Wednesday, December 29, 2010
The process of having significant Ohio earthworks inscribed on the World Heritage List has reached another important milestone and we are again requesting your help.
The U.S. Department of the Interior announced in the Federal Register Dec. 14, 2010 that it is considering whether to forward any nominations from properties on the U.S. Tentative List to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre next year. The department will consider public comments received during a 30-day comment period in making a decision regarding which properties may advance for full nomination.
The list includes Serpent Mound (1MB PDF requires Acrobat Reader) as well as nine Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks (1MB PDF requires Acrobat Reader) : Fort Ancient, Mound City Group, Seip Earthworks, Hopeton Earthworks, Hopewell Mound Group, High Bank Works and the Newark Earthworks (Octagon Earthworks, Great Circle Earthworks, and Wright Earthworks).
This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to list these Ohio sites alongside other cultural sites of outstanding universal value, including Stonehenge, the Pyramids of Giza and Cahokia Mounds. We need you to submit your comments to the National Park Service and copy your letter to Sen. Sherrod Brown, Sen.-elect Rob Portman, and your congressperson.
Comments are due by January 12, 2011. Direct your comments to Jonathan Putnam at Office of International Affairs, National Park Service, 1201 Eye Street NW, (0050), Washington, DC 20005, by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at 202-354-1809 or by fax to 202-371-1446. Please also send a copy of your comments to George Kane at the Ohio Historical Society at email@example.com or at 1982 Velma Avenue, Columbus, OH 43211
For more information, including a sample letter and contact information for Ohio's congressional delegation, go to http://www.ohiohistory.org/sn/103107.html
Thursday, December 16, 2010
As scholars committed to increasing public understanding of Native American history and archaeology, we want to make it clear that we do not support the theories presented in “The Lost Civilizations of North America” DVD. In our opinion, there is no compelling archaeological or genetic evidence for a migration from the Middle East to North America a few thousand years ago, nor is there any credible scientific evidence that Old World civilizations were involved in developing Native American cultures in pre-Columbian times. Many of the artifacts used to support the film’s claims, such as the Newark "Holy Stones," have been proven fraudulent based on convincing scientific evidence and historical documentation. Like the great majority of professional archaeologists and anthropologists, we have seen overwhelming evidence that Native Americans were independently responsible for designing and creating the Newark Earthworks, Cahokia Mounds, and the myriad other pre-Columbian sites across the United States.
Each of us was interviewed for this film. None of us was asked directly for our opinion on what turned out to be its underlying claim; that Old World civilizations played an active role in the development of Native American cultures, especially the mound builders. Instead, we were asked general questions about Native American societies, their remarkable technological achievements, genetic histories, and we were also asked to comment on the biases of many nineteenth-century historians and archaeologists concerning the abilities of the native people of North America. We fear that the context of our general remarks as they currently appear in the film might lead viewers to conclude that our words on these subjects provide support for the film’s claims. That would be a mistake. In fact, our remarks, if presented in an unedited form, show clearly that we reject the assertions made in the finished documentary concerning a non-native source for the complex cultures of Native America.
We informed the filmmakers of our objections in February 2010, five months before the DVD’s release. The producers did make some changes in response to our objections, including deleting Ken Feder's interview entirely. As a group, we believe that the final product remains misleading and presents claims that neither we nor our data support. In our opinion, there is no compelling evidence for the presence of Old World cultures in North America prior to the incursions of the Norse in the early 11th century.
Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Indiana University*
Professor of History, Eastern Illinois University*
Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin*
Professor of Anthropology, Central Connecticut State University*
Professor of Anthropology, emeritus, Marquette University*
Curator of Archaeology, Ohio Historical Society*
*We provide the names of our respective institutions here for identification purposes only. This is not meant to indicate that these institutions endorse our views.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Archaeologists have dismissed the objects as crude fakes, but many people accepted them as proof that ancient Hebrews were the builders of America's marvelous mounds. More remarkably, some people still today believe that some or all of these artifacts might be authentic traces of Pre-Columbian Coptic Christians in Michigan.
These fascinating artifacts are the subject of a new documentary entitled "History or Hoax: the Michigan Relics" by Thom Bell, an independent Michigan filmmaker. The hour-long production tells the fascinating story of what has been characterized variously as the most massive archaeological fraud in history or the biggest archaeological tragedy.
Bell gives both sides in the debate the opportunity to present their evidence and arguments, but the most dramatic moment in the production is when Bell reveals the age of a key ceramic tablet as determined by a new luminescence date. It was made sometime between 1895 and 1910 – precisely the time period when these bizarre relics were being found and promoted.
Dr. Richard Stamps, who conducted perhaps the most thorough archaeological analysis of the Michigan Relics in recent years, is featured in the documentary. He observes that the problem for skeptics is that no matter how many of the thousands of artifacts you can show to be fraudulent, a believer can always hold out hope that some untested specimens still may be authentic. He says, quite rightly, "That's science. The door is always open." The burden of proof, however, is on those who want us to accept the extraordinary claim that Michigan was home to a large colony of ancient Egyptian Christians. They must show us the evidence that even one of the Michigan Relics is ancient. So far, the champions of this notion have not produced a luminescence, or any other kind of date indicating that any of these fantastic artifacts is ancient.
Sadly, I am compelled to agree with Francis Kelsey who wrote in 1911 that "so long as human nature remains the same, it may be presumed that men will be ready to believe what they wish to believe, and that no hoax will be too preposterous to be without a following."
It's not mentioned in the documentary, but there is an interesting if somewhat embarrassing Ohio connection to the Michigan Relics. After learning of the initial discoveries, William C. Mills, then the Curator for the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society (now the Ohio Historical Society), visited one of these spurious digs for two days in 1909. In fact, he did some digging himself and "discovered" an inscribed tablet along with other artifacts. Of course, these items had been planted at the site for Mills to find, but he initially uncritically accepted them as authentic. The Ohio Historical Society has a few of the Michigan Relics in its collections. Although they are not currently on display, I present images of a few examples here for your examination.
I highly recommend the video for anyone who wants to understand the Michigan Relics or the enduring popularity of the notion that ancient Hebrews, Welshmen, Coptic Christians, or Vikings came to ancient America.
For more information about "History or Hoax: the Michigan Relics," including how to order a copy, visit Thom Bell's webpage:
Monday, December 13, 2010
For example, along a specific alignment through the Observatory Circle and Octagon at Newark a once in a generation occurrence of the northern most rise of the moon on a nearly 18 year cycle can be both predicted and observed. Granted it just once every nearly 18 years but it none the less takes place. This is mirrored by the sighting of the southern-most rise of the moon - the other end of this extended lunar cycle - at the High Bank works, another combined circle and octagon earthwork located along the Scioto River south of Chillicothe and the counterpart to the Circle and Octagon at Newark. It can hardly be a coincidence that the two ends of the same cyclical lunar phenomenon are observable at the only two combined circle and octagon earthwork sites in North America if not the world.
At Fort Ancient in Warren County the alignment of certain portions of the earthwork and the rising sun on the winter solstice or first day of winter is a very observable fact as is the setting sun on the summer solstice or first day of summer at the Serpent Mound in Adams County.
The marking of the change of seasons is a long held tradition of cultures throughout time and in all parts of the world so why should the ancient inhabitants of the Ohio Valley be any different. Agricultural societies no doubt used such events to track the planting, growing and harvesting seasons. We mark the beginning of the year on the first of January, very close to the winter solstice, but since we have printed calendars and spend an inordinate amount of time indoors we don’t seem to realize it. To the ancient Sumerians and other cultures of the ancient Near East the beginning of the new year typically coincided with the Autumnal Equinox. It is the end of the harvest and a time for thanksgiving, for honoring ancestors and the beginning of the dark time as now there are more hours of darkness in a day than there are of light. In a manner of speaking it's all about life, death and renewal: to make an accounting and reflect upon the milestones of the past year and to look optimistically toward the future. The sun or the moon or a certain star appears to travel to a particular point along the horizon where its journey ends, its cycle completed. It might travel on as a different character or it might begin its journey anew, traveling in the opposite direction as a completely different entity. It’s why we celebrate our birthdays, the New Year and other anniversaries with particular pomp and circumstance. The average observer might be surprised to know just how many of our annually celebrated holidays have their roots in or otherwise coincide with celestial events.
One of the less noted observatories of the change of seasons constructed by ancient Ohioans is located just above the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers at Marietta in southeast Ohio. On the first day of winter each year the sun sets along the projected axis of a remarkable part of the Marietta Earthwork group known as the Sacra Via. Interestingly enough it’s not aligned to where the sun would set on a level landscape but rather the ancient builders compensated for topography and aligned the earthwork to where the sun sets over Harmar Hill, a high ridge on the west side of the Muskingum River.
The Marietta Earthworks are or were a combined set of two large segmented square enclosures that pretty much occupied the same space as the town of Marietta does today. Although the age of certain aspects of the Marietta works have remained for years a point of contention among archaeologists, the earthworks as a group almost certainly date to Ohio’s Middle Woodland or Hopewell period. One can only imagine what went through the minds of Rufus Putnam and Manasseh Cutler when they and their fellow New Englanders landed at the mouth of the Muskingum River in the late 1780’s and found the site of their future settlement had already been occupied untold centuries earlier by a sophisticated but long vanished race. The fact that they did not really understand the nature of the monuments they were witness to did not in the least deter them from respecting those that came before them. On July 4, 1788, in an act of remarkable foresightedness, the founders of Marietta enacted the first historic preservation laws in the United States and set aside certain elements of the Marietta group with some public land attached to each for the wonderment and enjoyment of future generations. This task has since been overseen by the Marietta Town Council. In the manner of the Classicism of the late 18th Century, the New Englanders bestowed names from Roman antiquity to the individual works. These include Conus, the large conical burial mound now the centerpiece of the Marietta town cemetery, Quadranau, the large rectangular flat-topped mound in Camp Tupper Park, Capitolium, the smaller rectangular flat-topped mound (the home of the Washington County Public Library and the subject of a future blog) and the Sacra Via or Sacred Way, one of the most uniquely designed earthworks of the Hopewell period..
The Sacra Via was a ramped passageway extending some 680 feet from the larger square on the upper terrace to near the eastern bank of the Muskingum River. The passageway, 150 feet wide at the floor descended toward the Muskingum River on a consistent grade with the center slightly crowned like a modern boulevard to apparently aid the runoff of rain water. This feature is subtly conveyed in the accompanying 19th century Charles Sullivan charcoal rendering of the Sacra Via. The entire length of the passage was flanked by a set of sculpted or shaped parallel walls said to have been made of bright red clay and measuring a staggering 230 feet between their summits. As a grand processional way this elaborate ceremonial avenue certainly must have been a sight to behold in its pristine form. These walls are represented as the two bold lines between the river and the larger square on the map of the Marietta Earthworks as published in 1848 by Squier and Davis in Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley. While parallel walls are common elements of many of the larger geometric earthworks, those at Marietta are or more properly were much different. Beginning just above grade at the terrace edge near the larger square they maintained this elevation or close to it the entire length of the passage. At the foot of the passage the walls were said to have measured more than 20 feet in height. The Sacra Via terminated a couple hundred feet short of the east bank of the Muskingum which in the 19th century and before riverbank development and navigation locks was 35 to 40 feet above the present flow of the river. In Ancient Monuments… Squier notes that it had been conjectured by some that the Muskingum River once flowed immediately at the base of the passage way. "If accepted without evidence", he went on to say, "would mean that for the river to have cut that deep the earthwork had to have an antiquity greater than that of the Great Pyramids of Egypt". It isn’t known just exactly how ancient Ephraim Squier thought the Pyramids were but he may have been at least somewhat closer to the truth than he realized. Drawing on the military vernacular of the 18th into the 19th centuries, the Sacra Via was early on referred to as the covered (or covert) way or a set of parallel walls used to maintain a line of communications on a battlefield or in a fort-like setting. But seeing that the walled squares of the Marietta earthworks were neither forts nor the scene of a great battle this term was really not applicable.
As with the large Conus mound now in the town cemetery and the two flat-topped mounds, Quadranau and Capitolium, located within the larger square it was the original intent of the founders of Marietta to preserve the Sacra Via. Unfortunately about the mid 1800’s a brick maker was elected to the town council and the clay walls of the Sacra Via soon became the bricks used to build a large church in downtown Marietta. Apparently trading one sacred space for another seemed a fair exchange at the time. Today the Sacra Via is still visible as a very nice and a very Victorian looking parkway, preserving at least a flavor of what came before it.
If the weather is clear and you’re in the vicinity at the proper time take a moment to appreciate a once a year event using a solar observatory conceived of in the minds of ancient Ohioans perhaps two millennia ago. Even if it is a couple of days either side of the actual event the occurrence is inspiring. As an added attraction this year the sunset will be accentuated by a lunar eclipse. It can only be imagined what they would have thought about that!
I encourage you to go to the site and check out the database mentioned below. It sounds like a fabulous resource!
More than four years after 26 pieces of Caddo Indian pottery were stolen from Southern Arkansas University there is still no trace of the rare bottles, pots, or bowls. But now there is a new tool that could allow the art community—and the public—to help solve the case.
With the recent redesign of FBI.gov, we debuted the National Stolen Art File (NSAF). This free online tool allows anyone to quickly and easily search a database of thousands of stolen artworks and contact us if they have information about the items.
“It’s impossible for the FBI to look for every piece of stolen art in the country,” said Bonnie Magness-Gardiner, who manages our art theft program. “Having this online, searchable database accessible to the public as well as local law enforcement takes advantage of our technological resources to help curb the age-old problem of art theft.”
Currently, the database contains about 7,000 images. Some were already online, but not in an easy-to-use format. Now, anyone can search a variety of categories—from books and bowls to stamps and stained glass—or enter keywords such as an artist’s name, period date, or artwork title.
Using the new search tool pictured above, you can sort stolen objects by
90+ different types (paintings, sculptures, etc.) and by other categories.
To begin your search, visit the National Stolen Art File webpage.
Search for “Monet,” for example, and several stolen works are returned. Click on an image and it enlarges. In many cases, details are provided about the artwork, including the work’s dimensions and other identifying information.
For those considering buying and selling works of art—gallery owners, brokers, and private collectors—the database is one way to make sure their potential purchases are legitimately for sale. “If a collector or gallery owner checks our site and sees that a piece of art is stolen, that’s an immediate red flag, and they can contact us,” Magness-Gardiner said.
For law enforcement, particularly local agencies that investigate burglaries and other thefts, the database will eventually be accessible through the Law Enforcement Online (LEO) website, so local police departments can add to the list. “As the database grows,” Magness-Gardiner said, “the number of cases that can be solved—and artworks recovered—will increase. And as a result, we will help keep stolen art out of the marketplace.”
Items in the database such as the Caddo Indian pottery contain images of the original works—not copies or duplicates—and they all have uniquely identifiable characteristics, such as an artist’s signature, damage marks, or other one-of-a-kind traits. Any object stolen within the U.S. with a value of more than $2,000 can be listed. There are some international pieces in the file, but this is primarily a resource for reporting the theft of artwork within the United States.
Click on any thumbnail image in the National Stolen Art File to enlarge it—an example is shown above.
“We want to solicit any and all information from the public about the stolen material,” Magness-Gardiner said. “And we in turn will provide this information to a much wider audience. This is a first step, and as we grow, we look forward to working with local law enforcement, the art community, and the public.”
If you have information about an item in the National Stolen Art File, contact your local FBI office or submit a tip at FBI.gov. Requests to have items added to the database must come through a law enforcement agency accompanied by a physical description of the object, a photograph if available, and a copy of any police reports or other relevant information. Additionally, notification is required when works on the list have been recovered. Failure to notify NSAF may result in recovered works remaining on the list.
- Search the National Stolen Art File
- Art Theft website
Friday, December 03, 2010
Ohio History fans, we need YOUR VOTE to make history come alive for Ohio students! National History Day in Ohio is competing for a $50,000 Pepsi Refresh Project grant in the month of December.
To win, we need to have as many people as possible vote for our project in December. The grant will go for scholarships to low-income students, program materials, field trips to historic sites and teacher training to help increase National History Day participation in urban and rural schools.
Here’s how you can help: Please go to Pepsi refresh online and vote for National History Day in Ohio: http://www.refresheverything.com/ohiohistoryday . In order to vote, you will need to register and then you can vote once-a-day, every day in December. It’s simple and easy to do! In addition to voting, you can ask your friends and family to vote for National History Day in Ohio, too! Just forward this e-mail to your mailing list. The more people to vote for us, the better our chances to win $50,000!
About National History Day
National History Day in Ohio is a year-long educational program where students in grades 4-12 do explore topics that interest them related to a specific theme. In the 2010-2011, it’s Debate and Diplomacy in History: Successes, Failures, Consequences. Students do research and present their work through exhibits, performances, documentaries, research papers or websites at regional and state and national competitions. Learn how National History Day in Ohio helps students excel by watching our Pepsi Refresh Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40a5j3PiSh8
About Pepsi Refresh Project
In 2010, the Pepsi Refresh Project will give away more than $20 million to refresh the world, one idea at a time. Each month, Pepsi will award up to $1.3 million in grants to the ideas with the most votes. Pepsi will accept up to 1,000 new ideas every month and the public decides who wins. Vote for your favorite ideas now at www.refresheverything.com. The Pepsi Refresh Project can be found at www.refresheverything.com, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/refresheverything or on Twitter, @Pepsi or #pepsirefresh.