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Explode One Theory Concerning Relics (New York Times, Dec. 16, 1925)

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New York Times, December 16, 1925

One Sword Bears Likeness of Dinosaur, Unknown In Drawings of Ancient Times

The theory that the leaden relics excavated on the desert in the Santa Cruz River Valley, seven miles from here, indicated that an expedition of Roman Jews came to America seven centuries before Columbus was finally exploded today by a statement from Dr. Frank Fowler, Professor of Classical Literature at the University of Arizona.

After a long investigation, Professor Fowler announced that virtually all the Latin inscriptions on the crosses, swords and other objects were either quotations from Latin writers, such as Virgil, Horace, Caesar and Cicero, or common Latin expressions such as are found in Latin grammars and Latin glossaries of English dictionaries. Dr. Fowler pointed out that this shows that whoever made the inscriptions was not telling a narrative.

The theory of the Roman-Jewish expedition was based upon the dates, 775 A.D. to 900 A.D. contained on some of the relics and upon the belief of the discoverers of the relics that the Latin inscriptions were a record of an eighth century transatlantic passage.

Dinosaur Picture a Puzzle

Professor Fowler agreed with Professor Shotwell of Columbia University that the use of the Anno Domini system of dating time did not come into general European use until the tenth century and said that it was first used in the sixth century and was adopted in Britain in the seventh century and in France in the eighth century. He also agreed with New York scholars that the English word “Gaul” was not adopted for the Latin “Gallia” until 1600.

The Latin inscriptions on the Tucson relics include “Gaul,” “A. D.” and “Anno Domini.”

Another fact developed today was that one of the swords is inscribed with a correct representation about six inches long of a dinosaur, although this pre-historic animal was not reconstructed and drawn in picture form until well within the last 100 years. Dr. Byron Cummings, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arizona, Director of the State Museum and a nationally-known archaeologist, who yesterday staked his professional reputation on the genuineness and antiquity of the relics, admitted that the dinosaur was the most puzzling feature of the problem that had yet come to light.

He could not explain how the dinosaur could have been known either to the Roman Jews in the eighth, ninth and tenth centuries or to the Spanish priests; and explorers who came here in the sixteenth century and later, and who are believed by some to have left the articles. Nevertheless Dean Cummings and Professor Fowler insisted that if a hoax was committed, it was not in recent years. Professor Fowler, who saw some of the objects excavated and has made a written statement that there appeared to have been no recent disturbance of the caliche formations from which they were taken, said it was his personal opinion that the relics were at least 200 years old. Dean Cummings repeated his statement that the condition of the ground where the excavations were made convinced him that the articles had lain there undisturbed several centuries and that the problem as to who left them there and just when they were left there would require a long and patient investigation for solving.

Dean Gordon M. Butler of the School of Mines and Engineering at the university, who has inspected the site of the excavations, also declared that the geological evidence was conclusive that the objects could not have been “planted” there in recent years, and that they must have lain there for several hundred years. He scouted the suggestion that the caliche in which the relics were found might have been removed and replaced within the last few years. If that had occurred, evidence of the hoax could have been discovered by geologists.

Professor Fowler’s Statement

“Granting that these inscriptions were simply copied from Latin writers, grammars and glossaries,” said Professor Fowler, “all this shows is that the compiler of these expressions was not telling a narrative. The problem still remains as to his motive. If it was a hoax committed several hundred years ago, it is almost as interesting as if it had been the work of the people whose history it purported to tell.”

Professor Fowler’s statement on the result of his work on the Latin inscriptions follows:

“The character of the Latin on the lead plates is understood. It will be seen at once that any attempt to derive from them a connected story is futile. What we have is a collection of phrases and sentences strung together, sometimes with some slight connection, sometimes with none. For the most part these words and phrases have a common characteristic. Each, for one reason or another, has some striking peculiarity which would tend to make it stick in the memory.”  A large number are simply expressions of general application and hence suitable for quotation. They may be found in lists of Latin expressions common in English literature. In a hasty examination of the list in Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, I counted twenty-seven such expressions found on the plates.”


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