by, John J White, III, Beverley H. Moseley, Jr., and Charles F. Herberger
Originally published in The Midwestern Epigraphic Society Journal
[Editor’s Note: The visit of Dr. Charles Herberger to the 2001 MES Symposium prompted us to prepare an update of an old epigraphic diffusion report. It is amazing that this brief message has an aura of legitimacy, whereas many large sites with 100+ letters are denounced as frauds by alleged experts.]
Like it or not, the colonial settlers of America were confronted with traces of cultural diffusion from the very beginning. The topics included Black Indians, Moslem crescent ornaments, Welsh-speaking Indians, Melungeons (Moroscos from Spain), Indians with caucasian appearances, religious elements similar to Christianity, legends that sounded like they had influences from prior Atlantic explorers, and numerous Native American words that appeared to be borrowings from Europe and Africa. Later scattered artifacts and inscriptions were found, and the steady influx of peoples from historical Asia was detected. Few people will calm that any small number of these observations is conclusive, but the large quantity of such suggestive findings leaves little doubt that our ancestors have been traveling about the world from long before the detectable history of mankind right down to present times.
One of the first inscriptions noted and interpreted was the so-called Bourne Stone of western Cape Cod, whose lettering suggests that Carthaginian-type people writing with the Ibero-Punic script may have reached the New England coast as early as 475 BCE. This Whittall-Fell collaboration was well accepted and occurred during the Golden Age of Barry Fell research. Later, people with inferior translation abilities began to realize the limitations of real-world epigraphy and voiced the obvious conclusion that many interpretations of ancient writing were dubious and certain circumstances possibly manipulated. The inscriptions are nevertheless significant artifacts!
The Cape Cod boundary with greater Massachusetts was defined roughly by Great Herring Pond and the connecting river called the Manumet that flows southward into the north end of Buzzards Bay. The Cape Cod Canal is the practical boundary today. The inscription find area is on the east (Cape Cod) side of the river, although there is speculation that it could have been transported from a site on Great Herring Pond. The local name has changed from Komassakumkanit to Bournedale to Bourne. There is good reason to think the so-called Bourne Stone was recognized as a curious inscription during the 1658-1676 CE era when it was used as a church doorstep. There is confidence that fraudmakers were far less prevalent during this era.
Figure 1 gives a recent photograph by Charles Herberger of the Bourne stone as it exists in the local museum. It consists of two rows of symbols, the top row having four items that could be letters forming a title or perhaps a map of the local area. The bottom row has 15 closely spared marks that resemble alphabetic letters.
Figure 2 shows a line drawing of this inscription by Beverley Moseley. Barry Fell chose to interpret the top line as a title meaning “A Proclamation”. Reading right to left he translated the second line as “of annexation. Do not deface. By this Hanno takes possession.” He understood that Hanno was a common Carthaginian name.
In the 1990s we have been pleased by the efforts of a new Phoenician language scholar. He is Dr Mark A McMenamin, who teaches geology at Mt Holyoke College. McMenamin has reviewed most of the evidence of Punic visits to the Americas. On the topic of the Bourne Stone, he thinks that the top line could be a map of the Nantucket Sound region. For the second line he gives a translation in Phoenician that he rephrases to read “Stone marker that reveals three plus one observations by Q.” He admits that he is not confident with of the translation. We are inclined to view his work as progress with a difficult subject.
1. JP Whittall, “The Inscribed Stone of Comassakumkanit”. Bull ESRS 3(2), 3p (1975); ESOP 2, #44. Part 1, 3p (1975).
2. HB Fell, “An Iberian-Punic Stele of Hanno”, ESOP 2, #44, Part 2, 3p (1975).
3. “Goodbye Columbus, hello Hanno of Spain”, Springfield (MA) Union News, April 17, 1975, pp 1, 7.
4. HB Fell, America BC: Ancient Settlers in the New World, NY Times Book Co, 1976 pp 95, 160-161.
5. RF Marx and JG Marx, In Quest of the Great White Gods, Crown Publishers, new York, 1992, p 26.
6. MA McMenamin, The Carthaginians Were Here: Evidence for an Early Crossing of the Atlantic, Vol II, Meanma Press, S Hadley, MA, 1999, pp 42-44, 126.
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