By, Cyclone Covey.
Originally published in The Midwestern Epigraphic Society Volume 16
The Latin Texts told–in halting Classical clauses but in more characteristically Medieval handling–of a “kingdom” of Jews who traced their antecedents back to the mighty King Benjamin who had been brought to Rome from the Seine to build Aurelian’s Wall and later was slain by Thebans. The people comprising his followers in the eight century came from Britain, Gaul, and Rome. A scribe, Joseph, was among the segment of British origin. His son, who styles himself OL., would have been born in America. He is the semi-literate and possibly senile author of the double-cross inscriptions, evidently int he extremity of the colony’s final investment by the so-called Toltezus. According to OL, a great number of his coreligionsists, under their king, Theodore, crossed the sea from Rome in 775 (which, by the way, would have been the year following Charlemagne’s ominous visit to Pope Hadrian) and founded a capital city they called “Rhoda.” After a disastrous early defeat at the hands of the Toltezus, the colonists recouped under a warrior, King Jacob (779-785), a native of Britain, and gained the upper hand under a remarkable king, Israel I, a native of Gaul, who reigned 67 years. War had resumed by the time he died in 852, and his already-elderly successor, Israel II, had a difficult six-year reign. But Israel III, who took over in 858, reestablished colonial suzerainty over the Toltezus. In or before 880 he magnanimously granted them independence. But a sanhedrin banished him from this, and Israel IV’s war to resubjugate turned into a war of mutual extermination. In 895 OL recorded that the war still raged; 3,000 had been slain; the leaders with their principal men had been captured; it was uncertain how long life would continue. His final date, 900, indicates that Rhoda held out without hope for another five years.
The artifacts and their implications underwent a thorough exposure in the latter 1920’s, including articles in the New York Times, and papers at national meetings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Thomas Bent, who had come into sole possession of the artifacts with Manier’s death, when the university had reneged on its contract, and having become an attorney for the Veterans’ Administration and at length retired to San Diego, wrote a full report of the excavations, complete with pictures, which he published by multigraph in 1964. He died of leukemia March 1972.
What difference does the passage of time make in our view of the Bent artifacts and of the controversy they generated nearly half-century ago?
In the first place, one is struck on surveying the scene at the excavation site that such a small plot had been dug, at the foot of a sweeping hill. The cross inscriptions indicate that Rhoda rested atop a hill. If any remains of Rhoda survive–if Rhoda ever existed–, they ought to lie encased in caliche a hundred yards or so farther up. The eminent anthropologist David Evans observed while we were walking over the site that such a city might have occupied summits of the hills on either side as well. Our hope is that a Wake Forest expedition will some day determine what additional evidence can be extracted.
We did not realize something that did not become public in the twenties: a terrific division had developed in the university and in the state government of Arizona over desperately short funds and official discrediting of the artifacts became a political necessity to keep that $16,000 inside the university. Cummings was a spunky fighter who never did disbelieve in the artifacts and may have been the last to hold out for them in the internal war he lost; but his signal of the so-called “final report” under orders nevertheless looks today like a tragic betrayal of science and academic integrity. For the politically and economically dictated verdict carried the weight of an official scholarly rejection of the artifacts’ authenticity. I increasingly doubt that Cummings ever wrote the January 1930 “final report” he left compelled to sign and tried to keep secret from Bent. He for instance threw out a imprecise allusion to the artifacts as similar to common type-metal unlike the crude local lead, when he himself had reported in January, 1926 that the artifact metal, showing traces of tin, gold, silver, and copper, bore the character of ores mined in the Tucson mountains. Two years before his final report, the Tucson form of assayers, A.L. Pellegrin & Son, had proved Cummings’ earlier contention; the artifacts metal was identical to ores from local mines; type metal has 1 1/2 to three times the antimony content of the artifacts; also, type metal has no traces of gold or silver at all. His final report seized on a bole which extended one inch beyond the spearhead and partial shaft found in March 1928 as proof of possible planting. Bent pointed out that the bole could have been made in the digging for the relic, supposing it were not naturally occurring and, in any case, did not account for the remaining artifacts. Cummings had reported the extraction of the 23rd discovery in writing and, after the 25th, attested that
-One or more scientists, mostly connected with the University, had been present at all except the first of the twenty-five excavations and that they agreed the objects were so firmly imbedded in the caliche that they had to be dug out with picks and with much hard work. If the objects had been “planted” there, and if the caliche had been removed and replaced around the planted articles, marks or demarcation could still be seen, whereas none is or has been visible during the work of excavation-
The eminent archaeologist New Woodall says that if a professional should observe a single artifact in situ the authenticity of the whole batch would be established. But this criterion has already been met. Professor Ruppert directed the discovery and removal of the second discovery, also extraction of the second and third of the double crosses from a 6 1/2-foot depth January 24, 1925. Among other witnesses present was A.E. Douglass, director of Tucson’s Steward Observatory whom we honor for developing the science of tree-ring dating. Douglas, also Clifton Sarle, a distinguished geologist who had been a member of the university faculty, were among those present at the extraction of a spear blade and shaft March 4, 1926; Professor T.S. Lovering of the university pulled it from very hard caliche while Bent dug around it with a pocketknife. Two rough protruding stones in the casing scratched the underside of the spearhead as Lovering tugged; so the charge of “fresh scratches” echoes rather unincriminatingly. This spearhead, by the way, came from below the farthest reach of roots of the lone mesquite tree at the path entrance. Douglass himself read the fifty-plus years in the rings when the tree was sawn down; so it would have been about ten years old in 1884. Douglass completed the removal of a firmly-cemented, nineteen-inch sword found at the five-foot, eleven-inch level March 27, 1926. Cumming’s distinguished nephew, Nell Merton Judd of the Smithsonian Institution extricated a broken spearhead at the four-foot, ten-inch level May 27,. Cummings, who had recently returned from the excavation of Chichen Itza watched Sarle and bent complete the removal of a broken sword-blade segment with pick and trenching spade from compacted caliche September 18 and wrote a report of this extraction. Cummings’ foreman, E. John Hand, directed the digging that disclosed spearhead fragments in January and February 1928. His assistant, Charles B. Conrad, discovered another spearhead with broken shaft March 3, and Dean Butler discovered two spear-shaft fragments at a depth of four and a half feet February 11.
The Tucson Daily Star and Daily Citizen took sides over authenticity of the artifacts. Their rivalry reflected more than a dispassionate concern for objective truth. The antagonism of a lawyer of Rochester, New York, George M.B. Hawley, who arrived on the scene in early 1928, seems to have sprung from his rebuff by Manier, Bent, Sarle, Cummings, and the remarkable high school history-teacher Laura Ostrander, the most astute interpreter of the artifacts contemporary with their discovery. Hawley decided that Mrs. Ostrander and Sarle had made the artifacts and that OL was Laura Ostrander reversed. (He miscalled her Leonora and a Latin teacher). He fell in with Professor Fowler’s conviction that the Latin texts of the artifacts derived from recent textbooks and wrote a book-length manuscript systematically demonstrating the resemblances between the artifacts’ phraseology and that of Harkness and of Allen & Greenough plus Rouf’s Standard Dictionary of Facts. Some of the identities are not very identical but some are; Hawley found instances where as many as three sentences on a single cross occurred within a page of each other in Harkness. He concluded that the two alleged fakers of the artifact inscriptions, Sarle and Ostrander, would have sued the 1883 edition of Harkness, the only edition containing all 39 sentences allegedly taken from Harkness while it retained its uncorrected error of parente for patre in a quotation from Cicero; the 1903 edition of Allen & Greenough, the only edition used in Tucson High School and the 1914 edition of the fact dictionary, since the dictionary did not include Latin phrases until its 1912 edition, and the 1914 edition was the only one to be found in Tucson. What looks for all the world like a diplodocus dinosaur is engraved on one of the sword blades among the artifacts. This further required a hoaxing date at least as late as 1905 because, as Hawley knew, no drawing or reproduction of a diplodocus existed in modern times until 1905. So Hawley “proved” the artifacts had to have been inscribed and buried between 1914 and 1924, a generation subsequent to the construction of the limekiln, excavating for which had turned up two of the evidently already buried artifacts in 1884.
Hawley left the question of the Hebrew faking aside but assumed that the Tucson library would have had a book which would have served adequately for a source. Whether the crucial de Parente meo “error” was in fact a Cicero quotation on the cross where it occurs, or whether the slip from patre to parente would not be as natural in the Middle Ages as in the nineteenth century, may remain mooted. Mrs. Ostrander wanted to know the sources of the nineteenth-century textbooks, which of course would have been the identical classical authors. OL obviously was using a crib of Classical quotations of some sort as a kind of repertory for expressing what he was trying to say in his situation. His ineptness looks fake because of the ineptness and at the same time genuine because of the ineptness. It remains unanswerably difficult to explain the coincidences between cross inscriptions and these particular modern books–as on the other hand it remains inexplicable how or why the artifacts should have been planted. If we could prove a hoax, we still substitute one unsolvable mystery for another.
The symbols, the style of the letters, the shape of the swords and spears accord with the eight century devoid of discoverable anachronisms. Many arguments objecting to a medieval origin of the artifacts sounded much more telling in the 1920’s than today; for instance, that A.D. had not come into use, that Gaul and Seine were post-medieval words, that vowel-pointing had not come into use for Hebrew, or that a Mexican boy who lived at the stage stop three miles beyond the artifacts site 1886-1895 must have been the perpetrator. But the phrasing correspondences argument clangs as loud today as in 1928.
1. C.Covey, Calalus, a Roman Jewish Colony in America from the Time of Charlemagne Through Alfred the Great, Vantage Press, New York, 1975, 190p.
P.S. many years later:
Caliche formed over the artifacts since 900 A.D. as over ruins of Snaketown (probable Rhoda 55 air mi. NW) since 1450, not by flash floods but longstanding lagoons from overflow of Santa Cruz and Gila respectively. Pioneers remarked these rivers verdantly voluminous 1700-1870.
Heavy objects cannot be inserted without permanent fracturing of caliche formations, let alone to line horizontal.
If not inserted but accumulated upon, model Latin sentences of copybooks since Suetonius were known in 775, when formal records and monuments remained Latin.
The recurrent logo is not a map or Masonic lodge flooreplan but probable ceremonial Square Ground with clan arbor per side. Freemasonry in no way relates to the annals’ royal successions, wars, and doom.
Cross and crown, etc. acknowledge the Bishop of Rome sovereign (Pope Adrian I when colonists departed Rome).
Toltecs cohabitated with Hohokam at Snaketown 8th & 9th centuries, consistent with engraved Calalus dates 775-900. Martha Molitor (1881) concluded Honokam were Toltecs. By 1000 Toltec warrior societies dominated SW pueblos, above all Zuni, concurrent with Toltec conquest of Tula and Chichen Itza SE.
Thank you Mr. Dave Brody for allowing us to share your incredible image of some of the artifacts. Please visit his very important website http://westfordknight.blogspot.com/ and the below article on the artifacts. http://westfordknight.blogspot.com/2012/02/tucson-lead-artifacts.html
Mr. Covey’s other articles on our site can be found
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