Journal of Ohio Archaeology

Hopewell Archaeostronomy in the Paint Creek Valley: An Analysis of the Calendrical Sightlines at the Baum Square and Seip Square, Ross County, Ohio

Christopher S. Turner

Abstract

Some two millennia ago, Native Americans in present day Ohio constructed monumental earthworks that remain perplexing today. Since circa 1980, research has shown that these Hopewell geometric enclosures index rising and setting sightlines for both the sun and moon, evidencing a prehistoric calendar. This paper examines such calendrical sightlines as found at the Baum and Seip square earthworks. Both Baum and Seip are in the Paint Creek Valley west of Chillicothe, the core of Ohio Hopewell. The arrays of sightlines emanating from these two earthworks span the Paint Creek Valley, terminating on the various hills and ridges surrounding. The locations of these horizon foresights for each sightline are precisely determined using GIS and are provided in tabular and map form. Some of the sightlines terminate on Spruce Hill, a known Hopewell hilltop enclosure, specifically at or near fire-cracked rock mounds that were mapped by Squier and Davis. These horizon foresights may have functioned as confirmatory signaling stations for the sightlines and as places of ritual performance. These locations can be examined archaeologically or with geophysical survey, providing a hypothetico-deductive check on this calendrical sightline model. The paleoecology of the Hopewell landscape shaped and was shaped by these calendrical sightlines.

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The Newark Holy Stones: The History of An Archaeological Comedy

Jeff Gill, Bradley T. Lepper, and Meghan Marley

Abstract


The Newark Holy Stones are a series of fraudulent artifacts inscribed with Hebrew lettering that were claimed to have been found in Licking County, Ohio beginning in 1860. After scientific review, they all have been revealed to be forgeries or hoaxes. In recent years, some of these objects have featured prominently in various revivals of pseudoscientific claims. The authors here outline the circumstances of their discovery, reasons for asserting their fraudulent nature, and suggest some of the agendas that have led to a renewal of their consideration today. Finally, we consider a more recent discovery, which has become linked to the Holy Stones debate that we use to demonstrate both the absurd lengths to which proponents of such claims will go to advance their agendas, and the appeal of such oddities to modern contrarians.

 “I’m not convinced from this ‘History of an Archaeological Tragedy’ that it really was a tragedy; in some ways it clearly resembles a comedy...” (From an anonymous peer reviewer of Robert Altutz’s manuscript submitted to the Journal of the Scientific Laboratories, Denison University, dated 3 July 1978)

The Newark Holy Stones (Figure 1) are five carved stone objects sharing at least five things in common. They are engraved with Hebrew letters; they reportedly were found in association with ancient American Indian earthworks in the vicinity of Newark, Ohio; they were found within a relatively short period of time between June 1860 and August 1867; by 1881, at the latest, archaeologists and historians had dismissed all of them as forgeries; and in 1980, Robert Alrutz, a professor of biology, declared in a peer-reviewed scientific journal that they had been prematurely condemned as fraudulent and warranted a more in depth study. As a direct result of his reassessment, the Holy Stones have featured prominently in a revival of pseudoscientific claims, including a 2010 documentary on the Lost Civilizations of North America, which was featured on the Glenn Beck show on the Fox News Channel (Lepper et al, 2011), and a 2013 episode of America Unearthed on the History Channel.

In this paper, we review the circumstances of the discovery of each of the Holy Stones, discuss why archaeologists at the time concluded they were not what they appeared to be, present the evidence that demonstrates they are forgeries, establish the historical context that provided the motivation for the forgeries, and explain why, in spite of this unequivocal evidence, the Holy Stones continue to be promoted as evidence that ancient Israelites rather than the indigenous American Indians built the monumental earthworks of the Ohio Valley (Lepper and Gill 2000, 2008; Lepper et al. 2011).

 

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