Truth and Lies. Facts and frauds. The history of this planet is filled with both objective and subjective accounts of the events that have transpired throughout the millennia. The subjectivity comes from lone sources, perhaps a single person’s record of an event or conclusions drawn from incomplete evidence; whereas objectivity comes from the synthesis of an array of sources. It is to objectivity that we must turn for our final answer. But often, just as in any other situation, the objectivity and the subjectivity, the accepted and the radical, are in conflict with each other. In the realm of speculative history, this rings all too true as the conventions are shaken, or at least attempted to, by those who have alternate ideas of how history unfolded. One such example is unfolding right in our own backyard, as the idea of outside influence on Native American development is proliferating.
As accepted theory currently maintains, cultures of the New World developed independently and isolated from the rest of the world. New publications are pointing to evidence which they believe could overturn this longstanding idea and prove that Native America was indeed in contact with the outside world. For as long as Europeans have been exploring the New World and documenting the inhabitants of the Americas, conjecture arose about their origins, which in fact was simply an earlier incarnation of the speculative history genre. At times of first contact, they were indeed thought to be Indians, a term which still sticks to this day. Throughout the passing years, hypotheses came and went, such as they were survivors of the lost continent of Atlantis, migrants from the besieged Carthage, or descendants of the lost tries of Israel (Fagan 2005:31, Feder 1996:77).
More time passed, and more hypotheses sprung up, some more ridiculous and some more plausible. But, it was not until Jose de Acosta wrote his Historia Natural y Moral de las Indias in 1589 that the most logical and, quite simply, correct solution began to emerge (Fagan 2005:31). After de Acosta’s suggestion that the inhabitants came to the continent on a land source between America and Asia as other animals did, later researchers began to elaborate on the idea (Fagan 2005:31). After Vitus Bering actually sailed the distance between the Russian and Alaskan coasts in 1741, the world became aware of just how close the New and Old Worlds were (Feder 1996:82). Using linguistic studies, a better understanding of geology, and much more recently, genetic testing, we now know that the vast majority, if not all, of Native American populations are descended from immigrants from northeastern Asia.
Though it is obvious that the Native Americans developed a vast influence over the two American continents, some people are beginning to cite evidence that they may not have been the first or only ones here. They say this evidence suggests that explorers, traders, and perhaps even settlers came from many different parts of the globe (Feder 1996:72). Places such as Europe, China, Africa, and Oceania have all been hypothesized as points of origin for these peoples (Feder 1996:72).
One of these hypotheses that seems to have gained a substantial following is that copper miners came from the Mediterranean during the Bronze Age. Most of these advocates point to the Minoans and Egyptians as likely candidates for these traders (Joseph 2002:35). They propose that as a sea-faring culture had its influence spread well throughout the Mediterranean Sea, the Minoans had both the means and the desire to reach North America (Joseph 2002:35). They point out that the Minoans were a culture that heavily embraced the alloy, bronze, of which copper is a primary ingredient. The only source of the quality copper that they needed was in Cyprus, and that was a limited supply (Joseph 2002:37). In order to maintain their position as an economic superpower within the Mediterranean, they needed an abundant supply of copper, which is exactly what the Great Lakes region of North America would have provided them (Joseph 2002:37).
But, in order to make these proposals, these advocates need some sort of evidence. Enter the first piece of circumstantial evidence used by the revisionists: the time frame. Oddly enough, in most other cases the time frame is completely overlooked and revisionists with try to place their events hundreds or thousands of years out of sync with history. This is not in the case of the Minoans, who were at the height of their Bronze Age civilization between 3000 and 1500 BCE with their decline between 1450 and 1200 BCE (Jewell 2004:79). They point out that this almost perfectly coincides with the bulk of the mining done in the Lake Superior region between 2400 and 1200 BCE (Jewell 2004:21).
There are also artifacts that these revisionists use to justify their claims. One of the much more intriguing artifacts was found in Maine in 1975 while a man named Michael Rose dug the foundation to a house along the Penobscot River (Joseph 2002:21). The item found less than twelve feet of earth was a small silver-nickel alloy object that bore a figure which is almost unmistakably the same as the Minoan Earth Goddess (Joseph 2002:34). The object itself is about the area of a nickel and the thickness of a dime (Joseph 2002:34). It appeared to be a piece of a moving type press, exactly like what would have been used to create the identical images all along the infamous Phaestos Disk (Joseph 2002:34).
Other artifacts that are nearly identical to Minoan design have been found along the supposed route that they would have taken. Many labrys, double axes sacred to the Minoans, have been found in Ohio as well as in Wisconsin (Joseph 2002:36). There is also a striking resemblance between copper ingots shaped as ox hide found in Minoan territory to ox hide shaped copper ornaments used by the Woodland peoples of North America from 1000 BCE to CE 1500 (Joseph 2002:34).
One of the most famous artifacts in these circles is known generally as the Newberry Tablet. The Newberry Tablet was a 19 by 26 inch tablet discovered with three statues outside of Newberry, Michigan in 1896. It has what appeared to be a Minoan-Hittite language inscribed on it that is very similar to the Linear A script that was used on Crete (Joseph 2002:36, Jewell 2004:36). Photos of the tablet and statues were submitted to the Smithsonian Institute by a Charles Brebner, where it was brushed off as a hoax (Jewell 2004:41).
The advocates of the authenticity of the tablet are quick to respond that it has never actually been thoroughly studied and given that our current knowledge of the linguistic history of that area of the Eastern Mediterranean, new insights may be yielded to connections in the tablets scripts (Jewell 2004:139-141). This is understandable, given that when the tablet was discovered, the Minoans had only just been discovered by Minos Kailokairinos in 1876, and it was not excavated by Sir Arthur Evans until 1900, four years after the Newberry Tablet had been found.
Another site in Wisconsin has expanded the following this hypothesis had already gained. Rock Lake, a body of water in the town of Lake Mills, and only a few miles away from the Mississippian site of Aztalan, has beneath its waters what are clearly artificial edifices (Rock Lake Research Society 2007). According to the Rock Lake Research Society, an organization of amateur archaeologists that dives in the lake and records their findings, local oral traditions “deny any affiliation to the prehistoric mining operations; rather they cite ‘ancient maritime foreigners’ who mined the ‘Red Rock’” and constructed “Rock Teepees” that now lay submerged in Rock Lake (Rock Lake Research Society 2007). The Society has also put together a timeline of events which they believe took place at the site over the past five thousand years that roughly follows the ideas of the European copper mining hypothesis, but their timeline is based mostly on speculation with almost no evidence to support it at all (Rock Lake Research Society 2007).
Regardless of what beliefs the Society may have about the history of the area, the fact remains that there are structures submerged under the lake. The Society has done many dives at Rock Lake and taken photos of many of the structures. Among those photographed are a triangular-shaped mound, a ridge-topped structure made of stone, and a circular, well structure made of stone (Rock Lake Research Society 2007). There is an obvious symmetry to each of these in the photographs, and given the nature of their location, it is highly doubtful that these have been hoaxed by the modern inhabitants.
While the Rock Lake Research Society has done an excellent job of documenting the structures and raising awareness of them, given that there has been almost no work done to excavate them, it is highly presumptuous of them to draw any kind of solid conclusions from the submerged structures. And while they are not attempting to create a fraud to the archaeological community, their results and timeline for the site are a prime example of the subjective conclusions that can be formed off of incomplete evidence.
The same can also be said about the hypothesis of Bronze Age European traders in the Great Lakes region five thousand years ago. Even though there are shreds of evidence here and there that may hint at that conclusion, there are still many factors left unanswered. If these traders were indeed Minoans, who were an urban, commercial culture, why are there no traces of attempts at building any kind of outpost anywhere along the St. Lawrence Seaway? And perhaps more importantly, how would the Minoans have discovered a copper source in such a far distant land in the first place? Questions such as these are necessary, but if Minoan exploration was occurring, they should not be unanswerable.
There is always the possibility that people like the Minoans were making regular trips back and forth between the continents. If any prehistoric culture would be capable, it certainly would be them. They might very well have been just one of many cultures traversing the oceans before Columbus. But the fact remains that, even if they were, they left little to no impact on the Native American population that they would have interacted with. Their arrival did not spark of any kind of sudden jump in technology. Nor did it introduce any kind of written language. In fact, there almost seems to have been a technological regression after the fall of the Old Copper Complex back to Stone Age type subsistence when the modern European explorers arrived (Jewell 2004:75). And even if the artifacts mentioned are validated as original and authentic, they simply remained buried in the earth and ignored by the Native Americans.
It was not until the fully documented and generally accepted arrival of the Vikings in northeastern North America that effects were felt. The tales of the journeys to North America were fully recorded in their Sagas (Feder 1996:111). And unlike the hypothetical copper traders, the Vikings left clearly distinct settlements behind at sites such as L’Anse aux Meadows (Feder 1996:115). They also had noticeable influences on the natures themselves, such as the Norse penny found at a site in Maine, or a Thule figurine that was wearing European clothing (Feder 1996:115)
So, among the truth and lies, the facts and frauds, therein lies one of the milder, more conceivable stories of the genre of speculative history. So many people have tried to rewrite history in a subjective manner that it can become hard to uncover the objective truth. We cannot always accept things as we see them or we will fall victim to frauds. But, if we simply dismiss everything that does not fit into the accepted paradigm as a fraud, we could very well be cheating ourselves of our own past, our own truth.
Fagan, Brian. 2005 Ancient North America: The Archaeology of a Continent. Thames & Hudson. New York.
Feder, Kevin L. 1996 Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Psuedoscience in Archaeology. Mayfield. Mountainview, CA.
Jewell, Robert L. 2004 Ancient Mines of Kitch-Gummi: Cypriot/Minoan Traders in North America. Jewell Histories. Fairfield, PA.
Joseph, Frank. And Wayne May. 2002 Minoans in America. Ancient American, 43(7): 34-37.
Rock Lake Research Society. 2007 History: A Rock Lake Historic Interpretational Overview. Electronic Document, http://www.rocklakeresearch.com/history.htm, accessed 9 April, 2008.