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Alternate Perceptions Magazine, January 2015

Was a “Dead Ringer” Found for the Bat Creek Tablet?:
Academic Archaeologist says “yes” in $85.00 textbook

by: Dr. Greg Little

How About Giants? Academic Archaeologist says, “I’ve been digging for 30 years and I have never found the bones of a giant human being. Ever.” Really? Thirty years of digging?

The Bat Creek Tablet is one of the most controversial artifacts ever found in America. It was dug from a mound in Tennessee in 1889 during a Smithsonian excavation and immediately sent to Cyrus Thomas, Director of the Bureau of Ethnology’s Mound Survey Project. Thomas then dispatched another field agent to the site who interviewed those who participated in the excavation and reviewed all of the field notes. He verified the entire account and Thomas accepted the tablet as authentic. Thomas subsequently asserted that it was inscribed with letters of the Cherokee alphabet. In 1988 the journal “Tennessee Anthropologist” published a long article asserting that the tablet was a genuine artifact inscribed with Paleo-Hebrew characters dating to sometime between 450 B.C. – A.D. 200. Other evidence cited in the article placed the artifacts and tablet to the time of the First Jewish Revolt against Rome, circa 66-73 B.C. A rebuttal was subsequently published in the same journal by Mainfort and Kwas asserting that cult archaeologists and rogue professors were promoting the fake Bat Creek Tablet as genuine. Mainfort and Kwas followed up this article with another in “American Antiquity” (2004) asserting that the Smithsonian’s Field Assistant, John Emmert, forged the tablet. The article cites an illustration from an 1870 book as the source of the forgery. The illustration shows a series of 8 characters reading “Holy to Yahweh.” Mainfort and Kwas related that the book’s illustration, “ proves conclusively that the Bat Creek stone is a fraud” (p. 765). “Its inscription was copied from a widely available published source” (p. 767). The logic in this assertion appears to have completely accepted by mainstream archaeologists, but it seems a bit irrational, at least to me. More on this issue is mentioned toward the end of this article.

The full text of Mainfort and Kwas’ 2004 article is available here

Encyclopedia of Dubious Archaeology, 292-pages, costing $85.00, relates that the 1870 illustration is a “Dead Ringer” for the Bat Creek Tablet

Archaeologist Ken Feder’s 2010 archaeology textbook, “The Encyclopedia of Dubious Archaeology” is a short, 292-page hardcover costing $85.00, but it is packed with the “facts” mainstream archaeologists want their students and the public to believe. In a previous article I related that in the book (p. 122-123), Feder addressed an issue regarding the existence of a mysterious Professor Jordan, who it had been said in a 1909 newspaper article, had explored and emptied a cave system in the Grand Canyon. The Smithsonian had consistently, until 2008, issued a statement regarding this affair by relating that, “The Smithsonian’s Department of Anthropology has searched its files without finding any mention of a Professor Jordan…” Feder’s 2010 book relates (and I quote here), “As to Professor Jordan, there is no record of any such person actually working for or with the Smithsonian Institution” .. and further states that “no Jordan” was ever affiliated with the Smithsonian. But some two years before Feder’s book came out, in 2008, the Smithsonian published on its website the story of Dr. David Jordan, referred to repeatedly as “Professor Jordan” in numerous Smithsonian publications, who had a 30-year affiliation with the Smithsonian in the 1800s and 1900s. Jordan, in fact, had made a trip in the Grand Canyon, although there is no evidence whatsoever that he was the Jordan mentioned in the 1909 article. But a “Prof. Jordan” did exist, made a trip through the Grand Canyon, and was long affiliated with the Smithsonian. I have asserted in a book and several articles that the story was likely a hoax concocted to conceal the looting of a site. But the fact is that a Professor Jordan was affiliated with the Smithsonian and denying it is, well, less that accurate. In fact, it’s wrong.

Then I noticed another dubious “fact” in Feder’s textbook after skeptics pointed it out to me. See: http://apmagazine.info/index.php/component/content/article?id=598 Feder (p. 15) relates that “The Origin of the Ancient Astronaut Hypothesis” is traced to a 1963 article by Carl Sagan, and Feder slightly misnames the journal where Sagan’s article appeared. But prior to 1963, a long list of UFO, flying saucer, and spiritualistic books had been published—all of which had outlined the Ancient Astronaut Theory in detail, long before Sagan put out his article. It’s surprising that some skeptics haven’t claimed that Sagan plagiarized the racist, mentally unstable cult figure H. P. Lovecraft for the ancient astronaut theory.

Back to Bat Creek

With respect to “facts” about the Bat Creek Tablet, Feder is also blunt, and mistaken. He related that the “smoking gun” was found. Feder writes (p. 39): "In a work published in 1870, the General History, Cyclopedia, and Dictionary of Freemasonry, [sic] there's a figure depicting a written message taken from a coin dating to the First Jewish Revolt against Rome in 66-73 CE. The writing on the coin as shown in that 1870 book is a dead ringer for the inscription on the Bat Creek Stone." First, Feder adds a comma to the title of the book, showing his scholarly attention to detail in his textbook. But in Mainfort and Kwas’ article it is also made totally clear that the inscription was, at least in their assessment, “copied from a Masonic treatise” (p. 761). They related that another person alleged that the inscription was also on a coin, although Mainfort and Kwas quoted from the “Masonic treatise:” “The inscription appears on the forehead of the High-Priest … the plate of the holy crown of pure gold…” (Macoy, 1870). In their article, Mainfort and Kwas show no coin, only a photo from the Masonic book. Mainfort and Kwas bluntly state, “The inscription is fraudulent, having been copied from a Masonic treatise.” So, they say that they are sure that an artifact excavated from a mound in 1889 was a fraud and they are certain that the Masonic book was the source. That’s, well, astounding. There are a lot of unsolved crimes from the 1800s and perhaps archaeologists should solve them all the same way.

The term “dead ringer,” used by Feder to describe the Masonic inscription (or the coin he refers to), typically means that something or someone is almost exactly like something or someone else. The Bat Creek Tablet, shown below with the “dead ringer” has 9 inscribed characters. The inscription said to be the “dead ringer” has 8 characters. Six of the 9 characters on the Bat Creek Tablet are the same as the “dead ringer.” Close, but not a “dead ringer.” But one point seems to be missed in this. So what? Is the use of characters from an alphabet proof of fraud?

In a search of a skeptic-controlled site, under “First Jewish Revolt Against Rome in 66-73 CE, I found a photo of a coin that depicts all of the characters of the Bat Creek Tablet. (See photo below, attribution: Classical Numismatic Group.) The coin uses the Paleo-Hebrew characters found on the Bat Creek Tablet. Of course, it’s not a dead ringer. It points out that the characters on the Bat Creek Tablet were the types of characters in use at that time.

Okay, so I actually found a photo of a Jewish coin dating from the relevant time period. It displays the same characters as the Bat Creek Tablet, but not in the same order. What does that prove? So I expanded the search a bit. Astonishingly, I found that in a listing under “English Alphabet” on the same website I found that all of the characters (and words) that are used in this article have been previously used somewhere! There are actually “dead ringers” for the words and characters used in this article. What’s it prove? Does it prove that the article is a hoax? I have also found, as far as I got, that the words and characters used in Feder’s textbook have been used sometime previously, too. The logic asserting that, because “characters” used in a common alphabet in a particular era prove that something else using the same characters is a fraud, simply escapes me.

In brief, the proponents of the Bat Creek’s authenticity assert that it is an inscription from the time of the First Jewish Revolt against Rome, dating to 66-73. It would seem logical that the characters of an inscription on a crown praising Yahweh would, indeed, use the characters that were in use at that time and in that place. The logic that the so-called “dead ringer” is proof of a fraud is silly and about as flimsy as evidence gets. I have no idea whether the Bat Creek Tablet is really “genuine,” but the evidence cited against it simply isn’t evidence, it is wishful thinking used to confirm cherished beliefs. It is mind-boggling that archaeologists would instantly accept such ludicrous reasoning. And the factual twisting made in Feder’s textbook should be fodder for those who believe that mainstream archaeology is conspiring to use whatever means they can to conceal some hidden history.

They Might Be Giants

The History Channel’s Series “The Search for Lost Giants” has recently ended what is hopefully just the first season. The show is attempting to run down the facts behind 1500 old newspaper reports (and about 30 reports made in archaeological excavations) of “giants” that were found in the 1800’s and early 1900’s. The book “Path of Souls” details some of these reports, some of which were factual and others of which were not. In essence, the factual reports detail skeletons ranging in height from 7 to 8 feet that were excavated from mounds in America.

In October 2013, Ken Feder was interviewed by “Pioneer Magazine” about the show in an article entitled, “There May Be Giants.” Feder related, “I’ve been digging for 30 years and I have never found the bones of a giant human being. Ever,” That's odd, as I can't find any evidence that Feder has actually been involved in archaeological excavations anywhere except consistently at a late 1800's village site (where older areas have been found) near where he has taught undergraduates for the past 30 years. He has taught at the University of Central Connecticut State University since 1977. Students at the college do field work at the site for credit and Feder oversees the project. But other than at this Connecticut site, I have failed to find where Feder has dug for 30 years. Maybe he has excavated hundreds of mounds in dozens of sites, but where are the reports? Thirty years of digging is a lot of work but maybe it means 30 years of teaching, assigning students, and making occasional site visits to nearby Farmington. Using the same reasoning, I’ve been traveling for 65 years. But I think that would be a bit misleading.

I’m sure I could find someone who might say, "I've been digging in my back yard for 30 years and I haven't found any giants, therefore there were no giants anywhere else."

There is a joke about a drunk stumbling around under a streetlight one night. A friend sees him and asks him what he's doing. The guy says, “I dropped my car keys and can't find them.” The friend helps him look a bit and says, “they aren't here. Do you know about where you dropped them?” The drunken guy points to an adjacent field and says, “I dropped them out there somewhere.” His friend says, “then why the heck are you looking around here.” The reply is, "because the light’s better over here."

In short, most of us search in places that are most convenient and accessible to us. With respect to the large skeletons, the Smithsonian publications detailed at least 17 skeletons that were from about 7 to 8 feet in height. Adena-era mounds, excavated by the University of Kentucky, the Carnegie Museum, and other archaeologists, revealed several skeletons 7 to 8 feet in height. Maybe digging through a few mainstream publications would reveal them. Then apply standard statistics to them and see if anything stands out.

I taught in three colleges and universities for 7 years and will say teachers who are humorous and present their topics in an interesting and engaging way receive a lot of praise and outright adulation from students. One’s ego can get “inflated,” as Carl Jung related. My major professor in psychology talked about ego inflation quite a bit. In graduate school when I was deciding on a career, one of the things I was told by my Professors was this serious joke: “Those who can, do so. Those who can’t, teach.” Teaching is a noble and great profession, but it’s not the same thing as doing in the real world. Teachers often get the idea that their beliefs are the gospel. They often don’t realize the difference between beliefs and facts, and how one’s beliefs about reality tend to determine what one accepts as factual.


The term “quackademic” was coined to describe an academic (a college teacher) who lacks substantial real relevant life experience but who nonetheless pretends to be an expert in a real-life area. The term was first used to vilify medical claims that were made by individuals who were outside their genuine areas of expertise, but it’s also now used to describe all academic areas. Feder isn’t what I’d call a quackademic, he does study and analyze a lot in his field and he makes a lot of sense in his publications and in his public speaking. He’s even been a foil on some of the documentaries that I’ve been in. I usually agree with his assessments. He’s an engaging speaker and liked by students. And his books usually do summarize well what is known. But there are some very questionable flaws in the flat-out statements about such things as the Ancient Astronaut Theory, Prof. Jordan, the Bat Creek Tablet, and, perhaps, “giants.” And there are probably more errors.

Trying to focus on “facts” seems to be an impossible task for those archaeologists who appear to be on a crusade to silence everyone who disagrees with their beliefs and speculations. But what the crusade ultimately does is create an even greater force pushing against them. In psychological terms, a lot of archaeologists are shadow boxing. They have created the shadow they are fighting and such a battle can’t be won. But one can continue to swing away.

With respect to the alleged Native American “giants,” I agree that there is no hard evidence of “giants” in the true meaning of the term. A lot of experts will tell you that no “genuine” human “giant” bones have been found in America, but if you actually check some mainstream archaeological excavation reports, you’ll find that quite a few 7 to 8 footers were excavated. That’s interesting to a lot of us. There’s little doubt that they were Native Americans, but a lot of people will speculate about it—especially because a lot of archaeologists now deny that they even existed.

Sunday, March 03, 2024