Glenn Beck’s Excellent Pseudohistorical Adventure Continues

There was a time when I thought that Glenn Beck’s history lessons couldn’t get any weirder than his invocation of the Washington prophecy.

That was before August 18, when he left the shallows of pseudohistory behind him and plunged headfirst into the deep end.

First, he pointed out that American history didn’t start with Columbus.  Indians had their own civilizations, some of them quite impressive by any contemporary standard.  No argument there, although Beck did his customary routine of arguing that he was imparting some type of arcane, forgotten knowledge.  (Ever read any history books published in the last thirty years, Glenn?)

Then he cited the theory, tossed around in some circles during the colonial and Revolutionary eras, that Indians were descended from prominent Old World civilizations.  That’s when I started to wonder where he was headed.

That’s when things took a sharp turn toward the bizarre.  Beck pointed out some superficial similarities between ancient Native American earthen structures and Egyptian pyramids, and started arguing that Hebrew artifacts have turned up in Native American archaeological sites.  The scholarly community, he claimed, had engaged in a cover-up to hide this from the public.

I thought I had a pretty fair idea of what was coming next, and I was right.  Beck spoke three little words which descended like a credibility-shattering sledgehammer: Bat Creek Stone.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Bat Creek Stone, you’re not alone.  It’s a deservedly obscure artifact, an unimpressive slice of rock less than six inches long with an inscription that looks like this:

From Wikimedia Commons

It first turned up during a Smithsonian excavation of some East Tennessee Indian mounds back in 1889.  For about eighty years, nobody gave it a second thought.  Then along came Cyrus Gordon of Brandeis University, who claimed that the inscription was actually an ancient form of Hebrew.

Now, Gordon was hardly an impartial observer when it came to this sort of thing.  He was a firm believer in the notion that there was substantial contact between the Old and New Worlds well before the time of Columbus.  The possibility of an ancient Hebrew inscription in a Tennessee Indian mound offered possible corroboration for his pet theory, the sort of corroboration which is quite scarce indeed.

As you can imagine, archaeologists, linguists, and ethnographers were unconvinced.  Eminent Hebrew paleographers have dismissed the inscription, arguing that most of the characters could not possibly correspond to Paleo-Hebrew letters of the period in question and bear only a superficial similarity to ancient Hebrew script.  Frauds of this sort were common in nineteenth-century America, and in fact the Bat Creek Stone’s inscription is similar to a speculative reconstruction of some ancient Hebrew writing that appared in a late nineteenth-century Masonic publication.  Two of the stone’s critics have made a case that the leader of the Smithsonian’s original excavation may have forged the stone and planted it in an attempt to boost his troubled career.  (You can read their analysis here.)  It’s worth noting that the stone’s most prominent modern-day proponent is actually an economist, who lacks any professional qualifications in paleography, archaeology, or ethnology.

In short, the Bat Creek Stone probably belongs in the realm of Bigfoot and the Mothman, not serious scholarly inquiry.

I was only aware of the stone because for several years it’s been residing at one of my favorite haunts.  It’s on indefinite loan to the University of Tennessee’s fantastic McClung Museum, where its display label quite rightly explains why it’s a dubious artifact.

Beck, by contrast, never mentioned that anyone doubted the Hebrew inscription at all, let alone that it’s pretty universally discounted by experts in every relevant field.  He simply stated that the inscription was in Hebrew.  Case closed.

It took me, an ordinary schmuck with no expertise in this sort of thing, a few seconds to find a slew of evidence debunking the Bat Creek Stone with a simple search engine.  Just typing its name into Google is sufficient to demonstrate that it’s a troubled artifact.  Yet Beck never gave any indication whatsoever that its status was in any doubt.  This omission bothers me much more than his belief in the inscription’s authenticity.

I don’t expect Glenn Beck to be an expert in early American ethnography, archaeology, or paleography.  I do, however, expect him to employ the most basic kind of fact-checking before he assumes the responsibility of educating millions of Americans in history.

Did anybody from Beck’s show even bother to Google the darn thing?  Who in the world is he paying to be his fact-checker, and does he have any inkling how badly he needs to fire them?

Maybe the notion of an ancient Hebrew inscription in America excited him because of his own religious convictions.  That’s fine, but since the scholarly community discounts the inscription, he has the responsibility to at least acknowledge that a controversy exists.  He didn’t, and his presentation was therefore inaccurate and misleading.

Beck omitted critical information, whether out of simple ignorance that it existed or a dishonest attempt to cover it up.  Neither possibility is reassuring, and I think the American people would be much better off if he would stop trying to educate them about their own history.  Physician, heal thyself.

66 Comments

Filed under Archaeology, History and Memory, Tennessee History

66 responses to “Glenn Beck’s Excellent Pseudohistorical Adventure Continues

  1. AD

    Out of curiosity, as I’m not a viewer… Where did he end going with the claim of an Israel-Indian connection?

    • Shelby

      While he probably should have said in that episode that is has been debunked by many scholars, Glenn is OFTEN telling all who watch his show not to trust him. I’ve seen many of his episodes in which he says “but don’t believe me, look it up for yourself! Make your OWN conclusions.” As he’s not a news source and just an opinion-type commentator he can say whatever he wants on television (within the regulations on language), if you believe it. Well then that’s your problem. I’m not saying he’s my most favorite guy or anything, but I am just tired of people not showing him any respect simply because they don’t want to. There are plenty of people in the political realm that I hate, but I don’t go about disrespecting them.

  2. Michael Lynch

    His major point–as far as I could determine–seemed to be that the interests of commerce and the interests of science joined together in some nefarious plot to deprive the Indians of their cultural due and strip them of their land. Or something like that. It was a little hard to grasp how it all tied together, because he was all over the place.

    He seemed pretty convinced of the whole Indian-Israel connection, possibly because of his Mormonism. That’s fine, but he has no business presenting the Bat Creek Stone and other pieces of debunked evidence as if they were undoubtedly what their proponents tell us they are.

    –ML

    • Jeffery SIkes

      Mr Beck has every right in America to present his opinion of any event he deems worthy of discussion. Academia has no right to indicate that they are the only ones worthy of presenting data to the public, where is that stated in the constitution?

      The disgust here is that Mr Beck dare speak of a subject and teach on a subject using his own faculties and research which are not controlled by Academia and their dialectical based ideology.
      I ask one question of Academia, where is it written in the American constitution that Academia has the only wright to publish and opinion on any subject?
      Americans, via the bill of rights, have the ability to speak freely concerning any subject they deem necessary, regardless of academia’s opinions. Further, knowing that Academia has turned wholly to supporting only opinions founded upon Aristotelian (and therefore Hegelian) Philosopha doctrine, its right that Americans free of the chains of that doctrine, express other opinions.

      • Michael Lynch

        I never said that Beck doesn’t have a right to form his own conclusions. I said that if he wants to use his program to talk about history, he has a responsibility to get his facts straight.

        Beck didn’t come up with the idea that the inscription is in Hebrew on his own. He’s citing the conclusions of other researchers.

        Bringing the Constitution into this is a little bizarre. I’m not saying that only academics have the right to draw conclusions. I’m saying that Beck’s claims about the stone are highly problematic.

        You’ve left a number of comments here reiterating the same points about academics being biased and the stone being an authentic ancient Hebrew inscription. If you can back up those claims, fine. Show us how you can back them up. But if you’re just going to keep accusing people of being biased Marxists and Darwinians, then take it somewhere else.

  3. Sean

    AD,

    The idea that the American Indians are descended from the tribes of Israel is also a cornerstone of Beck’s religion. Mormonism.

    Pretty easy to see where he was going.

  4. Michael Lynch

    I’ve got no problem at all with Beck believing whatever he wants or sharing his beliefs with others, but if he wants to play history teacher, he has a responsibility to avoid demonstrably incorrect statements such as the notion that the Bat Creek Stone is an accepted artifact.

    –ML

  5. Sean

    ML,

    Agreed.

    But clearly, as a Mormon, he essentially has a requirement to imagine the Bat Creek Stone is real.

  6. Avi ben Avraham

    I agree that when making a claim about something like the Cherokee Indians being one of the Israelite tribes one should be as honest as possible. One should make sure all reasonable and valid arguments are included when arguing for or against any issue. It has been argued I think successfully that there must have been some cultural connections between the old and new worlds due to the many similarities in architecture and technologies. How far back these connections go back is open to debate. Was it 3000 years ago as many Mormons believe? Who can say. We know from the Bible that Israel was divided after king Solomon’s death and the northern ten tribes were mostly carried off by the Assyrians about 800 BCE. It is generally assumed that the ten northern tribes have been assimilated amongst the nations where they were dispersed. It is possible that some Israeli sailors got blown off course and ended up in South America or even possibly the East coast of the U.S.. It is possible and DNA testing could help verify or debunk any claims that an Indian tribe is descended from one or more of the dispersed Israeli tribes. There are supposed to be some Africans on the East coast of Africa called the Limba’s and they have been DNA tested to be of the tribe of Levi. Israeli traders sailed with Copper ingots and other trade goods in David and Solomon’s time down the East coast of Africa, around the horn and up the west coast eventually reaching southern England to bring back Tin to Israel via the Mediterranean sea. So a group being caught in a storm and blown across the Atlantic to the new world is certainly possible. Thor Hyderal (I think that’s right) proved that trans-oceanic migration over many thousands miles was possible.

  7. Michael Lynch

    My problem with Beck’s presentation is not that he referenced theories about contacts between the Old and New Worlds. It’s that he presented specific claims about a particular artifact as if they were uncontested, when in fact those claims have been discredited.

    He claimed that the Bat Creek Stone’s inscription was Hebrew and stated it as a fact, when linguists have denied that it’s in Hebrew and archaeologists have offered evidence that it’s a forgery. Beck left out crucial information that directly contradicted the claim he was making about the inscription, which indicates either dishonesty or incompetence on his part. Given his track record of interpreting historical information, I suspect it’s the latter.

    –ML

    • Robert Hawk

      That is an interesting comment seeing those who study Epigraphics and those who study ancient Hebrew have both supported the Bat Creek stone as Authentic, ie Barry Fell an Dr. Murray. As a matter of fact it was Dr Murray who finally was able to correctly interpret the Bat Creek Stone, where non-biblical Archelogists had previously failed due to ignorance of the biblical texts.

      • Michael Lynch

        If you’re stating that there’s a consensus among linguists and paleographers that the BCS inscription is a genuine example of ancient Hebrew, then you’re simply wrong. Frank Moore Cross and P. Kyle McCarter both argued that the inscription was not ancient Hebrew.

        I’m not trying to prove that it isn’t Hebrew, but to demonstrate that Beck made claims about an artifact that were incomplete and misleading by stating that the case on the BCS is closed, when it is anything but.

        –ML

  8. Mark Douglass

    Michael,
    I agree with your objection. I am a classically trained historian, AND I allow that pre-Columbus contact between Old and New Worlds probably happened on some level. (However, I object to the suggestion that native cultures were so tenuously bound to the people that a handful of Phoenicians in a leaky boat – probably half-starved and barely alive – could have had such an epochal effect on those cultures.)
    Beck’s faith likely makes the Bat Creek Stone a point of doctrinal belief rather than one of scholarly inquiry, a common trend that extends well beyond Beck’s little sphere of influence.
    Yet, I am more than a little pleased that – at least on the point of the injustice done to native cultures and peoples – I’ve finally found something upon which Glenn Beck and I can see eye-to-eye!
    Sadly, that Beck founds his attitude on an earlier European/Asiatic influence rather than native culture itself, he is achieving the same end as the ‘nefarious plot’ to which you allude.
    -Mark

    • Robert Hawk

      I take great issue with so called learned who indicate that people who were of ancient civilizations were less intelligent than we are today. The phonecians were some of the finest Sailors ever and they did not achieve that title with leaking dingies as this author suggests. Some of there ships exist even until this day, testifying to their construction over thousands of years.

  9. Michael Lynch

    You’re right; it is kind of ironic. Beck wants to impress upon us the significance of Indian cultures, yet he attributes it to influence from other civilizations.

    –ML

  10. Melba Dagan

    Once again the so-called experts and historians have slammed the door shut on a new thought. If you don’t care for Beck’s approach to history, that is your right. However, when you insist that “experts” refuse to acknowledge that the Bat Creek stone is written in ancient Hebrew, and so they must be right, I simply laugh out loud. My husband reads ancient Hebrew, is an Israeli with a degree in middle eastern studies, and a linguist. When I asked him what the stone said, without telling him where it was found, he immediately read the letters to me and translated the script. When anyone says he is a ‘classically trained’ anything, I shudder because they are usually so locked into what is ‘accepted’ that they would choke on a new idea. My respect for what our colleges and universities are turning out as scholars continues its free fall. When will the minds of intelligent people be freed from this stranglehold of ‘experts’ who are much more interested in their own opinions than they are in what might actually be the truth?

  11. Michael Lynch

    They haven’t “slammed the door shut on a new thought.” They have weighed the evidence, looked at it, determined that it doesn’t add up, and dismissed it accordingly. That’s how historical and archaeological investigation proceeds. Ideas don’t get dismissed just because they’re new. They get dismissed because they fail to meet the criteria of acceptance.

    I have to tell you that I find it more than a little ironic that you dismiss the analyses of trained experts as of no value, and yet you cite your husband’s training and expertise to bolster his interpretation. You might want to consider the implications of that irony.

    With all due respect to your husband, I think I’ll weight the opinions of Frank Moore Cross and P. Kyle McCarter just a little more heavily. No offense.

    If you’d care to offer an explanation as to how ancient Hebrews managed to navigate the Atlantic and find their way to East Tennessee, though, I’d be delighted to hear it.

    –ML

    • Donna

      Read in the Bible 1Kings 9:26-28 which tells of King Solomon’s navy.

      Then read 1 Kings 10:22 You might find an explanation here for how ancient Hebrews managed to navigate the Atlantic.

      God’s Word is truth.

  12. Andy

    LOL Melba, LOL. Yes, Glenn Beck is going to be my source of revealing brilliant new ideas on the past.

  13. Rob

    Actually the stone was most probably created to embarrass a political enemy. This was always the story we heard growing up in Tennessee and makes sense given the facts. No one where I come from ever thought for a minute it was legit. For a good overview see: http://www.preteristarchive.com/Ancient_Revelations/epigraphy/1991_mainfort_bat-creek-stone.html

  14. Llewellyn Andrew

    The Bat Creek stone has been rejected by Critics because it does not fit their uncompromising view that people of different races did not travel to the Americas via ship, that an Asian migration occured during the Ice age, but new information and evidence is detroying these poor theories. There is sufficient evidence that Ancient cultures interacted and that there was a migration from the middle east. The reality is that the Ancient American continent was populated by more than one race and this some believe to be impossible because they depend on outdated ideas and theories.

  15. Michael Lynch

    No, it’s been rejected by critics because it doesn’t conform to authentic Hebrew paleography, because its early prominent supporters were not disinterested critics, because similar forgeries were relatively common during that period, and because a hypothetical illustration of what the stone purports to be appeared in a publication close to the time of its discovery and is the sort of thing that could easily have provided a model for the forger.

    In short, it’s been rejected because there is no reason to accept it. What is gratuitously asserted can be gratuitously denied.

    Now, as to your broader point, if you’d like to specifically reference some of that evidence you’re referring to (i.e., that there was ancient trans-oceanic interaction and that a Middle Eastern migration contributed to America’s ancient population), then we’re all eager to hear it. But simply stating that it’s so won’t make it true.

    Even if you’re going to assert that these theories are valid, it doesn’t require you to cast in your lot with supporters of the Bat Creek Stone. Believing a dubious theory to be valid doesn’t mean you have to accept every spurious bit of supposed evidence that comes along. If the theory in question is so weak that criticism of a spurious artifact is a threat to the whole theoretical framework, then maybe it’s time to think about whether the framework is something worth keeping around. Keeping a death grip on something as dubious as the Bat Creek Stone doesn’t strengthen your larger case. It weakens it, by making you look desperate and ill-informed.

    –ML

  16. Jonathan Appell

    I am not a fan of Glen Beck, but this time he may have got it right?

    It seems that the Bat creek Stone may very well be real, based on the fact that
    recent research just carbon dated it to 1500- 2000 years old.

    Petrographic Analysis

    A new petrographic analysis of the stone by Scott Wolter and Richard Stehly of American Petrographic Services concludes,
    1. Our geological findings are consistent with the Smithsonian Institute’s field report written by John W. Emmert.
    2. The complete lack of the orange-colored silty-clay residue in any of the characters of the inscription is consistent with many hundreds of years of weathering in a wet earth mound comprised of soil and “hard red clay.”
    3. The inscribed stone and all the other artifacts and remains found in the mound with it, can be no younger than when the bodies of the deceased were buried inside the mound. (Wolter and Stehly 2010)
    Archaeologists have yet to react to this new study.

    Regards, jon

  17. Jonathan Appell

    One more thing to note is that Cyrus Gordon, a Doctor, scholar and professor who spoke in many dialects, an expert in ancient hebrew researched this subject in great detail, and his opinion, it was authentic.

    Barry Fell, also who also spoke in a great many languages, also came to the same conclusion.

    Now, petrographic results show………… Petrographic Analysis

    A new petrographic analysis of the stone by Scott Wolter and Richard Stehly of American Petrographic Services concludes,
    1. Our geological findings are consistent with the Smithsonian Institute’s field report written by John W. Emmert.
    3. The inscribed stone and all the other artifacts and remains found in the mound with it, can be no younger than when the bodies of the deceased were buried inside the mound. (Wolter and Stehly 2010)
    Archaeologists have yet to react to this new study.

  18. Michael Lynch

    Gordon was somewhat notorious for holding unconventional viewpoints at variance with the mainstream scholarly community, so I would be cautious about giving much weight to his opinion on the BCS. As a proponent of ancient trans-oceanic contact, he wouldn’t be the most impartial observer when it comes to a find like this.

    Barry Fell was likewise a zealous proponent of pre-Columbian contact whose area of expertise was invertebrate zoology; his work in epigraphy has been roundly criticized by scholars working in relevant fields.

    The new study you cite is interesting, but given that the most eminent experts in paleo-Hebrew and Cherokee archaeology have found major problems with the BCS, I’m still pretty skeptical, at least until I can read more of it. The question isn’t whether the artifact itself is old, but whether the inscription is what Beck and its other proponents claim it to be.

    –ML

  19. Greg Monroe

    McClung Museum is what??? Fantastic??? It’s a joke……………………….
    That being said, why immediately slam Beck because of his beliefs? Is it because his political beliefs are different, or is it because of religion?
    Why say that linquists have debunked the writing on the stone, when some scholars of the day confirmed the writing on the stone? Is it because they don’t fit in with accepted theory?
    Well, let’s talk about that? How many times have our “accepted theories” of how people came to be in North America, and where they came from, changed in the last 100 years? How long did we believe Columbus was the first to discover America? Now we know that several different cultures likely at least visited this country centuries before Columbus.
    What Beck is insinuating is not new, and the evidence he cited, though slight, is only one of several artifacts or bits of evidence that indicate MANY different cultures visited North America before Columbus, for example, the Norse, Chinese, Moors, Phoenicians, and Romans.
    Why debunk the similarities in the geometrical setup between the Hopewell complex in Ohio and the Pyramid of Giza that Beck used to illustrate the possible connections between the two? If nothing else, the information he brought forth is intriguing to say the least, given that the ancient Hopewellian people and Egyption engineers might have used the same mathematical/geometrical calculations to lay out cities thousands of miles apart.
    You know, I would hope that thinking people would take interest and ask more questions, rather than “attack the messenger”, so to speak.

  20. Michael Lynch

    The McClung is AAM-accredited, the requirements for which are extraordinarily rigorous, and is also a Smithsonian affiliate. It brings in some of the most prestigious traveling exhibits in the country. Your identification of it as a “joke” seems to be at variance with the opinions of the nation’s most renowned museum professionals. Just some food for thought.

    And no, I couldn’t care less what Beck’s politics or religious views are. In fact, I agree with some of his political views. When he makes statements about the past, those statements can only be evaluated from the standpoint of historical evidence, which is how I’ve treated them.

    Why say that linguists have debunked the writing on the stone? Because eminent modern-day linguists have stated that the inscription isn’t what its apologists claim it to be. If you disagree with their conclusions, then you’ll have to take it up with them. You can start with Frank Moore Cross, Professor Emeritus at Harvard Divinity School; he might be in the phone book.

    The fact that scholarly consensus has been overturned in the past is not a license to disregard such consensus as it now exists.

    As for your list of cultures that supposedly visited North America before Columbus, I think the only one that can be substantiated beyond a reasonable doubt would be the Norse. The case for the Chinese is at best highly dubious.

    Let me point out, also, that the Bat Creek Stone has been the subject of numerous articles in scholarly publications, so it’s not as though scholars working in relevant fields have just dismissed it out of hand. It’s been analyzed using the same techniques experts use with more conventional evidence. The fact that it hasn’t found acceptance reveals more about the stone itself than it does about any bias on the part of its detractors.

    –ML

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  22. bob

    but you say its a hoax, then you say the question is not how old it is, but whether it says what people say it says. it seems like you need to clear that up. if its a hoax, it had to be a hoax by the smithsonian archeologist( and by the way i have been studying the bat creek stone for all of about 30 minutes now.) since he supposedly found it under a skull, and he made nothing of it in his lifetime, i dont see it being a hoax. surely he wasnt dumb enough to turn his back and let some joker lift the skull and slip it under. now that you have a study which indicates it wasnt a 19th century hoax, it returns to the question, what script is it? why not be interested in that question rather than destroying the opposition.

  23. Michael Lynch

    Actually I didn’t say that it was a hoax; I said that there are good reasons to believe that it is. I think a hoax is the most probable explanation, but I didn’t categorically state that we’re dealing with a forgery. If you’ll read the examination by the investogators who accuse the archaeologist in question of fraud, you’ll find that their theory is that his intended audience was his own supervisor. According to this interpretation, he wasn’t out for fame and glory, but to stay in the good graces of his boss.

    My point about the age is that even if it’s an old inscription, that doesn’t establish that it’s authentic Hebrew, since experts in Hebrew paleography say it isn’t. Beck didn’t just say that it was old; he stated that it was an ancient Hebrew inscription.

    In fact, one theory holds that it’s a forged proto-Cherokee inscription, rather than a forged Hebrew one.

    –ML

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  25. Dee S

    Melba what did you husband say the inscription says and what letters did he say they were? What of the letter below/above the rest? I thought that was a paleo Tav… I think the letters could possibly read quf nun/lamed tzadi hay kaph resh. If it is ‘For Yehudah’ or ‘Only for Yehudah’ where is the yud? There are different variations of each letter according to the time period and location of the writing. And it really did not matter the orientation such as left/right/upside down in many cases. What if this is just a variation that rose up once they migrated to this land? I majored in Linguistics and have made a point to be familiar with Paleo Hebrew for just such an occasion as this. There are so many similarities between the customs of the Cherokees and the ancient Hebrews to just dismiss this outright. I recognized this many years ago when studying both cultures. In addition the Chinese New Year is just a corrupted version of the Passover in the wrong month.

  26. Dee S

    http://hope-of-israel.org/hebinusa.htm

    Check out this website. It shows the similarities between the cultures and talks of the linguistic artifacts found in light of this.

  27. Hu McCulloch

    It’s worth noting that the stone’s most prominent modern-day proponent is actually an economist, who lacks any professional qualifications in paleography, archaeology, or ethnology.

    My page on the subject, with some better images of the inscription, is at http://econ.ohio-state.edu/jhm/arch/batcrk.html .

  28. jxv

    you are all funny
    does it really matter?
    what God wants, God gets no matter what debates, contemplation, argumentation and posturing us humans try to add or take away from it.

  29. Dale

    It seems to me that the writer of the article is guilty of the same sin that he accuses Beck of, namely that he presents the view that the stone has been “thoroughly debunked” as a simple fact, without any reference to any other points of view.

    My research was simply to read the article on Wikipedia and then the report of recent microscopic examinations alluded to by other posts. While I will admit that there is not enough evidence to pronounce this as “mystery solved”, I think it has to be considered at least controversial. Controversial means that there is more than one side to the argument. So while Beck (apparently – I don’t watch him) only presented one side, the author above took a similar tack.

    It does seem however, that the burden of proof lies more with those who assume that the stone is a fraud, since they are accusing Emmert, the original scientist, of that, without much in the way of corroborating evidence. There are speculations about motive, but I’ve seen nothing convincing. The field notes seem straightforward to me as an untrained individual.

    It seems like there have been a number of experts who have come to different opinions on the object. It could be either a fraud or original and the language source is probably difficult to pin down with such a small sample of characters (IMHO) but one possibility is that they are of Paleo-Hebrew origin.

    One object is not definitive for either side. If Emmert was a fraud, is there a pattern that this is the case? If the item was sensational at the time, a fraud would likely have discovered other “similar” artifacts to bolster his reputation, where are these? Citing the “fact” that fraud of Indian artifacts was widespread in the 1800’s seems like name-calling.

    There are a number of artifacts which may support the assertion of paleo-hebrew in ancient America, but my understanding is that they also are under a cloud of suspicion at least as thick as this one; however, that does not mean the matter is settled. I think we are all just expressing our opinions on this one. Yours is as valid as Beck’s, but is it more so?

    • Michael Lynch

      I didn’t say that the case was closed. That was what Beck said. What I said is that it was a dubious artifact, and shouldn’t be trotted out as authentic evidence.

      Nor did I say definitively that the stone is a fraud. I said that experts have presented evidence that this is one possible solution. Personally, I think it’s the most likely explanation.

      Regarding burdens of proof, I think the largest burden rests with those who believe the stone indicates an ancient Hebrew presence in America. After all, they’re the ones trying to overturn all the accumulated evidence in several different extensive fields of study. Anyone who wants to assert something that’s radically at odds with a vast amount of accumulated research assumes a larger burden of proof than someone who doesn’t. I’ve addressed this question in a post which you can read by clicking on the “Pingback” under my comment of Feb. 2 in the thread above.

      Finally, most experts in the relevant fields are pretty much in agreement about the stone–they’re not impressed. It’s quite difficult to find professional archaeologists, linguists, ethnographers, etc. who think the stone is an authentic ancient Hebrew inscription. So no, my opinion isn’t worth much more than Beck’s, but I’m basing my opinion on that of folks whose opinions do matter more by virtue of their expertise. When it comes to archaeology and linguistics, both Beck and I are just ordinary schmoes, which is exactly why I’m siding with the experts on this one.

      –ML

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  31. sam

    I know this was posted to slam Glenn Beck but I just saw a program on the Bat Creek stone presented by a Biblical Hebrew scholar. He said the stone is authentic and the characters in question where Masoratic text that holds the Hebrew to its true meaning. Also no one explained the brass/zinc bracelet that dated BC by many scholars. Everything is up for debate and this subject is far from closed or debunked.

    • Michael Lynch

      This is a history blog. I’m not interested in “slamming” Beck, but if he wants to present historical arguments, then he opens himself up to response and criticism by people interested in history.

      Archaeologists Robert Manifort and Mary Kwas addressed the matter of the brass bracelets in articles published in Tennessee Anthropologist in the early 1990’s. The zinc composition in these bracelets was the same as that used in making English brass bracelets in the colonial era, so there seems little reason to doubt that they were simply trade goods.

      I’m not sure what Hebrew scholar you’re referring to, so I can’t really respond to that statement other than to say that Frank Moore Cross, an eminent expert in Hebrew paleography, stated that only two of the characters on the stone could possibly be construed as Hebrew letters for the period in which the stone was supposedly inscribed.

      –ML

  32. Amy

    Read THE BOOK OF MORMON. JUST READ IT. Of all the crap there is to read out there & watch on TV… put the B.O.M. next on your TO DO LIST. It makes sense and its wonderful!!!!!!! I never in a million years thought I would be connected w/ those weird Mormons… but after reading THE BOOK OF MORMON which is ANOTHER TESTIMONY OF JESUS CHRIST a RECORD OF GOD’S DEALINGS WITH HIS PEOPLE HERE ON THE AMERICAN CONTINENT, it changed my life & my belief. I am now humble yet proud to be a member of THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER DAY SAINTS… b/c I was once on their opposing side. I am a more sincere follower of Christ b/c of my affiliation w/ this church & by reading the B.O.M. ……………………..Yes, though I leave room for skepticism regarding the authenticity of the Bat Creek stones in Tenn as well as those found in OH called the Decalog stone depicting Moses & the 10 Commandments w/ the (“Pure”) stone cup & the stone case also suspected to be linked to ancient Israel. It does jive w/ many other indications pointing to just that which is suspected. I suggest to all, read the Book of Mormon w/ the strongest intent to debunk it for yourselves. (LDS.org) Simple read the whole book & ask God in prayer if its true. In my case I didnt even need to inquire in prayer… I just know its true. Its plain to see there’s is no reason a man would make a volume of literature up for personal fame or power & then live a life of persecution resulting in his own murder. WHY would Joseph Smith do that? ………………………….After reading it, then come back to researching archeology on this continent. It makes a real difference & I can totally understand where Glen Beck is coming from in reporting on these particular findings. He clearly says, don’t believe me… find out for yourselves. That’s his disclaimer so no disrespect should be directed at him. There are hundreds of ruins… in North, Central & South America. Mesa Verde in Colorado, Chitza Nitza In Mexico, Machu Piccu in Peru. Check out Cupola.com & enter in Southwest American Indian Ruins. Feast your eyes on 24 awesome photos of different Pre-Columbian ancient civilizations’ ruins here in N. America. Not to say they couldn’t be the theory the Smithsonian claims as those who migrated from the Bering Straight but in conjunction w/ the Book of Mormon’s account… It all comes together. On Wikipedia, Smithsonian also mentions there were most likely “accidental” trans-atlantic travelers who landed in South America… YES. SO READ THE BOOK OF MORMON to HEAR THE STORY OF THEM. Smithsonian officially stated they do not utilize the B.O.M. for scientific resource. I & 14million & growing LDS (aka. Mormon) members firmly believe they should.

    • Michael Lynch

      I’m not sure why you’re going to such lengths to vindicate the BOM here. I didn’t say the BOM is false. I said that Beck’s interpretation of a specific set of archaeological findings is highly problematic, and in doing so I was essentially echoing the virtually unanimous opinion of mainstream archaeologists. Whether or not Mormonism is a valid religion is a related question, but it’s not really what’s at issue here.

      –ML

  33. Steinar Skailand

    The text on the “Bat Creek Stone” (Loudon County Stone) has been solved by the eminent Norwegian Dr. Philos. Kjell Aartun. See “Studien zur ugaritischen Lexikographie”, published in 2006.
    I translated the German text to English, some time ago.
    (As the field is a bit strange, my English is far from perfect.
    If in doubt compare the German text. That is correct.)

    “” (May) the “Water” (be present), (o) “Sister/Lover”;
    (may) the “small Quantity” (be present) o “Sister/Lover”.
    The “Wanted”,(o) “Beautiful and Chaste”, (is) portioned;
    the “Desired”, (o) Identical, (has been) given.

    (O) “Emperor”, certainly, the “Wanted” (is present);
    the “Desired” (is present), (o) “Ardent”.
    Slack/powerless (is) the “intimate Friend”, o “Juicy”;
    powerless/flabby (is) the “(to Fight) Armoured”, (o) “Cornucopia”.

    (O) “Crevice”, the “Ardent” (is) destroyed;
    (o) “by Desire Exciterd”, the “Horny” (is) “doomed to die”.
    The “Faithful/Reliable” (is) “dead”, (o) “Bended/Curved”;
    the “Proud” (is) “in an awful state”, (o) womanly Virtue. “”

    Because there are merely 2 runes (g-u) and approx. 50% of the
    Inscription is in Etruscan language it may have been engraved
    prior to the Catastrophe. I.e. it is approx 3800 years old.
    (Among the oldest engraved stones in North America.)
    The Catastrophe occurred 1450 BC, owing to the eruption of the
    Santorin volcano.
    The Catastrophe was the beginning of the end of “The Atlantic Trade
    Empire”. Today we talk about the lost city “Atlantis”.

    • Michael Lynch

      I don’t think much, because there isn’t much there. The article is dated Mar. 27 of this year, but there isn’t really any new information in it. The analysis of the inscription’s date is from 2010, is it not?

      What the writer of the article fails to mention is the same thing Beck failed to mention–that the inscription is undoubtedly in Hebrew. That’s not the case. The article cites Cyrus Gordon’s conclusion that it’s ancient Hebrew, but does not cite the more recent conclusion by Hebrew paleographer Frank Moore Cross that most of the symbols couldn’t possibly be genuine examples of Hebrew script from the period in question. (Gordon, as stated above, was a proponent of ancient contact between the Old World and the Americas.)

      In other words, whether or not it’s old is only part of the issue. Even if it’s an ancient inscription, the notion that it’s in Hebrew is a rather dubious one when experts in ancient Hebrew say it’s no such thing.

      –ML

      • The C-14 date of 32AD-769AD on wooden earspools the Smithsonian found with the stone dates from 1988, not 2010, and was published in my 1988 article in Tennessee Anthropologist.

        Gordon and Cross both are experts on Hebrew philology, so that at worst there is a disagreement between the experts on whether it could be Hebrew.

        Ironically archaeologists Robert Mainfort and Mary Kwas, in their 1991 reply to my TA article, took the position, on Cross’s advice, that it could not possibly be Hebrew, but then in their 2004 article in American Antiquity, insist that it clearly is Hebrew, and in fact is copied from an 1870 Masonic reference book.

        However, as I show in my reply to the new M&K article at http://www.econ.ohio-state.edu/jhm/arch/AmerAntiq.pdf , this would require that LYHWD as on the Bat Creek Stone would be the same word as LYHWH as in the Masonic illustration, even though any rabbi can tell you that they are different words. It would also impossibly require that the admittedly problematic first two letters on the Bat Creek inscription be the same in number as the first three letters on the Masonic inscription. Even more subtly, yet conclusively, It also does not account for how the Bat Creek scribe knew to use an authentic Paleo-Hebrew word divider (as on the Siloam inscription or the Qumran Paleo-Leviticus scroll) to separate the two words, rather than the inauthentic space used in the Masonic inscription.

        As for the BOM, the big difference between the Bat Creek inscription and the BOM is that Bat Creek was found by the Smithsonian’s authoritative Mound Survey, and still exists and can be studied, whereas we only have Joseph Smith’s word for it that the BOM plates ever existed or said anything remotely resembling his “translation”. Although Mormons like Beck are naturally excited by artifacts like Bat Creek, Mormonism, like other religions, is based on faith in revelations, and does not (necessarily) rely on tangible evidence.

        • Michael Lynch

          I’m referring to the analysis cited in the article that “ramblinross” pointed out, which is dated 2010. (The analysis is online at http://www.ampetrographic.com/files/BatCreekStone.pdf). I wasn’t referring to the C-14 analysis from 1988,

          Let me reiterate that I’m in no position to state that the inscription is/is not old, nor am I in a position to state that it is/is not Hebrew. I’m not an archaeologist, nor a paleographer, nor a linguist. I merely wanted to point out that Beck told millions of viewers that the BCS is definitely an ancient Hebrew inscription, and he said nothing at all about the fact that it’s the subject of dispute. My concern here was with irresponsible statements about historical matters, not whether a Hebrew inscription turned up at a dig in Tennessee. The evidence against the BCS inscription that I referred to in my post was meant to demonstrate that Beck’s presentation was incomplete and misleading.

          I’m not out to debunk the BCS, because I lack the expertise to do so. I just want people who take it upon themselves to instruct people about history (i.e., Beck) to do so properly and state the facts correctly. Beck indicated that the case on the BCS is closed, and that simply isn’t true.

          –ML

  34. Robert Hawk

    This information is incorrect. There is archeological evidence that the Hebrews came to the Americas around the time of the Exodus from Egypt. One book which documents this is America BC by Berry Fell. There is an old saying which rings true in this essay ” The status quo has a lot of inertia” Berry Fell proves people of the house of Israel were in the USA about 1000 years prior to Columbus. Additionally the bat creek stone was finally interpreted by a scholar of Hebrew as being accurate it was discovered under the head of a priest who was facing backward from normal because he was in the USA and not the land of Israel.

    I did not see Beck’s program concerning the Bat Creek stone, however if he was supporting Hebrews in the USA prior to Columbus, then he was accurate and there are ample archeological works to support that as fact. Y
    The author mentions stating facts,and then dismisses existing facts from well studied archeologist such as the Epigraphic Society mentioned by Berry Fell, others include Gloria Farley, Dr Edward J Pullman, Gertrude Johnson, James P Wittall, Dr Clyde Keeler, Wealdon W Stout, Malcolm Pearson. So the question remains are the works of these studied Epigraphic scholars incorrect when the identify evidence of Olgam script in specific areas of these United States, along estuaries such as the Mississippi river.

    Along the Mississippi was discovered writings in the language of the Egyptians, Iberians and Libyans. Further, along the East Cost the writings of the same plus Celtic Ogam, Basque Script, and Iberian Punic Script. All of these indicating there were people from these ancient civilizations in what is now the USA, dating as far back as 4500 years prior to Columbus.

    • If you’re looking to be taken seriously, you need to corral those dates into some kind of coherent grouping:

      “around the time of the Exodus from Egypt” — 1300 BCE

      “about 1000 years prior to Columbus” — AD 500

      “dating as far back as 4500 years prior to Columbus” — 3000 BCE

      Seriously, dude, real historians and archaeologists don’t through around dates like Mardi Gras beads. Get it together.

  35. Michael Lynch

    On the contrary, Fell didn’t “prove” anything, because his claims are very much a matter of dispute, and his work has been roundly criticized by archaeologists and epigraphers. You’re doing the same thing Beck did, which is presenting highly controversial material as if it were accepted.

    –ML

    • Jeffery SIkes

      On the contrary Fell proved many things, its just academia refused to accept truth because they were blinded by the search for more lies which would support their highly appraised scholar Darwan and his ideals established based upon Athenian Dialectics. Therefore academia attacks any study which does not support their Athenian philosopha based so called scholars who postulate openly but present only wild accusation and not factual proof.

      Therefore academia’s railing against Barry Fell is without fact and simply an attack in antithesis to change thinking about facts discovered and uncovered by Mr Fell’s immense and well documented findings. However, academia was never interested in truth but instead have turned toward soviet style disinformation, when it comes to history. If academics don’t want to accept Mr Fell’s factual and documented findings, that is their decision, however be truthful enough to say they exist unexplained and without the assumptions of academia which are based in Darwinism.

      • Michael Lynch

        If you want to claim that academics who doubt the stone’s authenticity are wrong, you’re going to have to demonstrate why. I’ve already had people show up in this thread and try to tell “BIAS!” Instead of providing a coherent argument, and I have very little patience for that sort of thing. I could just as easily say that you’re biased and dismiss your claims on the same grounds; anybody can claim that someone with whom they disagree is biased, no matter what they’re arguing.

  36. Pingback: The Bat Creek Stone rolls onward | Past in the Present

  37. janice goodman

    I am LDS (Mormon) and do not like Glen Beck. My next statement is meant to be sarcastic concerning the Bat Creek Stone: Anything old found in the America’s with ancient Hebrew writing or a related language could not possibly be authentic because that would mean Mormon’s would be right after all and we can’t have that!! There have been many shows about ancient sea travel and that it was possible for many ancient people to cross vast distances across the oceans. The ancients are not given enough credit for what they could accomplish. Also in any science the scholars will be divided. In 2010 the American Petrographic Services, Inc. studied the Bat Creek Stone and concluded it is not a fraud. The markings were not made in 1889 but made when the burial took place, hundreds of years before the excavation. The report by American Petrographic Services is thorough, scientific, balanced, unbiased, and intelligent. It provides photographs and explains the procedures used. It also provides the original notes and letters by the excavator J. Emmert. There is no speculation and no assumptions as put forth by other people and other scientists. If people really want to read an intelligent article and report then read what American Petrographic Services wrote about the Bat Creek Stone.

    • Michael Lynch

      The question isn’t simply whether the inscription is old. The question is whether it’s old and in an ancient form of Hebrew. Paleographers have stated that the characters aren’t Hebrew. Until somebody can demonstrate that the characters are in an actual ancient Hebrew script, we’re kind of at an impasse.

      –ML

      • Jeffery SIkes

        The inscription on the Bat Creek stone has been proven by scholars to be accurate, its just that the existence of the stone fly’s in the face of academia’s assumptions based upon dialectics, and does not fit their mold, therefore its thrown off by academia as inaccurate.

        The facts remain that the bat creek stone exists, Further the facts remain that its be interpreted several times by Hebrew scholars who were well versed in ancient Hebrew. The fact does not exist that it was academia who made those discoveries, and they don’t fit academia’s mold founded in Marx and Engels dialectics, therefore they discount them in their arrogance. Academia rails against anyone who would dare question their claimed authority over history or archaeology, and their inaccuracies due to their assembly around dialectics and the writings of the young Hegelian’s

        • Michael Lynch

          Nobody is saying the stone doesn’t exist. It’s in a museum here in Knoxville. I saw it a few weeks ago. We know it exists. No need to argue that point.

          As I stated in response to one of your other comments, if you want to argue that the inscription is an authentic example of ancient Hebrew writing, fine. Show us why your interpretation is correct. But if you’re just going to claim that scholars who aren’t convinced are a bunch of Marxists, you’re not giving us any reason to believe that the inscription is authentic.

        • (I’m replying to Michael Lynch’s 11/18 reply to Jeffrey Sikes, which may be appearing below my comments.)
          Michael — You say that you just saw the stone in Knoxville a couple of weeks ago. However, it has been moved to the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee NC, where I saw it last March at a mini-conference about how best to display it there. Does the McClung Museum in Knoxville have replica of it still on display? The Smithsonian does own a very convincingly painted plaster cast of the stone that they may have lent to McClung to replace the original.
          – Hu McCulloch

          http://www.econ.ohio-state.edu/jhm/arch/batcrk.html

        • Michael Lynch

          Oops! I just checked, and you’re right–it’s been on loan to the Museum of the Cherokee Indian since last year. I went there not too long ago, so either I saw it there and got mixed up, or I’m so used to seeing it at the McClung that I walked past where it’s usually displayed without noticing it was gone.

  38. Spencer Jones

    My problem with your blog here is that you debunk Beck but offer no evidence to support your position. I googled it and saw conflicting credibility. But what are YOUR views? To me your position is basically that you don’t believe it because other people don’t. Make your own conclusions and THEN tell me why you think it’s a fraud.

    • Michael Lynch

      Here’s a detailed review of some of the evidence against the stone’s credibility: http://www.ramtops.co.uk/bat2.html

    • Michael Lynch

      Let me reiterate that my aim with this post was not to prove that the stone is a fraud, although I suspect that’s what it is. My main point was to note Beck’s irresponsibility in his self-appointed role as history teacher. He stated without qualification that the inscription is an authentic example of ancient Hebrew writing, when in fact it’s (at best) an extremely controversial artifact. Beck gave the impression that the case on the Bat Creek Stone is closed, and in so doing he misled his audience. That was my point.

      If someday a paleographer or archaeologist can demonstrate convincingly that the inscription is an authentic example of ancient Semitic writing, then great. I’ll celebrate the magnitude of that discovery along with everybody else. Until then, Beck doesn’t have any business touting the stone as a Hebrew artifact from America.

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