
and don't neglect the letters in the Nov/Dec 93 and Jan/Feb 94 issues,
including my own rebuttal to McCarter and others!  There doesn't seem to
have been any discussion of Bat Creek in BAR or anywhere since then.

The stone, excavated by Smithsonian staff from an undisturbed mound in
Eastern Tennessee in 1889, remains safely out of sight in the NMNH in
Washington, so far as I know.  Cyrus H. Gordon, prof. emeritus of Hebrew
etc at Brandeis and NYU positively identifies the writing as Paleo- Hebrew
of the 1st or 2nd c AD, not to be confused with Pseudo-Hebrew.  C-14 dated
wood fragments found with the inscription to 32 AD - 769 AD, which is
consistent with the script and definitely pre-Anse-aux-Meadows, not to
mention pre-Columbian.

[RE: the Grave Creek stone from W. Va.]

On the Grave Creek stone from W. Va ... see Terry A. Barnhart, "Curious
Antiquity?  The Grave Creek Controversy Revisited,"  _West Virginia
History_, 1986, 103-124. Barnhart, an historian formerly with the Ohio
Historical Society, concludes that there is no serious reason to doubt
that the stone came from the mound as reported.  In 1858, Wills de Hass
effectively debunked EG Squier's key argument that JW Clemens had made no
reference to its discovery in his published account of the excavation.  De
Hass demonstrated with the manuscript of Clemens' published report that
the SG Morton, the editor of the 1839 volume in which Clemens' report was
published, "suspecting fraud, had prudently taken the liberty of deleting
Clemens's specific reference to 'the stone medal, with its characters'
from the published extracts of their correspondence." (p. 114.)  I have no
idea whether Barry Fell's America BC reading of it works, but that's a
different matter than whether or not it was a genuine artifact from the
mound.  For all I know it's Olmeco-Shang, per the title of this thread.
The letters do look somewhat Mediterranean, however, per Fell's reading.

David Kelley, the well-known proponent of the phonetic nature of the Mayan
glyphs (I guess that's the link here to sci.arch.mesoam?), in his
devastating review "Epigraphy and Other Fantasies"  of Stephen Williams'
book _Fantastic Archaeology_ in _The Review of Archaeology_ 15, #2,
4/19/95, discusses at length Williams' treatment of Grave Creek.  Kelley
concludes, "I have a hard time criticizing the view [espoused by Williams]
that the inscription is non-alphabetic, for that seems _to me_ an obvious
fantasy.  I think that anyone who could not recognize that obvious fact
should, _ipso facto_, disbar himself from any serious discussion of the
problem."  As I recollect, Williams makes no mention of Barnhart's new
resurrection of de Hass's defense of the stone's authenticity.

-- Hu McCulloch
  Econ Dept.
  Ohio State U.


[I edited this post a little for clarity]

Subject:      Shang script among Olmecs
From:         [24] (Hu McCulloch)
Date:         1996/12/04
Message-ID:   <[25]>
Newsgroups:   sci.archaeology.mesoamerican,sci.archaeology

[RE: the Grave Creek stone from W. Va.]

>How does he deal with Matthew Read's account, in which he says that he
wrote >to P.B. Catlett, who claimed to have discovered it, and Colonel
Wharton, who >said he saw the discovery, and they both agree it was found
in a pile of dirt >dumped from a wheelbarrow. Yes, the site owner,
Tomlinson, denies this, but >evidently his account of the diggin doesn't
match any statements made by any >of those who observed the excavations.

Barnhart appears to agree with MacLean, that "Regardless of who found the
stone or whether it was discoverd inside or outside the mound, all
professed witnesses agreed it had come _from_ the mound." (Barnhart, p.
122, summarising MacLean).


>>the view [espoused by Williams] that the inscription is non-alphabetic,
for >>that seems _to me_ an obvious fantasy.  I think that anyone who
could >>not recognize that obvious fact should, _ipso facto_, disbar
>>himself from any serious discussion of the problem."

>I presume he backs this up some how. How does he deal with Read's
experiment >getting 4 people to draw 20 arbitrary symbols with straight
lines, and >supposedly ending up with inscriptions with equal claim to be
alphabetical and >with characters that looked Cypriotic or Phoenician,
Coptic, runic, etc.

At length -- see Kelley's article.  Recall that Kelley's credentials are
as a philologist, best known for his 1970s book on the Mayan script.  It
is now perhaps outdated but still is regarded as the big breakthrough
(literally over Thompson's dead body)  in recognizing the phonetic nature
of the Mayan glyphs. -- see Michael Coe's book on the history of the

Kelley quotes Williams' caustic remark on Thomlinson, the finder and
original owner of the stone, "Bah, humbug, Mr. Thomlinson."  (Fantastic
Archaeology p. 87).  But after demolishing Read's pseudo- philology,
Kelley concludes, "Bah, humbug, Mr. Read." (p. 12).

>And surely Williams is spot on in saying that Fell's suggesting that this
>extremely tiny stone - 1.75 inches long - is a royal commemoration -- is

"I [Kelley] agree with him [Williams] entirely that all of the proposed
translations [by Fell and earlier attempts by Oppert, Schwab, and Bing]
attribute an unlikely monumentality to the inscriptions [on the Grave
Creek and related Ohio County W. VA and Braxton tablets].  The context
suggests to me something more like a property tag." ( Kelley p. 13).

I don't know whether Fell's translation makes sense, but again that is an
entirely different issue than whether it is genuine and whether or not it
is alphabetic.

>btw is Kelley suggesting that it is the only surviving fragment
>of an unknown form of writing?

"As a principle, I accept Haven's position as fully as Williams does, but
in practice I do not think that our archaeological sample is so good that
items will never appear to be 'solitary monuments'.  The professionally
excavated Phaistos disk, from Crete, is written in an otherwise completely
unknown script and shows the otherwise equally unknown practice of
printing symbols from simple stamp dies.  The Tuxtla statuette from Mexico
had to wait three-quarters of a century before a major monument written in
the same script was discovered.

"There are, in fact, two other small stone tablets which have been
reported from West Virginia, without archaeological context, which contain
inscriptions in the same alphabet. ..."  (Kelley, pp. 12-13).

These are the Ohio County, West Virginia stone and the Braxton County
stones, discussed by Fell, in America BC.  But since they were more or
less surface finds, Kelley admits they aren't great evidence.

I might add that a very good duplicate of the Grave Creek stone was found
by Philip R. Hough in a shoebox of artifacts for sale in a gas station in
Steubenville OH, just a ways up the Ohio from Moundsville, W. VA, in 1952,
and purchased for $1.  See Hough's "My Part in the Story of the Grave
Creek Tablet," _Tenn.  Archaeologist_, Summer 1952, pp. 47-48.

My comparison of a photo of it sent by Hough's grandson Bob Miller to
Victor Moseley, late President of the Midwestern Epigraphic Society, to a
photo of the Smithsonian's cast of the original Grave Creek stone, reveals
that it is not the original, but just someone's copy, not necessarily made
with any attempt to deceive, and certainly with no such attempt by Mr.
Hough or Miller.  Although it could easily pass for the original, the
rulings are too straight, and the vertical alignment of the letters is not
quite right.

The Smithsonian's cast of the original is NMNH # 7252.  An 8x10 print of
it (negative # 6768) can be obtained at cost from them.  See also negative
# 90-9022, of Davis's collection, which actually contains the original
(!), down in a corner (#64), but unfortunately rather fuzzily.  They also
have a wax imprint of the original.  It is badly cracked, but clarifies
some ambiguous spots in the cast (National Anthro Archives, MS 3146 (EH
Davis collection).

The original is still missing, but there is an off chance it may be in
Wills de Hass's papers in a library somewhere in W. Va.  (U W Va?)  Davis
once owned it, and his collection went to the British Museum, but I have
bugged them about it, and am satisfied they don't have it.  De Hass
apparently acquired it separately from Davis, and is the last known owner.

Lest I have overwhelmed Doug with these arguments, I should caution that
Kelley merely concludes, "My major point, however, is not to argue that
the [Grave Creek, Braxton, and Ohio Co.] inscriptions are, indeed,
genuine, but rather that I do not find it fantastic to think that they may
be." (p. 13)

-- Hu McCulloch
   Econ Dept.
   Ohio State U.

Yuri Kuchinsky in Toronto -=O=- [26]

Reality is that which, when you stop believing
in it, doesn't go away -=O=- Philip K. Dick

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