Ancient Travels to the Americas or a Modern Forgery? Who Made the Bat Creek Inscription?
The Bat Creek stone was discovered in a small mound near Knoxville, Tennessee, USA. The archaeologists who dug it up in 1889 discovered a small stone tablet engraved with several mysterious alphabetic characters.
The stone was discovered by a team led by entomologist Cyrus Thomas from the Smithsonian Bureau of Ethnology's Mound Survey. Eight years earlier, Congress assigned the Institute to complete archaeological excavations. The main goal was to explore the prehistoric mounds. After just a few years of work, archaeologists had collected over 40,000 artifacts and wrote a seven-hundred-page report of their findings, which was presented in 1894.
Thomas wondered if the tablet with the inscription was created in a pre-Columbian language. He was fascinated with the tablet and its secrets, however he didn't have enough knowledge or tools to examine the discovery properly. Now, his reports from the excavations are not considered a serious archaeological resource. Nonetheless, one of his discoveries, known as the Bat Creek stone, helped Thomas leave his mark.
A Strange Language
Soon after the discovery, Cyrus Thomas was convinced that the inscription was created with the Cherokee alphabet. The Cherokee alphabet was created by Sequoyah, a Cherokee silversmith. His English name was George Gist or Guess, and he created a syllabary to write down the Cherokee language. The syllabary was adopted in 1825 by the Cherokee Nation, which was illiterate before that. The syllabary was firstly created with logograms, but with time Sequoyah created a system of 85 characters to write down the Cherokee language. The symbols look similar to Greek, Latin, and Cyrillic.
Thomas’ publication of the inscription in his ‘The Cherokees in Pre-Columbian Times’ (1890). ( Public Domain )
Over seven decades later, in the 1960s, two other researchers, Henriette Mertz and Corey Ayoob, noticed that the inscription looks like ancient Semitic writing. Moreover, the specialist in late Semitic languages, Cyrus Gordon, asserted in the 1970s that the language identified previously as Cherokee is a Paleo-Hebrew language. He dated the inscription to the first or second century AD. He also read the five letters from the right to the left (as it should be read in a Hebrew language) and transcribed LYHWD, meaning ''for Judea''. Other interpretations suggest that the text reads LYHWD(M), ''for the Judeans'', ''only for Judea'', or ''only for the Judeans''. According to these interpretations, the ancient Hebrew language used in the inscription was something between the language used in the Siloam inscription and the Qumran Paleo-Hebrew Leviticus scroll.
- Sea-Farers from the Levant the first to set foot in the Americas: proto-Sinaitic inscriptions found along the coast of Uruguay
- Timeless Mystery: How did a Swiss Ring Watch End up in a Sealed Ming Dynasty Tomb?
Masonic artist's impression of Biblical phrase QDSh LYHWH in Paleo-Hebrew script (Macoy 1868: 134). ( Public Domain )
Another theory suggests that the writing could be a Welsh Coelbren language. According to Alan Wilson, Baram A. Blackett, and Jim Michael, the tablet was inscribed with the ancient Welsh Coelbren alphabet. The researchers read it as ''Madoc the ruler he is''. They suppose that the Bat Creek tumulus was found in the tomb of Prince Madoc, who sailed to America in 1170 AD, or the brother of King Arthur II, who sailed there in 562 AD.
Both of the hypotheses have been well researched but there is no clear answer to this problem. Thus, scientists must look for other ways to find the origins of the artifact.
More Unsolved Features of an Ancient Tablet
The dating of the tablet is also a controversial issue. Radiocarbon dating suggests that it was created between 32 and 769 AD or 45 BC – 200 AD. The dates were made with fragments of artifacts discovered near the tablet. It is impossible to receive satisfactory results of the radiocarbon tests for the tablet because it was touched by too many people and influenced by too many substances after its discovery.
Currently the Bat Creek stone belongs to the Smithsonian Institution in the Department of Anthropology collection. It was loaned to the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee and was also on display in the Frank H. McClung Museum at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville for a time.
Bat Creek in Loudon County, Tennessee. ( Brian Stansberry/ CC BY 3.0 )
The mound the tablet was found in has been plowed flat, so its location is forgotten - only descriptions of it have survived. According to the notes written by 19th century archaeologists, the Bat Creek Mound contained 9 burials. The owner of the land cut down trees growing on the mound 40 years before the excavations began. He discovered that something interesting was located under the trees. Years later, archaeologists found out that he was right. The roots of the trees entered the tombs and went down to the skeletons.