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Archaeology: Were ancient writings, giants pulled from Ohio burial mounds? Ummm, no
https://www.dispatch.com/news/20190127/ … ds-ummm-no
By Bradley Lepper
Posted Jan 27, 2019 at 4:00 AM
Updated Jan 27, 2019 at 11:42 AM
(Picture of the sandstone slab at the link)
Have the skeletons of giant humans ever been found in Ohio’s ancient mounds? Is there evidence that various Old World peoples came to America centuries before Vikings arrived on the shore of Newfoundland? Let’s consider one case for which we happen to have considerable relevant evidence and see what light it shines on these intriguing questions.
Avocational archaeologists Jeff Carskadden and James Morton have studied the archaeology of Muskingum County for more than five decades. Their recent book, “Gold and Silver Trinkets and Other Valuable Articles," includes a detailed account of the excavation of Brush Creek Mound by John Everhart in the late 1800s.
One of the objects recovered from the mound was a sandstone slab with several circular depressions that might have been used for cracking nuts. Two months after the stone was unearthed, Everhart announced that it also was inscribed with hieroglyphics — “chiefly Greek, commingled with Phoenician and Etruscan." As if that weren’t amazing enough, he also claimed that the stone was buried alongside an 8-foot-tall skeleton.
Old newspaper stories such as this are typical of the evidence offered to support extraordinary claims of ancient giants and lost civilizations, but there’s a twist to Everhart’s story.
Evidently he never paid his workmen, and one of them took him to court, where another testified that he’d never been paid the $15 he’d been promised to carve the inscription on the slab and give it “the appearance of ancient work." So the supposedly ancient inscription was a deliberate fraud.
But what about the giant?
Everhart published an account of these sensational discoveries in his “History of Muskingum County," expecting that it would boost sales of the book. He included a letter signed by several participants stating that nine giant skeletons had been found ranging in size from 8 to 9½ feet tall “by actual measurement." Another member of the crew eventually admitted, however, that “all the skeletons were so much crumbled that it was difficult to make accurate measurements."
Carskadden and Morton have tried to piece together what Everhart and his team actually found in the Brush Creek Mound, but they gave up because “the accounts are just too vague and incomplete, and in some instances probably fallacious."
Such frauds were common in the 19th century when the science of archaeology was in its infancy, but if Everhart had paid his crew, the only record of his work might be a brief article in the local newspaper and an account in an otherwise-unexceptional county history. We would not know that an actual ancient artifact had been embellished with a bogus inscription to make it appear to be a relic of a lost civilization. We would not know that Everhart made wildly exaggerated claims about giants.
Many other such old newspaper articles claim that giant skeletons or stones with curious inscriptions were found in other Ohio mounds. And these have provided fodder for a number of recent books, magazine articles and TV shows that retell these stories, claiming that they’re true, with no other evidence to back them up.
What’s the lesson of the Brush Creek Tablet?
Caveat emptor — “buyer beware."
Brad Lepper is curator of archaeology at the Ohio History Connection.