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The Secret Political History of the Bat Creek Stone

The Secret Political History of the Bat Creek Stone

 

Bat Creek Mounds is a Middle and Late Woodland village site near the confluence of Bat Creek and the Little Tennessee River in Loudon County, Tennessee.  It is now covered by the waters of Tellico Lake.  The village was part a dense concentration of Indigenous American settlements between the Great Smoky Mountains and the Tennessee River.  Mankind has occupied the region at least since the Ice Age.

The Bat Creek Stone is a cobblestone, composed of high iron oxide mudstone or siltstone, which John W. Emmert, a federally-paid employee of the Bureau of American Ethnology reported finding along with a brass bracelet in 1888.   Emmert described it as being engraved with Cherokee letters.   The stone was not mentioned in the public report that the Bureau of American Ethnology issued on the Bat Creek Mounds.  However, during the mid-20th century, Dr. Joseph Mahan of the Columbus, GA History Museum brought it to the attention of the world, because a scholar of ancient Middle Eastern writing systems interpreted it as being a form of Hebrew writing, dating from the Roman Occupation Period and stating, “From Judea.”   Since that time, it has been the focus of almost constant controversy . . . as those who believe it is authentic and those who believe it is a hoax, try to prove that they are right and their opponents are wrong.

Let’s make it clear.  I am not technically qualified to ascertain the authenticity of the stone or translate its meaning.  However, the letters look most to me like the aboriginal scripts of the Madiera, Canary Islands, Balearec Islands, Sardinia or Corsica, which were derived from Minoan Script.  Also, it is distinctly possible that the stone is authentic, but it was intentionally placed in the Bat Creek Mound No. 2 for political reasons.  You see . . . over the past 20 years, I have been carrying out professional historical research projects in Northwest Georgia and Southeastern Tennessee as part of historic preservation projects, which provided me with me with information about the personalities, involved with this stone.  Some of this information seems not to be available to academicians, who write articles in such references as Wikipedia.  You will find the details fascinating.

The major excavation of the mounds occurred in the 1880s, when archaeology was little progressed beyond grave robbing.   Most of the artifacts, found in these mounds, have never been publicly displayed or described, but are stored in the warehouses of the Smithsonian Institute near Washington, DC.  Today, the names of the persons involved with the Bat Creek Mounds are cited as being expert archaeologists, but their true backgrounds provide an understanding of the “political” environment of the Bat Creek Stone.  None of the men involved with its discovery had a professional background in archaeology!

Statements are made in a legion of web sites for and against the authenticity of the Bat Creek Stone, which either are not quite accurate or patently false.  A century after its discovery,  some carbonized wood particles, supposedly found in the same grave as the stone, were subjected to radiocarbon dating.  The tests came back anywhere from 32 AD to 634 AD . . .  which makes one wonder if these particles are actually from the Bat Creek Mound.   At some time in the 20th century, two additional marks were placed on the stone.  Whoever altered the stone may have also added carbonized wood from another archaeological site.   The stone, itself, has not been dated.  It may be much older than the burial.  

There has also been no effort to prove that the Bat Creek Stone came from a deposit of brown mudstone near the mound.  The archaeological technicians involved with the Bat Creek Mounds had previously worked at many locations in the Southeast.  What if the Bat Creek Stone came from distant location or perhaps, the Mediterranean Basin?

I know from personal experience that North American archaeologists do not always hold up to lofty professional standards.  Artist Susan Muse and I were eyewitnesses to planting of a stone hoe in a mound on the Chattahoochee River in an attempt by some faculty members and students at the University of Georgia’s Department of Anthropology to frame archaeologist Arthur Kelly.   He would have been charged with a felony, if we had not come forward to police.  The Native American hoe was real.  Its new location was a hoax.  As you will learn in this article, several persons had an incentive to plant in the Bat Creek Mounds either a real artifact or a fake one.

Cyrus Thomas (1825-1910):  Thomas was a self-educated Union veteran from Bristol (Northeast) Tennessee, who parlayed his position of influence in the Republican Party during Reconstruction to first become known as a pioneer archeologist.  As a young man, he moved to near Carbondale, IL, which is 75 miles southeast of Cahokia Mounds and very close to “suburban towns” of Cahokia.

Prior to the Civil War, Thomas was an attorney and county clerk in Jackson County, Illinois, Superintendent of its county school system and Evangelical Lutheran minister. In 1858, he founded the Illinois Natural History Society.  Jackson County is in the portion of Illinois, which is often called “Little Egypt” or “Little Dixie.”  The county contributed a significant number of men to both the Union and Confederate Armies.

In 1862, Thomas joined a volunteer regiment from Illinois, formed by his brother-in-law, US Congressman and later General, John A. Logan.  Logan switched from the Democratic to the Republican Party after the Civil War and rejoined the US Congress. In 1871, he was elected to the US Senate.  Although Thomas’s wife died during the Civil War of disease, his friendship with Logan would be a powerful asset for career advancement.

In 1869 Thomas’s professional scientific career began not with a college education, but with his appointment as an assistant in entomology in the United States Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories under Professor Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden. Thomas was also the agricultural statistician and entomologist on the Hayden Geological Survey of 1871, whose work supported the creation of Yellowstone National Park in 1872.

In 1873 Thomas was appointed a professor of natural science at Southern Illinois University, which gave him a public forum for his ideas. He was later named to the United States Entomological Commission in 1877 to serve alongside Charles Valentine Riley and Alpheus Spring Packard; at the same time he accepted the position of chief entomologist for the State of Illinois. He kept his title of chief entomologist until 1882 after the commission came to an end in 1879. At this time, 1882, he was appointed archaeologist to the United States Bureau of American Ethnology, which was a division of the Smithsonian Institute, but funded by the federal government.

Cronyism was rampant in American politics during the late 1800s. Most of the men, who Thomas hired to excavate mounds in the Southeast had few or no qualifications to do archaeology, plus were from Northeast Tennessee.  At this time, also, many jobs in the federal government were positions appointed by the political party in power.

Throughout his life, Thomas believed that the Cherokees built all the mounds in the eastern United States and that the Cherokees from their capital in Northeast Tennessee had formerly occupied most of the Midwestern and Southeastern United States.  He is the source of most of the myths, which the Cherokees resurrected in the early 21st century, which describe themselves as “the ancestors of the Aztecs and Mayas” and “the first people in the Americas to make pottery, build mounds and cultivate corn, beans and squash.

John P. Rogan (1844-1928): Rogan was an unemployed Union Army veteran from Bristol, TN and a cousin of Cyrus Thomas, the head of Smithsonian’s mound digging efforts. He had no professional education or experience in Native American archaeology when hired.   After excavating several mounds in North Carolina for the Smithsonian during 1883, he was hired to be the “supervising archaeologist” on the 1883-84 excavation of Etowah Mounds in Cartersville, GA by the Smithsonian Institute.

Rogan is best known for the “Rogan Plates.” They are a set of repousséd plates or hammered copper plates, the most famous being the Birdman.  He was supervising workmen, when they excavated them from near the top of Mound C.   The grave probably dated from Late Mississippian Period, when Cahokia had already been abandoned.  Yet today,  some Midwestern archaeologists are claiming that the copper repousse’ plates, found at several locations in Georgia and Florida were actually made in Cahokia . . . because “there is no copper in the Southeast” . . .  Oh really?

Rogan was eventually fired by his cousin for not producing enough “trophy” artifacts, which the Smithsonian needed to give to wealthy donors in the Northeast. As will be detailed later in this article, there is profound circumstantial evidence that Rogan was selling artifacts from the Etowah Mounds area to collectors rather than forwarding them to the Smithsonian Institute. Particularly, suspicious was Rogan’s repeated journeys by himself to the south side of the Etowah River to excavate five mounds there.  It is not even clear, if the Smithsonian Institute had permission to dig these mounds.  It is also especially dubious that he did not bring his local laborers along, but then claimed that he found no artifacts. Why did he keep going back alone to these burial mounds, if there were no artifacts to be had?

Inexplicably, Rogan was later re-hired by his cousin to excavate the Bat Creek Mound in Tennessee, but in few weeks, was fired permanently for the same reason . . . the scarcity of trophy artifacts unearthed. According to a well-referenced and universally accepted research paper by a University of Tennessee history professor, a penniless Rogan then moved to Bristol, Tennessee, where he went to work for a hardware store. According to this professor, he was never heard from again.

Actually, that is not Rogan’s life after being fired from the Bat Creek Mound.  John Rogan, his wife and later his daughter, lived in Cartersville, GA from 1885 until 1928, when he died. A letter in the Tennessee State Archives, was written by Rogan to his cousin, Cyrus. In response to being fired again for not finding trophy artifacts, Rogan stated that “he had met a woman in Cartersville and was planning to marry her.”   While living in Cartersville, Rogan also communicated with Gates P. Thruston, a wealthy Native American artifact collector, living in Nashville, in an offer to sell him artifacts.  Most of the Native American artifacts on exhibit at the Tennessee State Capitol Museum were originally part of Thruston’s collection.

In 1888, shortly after being fired by the Bureau of Ethnology, Rogan returned to Cartersville, GA and purchased (while supposedly unemployed and penniless) an expensive lot downtown on West Main Street, which leads to Etowah Mounds.  He hired an architect to design what was then Cartersville’s largest commercial building.  The multi-story brick structure housed J. P. Rogan Mercantile, which became the largest hardware store in Georgia, north of Atlanta.

References were made from time to time in the Cartersville newspapers that a Mr. John P. Rogan had Indian artifacts for sale or was offering his professional services to gentlemen of means, who wished to dig for Indian artifacts in the Cartersville Area.

The Exploration of the Etowah Site in Georgia by Warren King Moorehead states in the opening pages, that in 1925 Moorehead traveled from his excavations at Cahokia and Natchez to Cartersville to begin work on Etowah, “John Rogan, the archaeologist for the 1884 dig at Etowah, was still living in Cartersville.” Rogan offered his assistance to Moorehead and was very helpful in pointing out likely locations to find artifacts.

John W. Emmert (1842-1917): Emmert was a lifelong Democrat and Confederate veteran from Bristol, TN, who was hired by Cyrus Thomas at the onset in 1884 of the Democratic Grover Cleveland Administration. He served as a private in Co F 63rd Tennessee Infantry, CSA.  In several battles, he was on opposite sides from Cyrus Thomas and John P. Logan.  However, later in the war, he was promoted to a position in the CSA Quartermaster Corps, which kept him out of the most intense combat.

It should be noted that subsequent to his employment with the Smithsonian Institution, Emmert published a brief article on an archaeological site in Tennessee in American Anthropologist. That Emmert even read this journal, much more had a research article published in it, indicates that he was a rather learned individual for his era.  Many Southerners in the mid-1800s had only a few years of formal education.

Also relevant here is the fact that during the Civil War, Emmert served in the Confederate Quartermaster Corps, presumably as a result of his previous experience as a “store keeper” (John W. Emmert, Compiled Service Record, M268/346, National Archives). This again suggests that Emmert was certainly not an ignorant man.

After Rogan was fired from the Bat Creek Mound, Emmert was hired to finish the project.  Almost immediately, he began producing what archaeologists today would call “Woodland Period” artifacts, in a mound strata that Rogan had claimed were sterile.  These artifacts were not as ornate or sophisticated as Mississippian Period artifacts, but, of course, at the time scholars had no clue when mounds were built.

A relatively short period of time passed before Emmert found the Bat Creek Stone and a brass bracelet in a burial within Mound 2.   Emmert interpreted the writing on the stone as being Cherokee.  He immediately wrote Cyrus Thomas that he had discovered proof that the Cherokees built these mounds.

There is a pervasive myth, held even today among many Americans, that the Cherokees always had a writing system.  In the blockbuster movie, “The Patriot,” the lead character owned a tomahawk, he took off a dead Cherokee in the French and Indian War (1754-1763), which is engraved in the Cherokee syllabary.  It’s the syllabary that Elias Boudinot and the Rev. Sam Worcester created in 1827.  Sequoyah’s syllabary was different than the Cherokee Syllabary and created about a decade earlier.

The Bat Creek Stone was not described in Thomas’s formal report on the Bat Creek Mound excavations.  His report was brief and mainly complained about the “common, utilitarian nature” of the artifacts unearthed.  In one other report, Thomas vaguely referred to fake artifacts of recent manufacture, but never publicly stated whether the Bat Creek Stone was authentic or a hoax.

Despite the fact that Thomas was disappointed with the “quality” of the artifacts in the Bat Creek Mounds. Emmert was not fired immediately, because he did produce artifacts. Something that Rogan did not do. However, apparently most of the Bat Creek artifacts were never curated or displayed.  They remained in wooden crates and were placed in storage.  Throughout the 1800s, many Americans assigned the ethnic identity of mound builders and when they were built, according to their religious beliefs, not because of any scientific analysis.  Because of this “faith-based” approach to understanding the history of North America prior to the arrival of English-speaking , many alternative theories existed as to who built the mounds and when they were built.  Concurrently,  the presence of French, Spanish and Sephardic colonists in the Southeast was thoroughly erased from the history books.

Emmert was employed as both a temporary supervisor and field assistant by the Smithsonian Institution for several years between 1883 and 1889, and personally directed a truly amazing number of excavations at sites in eastern Tennessee and adjacent areas. Unfortunately, Emmert supposedly had a “drinking problem,” which Cyrus Thomas stated, “renders his work uncertain” in a letter to Bureau of Ethnology Director John Wesley Powell on September 20, 1888. The letter led to Emmert’s dismissal after completing the Bat Creek excavation.

Was it really a drinking problem or was it partisan politics?  Emmert’s actual dismissal letter was mailed immediately following the inauguration of a Republican president, Benjamin Harrison from Indiana.  Emmert had been hired immediately after a Democrat, Grover Cleveland, was elected president in the fall of 1883.

From his field reports and letters, it is obvious that Emmert truly enjoyed archaeological field work and was intellectually several steps above Rogan.  He was constantly pleading to Thomas and various politicians for regular, full-time employment with the Smithsonian.  All of his assignments were temporary jobs that paid $75 a month, plus excavation/living expenses.

Emmert got wind that he might not get another archaeological assignment after Bat Creek.  In a letter to Cyrus Thomas dated December 19, 1888, Emmert stated that “I have kept up a constant study of the mounds and who built them and should I ever have the opportunity of exploring them again I can certainly give you greater satisfaction than I ever did before… I have just received and read your Burial Mounds (i.e., “Burial Mounds in the Northern Sections of the United States” in B.A.E. 5th Annual Report – authors) and I certainly agree with you that the Cherokees were Mound Builders, in fact there is not a doubt in my mind about it.”

Emmert’s practice of labeling all things Cherokee is the primary cause of many myths in Tennessee’s official Native American history.  Everywhere he worked in North Carolina and Tennessee, he labeled the site “Cherokee.”  Because he was employed by the Smithsonian Institute and assumed to be a “professional archaeologist,” his interpretations were incorporated into the state’s official history textbook . . . even after professional archaeological excavation on a massive scale in the Tennessee River Valley in the 1930s proved that the region had been occupied solely by Muskogeans and Uchee until the early 1700s.

By far, Emmert’s most tragic misinterpretation occurred at Bussell Island, where the Little Tennessee and Tennessee Rivers meet.  Until 1725, all French and British maps show the Upper Tennessee River Valley occupied by Kusate (Upper Creeks), Tokahle (Togaria/Uchee) and Koasati. Maps produced before 1718 show that the last occupation of Bussell Island consisted of a large timber fortification, built upon a clay platform, which itself had been constructed on top of two Mississippian Period mounds . . .  plus two Kusate-Creek villages.

Emmert found numerous European artifacts littered across the plaza inside the timber fort.  He interpreted the site to be a “Cherokee fort” that had been sacked by the Creeks.  The Cherokees never constructed timber palisades around their villages, but the structure that Emmert unearthed was not a village.  It was a fort.  Nevertheless, Tennessee scholars conveniently forgot his discovery.  It was never mentioned when the University of Tennessee Department of Anthropology comprehensively surveyed the Lower Little Tennessee River Valley prior to the construction of Tellico Dam on Bussell Island to back up Tellico Lake.

Thus, we see a motivation by Emmert to secure his job and flatter Cyrus Thomas by inserting a real or fake stone into Bat Creek Mound 2 with what appeared to be “Cherokee writing” on it.   However, Emmert appears to have been a far more honorable man than Rogan.  If he did plant the Bat Creek Stone, it is probably a real artifact, obtained elsewhere.

Luther Blackman:  From 1857 until 1861, Blackman was the US postmaster in Marble Hill, TN . . . which was a village near the Bat Creek Mounds.  Blackman was a lifelong Republican and served in the same Union Army that Rogan did.  Unlike Rogan he was an ardent Union veteran, who deeply disliked any eastern Tennesseans, who joined the Confederate Army.  He would have fought on opposite sides to John Emmert in many battles.  Although Rogan was also a Union veteran, he actually preferred the “Southern lifestyle” and intentionally lived the last half century of his life in Cartersville, GA.

After the Civil War, when Loudon County was under martial law from Federal troops, Blackman returned to the region and opened shop as a stone cutter and engraver.  Probably, much of his work involved the engraving of tombstones.  There is no evidence that he was particularly an artist, but he would have been quite capable of carving letters in a small cobblestone, such as the one called the Bat Creek Stone.  It is known that Blackman befriended his fellow Union veteran and Republican, John P. Rogan, while Rogan was working at the Bat Creek Mounds.  He frequently dropped by to watch the work.

For this reason, opponents of those, who believe that the Bat Creek Stone is an authentic artifact, have long linked the Bat Creek Stone to Blackman.  It is unlikely that Rogan or Emmert had the skills or equipment to engrave stone.  However, Blackman did.

There is a problem, though.  Blackman was a friend of Rogan, but a political enemy of Emmert. Blackman repeatedly complained about Emmert’s work on the Bat Creek Mounds to local newspapers and probably to the Bureau of Ethnology.  It is quite possible that Blackman was the source of Thomas complaining about “Emmert’s drinking problem.”   Blackman had no motivation to make Emmert look good in the eyes of Cyrus Thomas by producing an artifact of international significance.  He had multiple incentives, albeit dishonorable, for getting Emmert fired . . . and then replaced by his fellow Republican friend, Rogan.

Therefore, if the Bat Creek Stone is indeed, a hoax, the most likely culprit would be Blackman.  Blackman would have been in a position to both make the engravings and insert them in the mound in such a way instructed by his friend Rogan, to make the discovery seem in situ.

 

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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.

22 Comments

  1. 5card678919j@gmail.com'

    A stone with odd markings was found at Ft Benning by a Manfred Metcalf while building a BBQ pit. Dr Joseph Mahan of Columbus identified the markings as Minoan Script.. Mahan sent the script to a Dr Cyrus Gordon who agreed and also forwarded the script to Professor Stanislav Segert in Prague who concurred. This info is from a text book by Ms.Bernice McCullar and Sibley Jennings, “This I Your Georgia” copyright 1977.

    Reply
    • Yes, and we sent photos to two of the leading experts on Minoan Script today. They both agreed that the Metcalf Stone is Minoan A script.

      Reply
  2. ReillyranCh@aol.com'

    Great article as usual.

    Has anyone done a modern comparison of the Bat Creek, Grave Creek, Metcalf and Newberry stones? A old reference said a man named Schoolcraft said the lettering looked like the Pelasgi alphabet, which was the parent of the Runic and Bardic system.

    Ed

    Reply
    • Ed, I don’t think so. Most of the current articles sound like today’s politicians. All they can talk about is how bad the other folks are. LOL

      Reply
  3. markveale@hotmail.com'

    Richard, The other day I was watching the news and a Navy squadron commander said there are UFO’s. While the Governments has told us there was no proof of their existence for years. To me it is highly improbable that man didn’t make Sea boats going back 60,000 years or more…and some of the Hebrews have been in Spain since before their peoples Exodus from Egypt. 3 Hebrew tribes are identified with words about the Sea in the Torah…Why wouldn’t some of the most persecuted peoples of the Earth during the Roman days and after not set sail for the New world from Brittan or Spain? I think some did. Sea merchants /peoples have been making the crossing of Oceans for a long time. Perhaps another clue:
    http://www.econ.ohio-state.edu/jhm/arch/efw.pdf

    Reply
    • When younger, I was friends with a former general of the 82nd Airborne Division. He had seen five bodies of extraterrestrials at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, plus numerous wrecks of extraterrestrial spacecraft. Don’t know why the government continues to pretend they don’t exist.

      Reply
      • markveale@hotmail.com'

        Richard, Thanks for the Great articles. Where can will we find the Truth about Giants, “Feathered serpents” creatures and intelligent creations not looking like us? The Bible. “Take heed that no man deceive you.” GOD Bless.

        Reply
        • One can always discern people, who walk in the Light, because they always lend a helping hand, not force people to be like them. May the Master of Life bless you too in the coming year.

          Reply
    • Yes, Georgia Uchees are showing up with Sami, Finish, Pre-Gaelic Irish and Basque.

      Reply
  4. Bellcamp221@yahoo.com'

    This upper east Tennessean will show us all the way it was. Albert Gordon “Dutch” Roth was born 20 September 1890 in Knoxville,TN. He was an amateur photographer using a Kodak 122 with tripod that shot the Great Smokie Mountains Before it became a National Park. This collection of photos is also at University of Kentucky Webb Library site. Please enjoy these photos of the forest with enormous trees( large enough for eleven people to get inside), water falls, and the mountains as they were along ago. Happy New Year to all, Peace on Our Home Earth.

    Reply
  5. mcculloch.2@osu.edu'

    Mr. Thornton —
    Your article contains much information about Rogan that I had not heard before. Evidently a lot of it comes from the article you mention, a “well-referenced and universally accepted research paper by a University of Tennessee history professor.” I would appreciate it if you could provide that reference and the name of the professor.

    Unfortunately, there are a few errors in your article. First, Thomas indeed published the Bat Creek stone in his 1894 report on the Mound Survey in the 12th Annual Report of the [Smithsonian] Bureau of Ethnology, pp. 391-4, complete with a (rather fuzzy) photograph. Thomas also described the find in his 1890 The Cherokees in Pre-Columbian Times, with a much more legible lithograph.

    Second, although Emmert endorsed Thomas’s Cherokee theory of the Midwestern mounds, he never claimed that the Bat Creek inscription was Cherokee. In his Feb. 1889 letter informing Thomas of the find (and including a rough sketch of the inscription), he explicitly stated that the letters were unlike any he had ever seen. The report of the find published in the 12th Annual Report followed Emmert’s account of the find almost verbatim, except for the ill-advised conclusion at the end that the letters are Cherokee, which was added by Thomas. The find, incidentally, was in Feb. of 1889, not 1888 as you report.

    Reply
  6. mcculloch.2@osu.edu'

    Mr. Thornton —
    Your article contains much information about Rogan that I had not heard before. Evidently a lot of it comes from the article you mention, a “well-referenced and universally accepted research paper by a University of Tennessee history professor.” I would appreciate it if you could provide that reference and the name of the professor.

    Unfortunately, there are a few errors in your article. First, Thomas indeed published the Bat Creek stone in his 1894 report on the Mound Survey in the 12th Annual Report of the [Smithsonian] Bureau of Ethnology, pp. 391-4, complete with a (rather fuzzy) photograph. Thomas also described the find in his 1890 The Cherokees in Pre-Columbian Times, with a much more legible lithograph.

    Second, although Emmert endorsed Thomas’s Cherokee theory of the Midwestern mounds, he never claimed that the Bat Creek inscription was Cherokee. In his Feb. 1889 letter informing Thomas of the find (and including a rough sketch of the inscription), he explicitly stated that the letters were unlike any he had ever seen. The report of the find published in the 12th Annual Report followed Emmert’s account of the find almost verbatim, except for the ill-advised conclusion at the end that the letters are Cherokee, which was added by Thomas. The find, incidentally, was in Feb. of 1889, not 1888 as you report.

    And third, the 95% confidence interval for the C-14 date is 32AD – 769AD, not 32AD – 634AD as you report.

    I wish you a very Happy New Year!

    Reply
    • The problem I run into when doing such research is that I am dependent on at least some of the information in academic articles, Wikipedia articles and papers presented to professional conferences being accurate. I didn’t dream up the 634 AD confidence interval. In fact, the information that you questioned, came from a committee report to the Southeastern Archaeological Conference. The committee report was chaired by Robert Mainfort, a highly respected anthropologist and professor. The remainder of the information in my article (except on Rogan) came from a long article written by the editor of the Tellico Plains newspaper, which serves the Bat Creek Community. He researched the Bat Creek Stone controversy for several years and of course, had access to his own newspaper’s archives. So, in this case, I don’t know who to believe now.

      Whether or not the Bat Creek Stone is authentic is of little concern to Creek, Uchee and Chickasaw scholars or the Muskogean donors, who support our work. We are extremely upset that both academicians and state government bureaucrats in Tennessee and North Carolina have completely erased our many centuries of heritage in those states and instead cling to the poppycock of Thomas, Emmert and Rogan. How could all historians and archaeologists in Tennessee possibly miss a French fort and two Creek villages on Bussell Island, TN when they were specifically labeled as such on several French and British maps?

      Only in the case of John P. Rogan was I able with confidence conflict what was stated in all published articles and references . . . including the Tennessee Encyclopedia, New Georgia Encyclopedia, Wikipedia and even the description of the Rogan Plates, published by the Smithsonian Institute’s Museum of the American Indian You see, in 2000 I was the architect for the restoration of the J. P. Rogan Building in Cartersville, GA. Since it was receiving federal and state historic preservation funds, I was required to do thorough research on the builder’s life and building’s history. In fact, at that time I was living in the same neighborhood, where Rogan lived most of his life and of course, had access to the Cartersville newspaper archives, even though the internet was in its infancy.

      This past year, I was astonished to read such a different version of Rogan’s life in all references and academic papers. This is particularly odd, since the opening paragraphs in Warren K. Moorehead’s book on Etowah Mounds stated that in 1925 Rogan was still living in Cartersville and still doing archaeological work. A recent book on Etowah Mounds, written by an archaeology professor, who is considered an “expert” on the site, quoted Moorehead’s book liberally. Yet, in discussing the Rogan Plates, the professor stated that “Rogan went back to Bristol to work at hardware store and disappeared from history.”

      The current “official” history of Etowah Mounds was totally screwed up by a generation of anthropology professors in the late 20th century, who for unknown reasons drastically altered established facts. I know the facts because I knew Arthur Kelly. The following year after I did some architectural graphics work for him, Kelly and Lew Larson gave my Georgia Tech architectural history class a tour of Etowah Mounds. At the end of the tour, they handed us copies of their report on their 1954-1956 investigation of the site. For unknown reasons, I put that report in a box with memories from my days at Georgia Tech . . . mostly letters from girl friends and photos of fraternity activities. Thank God, I still have that report . . . along with the perfume scented love letters. LOL

      Reply
  7. mcculloch.2@osu.edu'

    Richard —
    Thanks for the info. This is the first I had heard of Mainfort’s Southeastern Archaeological Conference paper. Do have the exact reference for it, or at least the year? He has many contributions to their journal.
    Lowell Kirk’s c. 1998 article, “The Bat Creek Stone,” online at http://www.telliquah.com/Batcreek.htm (the website of The Tellico Plains Mountain Press) has a lot of good information about the politics that was going on behind the scenes during the mound survey, but seems to be the source of your misinformation that Thomas never published the Bat Creek find, and that Emmert believed the letters to be Cherokee.
    I first reported the C-14 date (financed by Joe Mahan’s ISAC organization) in my article in Tennessee Anthropologist XIII #2 (1988): 79-123. The 2-sigma (95% confidence) interval, after dendrocalibration, was 32AD-769AD, but the 1-sigma (68% confidence) interval was 240-638AD. Perhaps Mainfort remembered the lower bound of the 2-sigma interval and the upper bound (approximately) of the 1-sigma interval.
    For some information on Bat Creek plus several references, see my page at http://www.econ.ohio-state.econ/arch/batcrk.html . My unpublished note “John Emmert, Demon Rum, and Bat Creek,” at http://www.econ.ohio-state.econ/arch/BarCrk/EmmertRum.pdf , contains a lot of primary information about the find.

    Reply
    • Thank you! The Mainfort Article is online. He’s the one who said that Thomas omitted mentioning the Bat Creek Stone. The Tellico Plains article quoted Mainfort in several places. You have given me a lot of extra information that Mainfort did not use. I don’t why, other than I find that both sides of the controversy tend to omit facts that conflict with their position. Mainfort has nothing good to say about Joseph Mahan, so perhaps that was a contributing factor. As I told you, the Creeks and Uchee are rather ambivalent toward this controversy because we are already aware that our heritage is basically Brunswick Stew from many parts of the Americas and Northwestern Europe, plus several especially powerful Creek families, such as William McIntosh’s clan, had grandfathers or great-grandfathers, who were Jewish traders.

      Reply
      • mcculloch.2@osu.edu'

        Can you give me the URL of the Mainfort article, or at least its title so I can google it?

        Reply
        • THE BAT CREEK STONE: JUDEANS IN TENNESSEE?
          Tennessee Anthropologist
          Vol. XVI, No. 1, Spring 1991
          Robert C. Mainfort, Jr., and Mary L. Kwas
          Reproduced with permission from The Tennessee Anthropologist

          ABSTRACT
          An inscribed stone reportedly excavated by the Smithsonian Institution from a burial mound in eastern Tennessee has been heralded by cult archaeologists as incontrovertible evidence of pre-Columbian Old World contracts. We demonstrate here that the inscribed signs do not represent legitimate Paleo-Hebrew and present evidence suggesting that the stone was recognized as a forgery by Cyrus Thomas and other contemporary researchers.

          Introduction
          Two of the most hotly contested issues in American archaeology during the nineteenth century were the existence of an American Paleolithic of comparable age to sites in Europe and hypothetical pre-Columbian contacts with the Old World (Willey and Sabloff 1974). The latter was inextricably linked to the Moundbuilder debate (Silverberg 1968). Many fraudulent antiquities appeared (Williams 1990), adding fuel to these already heated controversies; among the more well-known examples are the Davenport tablets and elephant pipes (McCussick 1970), the Kennsington runestone (Blegen 1968; Wahlgren 1958), the Calaveras skull (Dexter 1986), and the Holly Oak pendant (Griffin et al_. 1988). Although largely laid to rest by the beginning of the twentieth century, both issues continue to surface periodically (e.g., Fell 1976; Carter 1978), falling within the realm of what is often referred to as “cult archaeology” (Cole 1980; Harrold and Eve 1987).

          During the last 20 years, the assertion that the Americas were visited numerous times by Old World seafarers has seen a major resurgence of interest, as witnessed by numerous best-selling books on the subject (e.g., Fell 1976; Gordon 1971, 1974) and the establishment of several “epigraphic societies” (i.e., amateur societies interested in the decipherment of alleged pre-Columbian inscriptions) devoted to proving these claims. Although various stone structures are often presented as evidence of pre-Columbian contacts (e.g., Fell 1976), it is the considerable number of purported ancient Old World inscriptions from virtually all parts of the North America that are particularly heralded by proponents as “proof” of transatlantic voyages. Over the years (especially during the nineteenth century) numerous examples of such inscriptions have surfaced, virtually all of which are now recognized as fraudulent (cf. Peet 1890, 1892, 1895). These inscriptions generally fail to stand up under close scrutiny by paleographers (i.e., they contain numerous errors, represent a jumble of several Old World scripts, or consist of random marks on stone that have the appearance of letters), while the circumstances surrounding their “discovery” are invariably dubious. While few archaeologists would deny a priori the possibility of early voyages to the New World, the simple fact is that, with the exception of the Norse settlement at L’anse Meadows (Ingstad 1964), no convincing evidence for such occurrences has ever been found or recognized by professional researchers.

          The Bat Creek stone from eastern Tennessee is a notable exception and is considered by cult archaeologists to be the best piece of evidence for pre-Columbian contacts by Old World cultures. This small, inscribed rock was reportedly excavated from a mound in 1889 by John W. Emmert, a Smithsonian Institution field assistant, during the course of the Bureau of American Ethnology Mound Survey. Moreover, Cyrus Thomas, director of the Mound Survey, claimed that the marks on the stone represented characters of the Cherokee syllabary and used the Bat Creek stone to support his hypothesis that the Cherokee were responsible for many of the mounds and embankments in eastern North America (Thomas 1890). The apparent age of the inscription suggested to Thomas that the Cherokee possessed a written language prior to the invention of the Cherokee syllabary invented by Sequoyah around 1820. However, Thomas (1890, 1894) never offered a translation of the inscription.

          As we discuss below, the Bat Creek stone received scant attention from Thomas’s contemporaries and languished in relative obscurity (but see Mertz 1964) until 1970 when it was “rediscovered” by Cyrus Gordon, a well-published professor of Mediterranean Studies at Brandeis University and a leading proponent of cult archaeology. Gordon claimed that by inverting the orientation of the stone relative to the published illustrations (i.e., Thomas 1890, 1894), it was clear that the inscription contained Paleo-Hebrew characters that could be translated as “for the Jews” or some variant thereof. Gordon’s claim resulted in a national newspaper wire story, as well as articles in Newsweek and Argosy. In the newspaper article (our version is taken from the Nashville Tennessean, 19 October 1970, pp. 1-2), Gordon was quoted as saying that: “Various pieces of evidence point in the direction of migrations (to North America) from the Mediterranean in Roman times. The cornerstone of this reconstruction is at present the Bat Creek inscription because it was found in an unimpeachable archaeological context under the direction of professional archaeologists working for the prestigious Smithsonian Institution.”

          Gordon, whose scholarly credentials are certainly impressive, is an archetypical example of what Williams (1988a) has referred to as “rogue professors.” Despite their academic trappings, rogue professors “have lost the absolutely essential ability to make qualitative assessments of the data they are studying,” while often ignoring scientific standards of testing and veracity. Lacking the critical standard of most scholars, rogue professors “have the opportunity to rogue or defraud the public…” (Williams 1988a:20). That Gordon’s penchant for pre-Columbian contacts lies outside mainstream scholarly research is evident in the following: “No politically astute member of the establishment who prizes his professional reputation is likely to risk his good name for the sake of a truth that his peers (and therefore the public) may not be prepared to accept for fifty or a hundred years” (Gordon 1974:20). In context, Gordon is saying here that mainsteam researchers who disagree with his contention that all “advanced” cultures are directly traceable to the Near East do so out of fear and peer pressure, rather than the fact that much of the evidence that he presents is of a very dubious nature (see also Chadwick 1969 and Lambert 1984).

          BAT CREEK STONE
          The Bat Creek stone figured prominently in Gordon’s (1971, 1974) major cult archaeology books, and subsequently received attention in a number of other fringe publications (e.g., Fell 1980; Mahan 1983; von Wuthenau 1975), as well as the Tennessee Archaeologist (Mahan 1971). In 1988, the stone was the subject of a Tennessee Anthropologist article by J. Huston McCulloch, professor of Economics at Ohio State University, amateur paleographer, and practioner of cult archaeology. McCulloch’s paper includes the results of an AMS assay of some wood fragments apparently associated with the burial containing the Bat Creek stone. The sample returned a calibrated radiocarbon age of A.D. 32 (427) 769 (McCulloch 1988; the age range was reported at two sigma), which is claimed to “rule out the possibility of modern origin” for the inscription (McCulloch 1988:116).
          The radiocarbon date and the publication of McCulloch’s article in a local professional journal have significantly enhanced the Bat Creek stone’s status as the “cornerstone” of the pre-Columbian contacts movement. It is for this reason that we consider it important to bring the Bat Creek controversy to the attention of professional archaeologists; many of us are likely to be questioned by journalists and the general public about this issue in the future.
          The Bat Creek Stone

          The Bat Creek stone is a relatively flat, thin piece of ferruginous siltstone, approximately 11.4 cm long and 5.1 cm wide. Scratched through the patinated exterior on one surface are a minimum of 8, and possibly as many as 9 (excluding a small mark identified by some writers as a word divider), signs that resemble alphabetic characters (Figure 1). Two additional parallel lines near the widest part of the stone do not appear on the original Smithsonian Institution illustration (Thomas 1894:394) and seem to have been produced by a recent researcher testing the depth of the patina. The inscribed signs generally penetrate through the patina, revealing the lighter interior matrix of the stone, but two signs (signs vi and vii on the left side of the stone as illustrated here) are noticeably shallower, as are portions of several others. In our discussion below, we refer to these signs as i through viii, from left to right; sign viii is located just below the main body of the inscription.

          Context of the Find
          The Bat Creek mounds (40LD24) were located near the confluence of Bat Creek and the Little Tennessee River in Loudon County, Tennessee. The largest of these, Mound 1, was located on the east side of the creek. Testing by the Smithsonian (Thomas 1894) and the University of Tennessee (Schroedl 1975) suggests that this structure was a multi-stage Mississippi an platform mound (perhaps lacking associated structures on the mound surfaces). Underlying the earthwork were a number of early Mississippian features. Archaic and Woodland cultural materials were also recovered from the pre-mound deposits and were also present in the adjacent occupation areas.
          Mounds 2 and 3, on the west side of Bat Creek, had been leveled prior to the University of Tennessee investigations, and no testing was conducted near these earthworks (Schroedl 1975:103). Mound 2 was a burial mound approximately 3 m tall and 13 m in diameter. The earthwork was reportedly constructed over a limestone slab “vault” containing 16 individuals; a necklace of “many small
          shells and large shell beads” was associated with one interment (Thomas 1894). Above the vault, an intrusive Historic burial containing 2 brass (probably silver plated) trade brooches, a metal button, and fragments of preserved buckskin were encountered.

          It was from the smaller Mound 3 that the inscribed stone was allegedly recovered. This earthwork “was composed throughout, except about the skeletons at the bottom, of hard red clay, without any indications of stratification.” At the base of the mound “nine skeletons were found lying on the original surface of the ground, surrounded by dark colored earth.” This description suggests that the mound was constructed on top of an occupation midden or old humus zone. Artifacts were associated with only one of the 9 extended interments. Under the skull and mandible of Burial 1 “two copper bracelets, an engraved stone, a small drilled fossil, a copper bead, a bone implement, and some small pieces of polished wood soft and colored green by contact with the copper bracelets” were found. “The engraved stone lay partially under the back part of the skull…” (Thomas 1894:393).

          The Bat Creek stone (Catalogue No. 134902, Department of Anthropology, Smithsonian Institution). Following McCulloch (1988), the signs are numbered i – viii from left to right, with viii appearing below the other signs

          The Characters
          The potential significance of the Bat Creek stone rests primarily on the decipherment of the 8 characters inscribed upon it. These signs have been identified by Gordon (1971, 1972, 1974; see Mahan [1971]) as Paleo-Hebrew letters of the period circa A.D. 100; McCulloch (1988) suggests the first century A.D. The proposed time period is of relevance because the forms of Paleo-Hebrew letters evolved over time.
          We present below an assessment of the individual signs on the stone. Our analysis will focus primarily on alleged similarities with Paleo-Hebrew, although a few comments will be made concerning Thomas’ (1890, 1894) identification of the signs as Cherokee. Since neither of the authors have training in ancient Near Eastern languages, we requested an assessment of the Bat Creek inscription from Frank Moore Cross, Hancock Professor of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages at Harvard University. Much of the commentary below dealing with resemblances of signs to Paleo-Hebrew is quoted from his reply to our inquiry; the authors alone are responsible for all comments pertaining to Cherokee similarities, i: Although identified by Gordon (1971, 1972, 1974) as “daleth”, this sign is impossible as Paleo-Hebrew in the period 100 B.C.-A.D. 100, based on shape and stance. There is a vague resemblance to the Cherokee “se”, as noted by McCulloch (1988:87).

          ii: Identified by Gordon as “waw”, this sign is also impossible as Paleo-Hebrew in the period 100 B.C.-A.D. 100, based on shape and stance. McCulloch (1988) identifies sign ii as “waw” based partially on a fourth century B.C. text. Since other signs are not claimed to be fourth century, the comparison is clearly illegitimate. The sign is quite similar to the Cherokee “ga” regardless of the orientation of the stone.

          iii: This sign is impossible as Paleo-Hebrew in the period 100 B.C.-A.D. 100 based on the shape and stance; Gordon identifies this sign as “he.” If reversed, the sign would represent a passable Cherokee “gun.”

          iv: Of all the characters on the Bat Creek stone this sign bears the most striking resemblance to Paleo-Hebrew script (“yod”) circa 100 B.C.-A.D. 100 (but not the second century of the Christian era).

          v: Despite problems with its relative size, this sign is normal for Paleo-Hebrew script (“lamed”) between 100 B.C. and A.D. 100, but not for the second century C.E.

          vi: We agree with the assessment by Gordon (Mahan 1971:43) that this sign is “not in the Canaanite system.” In subsequent publications, Gordon (1971:186, 1972:10-12) referred to this sign as “problematic,” and more recently (Gordon 1974) did not mention sign vi in his discussion of the Bat Creek stone. The sign is impossible for Paleo-Hebrew.

          vii: Our comments pertaining to sign vi apply in toto here as well. In the illustration orientation, this sign resembles the Cherokee “tlun:; inverted, it is somewhat similar to a reversed “si.”

          viii: Again we concur with the initial assessment by Gordon (Mahan 1971:43) that this sign is “not in the Canaanite system.” The sign is impossible for Paleo-Hebrew. Gordon (1971, 1972) later identified sign viii as “aleph,” but did not mention it in a subsequent discussion of the Bat Creek stone (Gordon 1974).

          As a strong advocate of pre-Columbian contacts between the Mediterranean region and the New World, Gordon’s (1971, 1972, 1974) interpretation of the Bat Creek inscription could justifiably be criticized on the grounds that his zeal to make a case for the radiation of higher culture from a single Near Eastern center caused him to relax the disciplines of historical linguistics, paleography, and historical orthography. Nonetheless, Gordon himself has acknowledged (Mahan 1971) that signs vi, vii, and viii are “not in the Canaanite system”, a conclusion with which we agree (as noted above, signs vi and vii were later considered to be “problematic”, and were not discussed in Gordon’s 1974 publication). Ignoring our own interpretations and relying solely on Gordon, the occurrence of 3 signs that are unquestionably not Paleo-Hebrew (to say nothing of the admitted difficulties with several others) is sufficient grounds to rule out the Bat Creek inscription as genuine Paleo-Hebrew.

          Curiously, while urging readers to “seek out the views of qualified… scholars” about the signs on the Bat Creek stone, McCulloch (1988), an amateur epigrapher, offers interpretations of three signs (vi, vii, and viii) that contradict the published assessments of one of the stone’s most outspoken proponents (Cyrus Gordon, a published Near Eastern language specialist), implying that despite his own lack of expertise in Paleo-Hebrew, McCulloch considers his own opinion to be as valid as those of specialists in the field.

          Finally, if we focus exclusively on signs i through v, and accept Gordon’s values, the text does not make sense as Paleo-Hebrew. There may be a broken sign on the left edge of the stone. It cannot be yod (cf. sign iv) or he_ (cf. sign iii), so to read lyhwdh or 1 yhwdym (“for Judea” or “for the Jews”), as advocated by Gordon (1971, 1972, 1974), is impossible (note that Hebrew is read from right to left). To read lyhwdm is also impossible on two grounds. The broken sign cannot be mem in the designated period and even if it could, it would not be the spelling used after the sixth century B.C. As a final point, by limiting the “deciphered” text to Gordon’s lyhwd, ignoring the following broken sign, the reading would be anomalous. In Paleo-Hebrew, Judah (Judea) is spelled yhwdh, not yhwd. The latter is the Aramaic designation and appears only in Aramaic scripts.

          Although the authors have no formal training in the Cherokee syllabary (nor do cult archaeology writers such as Gordon and McCulloch), it seems necessary to
          make a few comments about Cyrus Thomas’ (1890:35) claim that “…some of the characters, if not all, are letters of the Cherokee alphabet” and later (1894:393) that “…the engraved characters… are beyond question letters of the Cherokee alphabet…” In the only published analysis of the Bat Creek inscription as Cherokee, McCulloch (1988) makes a reasonable case for his contention that several signs are impossible for Cherokee and that the inscription is not translateable as Cherokee. Since, as discussed below, no contemporary Cherokee authorities seem to have regarded the inscription as genuine, McCulloch’s conclusion does not represent a significant new interpretation.

          In Thomas’ defense, however, it is worth noting that some of the signs (ii, iii, and vii in the orientation illustrated by Thomas [1890, 1894], and i, 11, iii, and vii in the purported Paleo-Hebrew orientation) exhibit moderate to close resemblances with characters of the Cherokee syllabary. Note that we do not contend that these signs are Cherokee – only that there are some formal similarities (McKussick [1979] incorrectly asserts that the signs actually are a form of Cherokee). Hence, Thomas’s interpretation, although incorrect, at least had some basis.

          The Brass Bracelets
          The C-shaped brass bracelets that were apparently found under the skull or mandible of Burial 1 (Thomas 1894:393) have been cited by some cult archaeology writers as additional evidence of pre-Columbian contacts and thus supporting their claims of authenticity for the Bat Creek stone (e.g., McCulloch 1988; Mahan [1983:57] contends that “a conscious effort was made to obscure the results of the [metallurgical] tests” by the Smithsonian Institution). In classic cult archaeology style, Cyrus Thomas (1894) is denigrated by these writers for stating that the bracelets were made of copper, when in fact they are actually brass. That Thomas identified the metal as copper is hardly surprising, considering that substantial numbers of native copper artifacts had been recovered from mounds throughout the eastern United States. Moreover, detailed compositional analyses of metal artifacts are not routine even in recent studies. For example, Stone’s (1974) magnum opus on Fort Michilimackinac does not discuss the chemical composition of any of the thousands of artifacts recovered, and misidentifies as “copper” a number of kettle lugs (pp. 172-173) that are in all probability brass (cf. Mainfort 1979:357-359).

          Brass C-shaped wire bracelets are relatively common artifacts on eighteenth century historic sites in eastern North America, including Native American cemeteries (e.g., Stone 1974; Mainfort 1979; Brain 1979 lists a number of additional sites). They were typically formed by bending sections of relatively heavy brass wire into a “C” shape. The specimens from Bat Creek (Figure 2), however, exhibit a seam and a hollow core indicating that they were wrought, rather than cut from brass wire. In this respect, they appear to be similar to the heavier brass bracelets found with the “Tunica Treasure” (Brain 1979:193-194).

          The brass used to form the bracelets from Bat Creek contains 66.5 – 68.2 percent copper and 26.5 – 27.5 percent zinc. This ratio of copper to zinc is
          typical of brasses formed by the cementation process, which was discovered during the last centuries B.C. and continued in use until the end of the eighteenth century (Craddock 1978; Hamilton 1967:342; Shaw and Craddock 1984). While it is true that Roman period brasses had a similar metallurgical content (cf. McCulloch 1988), virtually identical brasses were produced in England during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Day 1973; Shaw and Craddock 1984).

          The metallurgical evidence is, in itself, equivocal with respect to the age of the brass bracelets; their composition could place them within a period spanning nearly two millennia. Specimens similar (albeit not necessarily identical) to the Bat Creek bracelets are we! 1-documented from eighteenth century sites in North America. Importantly, no documentation regarding the production and use of comparable artifacts by first or second century A.D. Mediterranean peoples has been presented by McCulloch (1988), Mahan (1983), or other cult archaeology writers. Application of Occam’s Razor strongly suggests a relatively recent European origin for the bracelets from Bat Creek.

          The Radiocarbon Date
          As noted above, the Bat Creek stone has recently been cast into greater prominence as a result of an AMS radiocarbon determination. A calibrated date of A.D. 32 (427) 769 (1605 ± 170 B.P.) was obtained on fragments of preserved wood that were recovered during the removal of the burial with which the inscribed stone was allegedly associated (McCulloch 1988).

          Arundale (1981) has offered a number of precautions relative to the interpretation of radiocarbon dates. Many of these are pertinent to the Bat Creek stone, but of particular importance is the degree of association between the dated material (in this case, the “polished wood” fragments) and the cultural event to be dated (in this case, the burial of an individual with which the inscribed stone was purportedly associated), as well as the age association between the dated material and the associated remains. In the case of the former, the primitive excavation and recording techniques employed render the certainty of association between the wood fragments, the inscribed stone, and the skeletal remains indeterminant (or at best very tenuous). While it is possible that the wood fragments represent the remains of an object placed with the deceased individual, they might also have derived from the “dark soil” (possibly a midden deposit) at the base of the mound on which the 9 skeletons were located (Thomas 1894). Similarly, the age differential class between the wood and the burial (or the stone itself) is not precisely known. Furthermore, in his field notes, John Emmert mentions the presence of “wet and muddy” soil at the base of the mound (the level at which the burials were found), which raises the possibility of contamination from groundwater.

          While it is possible that the recent AMS determination accurately dates the burial, McCulloch s claim that the date “rules out the possibility of a modern origin for either the inscription or the bracelets” (1988:116) is not only erroneous, but also represents a characteristic, non-skeptical, cult archaeology assertion about a topic in which he has no expertise. Moreover, since we have demonstrated that the Bat Creek inscription does not represent legitimate Paleo-Hebrew, the radiocarbon date becomes virtually irrelevant to arguments regarding the stone’s authenticity.

          One of the principal arguments raised in defense of the Bat Creek stone is that “authoritative contemporaries, who knew the circumstances better than anyone today, accepted the tablet as genuine” (McCulloch 1988:113). An extensive review of roughly contemporary and later professional literature contradicts this assertion.

          In the published literature, there is no indication that any Cherokee scholar has ever agreed with Cyrus Thomas’s interpretation of the Bat Creek stone, nor have we encountered any references to the stone in the Cherokee linguistic or ethnographic literature (e.g., Mooney 1892, as well as examples noted below). Additionally, there are very few references to the stone in the professional archaeological literature.

          Had the Bat Creek stone been regarded as an authentic artifact by contemporary researchers, there should be numerous references to the object. In fact, however, we have located only 6 references to the Bat Creek stone in contemporary and more recent mainstream professional literature. Two of these are Thomas’s (1890, 1894) own publications, as cited earlier. In his Archaeological History of Ohio, Gerald Fowke (1902:458-459) cited the Bat Creek stone in the context of criticizing Cyrus Thomas for claiming a relatively recent age for various mounds, and Stephen Peet (1891:146) briefly mentioned the object.

          Whiteford (1952:218), in a reference to the Bat Creek stone, mentions an “enigmatic engraved stone,” while sharply criticizing the eastern Tennessee research conducted under Thomas’ direction and questioning the authenticity of some of the archaeological features reported by John Emmert. Finally, McKussick (1970) attempted to rebutt the Paleo-Hebrew claims of Gordon and others, mistakenly asserting that the Bat Creek inscription was, in fact, a form of Cherokee.

          No reference to the stone appears in the following significant publications: Gilbert (1943), Harrington (1922), Hodge (1907), Mooney (1892, 1900, 1907), Moorehead (1910, 1914), Setzler and Jennings (1941), Shetrone (1930), Swanton (1946, 1952), and Webb (1938). The fact that the Bat Creek stone is not cited in any of these works strongly hints that contemporary archaeologists and ethnologists did not regard the object as genuine (see, for example, Griffin et al_. 1988).

          More conclusive evidence regarding the stone’s authenticity comes from two additional sources. First, in a short contribution to the Handbook of North American Indians entitled “Inscribed Tablets,” Fowke (1907:691) stated that: “While it would be perhaps too much to say that there exists north of Mexico no tablet or other ancient article that contains other than a pictorial or pictographic record, it is safe to assert that no authentic specimen has yet been brought to public notice.” Fowke did not make this statement out of ignorance of the Bat Creek stone’s existence, because not only had he extensively studied the lithic material recovered by the mound survey (Fowke 1896), but also mentioned the stone in one of his own publications (1902).

          Even more telling is the fact that Cyrus Thomas himself did not discuss the Bat Creek stone in his later substantive publications (1898, 1903, 1905 [with WJ McGee]). Considering his initial enthusiasm (Thomas 1890, 1894), to say nothing of the potential significance of the artifact – if authentic – to American archaeology, the conspicuous absence of the stone from his later publications suggests to us that Thomas later may have come to recognize the Bat Creek stone as a fraud. This possibility is certainly suggested by the following:

          “Another fact that should be borne in mind by the student is the danger of basing conclusions on abnormal objects, or on one or two unusual types. Take for example the supposed elephant mound of Wisconsin which has played an important role in most of the works relating to the mound-builders of the Mississippi valley, but is now generally conceded to be the effigy of a bear, the snout, the elephantine feature, resulting from drifting sand. Stones bearing inscriptions in Hebrew or other Old World characters have at last been banished from the list of prehistoric relics. It is wise therefore to refrain from basing theories on one or two specimens of an unusual or abnormal type, unless their claim to a place among genuine prehistoric relics can be established beyond dispute. It is unfortunate that many of the important articles found in the best museums of our country are without a history that will justify their acceptance, without doubt, as genuine antiquities. It is safe therefore to base important conclusions only on monuments in reference to which there is no doubt, and on articles whose history, as regards the finding, is fully known, except where the type is well established from genuine antiquities. One of the best recent works on ancient America is flawed to some extent by want of this precaution. Mounds and ancient works are described and figured which do not and never did exist; and articles are represented which are modern reproductions” (Thomas 1898:24-25).

          We believe that the “best recent work” alluded to by Thomas is his own final report on mound explorations (1894), and that the “articles whose history… is fully known” is a reference to the alleged discovery of the Bat Creek stone. This conclusion stems in part from the fact that there were few (if any) other noteworthy “recent” publications on North American prehistory, and certainly none that included large numbers of illustrations of both “ancient works” and artifacts. Moreover, Cyrus Thomas was never shy about naming names, whether by way of praise or criticism. Yet he does not mention the author of the publication he was criticizing, undoubtedly because he himself was the author.

          This of course begs the question of why Thomas did not admit to the failings of his magnum opus in a more direct manner. With respect to the Bat Creek stone, which we have now demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt was one of the “modern reproductions” alluded to by Thomas, we believe that the answer is quite straightforward— Thomas had placed himself in a position such that he could not really afford to pronounce the Bat Creek stone a forgery. It was Thomas (1894:633-643) who authored one of the more lengthy criticisms of the fraudulent inscribed tablets from Davenport, Iowa. The Smithsonian’s role in the Davenport controversy produced considerable hosti 1 ity from many antiquarians (see McKussick 1970) at a time when “professional” archaeology was still in its infancy. Thomas (1894:642) rightly challenged the authenticity of the Davenport tablets in part

          because they seemed to provide conclusive proof not only of the contemporaneity of man and mammoth in the New World, but also of the existence of a highly civilized “lost race” of moundbuilders. Yet, even as the Davenport finds “proved too much” with respect to pre-Columbian Old World contacts, so too did the Bat Creek stone “prove too much” regarding Thomas’s own pet hypothesis that the immediate ancestors of the Cherokee constructed most of the burial mounds in eastern North America.
          Having presented certain evidence that suggests that not only contemporary archaeologists and anthropologists, but also Cyrus Thomas himself, did not consider the Bat Creek stone to be authentic, we feel compelled to address the question: “Who was the forger and what were his motives?” Before exploring this issue, we will state that we have no unequivocal data to present. That is, we are not aware of written admissions of guilt. Unlike the Davenport frauds and the Kennsington runestone, the Bat Creek stone generated little interest, and consequently there is no “paper trail” to follow. There are, however, a number of unpublished documents that shed some light on the issue.

          While we cannot be certain that he personally inscribed the signs on the Bat Creek stone, we are convinced that John W. Emmert was responsible for the forgery. Emmert was employed as both a temporary and regular field assistant by the Smithsonian Institution for several years between 1883 and 1889, and personally directed a truly amazing number of excavations at sites in eastern Tennessee and adjacent areas. Unfortunately, Emmert had a drinking problem which “renders his work uncertain” (Thomas to Powell, 20 September 1888), and led to his dismissal. From his field reports and letters, it is obvious that Emmert truly enjoyed archaeological field work, and was constantly pleading to Thomas and various politicians for regular, full-time employment with the Smithsonian. In a letter to Cyrus Thomas dated 19 December 1888, Emmert stated that “I have kept up a constant study of the mounds and who built them and should I ever have the opportunity of exploring them again I can certainly give you greater satisfaction than I ever did before… I have just received and read your Burial Mounds (i.e., “Burial Mounds in the Northern Sections of the United States” in B.A.E. 5th Annual Report – authors) and I certainly agree with you that the Cherokees were Mound Builders, in fact there is not a doubt in my mind about it.”

          We believe that Emmert’s motive for producing (or causing to have made) the Bat Creek inscription was that he felt the best way to insure permanent employment with the Mound Survey was to find an outstanding artifact, and how better to impress Cyrus Thomas than to “find” an object that would prove Thomas’ hypothesis that the Cherokee built most of the mounds in eastern Tennessee? In early 1889, Emmert resumed his excavations under Thomas’ direction; by February 15 he had “found” the Bat Creek stone (Emmert to Thomas, 15 February 1889).

          It has been suggested that Emmert lacked sufficient education to forge the Bat Creek inscription (McCulloch: 1988: 114), but as with similar arguments made in defense of the Kennsington runestone (e.g., Gordon 1974:30), this assertion is not valid. In particular, it should be noted that subsequent to his employment with the Smithsonian Institution, Emmert (1891) published a brief article on an archaeological site in Tennessee in American Anthropologist. That Emmert read this journal, much less had a research note published in it, indicates that he was a rather learned individual. Also relevant here is the

          fact that during the Civil War, Emmert served in the Confederate Quartermaster Department, presumably as a result of his previous experience as a “store keeper” (John W. Emmert, Compiled Service Record, M268/346, National Archives). This again suggests that Emmert was certainly not an ignorant man. As to the specific signs on the Bat Creek stone, several are passable Cherokee, and the inspiration for the remainder could have been any number of published sources, including illustrations of the Grave Creek stone and the Davenport tablets.

          McCulloch (1988) also suggests that if Emmert “was not above fabricating evidence” (i.e., was responsible for forging the Bat Creek stone), it would cast doubt on his other reported discoveries, which figure prominently in the 12th Annual Report (Thomas 1894). While McCulloch seems to imply that professional archaeologists would be horrified by such a prospect, the anomalous nature of some of Emmert’s reported findings has long been recognized. Whiteford (1952:207-225) summarizes some of these:

          “It is impossible to use the data presented by Thomas in the Twelfth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology with any conviction that they present a complete or even, in some cases, an accurate picture of the material which Emmert excavated in the Tennessee Area” (1952:217)…

          “Mound No. 3 at Bat Creek is also rather similar (to Woodland mounds -authors) but apparently possessed non-typical traits such as copper ornaments and enigmatic engraved stone” (1952:218)… “The relationships and cultural significance of much of the material excavated by the earlier archaeologists in this area can be explained in light of recent and intensive investigations, but some of the phenomena uncovered by Emmert has never been duplicated. Nothing resembling the mass bundle burials which he found on Long Island in Roane County and on the McGhee Farm in Monroe County has been recovered in more recent work. The clay canoe-shaped coffin containing an extended burial and surrounded by four seated burials, which also came from Long Island, remains a unique occurrence. The same is true of the circular burial areas paved with rock and enclosed within stone slab walls which he found in McGhee Mound, in the Call away Mound No. 2, in the Bat Creek Mound, and on the Blankenship Place.”

          “Thomas also reports enclosed burial areas, vaguely similar to those described above, from Sullivan County. To our knowledge no recent investigation has uncovered anything resembling the stone domed vaults or ‘stone hives’ which he describes” (1952:218-219).

          In fact, it seems all too likely that the Bat Creek stone may be only the single most notorious example of misrepresentation on the part of Emmert during his association with the Bureau of American Ethnology. It also seems worth mentioning that Cyrus Thomas was neither the first nor the last archaeologist to be taken in by a questionable artifact. For example, Frederic W. Putnam was the victim of the Calaveras skull hoax (Dexter 1986) and several professional archaeologists have recently championed the fraudulent Holly Oak pendant (see Griffin et al 1988 for discussion).

          Concluding Remarks
          The Bat Creek stone, allegedly found in an undisturbed burial mound by an employee of the Smithsonian Institution, has been heralded by cult archaeologists as proof of pre-Columbian visitations to the New World by Mediterranean peoples. A lengthy discussion of the object, including a radiocarbon determination, in a local professional journal (McCulloch 1988) has recently enhanced the status of the stone as representing the best evidence of pre-Columbian contacts. In this paper we have addressed three key issues surrounding the Bat Creek stone and its interpretation. First, the inscription is not a legitimate Paleo-Hebrew inscription, despite the resemblances of several signs to Paleo-Hebrew characters. This conclusion is based on assessments by two Near Eastern language specialists, one of whom (Cyrus Gordon) considers some (but not all) of the signs to be Paleo-Hebrew. Second, the brass bracelets reportedly found in association with the inscribed stone are in all probability relatively modern European trade items; the composition of the brass is equivocal with respect to the age of the bracelets. Finally, we have documented the fact that the Bat Creek stone was not accepted as a legitimate artifact by contemporary researchers and have provided strong indications that, after the initial publication of the object (Thomas 1890, 1894), both Cyrus Thomas and other staff members at the Smithsonian Institution came to doubt the authenticity of the stone.

          Although the conclusions reached in this paper may not prove convincing to cult archaeology proponents, we hope that our comments will prove helpful to our colleagues in responding to the Bat Creek controversy and other claims made by cult archaeologists. Perhaps more important, we hope that our efforts here will influence some of our colleagues to take an active role in countering claims made by cult archaeologists and particularly in providing the general public with accessible information about the remarkable discoveries made by mainstream archaeology (see Williams 1987, 1988a, 1988b).

          Acknowledgements
          The authors particularly thank Frank Moore Cross, Hancock Professor of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages at Harvard University, for providing us with his professional assessment of the signs on the Bat Creek stone. Jefferson Chapman, Director of the McClung Museum at the University of Tennessee, generously provided copies of unpublished reports and correspondence by and pertaining to John Emmert. Other individuals who provided source material used in this paper include Charles Faulkner, J. Houston McCulloch, Joseph B. Mahan, Michael Moore, and Stephen Williams. Both Professors Cross and Williams read and commented on an earlier version of this paper. Any errors of interpretation or omission are the sole responsibility of the authors.

          References Cited

          Reply
        • Here is the whole article:

          THE BAT CREEK STONE: JUDEANS IN TENNESSEE?
          Tennessee Anthropologist
          Vol. XVI, No. 1, Spring 1991
          Robert C. Mainfort, Jr., and Mary L. Kwas
          Reproduced with permission from The Tennessee Anthropologist

          ABSTRACT
          An inscribed stone reportedly excavated by the Smithsonian Institution from a burial mound in eastern Tennessee has been heralded by cult archaeologists as incontrovertible evidence of pre-Columbian Old World contracts. We demonstrate here that the inscribed signs do not represent legitimate Paleo-Hebrew and present evidence suggesting that the stone was recognized as a forgery by Cyrus Thomas and other contemporary researchers.

          Introduction
          Two of the most hotly contested issues in American archaeology during the nineteenth century were the existence of an American Paleolithic of comparable age to sites in Europe and hypothetical pre-Columbian contacts with the Old World (Willey and Sabloff 1974). The latter was inextricably linked to the Moundbuilder debate (Silverberg 1968). Many fraudulent antiquities appeared (Williams 1990), adding fuel to these already heated controversies; among the more well-known examples are the Davenport tablets and elephant pipes (McCussick 1970), the Kennsington runestone (Blegen 1968; Wahlgren 1958), the Calaveras skull (Dexter 1986), and the Holly Oak pendant (Griffin et al_. 1988). Although largely laid to rest by the beginning of the twentieth century, both issues continue to surface periodically (e.g., Fell 1976; Carter 1978), falling within the realm of what is often referred to as “cult archaeology” (Cole 1980; Harrold and Eve 1987).

          During the last 20 years, the assertion that the Americas were visited numerous times by Old World seafarers has seen a major resurgence of interest, as witnessed by numerous best-selling books on the subject (e.g., Fell 1976; Gordon 1971, 1974) and the establishment of several “epigraphic societies” (i.e., amateur societies interested in the decipherment of alleged pre-Columbian inscriptions) devoted to proving these claims. Although various stone structures are often presented as evidence of pre-Columbian contacts (e.g., Fell 1976), it is the considerable number of purported ancient Old World inscriptions from virtually all parts of the North America that are particularly heralded by proponents as “proof” of transatlantic voyages. Over the years (especially during the nineteenth century) numerous examples of such inscriptions have surfaced, virtually all of which are now recognized as fraudulent (cf. Peet 1890, 1892, 1895). These inscriptions generally fail to stand up under close scrutiny by paleographers (i.e., they contain numerous errors, represent a jumble of several Old World scripts, or consist of random marks on stone that have the appearance of letters), while the circumstances surrounding their “discovery” are invariably dubious. While few archaeologists would deny a priori the possibility of early voyages to the New World, the simple fact is that, with the exception of the Norse settlement at L’anse Meadows (Ingstad 1964), no convincing evidence for such occurrences has ever been found or recognized by professional researchers.

          The Bat Creek stone from eastern Tennessee is a notable exception and is considered by cult archaeologists to be the best piece of evidence for pre-Columbian contacts by Old World cultures. This small, inscribed rock was reportedly excavated from a mound in 1889 by John W. Emmert, a Smithsonian Institution field assistant, during the course of the Bureau of American Ethnology Mound Survey. Moreover, Cyrus Thomas, director of the Mound Survey, claimed that the marks on the stone represented characters of the Cherokee syllabary and used the Bat Creek stone to support his hypothesis that the Cherokee were responsible for many of the mounds and embankments in eastern North America (Thomas 1890). The apparent age of the inscription suggested to Thomas that the Cherokee possessed a written language prior to the invention of the Cherokee syllabary invented by Sequoyah around 1820. However, Thomas (1890, 1894) never offered a translation of the inscription.

          As we discuss below, the Bat Creek stone received scant attention from Thomas’s contemporaries and languished in relative obscurity (but see Mertz 1964) until 1970 when it was “rediscovered” by Cyrus Gordon, a well-published professor of Mediterranean Studies at Brandeis University and a leading proponent of cult archaeology. Gordon claimed that by inverting the orientation of the stone relative to the published illustrations (i.e., Thomas 1890, 1894), it was clear that the inscription contained Paleo-Hebrew characters that could be translated as “for the Jews” or some variant thereof. Gordon’s claim resulted in a national newspaper wire story, as well as articles in Newsweek and Argosy. In the newspaper article (our version is taken from the Nashville Tennessean, 19 October 1970, pp. 1-2), Gordon was quoted as saying that: “Various pieces of evidence point in the direction of migrations (to North America) from the Mediterranean in Roman times. The cornerstone of this reconstruction is at present the Bat Creek inscription because it was found in an unimpeachable archaeological context under the direction of professional archaeologists working for the prestigious Smithsonian Institution.”

          Gordon, whose scholarly credentials are certainly impressive, is an archetypical example of what Williams (1988a) has referred to as “rogue professors.” Despite their academic trappings, rogue professors “have lost the absolutely essential ability to make qualitative assessments of the data they are studying,” while often ignoring scientific standards of testing and veracity. Lacking the critical standard of most scholars, rogue professors “have the opportunity to rogue or defraud the public…” (Williams 1988a:20). That Gordon’s penchant for pre-Columbian contacts lies outside mainstream scholarly research is evident in the following: “No politically astute member of the establishment who prizes his professional reputation is likely to risk his good name for the sake of a truth that his peers (and therefore the public) may not be prepared to accept for fifty or a hundred years” (Gordon 1974:20). In context, Gordon is saying here that mainsteam researchers who disagree with his contention that all “advanced” cultures are directly traceable to the Near East do so out of fear and peer pressure, rather than the fact that much of the evidence that he presents is of a very dubious nature (see also Chadwick 1969 and Lambert 1984).

          BAT CREEK STONE
          The Bat Creek stone figured prominently in Gordon’s (1971, 1974) major cult archaeology books, and subsequently received attention in a number of other fringe publications (e.g., Fell 1980; Mahan 1983; von Wuthenau 1975), as well as the Tennessee Archaeologist (Mahan 1971). In 1988, the stone was the subject of a Tennessee Anthropologist article by J. Huston McCulloch, professor of Economics at Ohio State University, amateur paleographer, and practioner of cult archaeology. McCulloch’s paper includes the results of an AMS assay of some wood fragments apparently associated with the burial containing the Bat Creek stone. The sample returned a calibrated radiocarbon age of A.D. 32 (427) 769 (McCulloch 1988; the age range was reported at two sigma), which is claimed to “rule out the possibility of modern origin” for the inscription (McCulloch 1988:116).
          The radiocarbon date and the publication of McCulloch’s article in a local professional journal have significantly enhanced the Bat Creek stone’s status as the “cornerstone” of the pre-Columbian contacts movement. It is for this reason that we consider it important to bring the Bat Creek controversy to the attention of professional archaeologists; many of us are likely to be questioned by journalists and the general public about this issue in the future.
          The Bat Creek Stone

          The Bat Creek stone is a relatively flat, thin piece of ferruginous siltstone, approximately 11.4 cm long and 5.1 cm wide. Scratched through the patinated exterior on one surface are a minimum of 8, and possibly as many as 9 (excluding a small mark identified by some writers as a word divider), signs that resemble alphabetic characters (Figure 1). Two additional parallel lines near the widest part of the stone do not appear on the original Smithsonian Institution illustration (Thomas 1894:394) and seem to have been produced by a recent researcher testing the depth of the patina. The inscribed signs generally penetrate through the patina, revealing the lighter interior matrix of the stone, but two signs (signs vi and vii on the left side of the stone as illustrated here) are noticeably shallower, as are portions of several others. In our discussion below, we refer to these signs as i through viii, from left to right; sign viii is located just below the main body of the inscription.

          Context of the Find
          The Bat Creek mounds (40LD24) were located near the confluence of Bat Creek and the Little Tennessee River in Loudon County, Tennessee. The largest of these, Mound 1, was located on the east side of the creek. Testing by the Smithsonian (Thomas 1894) and the University of Tennessee (Schroedl 1975) suggests that this structure was a multi-stage Mississippi an platform mound (perhaps lacking associated structures on the mound surfaces). Underlying the earthwork were a number of early Mississippian features. Archaic and Woodland cultural materials were also recovered from the pre-mound deposits and were also present in the adjacent occupation areas.
          Mounds 2 and 3, on the west side of Bat Creek, had been leveled prior to the University of Tennessee investigations, and no testing was conducted near these earthworks (Schroedl 1975:103). Mound 2 was a burial mound approximately 3 m tall and 13 m in diameter. The earthwork was reportedly constructed over a limestone slab “vault” containing 16 individuals; a necklace of “many small
          shells and large shell beads” was associated with one interment (Thomas 1894). Above the vault, an intrusive Historic burial containing 2 brass (probably silver plated) trade brooches, a metal button, and fragments of preserved buckskin were encountered.

          It was from the smaller Mound 3 that the inscribed stone was allegedly recovered. This earthwork “was composed throughout, except about the skeletons at the bottom, of hard red clay, without any indications of stratification.” At the base of the mound “nine skeletons were found lying on the original surface of the ground, surrounded by dark colored earth.” This description suggests that the mound was constructed on top of an occupation midden or old humus zone. Artifacts were associated with only one of the 9 extended interments. Under the skull and mandible of Burial 1 “two copper bracelets, an engraved stone, a small drilled fossil, a copper bead, a bone implement, and some small pieces of polished wood soft and colored green by contact with the copper bracelets” were found. “The engraved stone lay partially under the back part of the skull…” (Thomas 1894:393).

          The Bat Creek stone (Catalogue No. 134902, Department of Anthropology, Smithsonian Institution). Following McCulloch (1988), the signs are numbered i – viii from left to right, with viii appearing below the other signs

          The Characters
          The potential significance of the Bat Creek stone rests primarily on the decipherment of the 8 characters inscribed upon it. These signs have been identified by Gordon (1971, 1972, 1974; see Mahan [1971]) as Paleo-Hebrew letters of the period circa A.D. 100; McCulloch (1988) suggests the first century A.D. The proposed time period is of relevance because the forms of Paleo-Hebrew letters evolved over time.
          We present below an assessment of the individual signs on the stone. Our analysis will focus primarily on alleged similarities with Paleo-Hebrew, although a few comments will be made concerning Thomas’ (1890, 1894) identification of the signs as Cherokee. Since neither of the authors have training in ancient Near Eastern languages, we requested an assessment of the Bat Creek inscription from Frank Moore Cross, Hancock Professor of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages at Harvard University. Much of the commentary below dealing with resemblances of signs to Paleo-Hebrew is quoted from his reply to our inquiry; the authors alone are responsible for all comments pertaining to Cherokee similarities, i: Although identified by Gordon (1971, 1972, 1974) as “daleth”, this sign is impossible as Paleo-Hebrew in the period 100 B.C.-A.D. 100, based on shape and stance. There is a vague resemblance to the Cherokee “se”, as noted by McCulloch (1988:87).

          ii: Identified by Gordon as “waw”, this sign is also impossible as Paleo-Hebrew in the period 100 B.C.-A.D. 100, based on shape and stance. McCulloch (1988) identifies sign ii as “waw” based partially on a fourth century B.C. text. Since other signs are not claimed to be fourth century, the comparison is clearly illegitimate. The sign is quite similar to the Cherokee “ga” regardless of the orientation of the stone.

          iii: This sign is impossible as Paleo-Hebrew in the period 100 B.C.-A.D. 100 based on the shape and stance; Gordon identifies this sign as “he.” If reversed, the sign would represent a passable Cherokee “gun.”

          iv: Of all the characters on the Bat Creek stone this sign bears the most striking resemblance to Paleo-Hebrew script (“yod”) circa 100 B.C.-A.D. 100 (but not the second century of the Christian era).

          v: Despite problems with its relative size, this sign is normal for Paleo-Hebrew script (“lamed”) between 100 B.C. and A.D. 100, but not for the second century C.E.

          vi: We agree with the assessment by Gordon (Mahan 1971:43) that this sign is “not in the Canaanite system.” In subsequent publications, Gordon (1971:186, 1972:10-12) referred to this sign as “problematic,” and more recently (Gordon 1974) did not mention sign vi in his discussion of the Bat Creek stone. The sign is impossible for Paleo-Hebrew.

          vii: Our comments pertaining to sign vi apply in toto here as well. In the illustration orientation, this sign resembles the Cherokee “tlun:; inverted, it is somewhat similar to a reversed “si.”

          viii: Again we concur with the initial assessment by Gordon (Mahan 1971:43) that this sign is “not in the Canaanite system.” The sign is impossible for Paleo-Hebrew. Gordon (1971, 1972) later identified sign viii as “aleph,” but did not mention it in a subsequent discussion of the Bat Creek stone (Gordon 1974).

          As a strong advocate of pre-Columbian contacts between the Mediterranean region and the New World, Gordon’s (1971, 1972, 1974) interpretation of the Bat Creek inscription could justifiably be criticized on the grounds that his zeal to make a case for the radiation of higher culture from a single Near Eastern center caused him to relax the disciplines of historical linguistics, paleography, and historical orthography. Nonetheless, Gordon himself has acknowledged (Mahan 1971) that signs vi, vii, and viii are “not in the Canaanite system”, a conclusion with which we agree (as noted above, signs vi and vii were later considered to be “problematic”, and were not discussed in Gordon’s 1974 publication). Ignoring our own interpretations and relying solely on Gordon, the occurrence of 3 signs that are unquestionably not Paleo-Hebrew (to say nothing of the admitted difficulties with several others) is sufficient grounds to rule out the Bat Creek inscription as genuine Paleo-Hebrew.

          Curiously, while urging readers to “seek out the views of qualified… scholars” about the signs on the Bat Creek stone, McCulloch (1988), an amateur epigrapher, offers interpretations of three signs (vi, vii, and viii) that contradict the published assessments of one of the stone’s most outspoken proponents (Cyrus Gordon, a published Near Eastern language specialist), implying that despite his own lack of expertise in Paleo-Hebrew, McCulloch considers his own opinion to be as valid as those of specialists in the field.

          Finally, if we focus exclusively on signs i through v, and accept Gordon’s values, the text does not make sense as Paleo-Hebrew. There may be a broken sign on the left edge of the stone. It cannot be yod (cf. sign iv) or he_ (cf. sign iii), so to read lyhwdh or 1 yhwdym (“for Judea” or “for the Jews”), as advocated by Gordon (1971, 1972, 1974), is impossible (note that Hebrew is read from right to left). To read lyhwdm is also impossible on two grounds. The broken sign cannot be mem in the designated period and even if it could, it would not be the spelling used after the sixth century B.C. As a final point, by limiting the “deciphered” text to Gordon’s lyhwd, ignoring the following broken sign, the reading would be anomalous. In Paleo-Hebrew, Judah (Judea) is spelled yhwdh, not yhwd. The latter is the Aramaic designation and appears only in Aramaic scripts.

          Although the authors have no formal training in the Cherokee syllabary (nor do cult archaeology writers such as Gordon and McCulloch), it seems necessary to
          make a few comments about Cyrus Thomas’ (1890:35) claim that “…some of the characters, if not all, are letters of the Cherokee alphabet” and later (1894:393) that “…the engraved characters… are beyond question letters of the Cherokee alphabet…” In the only published analysis of the Bat Creek inscription as Cherokee, McCulloch (1988) makes a reasonable case for his contention that several signs are impossible for Cherokee and that the inscription is not translateable as Cherokee. Since, as discussed below, no contemporary Cherokee authorities seem to have regarded the inscription as genuine, McCulloch’s conclusion does not represent a significant new interpretation.

          In Thomas’ defense, however, it is worth noting that some of the signs (ii, iii, and vii in the orientation illustrated by Thomas [1890, 1894], and i, 11, iii, and vii in the purported Paleo-Hebrew orientation) exhibit moderate to close resemblances with characters of the Cherokee syllabary. Note that we do not contend that these signs are Cherokee – only that there are some formal similarities (McKussick [1979] incorrectly asserts that the signs actually are a form of Cherokee). Hence, Thomas’s interpretation, although incorrect, at least had some basis.

          The Brass Bracelets
          The C-shaped brass bracelets that were apparently found under the skull or mandible of Burial 1 (Thomas 1894:393) have been cited by some cult archaeology writers as additional evidence of pre-Columbian contacts and thus supporting their claims of authenticity for the Bat Creek stone (e.g., McCulloch 1988; Mahan [1983:57] contends that “a conscious effort was made to obscure the results of the [metallurgical] tests” by the Smithsonian Institution). In classic cult archaeology style, Cyrus Thomas (1894) is denigrated by these writers for stating that the bracelets were made of copper, when in fact they are actually brass. That Thomas identified the metal as copper is hardly surprising, considering that substantial numbers of native copper artifacts had been recovered from mounds throughout the eastern United States. Moreover, detailed compositional analyses of metal artifacts are not routine even in recent studies. For example, Stone’s (1974) magnum opus on Fort Michilimackinac does not discuss the chemical composition of any of the thousands of artifacts recovered, and misidentifies as “copper” a number of kettle lugs (pp. 172-173) that are in all probability brass (cf. Mainfort 1979:357-359).

          Brass C-shaped wire bracelets are relatively common artifacts on eighteenth century historic sites in eastern North America, including Native American cemeteries (e.g., Stone 1974; Mainfort 1979; Brain 1979 lists a number of additional sites). They were typically formed by bending sections of relatively heavy brass wire into a “C” shape. The specimens from Bat Creek (Figure 2), however, exhibit a seam and a hollow core indicating that they were wrought, rather than cut from brass wire. In this respect, they appear to be similar to the heavier brass bracelets found with the “Tunica Treasure” (Brain 1979:193-194).

          The brass used to form the bracelets from Bat Creek contains 66.5 – 68.2 percent copper and 26.5 – 27.5 percent zinc. This ratio of copper to zinc is
          typical of brasses formed by the cementation process, which was discovered during the last centuries B.C. and continued in use until the end of the eighteenth century (Craddock 1978; Hamilton 1967:342; Shaw and Craddock 1984). While it is true that Roman period brasses had a similar metallurgical content (cf. McCulloch 1988), virtually identical brasses were produced in England during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Day 1973; Shaw and Craddock 1984).

          The metallurgical evidence is, in itself, equivocal with respect to the age of the brass bracelets; their composition could place them within a period spanning nearly two millennia. Specimens similar (albeit not necessarily identical) to the Bat Creek bracelets are we! 1-documented from eighteenth century sites in North America. Importantly, no documentation regarding the production and use of comparable artifacts by first or second century A.D. Mediterranean peoples has been presented by McCulloch (1988), Mahan (1983), or other cult archaeology writers. Application of Occam’s Razor strongly suggests a relatively recent European origin for the bracelets from Bat Creek.

          The Radiocarbon Date
          As noted above, the Bat Creek stone has recently been cast into greater prominence as a result of an AMS radiocarbon determination. A calibrated date of A.D. 32 (427) 769 (1605 ± 170 B.P.) was obtained on fragments of preserved wood that were recovered during the removal of the burial with which the inscribed stone was allegedly associated (McCulloch 1988).

          Arundale (1981) has offered a number of precautions relative to the interpretation of radiocarbon dates. Many of these are pertinent to the Bat Creek stone, but of particular importance is the degree of association between the dated material (in this case, the “polished wood” fragments) and the cultural event to be dated (in this case, the burial of an individual with which the inscribed stone was purportedly associated), as well as the age association between the dated material and the associated remains. In the case of the former, the primitive excavation and recording techniques employed render the certainty of association between the wood fragments, the inscribed stone, and the skeletal remains indeterminant (or at best very tenuous). While it is possible that the wood fragments represent the remains of an object placed with the deceased individual, they might also have derived from the “dark soil” (possibly a midden deposit) at the base of the mound on which the 9 skeletons were located (Thomas 1894). Similarly, the age differential class between the wood and the burial (or the stone itself) is not precisely known. Furthermore, in his field notes, John Emmert mentions the presence of “wet and muddy” soil at the base of the mound (the level at which the burials were found), which raises the possibility of contamination from groundwater.

          While it is possible that the recent AMS determination accurately dates the burial, McCulloch s claim that the date “rules out the possibility of a modern origin for either the inscription or the bracelets” (1988:116) is not only erroneous, but also represents a characteristic, non-skeptical, cult archaeology assertion about a topic in which he has no expertise. Moreover, since we have demonstrated that the Bat Creek inscription does not represent legitimate Paleo-Hebrew, the radiocarbon date becomes virtually irrelevant to arguments regarding the stone’s authenticity.

          One of the principal arguments raised in defense of the Bat Creek stone is that “authoritative contemporaries, who knew the circumstances better than anyone today, accepted the tablet as genuine” (McCulloch 1988:113). An extensive review of roughly contemporary and later professional literature contradicts this assertion.

          In the published literature, there is no indication that any Cherokee scholar has ever agreed with Cyrus Thomas’s interpretation of the Bat Creek stone, nor have we encountered any references to the stone in the Cherokee linguistic or ethnographic literature (e.g., Mooney 1892, as well as examples noted below). Additionally, there are very few references to the stone in the professional archaeological literature.

          Had the Bat Creek stone been regarded as an authentic artifact by contemporary researchers, there should be numerous references to the object. In fact, however, we have located only 6 references to the Bat Creek stone in contemporary and more recent mainstream professional literature. Two of these are Thomas’s (1890, 1894) own publications, as cited earlier. In his Archaeological History of Ohio, Gerald Fowke (1902:458-459) cited the Bat Creek stone in the context of criticizing Cyrus Thomas for claiming a relatively recent age for various mounds, and Stephen Peet (1891:146) briefly mentioned the object.

          Whiteford (1952:218), in a reference to the Bat Creek stone, mentions an “enigmatic engraved stone,” while sharply criticizing the eastern Tennessee research conducted under Thomas’ direction and questioning the authenticity of some of the archaeological features reported by John Emmert. Finally, McKussick (1970) attempted to rebutt the Paleo-Hebrew claims of Gordon and others, mistakenly asserting that the Bat Creek inscription was, in fact, a form of Cherokee.

          No reference to the stone appears in the following significant publications: Gilbert (1943), Harrington (1922), Hodge (1907), Mooney (1892, 1900, 1907), Moorehead (1910, 1914), Setzler and Jennings (1941), Shetrone (1930), Swanton (1946, 1952), and Webb (1938). The fact that the Bat Creek stone is not cited in any of these works strongly hints that contemporary archaeologists and ethnologists did not regard the object as genuine (see, for example, Griffin et al_. 1988).

          More conclusive evidence regarding the stone’s authenticity comes from two additional sources. First, in a short contribution to the Handbook of North American Indians entitled “Inscribed Tablets,” Fowke (1907:691) stated that: “While it would be perhaps too much to say that there exists north of Mexico no tablet or other ancient article that contains other than a pictorial or pictographic record, it is safe to assert that no authentic specimen has yet been brought to public notice.” Fowke did not make this statement out of ignorance of the Bat Creek stone’s existence, because not only had he extensively studied the lithic material recovered by the mound survey (Fowke 1896), but also mentioned the stone in one of his own publications (1902).

          Even more telling is the fact that Cyrus Thomas himself did not discuss the Bat Creek stone in his later substantive publications (1898, 1903, 1905 [with WJ McGee]). Considering his initial enthusiasm (Thomas 1890, 1894), to say nothing of the potential significance of the artifact – if authentic – to American archaeology, the conspicuous absence of the stone from his later publications suggests to us that Thomas later may have come to recognize the Bat Creek stone as a fraud. This possibility is certainly suggested by the following:

          “Another fact that should be borne in mind by the student is the danger of basing conclusions on abnormal objects, or on one or two unusual types. Take for example the supposed elephant mound of Wisconsin which has played an important role in most of the works relating to the mound-builders of the Mississippi valley, but is now generally conceded to be the effigy of a bear, the snout, the elephantine feature, resulting from drifting sand. Stones bearing inscriptions in Hebrew or other Old World characters have at last been banished from the list of prehistoric relics. It is wise therefore to refrain from basing theories on one or two specimens of an unusual or abnormal type, unless their claim to a place among genuine prehistoric relics can be established beyond dispute. It is unfortunate that many of the important articles found in the best museums of our country are without a history that will justify their acceptance, without doubt, as genuine antiquities. It is safe therefore to base important conclusions only on monuments in reference to which there is no doubt, and on articles whose history, as regards the finding, is fully known, except where the type is well established from genuine antiquities. One of the best recent works on ancient America is flawed to some extent by want of this precaution. Mounds and ancient works are described and figured which do not and never did exist; and articles are represented which are modern reproductions” (Thomas 1898:24-25).

          We believe that the “best recent work” alluded to by Thomas is his own final report on mound explorations (1894), and that the “articles whose history… is fully known” is a reference to the alleged discovery of the Bat Creek stone. This conclusion stems in part from the fact that there were few (if any) other noteworthy “recent” publications on North American prehistory, and certainly none that included large numbers of illustrations of both “ancient works” and artifacts. Moreover, Cyrus Thomas was never shy about naming names, whether by way of praise or criticism. Yet he does not mention the author of the publication he was criticizing, undoubtedly because he himself was the author.

          This of course begs the question of why Thomas did not admit to the failings of his magnum opus in a more direct manner. With respect to the Bat Creek stone, which we have now demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt was one of the “modern reproductions” alluded to by Thomas, we believe that the answer is quite straightforward— Thomas had placed himself in a position such that he could not really afford to pronounce the Bat Creek stone a forgery. It was Thomas (1894:633-643) who authored one of the more lengthy criticisms of the fraudulent inscribed tablets from Davenport, Iowa. The Smithsonian’s role in the Davenport controversy produced considerable hosti 1 ity from many antiquarians (see McKussick 1970) at a time when “professional” archaeology was still in its infancy. Thomas (1894:642) rightly challenged the authenticity of the Davenport tablets in part

          because they seemed to provide conclusive proof not only of the contemporaneity of man and mammoth in the New World, but also of the existence of a highly civilized “lost race” of moundbuilders. Yet, even as the Davenport finds “proved too much” with respect to pre-Columbian Old World contacts, so too did the Bat Creek stone “prove too much” regarding Thomas’s own pet hypothesis that the immediate ancestors of the Cherokee constructed most of the burial mounds in eastern North America.
          Having presented certain evidence that suggests that not only contemporary archaeologists and anthropologists, but also Cyrus Thomas himself, did not consider the Bat Creek stone to be authentic, we feel compelled to address the question: “Who was the forger and what were his motives?” Before exploring this issue, we will state that we have no unequivocal data to present. That is, we are not aware of written admissions of guilt. Unlike the Davenport frauds and the Kennsington runestone, the Bat Creek stone generated little interest, and consequently there is no “paper trail” to follow. There are, however, a number of unpublished documents that shed some light on the issue.

          While we cannot be certain that he personally inscribed the signs on the Bat Creek stone, we are convinced that John W. Emmert was responsible for the forgery. Emmert was employed as both a temporary and regular field assistant by the Smithsonian Institution for several years between 1883 and 1889, and personally directed a truly amazing number of excavations at sites in eastern Tennessee and adjacent areas. Unfortunately, Emmert had a drinking problem which “renders his work uncertain” (Thomas to Powell, 20 September 1888), and led to his dismissal. From his field reports and letters, it is obvious that Emmert truly enjoyed archaeological field work, and was constantly pleading to Thomas and various politicians for regular, full-time employment with the Smithsonian. In a letter to Cyrus Thomas dated 19 December 1888, Emmert stated that “I have kept up a constant study of the mounds and who built them and should I ever have the opportunity of exploring them again I can certainly give you greater satisfaction than I ever did before… I have just received and read your Burial Mounds (i.e., “Burial Mounds in the Northern Sections of the United States” in B.A.E. 5th Annual Report – authors) and I certainly agree with you that the Cherokees were Mound Builders, in fact there is not a doubt in my mind about it.”

          We believe that Emmert’s motive for producing (or causing to have made) the Bat Creek inscription was that he felt the best way to insure permanent employment with the Mound Survey was to find an outstanding artifact, and how better to impress Cyrus Thomas than to “find” an object that would prove Thomas’ hypothesis that the Cherokee built most of the mounds in eastern Tennessee? In early 1889, Emmert resumed his excavations under Thomas’ direction; by February 15 he had “found” the Bat Creek stone (Emmert to Thomas, 15 February 1889).

          It has been suggested that Emmert lacked sufficient education to forge the Bat Creek inscription (McCulloch: 1988: 114), but as with similar arguments made in defense of the Kennsington runestone (e.g., Gordon 1974:30), this assertion is not valid. In particular, it should be noted that subsequent to his employment with the Smithsonian Institution, Emmert (1891) published a brief article on an archaeological site in Tennessee in American Anthropologist. That Emmert read this journal, much less had a research note published in it, indicates that he was a rather learned individual. Also relevant here is the

          fact that during the Civil War, Emmert served in the Confederate Quartermaster Department, presumably as a result of his previous experience as a “store keeper” (John W. Emmert, Compiled Service Record, M268/346, National Archives). This again suggests that Emmert was certainly not an ignorant man. As to the specific signs on the Bat Creek stone, several are passable Cherokee, and the inspiration for the remainder could have been any number of published sources, including illustrations of the Grave Creek stone and the Davenport tablets.

          McCulloch (1988) also suggests that if Emmert “was not above fabricating evidence” (i.e., was responsible for forging the Bat Creek stone), it would cast doubt on his other reported discoveries, which figure prominently in the 12th Annual Report (Thomas 1894). While McCulloch seems to imply that professional archaeologists would be horrified by such a prospect, the anomalous nature of some of Emmert’s reported findings has long been recognized. Whiteford (1952:207-225) summarizes some of these:

          “It is impossible to use the data presented by Thomas in the Twelfth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology with any conviction that they present a complete or even, in some cases, an accurate picture of the material which Emmert excavated in the Tennessee Area” (1952:217)…

          “Mound No. 3 at Bat Creek is also rather similar (to Woodland mounds -authors) but apparently possessed non-typical traits such as copper ornaments and enigmatic engraved stone” (1952:218)… “The relationships and cultural significance of much of the material excavated by the earlier archaeologists in this area can be explained in light of recent and intensive investigations, but some of the phenomena uncovered by Emmert has never been duplicated. Nothing resembling the mass bundle burials which he found on Long Island in Roane County and on the McGhee Farm in Monroe County has been recovered in more recent work. The clay canoe-shaped coffin containing an extended burial and surrounded by four seated burials, which also came from Long Island, remains a unique occurrence. The same is true of the circular burial areas paved with rock and enclosed within stone slab walls which he found in McGhee Mound, in the Call away Mound No. 2, in the Bat Creek Mound, and on the Blankenship Place.”

          “Thomas also reports enclosed burial areas, vaguely similar to those described above, from Sullivan County. To our knowledge no recent investigation has uncovered anything resembling the stone domed vaults or ‘stone hives’ which he describes” (1952:218-219).

          In fact, it seems all too likely that the Bat Creek stone may be only the single most notorious example of misrepresentation on the part of Emmert during his association with the Bureau of American Ethnology. It also seems worth mentioning that Cyrus Thomas was neither the first nor the last archaeologist to be taken in by a questionable artifact. For example, Frederic W. Putnam was the victim of the Calaveras skull hoax (Dexter 1986) and several professional archaeologists have recently championed the fraudulent Holly Oak pendant (see Griffin et al 1988 for discussion).

          Concluding Remarks
          The Bat Creek stone, allegedly found in an undisturbed burial mound by an employee of the Smithsonian Institution, has been heralded by cult archaeologists as proof of pre-Columbian visitations to the New World by Mediterranean peoples. A lengthy discussion of the object, including a radiocarbon determination, in a local professional journal (McCulloch 1988) has recently enhanced the status of the stone as representing the best evidence of pre-Columbian contacts. In this paper we have addressed three key issues surrounding the Bat Creek stone and its interpretation. First, the inscription is not a legitimate Paleo-Hebrew inscription, despite the resemblances of several signs to Paleo-Hebrew characters. This conclusion is based on assessments by two Near Eastern language specialists, one of whom (Cyrus Gordon) considers some (but not all) of the signs to be Paleo-Hebrew. Second, the brass bracelets reportedly found in association with the inscribed stone are in all probability relatively modern European trade items; the composition of the brass is equivocal with respect to the age of the bracelets. Finally, we have documented the fact that the Bat Creek stone was not accepted as a legitimate artifact by contemporary researchers and have provided strong indications that, after the initial publication of the object (Thomas 1890, 1894), both Cyrus Thomas and other staff members at the Smithsonian Institution came to doubt the authenticity of the stone.

          Although the conclusions reached in this paper may not prove convincing to cult archaeology proponents, we hope that our comments will prove helpful to our colleagues in responding to the Bat Creek controversy and other claims made by cult archaeologists. Perhaps more important, we hope that our efforts here will influence some of our colleagues to take an active role in countering claims made by cult archaeologists and particularly in providing the general public with accessible information about the remarkable discoveries made by mainstream archaeology (see Williams 1987, 1988a, 1988b).

          Acknowledgements
          The authors particularly thank Frank Moore Cross, Hancock Professor of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages at Harvard University, for providing us with his professional assessment of the signs on the Bat Creek stone. Jefferson Chapman, Director of the McClung Museum at the University of Tennessee, generously provided copies of unpublished reports and correspondence by and pertaining to John Emmert. Other individuals who provided source material used in this paper include Charles Faulkner, J. Houston McCulloch, Joseph B. Mahan, Michael Moore, and Stephen Williams. Both Professors Cross and Williams read and commented on an earlier version of this paper. Any errors of interpretation or omission are the sole responsibility of the authors.

          References Cited

          Reply
        • mcculloch.2@osu.edu'

          Richard —
          Thanks, but I’m already well aware of the two Mainfort and Kwas articles in Tennessee Anthropologist (1991, 1993).
          What I hoped you could point me to is the report you mention by Mainfort to the Southeastern Archaeological Conference. I’ve searched their journal, Southeastern Archaeology, from 1987 to 2005, but don’t see it in the Articles, Reports, or Commentaries.
          I’m specifically looking for the source of your contention, “Inexplicably, Rogan was later re-hired by his cousin to excavate the Bat Creek Mound in Tennessee, but in few weeks, was fired permanently for the same reason . . . the scarcity of trophy artifacts unearthed.” M&K don’t mention Rogan in either of their two TA pieces. Where do they or anyone else claim Rogan had anything to do with Bat Creek? In my 1987 “Demon Rum” note, I report that a rumor to that effect was going around, but I have never actually seen it in print. Likewise, Kirk does not mention Rogan in his Tellico Mountain Press article.

          Reply
          • That is his report to SEAC. It was published in the Tennessee Archaeologist. John P. Rogan’s correspondence with Cyrus Thomas, including the letter he wrote after being fired from the Bat Creek Mounds (there were three mounds not one) are in the Tennessee State Archives.

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