Monday, March 23, 2009

Some Other Thoughts About Chief Joseph’s Tablet

There may be something more to be gained by analyzing Chief Joseph’s story about how his family came by the tablet. Joseph’s story of how his ancestors came by the tablet echoes the legends told in both North and South America about white culture-bringers. If in fact Joseph’s ancestors got the cuneiform tablet from the white visitors, it might be possible that the tablet provides a clue about where, and even when, the white visitors came from originally.

Cuneiform was the form of writing that was used in the Mesopotamian region from about 3,000 B.C. to roughly the beginning of the Common Era. Perhaps the tablet’s general age could be determined, which might in turn help to pinpoint the time of the visitor’s arrival among the ancestors of the Nez Perce chief. It might be worth a try . . .

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Florida's Mysterious Coral Castle

Coral Castle in Florida has fascinated me since I first learned about it many years ago. A simple, self-educated man named Ed Leedskalnin, working entirely alone, moved, carved, and set into place massive blocks of coral to create his own magical wonderland. And if Ed’s own story about how he did it is any indication, he may well have discovered ancient secrets used by the Egyptians to build their massive monuments. If you’d like to learn more about the secrets of Coral Castle, Go Here

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Chief Joseph’s Cuneiform Tablet

The story of Chief Joseph’s tablet isn’t one of the better-known tales of an object-out-of-place, but it is intriguing.
When the Nez Perce Chief Joseph and his band of warriors were captured by the U.S. Cavalry in 1877, the contents of his medicine bag included a cuneiform tablet measuring about one inch square. Said to date from around 2400 B.C., the tablet turned out to be a bill of sale for either a lamb or a calf to be used as a sacrificial offering. The chief said that the tablet had been passed down in his family for many generations, and that they had inherited it from their white ancestors. Chief Joseph said that the white men had come among his ancestors long ago, and had taught his people many things.
There are several interesting things about this story. Cuneiform tablets were still relatively rare in 1877. It is highly unlikely that some acquaintance of the Nez Perce chief would have had such an object to begin with. And Chief Joseph was a man of honor. He would have had nothing to gain by saying that his family had possessed the tablet for many generations.
The mundane nature of the contents of the tablet argues against forgery. Cuneiform had only been deciphered in 1846 and the process was far from complete even in 1877, so a would-be forger would have had to be an extremely well educated individual familiar not only with the language itself, but with the shape of the tablets created by the ancient scribes.
The tablet now resides in the museum at West Point in Virginia.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Have you ever looked at a picture and been jarred by something there that just doesn’t belong? Suppose a museum created a display of Chinese art, but you find a Jackson Pollock painting among the Ming vases. Believe it or not, archaeology and history are full of things that don’t seem to belong where they were found. These objects are so pervasive that a name was coined for them: objects-out-of-place, or OOPS for short. And some of them seem to call into question the conclusions of archaeologists and historians regarding cultural interactions and even the datings of some sites and artifacts.
I’ve made a collection of things I’ve found that don’t seem to belong where, or when, they appeared, and I’ll share some of them here.