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Puzzling ‘Relics’ Dug Up in Arizona Stir Scientists

New York Times, December 13, 1925

Purport to Chronicle the Arrival of Roman Jews There in 775 A.D.

Serious Doubt Expressed. Dr. Bashford Dean Calls Them Forgeries—N.M. Judd of the Smithsonian Questions Date.


Finds Bear Many Latin and Hebrew Inscriptions and Masonic Emblems.

Special to the New York Times.

Tucson, Ariz., Dec. 12.—After investigation by a number of scientists, first announcement was made here today of the excavation near Tucson of cast lead swords, crosses and other objects bearing Latin and Hebrew inscriptions which, taken at their face value, are held to mean that Roman Jews crossed the Atlantic in the Dark Ages, penetrated to Arizona and founded a kingdom which lasted from about 760 A. D. to 900 A. D.

The cast symbols and the engravings on them include crosses, a crescent, a seven-branched candlestick and certain Masonic-like representations.

Opinions of scientists vary as to the authenticity of the objects. Neil Merton Judd, curator of American archaeology of the United States National Museum, said he believed that no hoax or fraud was involved, but he thought the date later than that of the Spanish conquest of 1540 A. D.

Dr. Byron Cummings, Professor of Archaeology of the University of Arizona, vouched for the reliability of the discoverers of the objects, which, he said, “show Jewish and Christian influence and bear dates of 760 to 900 A. D.”

On the other hand, Dr. Bashford Dean, curator of arms and armor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York City, when consulted about the excavations, branded the objects as crude and childish forgeries.

The first object to be found was a large metal cross, which was discovered by Charles E. Manier of Tucson, embedded in a limestone formation, five feet five inches below the surface of the land, near an old lime kiln. Further digging by Mr. Manier and Thomas W. Bent uncovered the other objects. Analysis showed that they were made with lead mixed with antimony, silver and some tin. This was described by Professor Cummings as a natural alloy.

Noted Scientists Examine Objects.

The objects and site have been examined by Professor A. E. Douglass, noted astronomer and chronologist of the Lowell Observatory; Professor Frank H. Fowler of the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences of the University of Arizona; Dr. C. J. Sarle, a geologist; Professor Cummings, Neil H. Judd and others. Descriptions of the objects and the texts of the inscriptions have been sent to scholars in many parts of the country.

The combination of Christian cross, Moslem crescent, Hebraic seven-branched candlestick and Freemasonry emblems has imposed a heavy tax on the credulity of investigators, but their appearance of having been covered and embedded in stone by natural processes has puzzled skilled archaeologists. Some have arrived at the opinion that, whatever their origin, the objects lay for centuries in the earth where they were found.

The inscriptions have been interpreted as describing the conflicts of the prehistoric Roman-Jewish kingdom in the Southwest with the Toltec Indians, forerunners of the Aztecs. From the inscriptions it has been deduced that the mysterious invaders called their land “Calalus.” Using the texts as a basis for the work, Laura Coleman Ostrander, historian of Tucson, has sketched the history of rulers of Calalus, her dynasty consisting of Theodorus, Jacobus, Isreal the First and Isreal the Second.

Some scholars to whom the materials have been submitted have been slow to accept the finds as authentic because of the character of the objects and the frequency of archaeological frauds. The danger of indorsing another Cardiff Giant or a monument of the “Bill Stumps His Mark” type has generally caused investigators to be cautious, but it is alleged that those who have examined the site have come to the conclusion that the things were not planted as a hoax, but have been there for a considerable period of time. They were found in September, 1924, fifteen months ago—a longer period than any motion picture press agent, as a rule, would allow for the incubation of a publicity dodge.

Finders’ Story of the Case.

A statement of the case in favor of the relics, as worked out by the finders and their co-workers, follows:

“A chance discovery by Charles E. Manier and subsequent excavation by him and Thomas W. Bent, near Tucson, Ariz., has brought to light many relics that indicate an expedition of considerable proportion of Roman Jews in America during the period from 775 A. D. to 900 A. D.

“The evidence unearthed appears to be the positive data for which scientists have been searching for many years. It is thought that these relics definitely establish the fact that European or other outside influence existed in America before the advent of Columbus and the Spanish conquerors. This influence was found in America among the Indians in their rites and ceremonials by the Spaniards, but until the present find no definite evidence had appeared to prove this theory.

“The first article, a large metal cross, weighing sixty-five pounds, was discovered on Sept. 13, 1924, purely by accident. Mr. Manier and his family were returning from a trip to the historic Picture Rocks, just north of Tucson, Ariz., and had stopped to examine an old lime kiln along the road. While doing this, Mr. J. E. Manier noticed a peculiar object protruding from the bank to the north of the lime kiln. On examining the object he discovered it to be of metal, and firmly embedded in the bank, 5 feet 5 inches from the top. Mr. Manier excavated the object and discovered that it was a large metal cross, consisting of two parts, that had been placed together and riveted with lead rivets. Between the two halves had been placed a wax preservative, and on the inner surfaces of both halves there was much Latin inscription. The cross was taken to the University of Arizona and the Latin translated by Professor Frank H. Fowler of the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Objects Embedded in Strata.

“Since the discovery of the first article to the present time there have been unearthed five complete crosses and one unfinished cross, all of which contain much Latin inscription, many pictures and numerous symbols of both a religious and historic nature. There has also been unearthed a cross with a crescent cross-arm, entwined with a serpent, upon which there is Hebrew script and many religious symbols. Another cross has a circle of metal, connecting the cross-arms, with a serpent entwined over all. This cross also contains the Hebrew script and several religious symbols.

“The remainder of the discovery is made up of swords and spears, many of which are scarred as a result of having been used in battle. All the articles are of metal, and of a natural alloy of lead, silver, gold and antimony, with a trace of tin, and are all in a perfect state of preservation. None of the inscriptions have been obliterated and the war implements still retain a sharp straight edge, and are well balanced.

“The articles have all been found at about the same level, that is, between five and six feet below the surface, and in a well-cemented stratum of caliche, the caliche, or lime formation, being so hard that it has been necessary to chop each piece out with a pick. There is no evidence of burial, either in recent or in historic times; in fact, the articles have been covered by a natural process of the washing down of the debris from above, until time has resulted in building up of from five to six feet of overhead.

“The many scientists who have assisted in the research are unanimous in the opinion that the covering-over process has taken many hundreds of years; in fact, their conclusions tend to place the age of the relics at about the eighth century.

“The placing of the articles in history is being done by Laura Coleman Ostrander, historian of Tucson, Ariz. She has, through the Latin and Hebrew inscriptions and the many interesting symbols, woven a complete story covering the entire period of these people in America, or ‘Calalus Land,’ as they called it. It is a story that covers a period of 125 years, and is replete with hardships, wars and romance.

Fought the Toltec Indians

“The story commences in A. D. 775 with these people being carried forth over the sea to Roman Calalus, an unknown land. Here they found a people whom they called the Toltezus, the scientists agreeing that the people they found were the Toltec Indians. At this period Theodorus was the ruler of these European adventurers and was a brave fighter and a man of courage. He carried on much warfare with the Toltecs and after ruling for a period of fourteen years he was succeeded by Jacobus.

“Jacobus ruled the people with a mighty hand and was also a constructive ruler, since he rebuilt the city of these people that had been razed during the latter part of the reign of Theodorus. Jacobus was not king long and was followed by Israel the First, who reigned for sixty-seven years, who, in turn, was followed by Israel the Second. He ruled until the year 900 and is chronologically complete through the entire period of their existence in America.

“The records found by Mr. Manier and Mr. Bent appear to be a last record of the people, written in haste at the time when the end was approaching. The record does not make clear just what the end was, but it has been concluded that these Europeans were exterminated by the natives, who, it appears, harassed them and made war upon them from the beginning to the end. This conclusion has been drawn, since what appears to be the last writing of the recorder of these ancient deeds states:

“’The last days have come and the inevitable doom,’ and his last writing is, ‘I am present. The Lord be with you.’

“To this chapter of the story is signed ‘O.L,’ as well as to all of the other parts or crosses, the ‘O.L.’ being not his initials, but rather an insignia of rank.

Evidences of Authenticity.

“The investigation and excavating is only in the embryo stage, and is to be carried on to completion in the future; however, much definite information has been brought to light that establishes these relics as being several hundred years pre-Columbian.

“C. J. Sarle, Ph. D., one of the eminent geologists of the Southwest, who has spent much time during the last year in investigating this find, is of the belief that the articles are not only genuine but are as old as the dates would indicate. He has established this belief through the geological facts and through the location at their respective depths, of the numerous Indian cultures, the oldest being that of the Hohokums, or the great unknown tribe of Indians that inhabited the Southwest in prehistoric times. The veneer of the Hohokum culture is a considerable distance above the level at which these relics are being excavated.

“Dean Byron Cummings, Curator of the State Museum, archaeologist, and a member of the Faculty of the University of Arizona, who has also investigated this problem, is convinced as to the antiquity of the finds and as to the articles being genuine. He establishes the age of the relics through the Roman script contained upon them, which he states has not been in common use since the eighth century, and through archaeological and geological evidence. In this he is supported by Professor Frank H. Fowler who has translated all of the Latin inscriptions on the pieces found to date.

“Professor Charles T. Vorhies, entomologist, who has also interested himself in this investigation and has assisted with the photographic record, is firm in his belief that these relics are not of historic times, are many hundred years old, and there is no evidence of burial, but to a depth of between five and six feet by a natural building-up process, over a long period of time.

“Dean A. E. Douglass of the Steward Observatory and Vice President of the Historical and Archaeological Society of Arizona, is firm in the belief of the antiquity and the genuineness of the finds. He has spent much time on the investigation, has taken a complete photographic record and has himself excavated part of the relics.

Dr. Judd Aids in Excavation.

“Dr. Neil Judd of the Smithsonian Institution visited the excavation and completely excavated two of the articles himself. He stated that the articles were very old and that there was absolutely no evidence of disturbance of the earth surrounding them. He reached this conclusion after chopping these two pieces loose with a miner’s pick.

“All of these men have either excavated some of the finds themselves or have been present when relics were excavated.

“The time at which the story of these crusaders relates their history definitely establishes the period during which they inhabited America, and is supported by the eighth century Latin script that is used in the inscriptions.

“The place from which they came has been established by Laura Coleman Ostrander as the Roman Empire, since they call the unknown land Roman Calalus. They were designated by her as Roman Jews because of the appearance of the Hebrew script of the early centuries upon the religious standards, and because of the nature and significance of drawings and symbols appearing upon them; also because of the fact that the traders of the Roman Empire during the first Christian centuries were the Jews.

“The excavation and investigation has been carried on by Messrs. Charles E. Manier and Thomas W. Bent, with the assistance of John S. Bent and the support of the University of Arizona, the Tucson Chamber of Commerce and the City of Tucson. All of the photography for publication is being done by the Irwin Studios of Tucson, Ariz.

“This is an announcement and should not be taken as a conclusion, since future excavation will no doubt bring to light much more evidence of startling and interesting nature, and as the new evidence is brought to light a report of progress will be made.”

Declared Crude Forgeries

Dr. Dean Points Out Inconsistencies Which He Calls Childish.

Dr. Bashford Dean, Curator of Arms and Armor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, who has made a lifelong study of forgeries as incidental to his study of armor, said yesterday, after examining photographs of the Tucson objects, that they would rank among the poorest of forgeries.

Dr. Dean has collected materials for publication on 160 cases of arms and armor forgers, and has now on exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum a series of such impostures, labeled and dated as an object lesson to collectors.

“The Arizona specimens are modern forgeries, probably local, and certainly without either interest or value,” said Dr. Dean, taking up the photographs in detail.

“Any student of forgeries should know that the imprints of a sharp instrument, as shown in Figure 14, are absolutely fresh, while there has been given an obvious rounding to unessential parts of the objects.

“The crowns shown on these figures are not accurate representations of an early period. The shapes of the swords are childish, crudely designed, evidently after some imperfectly pictured Roman swords.

“The cutting shown on the back of figure 1A bears the marks of being put here ad hoc. The form shown in Figure 1 is a crude reminiscence of a Turkish standard head, which the forger has evidently seen in some picture. The rounding hand of the forger, and not the rounding hand of time.

“The form of the letters is not accurate archaeologically. The blurring of the edges of the cross in Figure 1A has no other meaning save the effort of the forger to make the object appear old. An authentic object has an utterly different ‘feeling.’

“Examination of the letters shows that they were done always by the same hand. Notice such slips as ‘Brittania’ on one side of the cross and Gaul, in good English on the other, instead of ,Gallia, an error which a schoolboy should not have made.

“The cross in 3A, with its ragged angles, is another symptom of a desire of an unskillful forger to make the object appear archaic. The same is true of all these objects.

The crudely developed serpent in Figure 18A has again every earmark of the copyist’s work. He who did this had seen evidently some eighteenth century twisted iron, probably of Spanish workmanship, but had in his copy lost entirely the ‘feeling’ of the authentic object.

“The curious crowns and Masonic-like emblems are evidence also of the hand of a person who wished something to appear interesting and mystical. One need hardly point out that the making of objects of this kind is the easiest thing in the world. One has only to scrape out a form in a slab of clay by means of a flat-edged stick, draw in the letters backward with the point of a wire nail, make the desired sketches, and then pour in the melted lead. The object is then merely to be taken out, smoothed off and, if need be, the surface hammered—bear witness to the wavy border in 6B showing evidence of hammering.

“The fact of the matter is that a comparison of the letters of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries with these crude forms is alone sufficient to condemn the objects as false.

“The fact, moreover, as I understand, that the lead contains antimony is again, if not a sure, a highly probable evidence of relatively new manufacture.”

Discussing different forgeries and hoaxes which he has investigated, Dr. Dean said:

“These things are done sometimes commercially, sometimes merely to excite comment and interest. It is sometimes done with a sense of humor, to prove the ignorance of certain local specialists. I call to mind the skillful work of a sculptor and painter in Munich, who, many years ago, prepared at great cost of time and effort a beautiful crossbow which was shown to the distinguished expert in Munich—Professor Hefner-Alteneck. After the object had been properly painted it was placed in the hands of the great museum expert, who pronounced it a magnificent specimen of the art of 1580, whereupon the artist, taking out his pen-knife, removed certain ivory plates in the shaft of the crossbow, demonstrating below clean new wood and the signature and date of the artist himself.

“The sculptor in question rebuked the expert, who had told him that he couldn’t be deceived in an object of this kind, but the professor failed to see the humor in the situation, so the artist lost a friend.”

Likened to Recent Fakes

  1. W. Hodge Tells of Hoaxes in Southwest and Michigan.
  2. W. Hodge, specialist in the archaeology and history of the Southwest of the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, said yesterday that fake inscriptions of Coronado and Fray Marcos de Niza had recently been discovered in Arizona.

“It seems very probable,” he said, “that this archaeological faker, who has been at work in Arizona, has had something to do with the finds near Tucson.

“The miscellaneous congeries of objects found there strongly suggest fraud. It would not be surprising to find a set of objects which the Indians had looted from one of the early missions, but when you get Masonic emblems and all sorts of things, you begin to prick up your ears.

“Some one in Southern Arizona in the last year or so has been faking inscriptions. I received a short time ago from Colonel James H. McClintock, formerly with Roosevelt’s Rough Riders and until recently State Historian of Arizona, a set of photographs of these inscriptions. One purported to be an inscription by Coronado and the other by Fray Marcos de Niza, the first white man to set foot in Arizona and New Mexico in 1539. These were obvious forgeries and did not stir up any excitement. They had been made to correspond to genuine inscriptions of the early Spaniards on rocks in Western New Mexico. The letters were about three feet long.

“One of the most notorious fakers of archaeological objects operated in Michigan. He kept finding and causing others to find strange inscriptions in clay and copper in mounds in Michigan. He succeeded, unfortunately, in interesting a Catholic priest and was able to use his name in these discoveries, so that a great many people were deceived. His objects were very cleverly concealed.

They were found apparently buried under the roots of trees and deeply embedded in mounds. He had used years in the preparation of the settings in which he wanted the things to be discovered.

“The detection of the fraud was not difficult, because of the jumbled manner in which the characters were put together in the inscriptions. For instance, he put in Coptic letters which he got from some books. Some of them were upside down. The whole thing was meaningless. What the man’s object was is something I cannot say. His frauds were exhaustively treated in an article by Professor Francis W. Kelsey of the University of Michigan in an article published in The American Anthropologist.

“What betrayed the recently found Spanish inscription fakes in Arizona were the abbreviations. Abbreviations were made in a manner that no Spaniard of that time would have used.

“The man who perpetrates such frauds seldom claims to have discovered them himself. He usually arranges things so that some other man finds them and believes that he has stumbled upon them accidentally.”

Judd Doubts Dates Given

He Suggests That Objects Are Not Older Than 1540.

Washington, Dec. 12. Neil Merton Judd, anthropologist and curator of American Archaeology of the United States National Museum, who investigated the site and alleged early Roman-Jewish objects in Arizona, made this statement regarding them:

“I have every confidence in the archaeological ability and judgment of Professor Cummings, but I cannot believe from such data as has come to my attention and from my personal observation at the site of these finds in the Fall of 1924 and the Spring of 1925 that these specimens are as old as the dates appearing on them would seem to indicate.

“I believe that no hoax or fraud is involved.

“I believe the overlying earth and stone (caliche) has been formed since the specimens were placed there, but I am confident that the various objects mentioned are all post-Spanish—that is they date after the Spanish conquest of 1540 A. D.

“So much interest is attached to the discovery and there is such a great possibility of making immature judgment that final decision as to the possible age of these specimens should be held in abeyance until the nature of the overlying caliche deposits has been thoroughly examined by competent geologists.”


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