Digging in the (Internet) Dirt

efw-1I read about Southern Ohio’s Newark Earthworks in a recent issue of Newsweek, and I was so curious about this massive network of geometric mounds built by ancient North American inhabitants known as the Hopewell People that I went a’Googling.

It seems the Hopewell People built dozens of large-scale earthen mounds from 100 BCE to 500 CE, long before that douche Christopher Columbus decided to claim these parts. Some of the mounds correspond to celestial events like the 18.6 year lunar cycle, certainly enough to establish the scientific intelligence of these ancient folks. But how do archaeologists explain this giant chanukiah, mapped near the East Fork of the Little Miami River in 1823 by the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers? I guess you could say it’s an explainable coincidence that native Americans constructed something that resembles a ritual tool used by people halfway around the world to commemorate the miracle of oil lasting eight days, but even the shape above the menorah is clearly an oil lamp. Spooky, right?

Read on, because it gets so much weirder: Two artifacts, known as the Decalogue and Keystone, were uncovered at the Newark Earthworks in 1860. The Decalogue is a stone inscribed on four sides with condensed version of the Ten Commandments written in “a peculiar form of post-Exilic square Hebrew letters” with a figure that can easily be identified as Moses. The Keystone has the phrases “Holy of Holies,” “King of the Earth,” “The Law of God,” and “The Word of God” written in a more recognizable form of Hebrew. A few years later, two more stones were found, then lost, suggesting a trove of mysterious Judaica in the mounds — or a giant hoax.

There’s an enduring “Lost Tribe of Israel” theory that there were Jewish people in American long before the first Jewish settlers were kicked out of Spain and Portugal. The Maccabee’s revolt and the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem took place in second century BCE, so it’s entirely plausible these early Ohioans were refugees of the Jewish Diaspora who knew the story of the oil and the nine-armed menorah, who laid tefillin and valued the Torah.

But such bubbeminze is generally dismissed by scholars, Jewish and not. After all, how would they have made it from Jerusalem to Ohio in 100 BCE, after all? You think international travel is a pain in the tuchus now, those Jews would’ve had it way worse than stale peanuts and a $25 charge for an extra suitcase.

But why would have some guys in the 19th-century go through the trouble of cutting stone to make elaborate forgeries, and how would they have accessed arcane information about Second Temple practices? J. Huston McCullough, a professor at Ohio State University, lays out all the evidence and comes down on the side that the Newark artifacts — including stone bowls found with the Decalogue — are more than credible – read for yourself.

Perhaps the resistance to recognizing the presence of Jews in America before Jesus was even born is too frightening, not to mention daunting — that’d be a whole HELL of a lot of history to rewrite.

16 thoughts on “Digging in the (Internet) Dirt

  1. Yenta, 19th century archaeologists, along with everyone else, believed that Native Americans were sub-humans and not nearly intelligent enough to have built great civilizations. To explain the ruins they found they came up with the Lost Tribe of Israel Hypothesis. To help support their racist ideas they would commonly manufacture “evidence.”

  2. This is so far out! I love it! Does this mean i can incorporate ancient Native American rituals into my Shabbat? At the very least I should be wearing a cool, deerskin dress with beading and fringe!

  3. Hmm, Sylanna, I hadn’t thought of that. Not that I’d put it past our racist forefathers. Do you know of a particular case? I’m still curious how someone with that kind of obscure Hebraic knowledge would use it for bad…

  4. Yenta, probably the most infamous case is the founding of the Mormon religion. Joseph Smith was an amateur archaeologist as well as a failed preacher. He believed that “the true Israelites” immigrated to the New World where they were all slaughtered by the Native Americans. He believed that the Jews of his time were not really descended from the Israelites,their true descendants were Mormons. To prove this he invented the story of the Golden Tablets that he found and translated. Thomas Jefferson was also a big proponent of the Lost Tribe of Israel hypothesis because after seeing the work of the Mound Builders along the Mississippi he refused to believe that Native Americans could build that kind of civilization.

    • Idk, I’ve read a few different stories about the lost tribes some claim that Columbus even brought Hebraic translators with him… Either way, they were determined to portray the Natives as savages and unintelligent people, but the more I read about learn about them the more I find that they were way more advanced in many respects than given credit for… So much history has been lost and fabricated throughout the years… People have no idea about the genocide and slavery on a massive scale that took place here in our own back yards!!!

  5. “Perhaps the resistance to recognizing the presence of Jews in America before Jesus was even born is too frightening, not to mention daunting — that’d be a whole HELL of a lot of history to rewrite.”
    Good news… all that history has been documented and accounted for in the Book of Mormon. get a free copy at www. mormon.org and discover for yourself

  6. Interestingly, if you look at the mitochindrial DNA evidence, there is a relativley high concentration of mtDNA (haplogroup x) found in native american tribes in the Great Lakes region, particularly among the Ojibwa and Algonquin tribes (forgive me if I mis-spelled those) that has been demonstrated to have originated in the near east prior to the time of Christ. Archeology and DNA both seem to demonstrate a very early migration from the land now known as Israel to North America…weird.

  7. I second all the Book of Mormon replies except for Sylvanna’s, she is way off. Watch “Book of Mormon, Mayan and Aztec Archaeology and Geography in North America” on You Tube and read The Book of Mormon.

  8. The Hopewell & Adena are the Nephites recorded in the book of Mormon. the Mississippi is the river Sidon. The Iriquoise have an oral tradition of exterminating the white skinned Hopewell. The mounds also contain giants, the predecessors to the Nephites in the book of Mormon were Jaredites, ( Goliath sized giants) a race of giants both men & women..the Hopewell & Cherokee both met with giants..DNA hap group 2, a caucasion line through Europe, is found in palastine, in Cherokee, fox, Sauk, ojibiwe, micmaq, & many other Algonquin speaking natives, including blackfeet. many of the original people wore turbins, & spoke a Hebrew dialect. micmaq writing is like egyptian, & anthons transcript… The book of Mormon is true, & Joseph Smith Jr. Was a true living prophet, seer & revelator. The church of Jesus Christ of Latterday saints is God the Father, & his Son Jesus’s restored church, gospel, & Kingdom on Earth. I testify & swear it is true. The united states & her constitution, divinely inspired, with freedom of religion at the forefront, belong to Christ, as does this people.. Accept him & live happy & at peace for ever, reject him & be as the Jaredites, Nephites, & Hopewell, & the other 12 tribes of Israel. Peace be the Journey Siblings!

    • I have to respectfully disagree about the Book of Mormon being true Joseph Smith was a Freemason and he adopted and incorporated ancient Jewish mysticism and other similar doctrines (Gnosticism, Kabbalah and other Biblical Apocrypha) into his writings… It’s quite possible that he was working for the Jesuit Order of the Catholic Church or another one of those “Illuminated” fraternities… I’ve also read that he was related to many U.S. Presidents, so if I was you I would carefully search these matters out before believing that the Book of Mormon is true like giants living on the moon and some other crazy stuff that he stated!!!

  9. The forefathers were divinely inspired men, & far from racists. They did nothing (and far less) than what Natives weren’t already doing for millennia before Plymouth , Be it Indians or blacks in slavery, their own people & neighboring tribesmen persecuted, enslaved, tormented, mistreated, & traded them out before Columbus or any other hated “fore father”. our country was created by God, via good wise men who understood liberty & followed judaeo Christian values. They paved the way for the restoration in these latter Days.

  10. People see what they want to see. For me, what is compelling is that the structure is clearly of Ancient origin and not a fabrication. The surveying of the many ancient ruins was done by US Government Surveyors and not Joseph Smith. And it is clearly obvious that who ever built it was saying something because of it’s amazing layout. Could it be anything other than what it is?

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