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Forum LockedBat Creek Stone

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Sander View Drop Down

Joined: 20-Mar-2007
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    Posted: 05-Dec-2008 at 23:54
The Bat Creek stone and ancient Judeans
The Bat Creek inscription is an inscription in Paleo Hebrew and an interesting case for ancient transatlantic contact. Lets summerize it and then present the pro and con's.
The BCI stone was professionaly excavated in 1889 from an undisturbed burial at Bat Creek ,Tennessee by the Smithonian Institute. The stone was found under the head of one of the skeletons. Apart from the stone, several other artefacts were excavated, including wooden earspools and bronze bracelets. Thomas, the leader of the Mound Survey project , initally declared that it must have been Cherokee script.  It appeared in several publications as such with photographs.
It was only in the 1960s that the Hebrew scholar and archeologist Metz noticed that when turned up side down (from the way it was published) the inscription appeared to be Semitic. Cyrus Gordon, one of the most renowned and influentual Hebrew scholars, confirmed it was Paleo -Hebrew, in particular of around the first century or second century AD. The text consists of 2 parts ; one longer word and one shorter one, separated by a paleo-hebrew word-divider. The 2 words in the line consist of 7 letters . There is the remnant of an 8 th letter but  too little of it is visible. There is also another  sign under the line.
The longest phrase ( LYHWD ) is easily reckonizeble as 'for Juda' ( in particular the Jewish -Aramaic spelling of Judea ). The shortest word can be read as RQ (or QR since qod and resh forms underwent certain changes in this period) and would suggest the word 'only '.
In 1988 John Mc Culloch had woodfragments of the earspools C14 tested. The range 32 AD -749 AD ( 95 % confidence ) gave the burial a pre-Norse context and is consistent with Gordon's dating of the letters ( first to second century AD). The bracelets were initially thought to be of copper but turned out to be brass. The composition of the bracelets is interesting : Although a similar composition also occured in the 1700 and 1800s , it was also typical for the Roman period. The patina in the grooves of the letters has been examined and seems consistent with a great age.
An important confirmation of the authenticity is the use of the word divider as used in certain dead sea scrolls of circa 100 BC-100 AD , which were only discovered in the mid 1900s .
Authentic on basis of evidence or un-authentic on basis of hoax stories?
Some prominent Americanists support or at least consider the authenticity on the basis of the presented evidence. Most scholars who are supporting cultural isolationism for the Americas have rejected it a priori and prefer the hoax stories . A few reject it because they still maintain it's Cherokee ( e.g. McKussick 1994 ) .

Most noteworthy are Mainfort and Kwas  who have been battling with McCulloch for some 15 years. Unfortunately, the twistings and contradictions in their articles are so hard to overlook for objective readers that they rather did the pro-camp a favour.
Not Paleo Hebrew ?
Mainfort and Kwas ) stated earlier  that some  letters are impossibly Paleo Hebrew. Just 2 examples :
 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. ( 1991 )
Lets check that and compare it with some vav's of the first century AD. The vav is basically f-like or sometimes crosslike but  the curves can vary too. 
authentic coins from the 1-2 th century 
Another one :
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." ( M & K 1991 )
Pretty nonsensical. The Bat Creek he was fairly common in  the Jewish Revolt times
( auth. silver coins 1-2 th century )
The arguing about the letters was useless. Any objective Hebrew scholar can tell (and show) that some variation was normal. Even among professional scribes this already occured but with ordinairy people this was of course much more the case. Most  commoners who incised short texts on rock or jars for own purposes used their own ' handwriting' and often made crude carvings. Some made certain strokes longer or shorter than others did, or even omitted them. In some authentic inscriptions in the Middle East some signs have shapes that dont have any parellels at all ( e.g. Tel Rehov )
Wisely, Mainfort and Kwas have dropped  the arguing on this in later articles.
Misrepresentation of Gordon statements
Apart from the usual bashing of renowned specialists ( like calling Gordon a 'rogue professor') M & K misrepresented Gordon.  They ( 1991 ) repeatedly stated that Gordon (a proponent of the authenticity) mentioned that certain signs were "not in the Caananite system " and that  they enthousiastically ' concur with him' on this. The reader is made to believe that with this even Gordon does not consider the Bat Creek Paleo-Hebrew.  But, Gordon rather meant they are not in the Caananite writing system, wich is another system than Paleo-Hebrew.
The Fraud story
Mainfort and Kwas just go on and come up with a hoax story. Classically,  dead people who cannot defend themselves, are said to have been forgers, without evidence . Emmert, the excavator of the Smithonian is accused to have been the one.
They (2004 )dug up a 19 th century illustration with  Paleo Hebrew letters ( the socalled MacCoy text , see below) that shares some letters with the Bat Creek.  Although they admitt that the texts are not the same, they claim that Emmerts copied the text. What 's the hard evidence for such a strong allegation ? Apart from that the text is different at crucial points , have they found that text in Emmerts house or something?
Even the fabricated motive does not make sense (not that creating a motive makes somebody quilty). It' s like this : Emmerts wanted to secure his job so needed to lick the heels of Thomas who  supported ( just like Emmert and Powell ) that the moundbuilders were Cherokee . Because he wanted to please Thomas he made a Paleo- Hebrew inscription so he could present it as a Cherokee inscription(!)
Conclusion :
The evidence : the burial, the decayed skeletons, the stone, the pre-Norse context , c14 dating of the earspools, the dating of the letters, the Hebrew word divider etc. So far, the balance is that its authentic and ancient. Mainfort and Kwas have done little else than arguing, twisting and fabricating of hoax stories. Ironically , their articles have become legendary examples of how far professional scholars can go when evidence contradicts certain ideas.
external link for some info and leads:
McCulloch, J. Huston, "The Bat Creek Inscription -- Cherokee or Hebrew?," Tennessee Anthropologist 1988(2), pp. 79-123.
Robert C. Mainfort, Jr. and Mary L. Kwas , The Bat Creek Stone Revisited: A Fraud Exposed, 2004
McCulloch, J. Huston, "The Bat Creek Stone Revisted: A Reply to Mainfort and Kwas in American Antiquity," Pre-Columbiana, Feb. 2005.

Edited by Sander - 06-Dec-2008 at 04:00
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