Beginning in the 1850s, and continuing for over fifty years, a series of artifacts including inscribed tablets of clay, slate, copper, and stone, was allegedly discovered in Michigan -- numbering into the thousands (some estimates as high as ten thousand). These are the so-called "Michigan relics," and they have been roundly denounced as obvious frauds beginning in the late 1800s, and it is of course possible that some or all of them are fraudulent -- but there are many reasons to be careful before rushing to that conclusion.
The tablets depict a variety of scenes, many of them recognizably Biblical -- but with important and quite prominent departures from recognized "orthodox" Christian doctrine which may be a significant clue to the mystery. They also contain what one scornful professor writing in the 1890s described as "largely a horrible mixture of Phoenician, Egyptian and ancient Greek characters taken at random from a comparative table of alphabets such as is found at the back of Webster's Dictionary" -- although this is not entirely accurate as some of the tablets actually contain evidence of not one but two writing systems not know to be found anywhere else, one of which has been argued by some analysts to be based upon ancient Hebrew but altered as if to create a code, and the other of which is sometimes described as "toothbrush" writing and has yet to be deciphered (see below for an example of "toothbrush" script):
image: Michigan Department of Natural Resources (link).
The artwork on many of them can be described as fairly crude, although the quality of the art varies greatly, and at least one piece clearly uses techniques of perspective which were not thought to have been "discovered" or "invented" until the 1400s. Other criticisms include arguments that they contain copper that has been smelted using methods that the ancients allegedly did not possess, and that the daughter of one of the main "discoverers" of numerous relics later attested that her father forged them (a confession she notably did not make until after both her mother and her father had died).
All of these objections should of course be considered, and it is certainly possible that these relics are all forgeries. Yet several reasons to consider the possibility that at least some of them might be authentic remain.
First, there is the sheer number of the supposed forgeries. One collection alone catalogued 2,700 artifacts. Another collector catalogued between 9,000 and 10,000. The production of such quantities would seem to require a large number of co-conspirators, but most of those who denounce the relics as a hoax pin the scheme on a single individual, working perhaps with one other helper.
Further, as Henriette Mertz (1898 - 1985) explains in her examination of the relics and the controversy entitled The Mystic Symbol and published posthumously in 1986, the scripts on the different artifacts reveal evidence that they were almost all done by different persons. Henriette Mertz was a code-breaker during World War II, and later was trained in detection of forgery, which is why she was asked to look at the tablets in the 1950s. She explains in her book some of the tell-tale signs of forgery, and why she does not believe that the script in the tablets betrays the work of a forger whatsoever: to the contrary, she cites evidence in the markings that they were done by different individuals, using a wide variety of different instruments and methods, and betray different "schools" and styles of writing even while depicting the same pictogram or letter.
One of the most important aspects of these tablets which must be considered in the question of whether or not they are fraudulent is the fact that they display a "theology" which is notably at odds with -- and even strongly repugnant to -- that which is considered "orthodox" by almost all the traditional literalist Christian teachers of western civilization for the past seventeen centuries. Researcher David Allen Deal, in a series of essays and analyses which are included at the end of
The Mystic Symbol and which can be read in part here on "Google books," demonstrates quite convincingly that many of the Biblical scenes portray two figures described as the "son of the right hand" and the "son of the left hand," and that the "son of the right hand" is the "younger brother" who becomes the Savior after the previous reign of the "son of the left hand," who is the elder brother of the two and who reigns for a thousand years prior to the advent of the "son of the right hand."
The assertion that Jesus had an older brother, of course, would be considered heretical among literalist interpreters, primarily because he is the son of a virgin mother (which would imply that he could not have any older siblings, although younger siblings might be possible -- a question, it should be noted, that itself has been hotly debated over the centuries even though it would seem to be much less contentious than the assertion that he could have had an older sibling).
The further implication depicted in the labeled illustrations on some of the relics that this older brother is the Adversary, the Accuser, or the Enemy (that is to say, the Devil) is even more heretical and would be strongly rejected by most literalists (especially, it should be added, in nineteenth-century America). There are ancient sects which held that Jesus and the Devil are brothers, but the very idea is objectionable to most literalist Christian confessions in the west since late antiquity.
What hoaxer in the 1850s, trying to create a series of fake tablets to imply a Christian presence (or a "lost tribes" presence) in the Americas would decide to impart such incendiary doctrines into the forged artwork?
Additionally, as both Henriette Mertz and David Allen Deal discuss in their analysis, some tablets appear to show priests giving reverence to Isis and other "pagan" deities right along with Biblical scenes. This is yet another piece of evidence which is difficult to explain under the conventional theory that all these relics are the product of a simple, uneducated hoaxer in the religiously conservative midwestern United States of the nineteenth century who took his cues from Webster's dictionary (and, as Henriette Mertz and David Allen Deal also point out, even if one finds alphabets in the back of a dictionary, that does not explain how that hoaxer then forms those letters into words and sentences -- some of which are written right-to-left and others left-to-right, and still others "as the ox plows" or "boustrephedon," one going right-to-left and the next left-to-right, which was anciently done but would be very difficult to forge, as Henriette Mertz points out [she suggests an experiment in which the reader try "forging" some lines while writing from right-to-left, to see how "natural" that might look or feel]).
There are still further reasons to entertain the possibility that these relics are not forgeries, such as the evidence David Allen Deal presents that they contain calendar wheels which indicate a Saturday sabbath (as was observed prior to the official change to the Sunday sabbath instituted by the emperor Constantine in AD 313), as well as astronomical details in one calendar-tablet indicating a solar eclipse which can be demonstrated to have been visible in AD 342 from the location where the tablet was found -- both astonishing pieces of evidence which might give "debunkers" some pause (would they care to explain how the nineteenth-century hoaxers managed to get those details right in their forgeries?) (seeThe Mystic Symbol, pages 191-192 for the sabbath analysis and 193-205 for the solar eclipse analysis).
Just as suspicious, in light of all of the above counter-evidence, is the haste and the vehemence with which the professors in the late 1800s dismissed the Michigan relics as obvious forgeries. One professor wrote, "Photographs of the objects have been sent to me and a glance is sufficient to reveal the true character of the find" (108). So, "a glance" is all that is required and they can be pronounced to be fraudulent. This haste in itself is suspicious -- in light of the evidence discussed above, it is even more so.
Henriette Mertz notes that, although all these items were proclaimed fraudulent, and pinned upon the actions of one individual, that man was never actually charged with fraud:
Did one man alone forge each and every artifact comprising this vast collection of some 3,000 pieces? During the long heated controversy, the academic world would have us so believe and isolated one man charging him with the perpetration of forgery and manufacture and sale of fraudulent material. No proofs were ever offered nor was the man brought to trial. Most of this inscribed matter has now been destroyed as a result. 122.
Many artifacts do remain, both in private collections, and in some museum archives, but many have been lost -- as a direct result of the withering scorn and ridicule to which they were subjected almost immediately by the representatives of the academic community. One extensive collection also was lost when the building which housed it burnt to the ground (9).
These tablets are dealt with in some detail in The Undying Stars, because they might constitute unique evidence that some early Christians who held to doctrines which could be characterized as Gnostic and/or Coptic -- and hence heretical to the literalist hierarchical church that slowly came to power during the period between AD 70 and AD 390 (discussed briefly here and here, and at greater length in the book) -- may have fled for their lives to the Americas during the centuries in question.
If so, this might explain the haste with which evidence of ancient contact across the oceans is immediately denied today, and the vehemence with which the very possibility is ridiculed (see for example the tone of the Wikipedia entry on the Michigan Relics linked above, as well as the many quotations from professors beginning in the late 1800s all the way up to the present cited in The Mystic Symbol).
We know for a fact that Gnostic doctrines were persecuted by the rising literalist church in the period in question -- and other archaeological discoveries from the other side of the Atlantic have provided powerful supporting evidence to that effect, most notably the discovery of the Nag Hammadi texts in the 1940s.
We have also shown that there is plenty of evidence in addition to and quite separate from these Michigan relics which argues strongly for ancient contact across the oceans during or even prior to the rise of literalist Christianity. Among the information most pertinent to the discussion of the Michigan relics is the fact that the very state of Iowa (and the Native American people for whom that US state was named) bears a name which is linguistically related to the divine name found in the Hebrew scriptures.
Further evidence is found in the extensive evidence of ancient copper extraction from the Michigan peninsula, discussed here (and also ridiculed by Wikipedia and largely ignored by conventional scholars). There is also the evidence of ancient Hebrew writing found in New Mexico, which David Allen Deal has also examined and discussed, and which is featured in this previous blog post.
It is important to note that the thesis of The Undying Stars by no means depends upon the authenticity of the Michigan relics. The "Michigan relic evidence" or the idea that some persecuted Gnostic or other Christians fled to the Americas is not essential to the "Roman Empire takeover theory" originated by Flavio Barbiero -- and in fact he does not even mention this idea in his book about that theory (The Secret Society of Moses).
Nor is this evidence essential to the argument that the scriptures of Christianity -- along with the rest of the world's sacred myths -- are constructed upon a unified system of celestial allegory (for discussions of the evidence for this argument found in over sixty different myths from around the world, including some in the Old and New Testaments, see the index found in this previous post, and there are many others discussed in my book The Undying Stars).
However, there is extensive evidence -- piles and piles of it, in all different forms -- to support the conclusion of ancient contact across the oceans, in addition to the Michigan relics (if they are indeed authentic, which I believe they may be). Many of these different forms of evidence are discussed in previous posts, some of which are linked in this post, and they include artifacts that are almost impossible to dismiss as forgeries, including the hundreds of amphorae found lying at the bottom of Guanabara Bay outside of modern-day Rio de Janeiro, the staggering array of botanical and bacterial evidence arguing for ancient trans-oceanic contact compiled by two Brigham Young researchers, and the hundreds of red-haired mummies found in Peru and other South American locations discussed in this previous post (would any professors or Wikipedia authors like to explain how a hoaxer could have "forged" all those mummies?).
The fact that the Michigan relics are collectively just "one data point" among numerous other forms of evidence arguing for ancient contact across the oceans makes their hasty and vehement dismissal even more inappropriate. For those who would like to explore them further, here are links to a couple other web sites with discussions and images (for obvious reasons, some proponents of the authenticity of the relics may be coming from a literalist Christian perspective -- although I would argue that they may be strong evidence of the literalist takeover and the driving "underground" of the original and non-literalist communities).
The Michigan relics are an important piece of evidence that may (or may not) shed more light on important aspects of human history -- and point to events whose implications have had a huge impact on nearly every family or nation on our globe: events whose implications continue to this day.