Genuine science examines the unexplained. Its fraudulent impersonation "explains" the unexamined. Following is the text of an article published in the summer edition of the quarterly journal Ohio Archaeologist: Upon close inspection, he quickly changed his mind.
Its exposed surface gave the appearance of being nothing more than a rounded rock typical of glacial erratics left in that area by the Illinoian ice sheet.
Having pried the stone from the ground and removed the soil within its V-shaped cavity, Mr. Morgan rotated it to a position in which it sat firmly upright, whereupon he was startled to see a huge grinning head like that of a snapping turtle - and with eyes in the right places on each side, one of them with a round centered iris. Realizing that he might have uncovered an artifact of considerable age, given its depth of deposition and proximity to the Ft.
Morgan showed his find to the manager of that site, who immediately recognized its possible importance and contacted professional archaeologists in Columbus. Morgan then e-mailed them photos of the object. They recognized its resemblance to the head of a snapping turtle, but doubted that it was of human workmanship because the eyes were of slightly different sizes and not in precisely the same location on each side, the head was proportionally narrower than that of a real-life snapping turtle, and the apparent carving was too crude.
The curator looked it over for about three minutes, then declared it to be nothing more than a product of natural erosion. Morgan offered to transport the stone to Columbus for an in-person assessment by the archaeologists there, but received this reply: This was to have been the final judgment, but in the meantime photos of the object had appeared in the on-line edition of the Cincinnati Enquirer, and a link to these had been posted in an archaeology forum on the Internet.
Alan Day, an avocational archaeologist with some academic training and fieldwork experience, brought these to the attention of Prof. Eric Law at Muskingum University in Ohio, a specialist in petrology, the branch of geology that deals with the origin, composition, structure, and alteration of rocks.
After an almost two-hour examination, Prof. Except for the bedding surface that defines the width of the head, straight faces are not conformable either with rock bedding or with rock joints.
Angles between straight faces are either too wide or too narrow, not being characteristic of natural fractures. The wedge-shaped indentation within the left eye appearance of an iris is petrologically unexplainable other than by an unlikely natural impact mechanism.
The most convincing evidence is the mouth. The presence of a rock inclusion of any type is unlikely. The innermost part of the mouth, the throat, is a cave-like indentation with parallel upper and lower planes. There is no natural process that can produce this kind of erosion.
Further, highly probable tool marks are observable and well preserved. Cutting the rectangular notch at the back of the mouth would probably have required a 0. There is, unfortunately, no material within the rock that can provide for a determination of the time of human modification. Judging from the location of the find site and circumstantial contextual evidence, there seems little doubt that this sandstone block is an artifact created by aboriginal inhabitants of the Fort Ancient area.
Robert Riordan of Wright State University, an archaeologist and prominent researcher of the Hopewell, examined the Turtle Head in person and said he had no doubt that it had been human-modified.
He did not venture a guess as to when it had been worked, or by whom. Since current dating technologies do not as far as we know provide a means of determining the time at which the stone was modified, one can only speculate on its temporal and cultural affiliation. Of course humans inhabited the area thousands of years before the Hopewell, and the production of simple as well as often quite refined zoomorphic imagery in lithic material is well known from at least as far back as the Archaic Period.
One could also speculate that the stone was carved by members of a relatively recent tribe in the area e. And labor-intensive zoomorphic creations seem to have been more characteristic of aboriginal inhabitants hundreds of years before that time, prior to a cultural decline.
And there is no indication in property records that the immediate terrain had seen activity in historical time likely to cause major perturbation.
A properly executed search for temporally diagnostic artifacts in the stratum might be helpful, but then this object could have been present in situ long before these were deposited. Altogether it is a bit of a mystery. And this venue by the river is home to an abundance of turtles. Of course this image is common in Native American tradition, and there is their well-known creation story in which the earth itself emerges on the back of a turtle.
These are often approached by avocationals and casual finders seeking an opinion on stones having the appearance of artificial modification into zoomorphic or even anthropomorphic forms, and many if not most professionals have more or less understandably come or have been taught? Usually this suffices to send the finder on his or her way.
And one all too often believes one really understands what people hundreds or thousands of years ago could or could not have been thinking and doing, while it is a pretty safe bet that they just did whatever they did with little consideration of what we might think about this in the twenty-first century AD.
Whether or not an object matches textbook pictures of pre-recognized artifact material, if it is human-modified it is in fact a part of the archaeological record.