Altman’s Penny Theory

By B.L. Freeborn © 2013

Rochelle Altman’s “First,…recognize that it’s a penny”: Report on the “Newark” Ritual Artifacts describes the penny theory like this: if a US penny is found at a dig, it is still a US penny. In other words, forget about where they were found and just look at the artifacts.1

Dr. Altman has given us two things in her interesting and well written article. She has used her many decades of experience in ancient languages to give us a clear picture as to why the Newark Stones are not forgeries but actual ritual artifacts. There is no question that she makes a series of valid explanations as to why the artifacts could not have been faked. She concludes they originated from medieval southern Europe. The second part of her report delves into explaining how these real articles came to be in Ohio in 1860, a bit of a who dunnit involving a murder and theft. She proposes these articles were stolen from the person whose remains were found at the Stone Mound site. She asserts the victim was a European settler who had brought them as family heirlooms to the region. Sherlock Holmes would have cringed at her theory but … it is possible they were family heirlooms and were acquired for the dubious reason of perpetuating a hoax on Wyrick. Alas, the problem with this theory is that as medieval family heirlooms they would have been priceless. It would have required a substantial outlay of cash to obtain them, and then the hoaxer would have had to expend the time to go to the site (7 ½ miles each way by foot or horse) to bury them in tough clay and then hope they would be found by his would-be victim. All for what?

Stone bowl found with Decalogue Stone.

Stone bowl found with Decalogue Stone.

If we toss out the attempt to explain how they got there, the stones at least have a ring of validity they have not had since Dr. Arnold Fischel made the same claim in 1861. So it took a mere 150 years to prove what they knew at the start but did not have enough archaeological knowledge to accept as fact then.

But…there always is a but….although it was easy to believe Dr. Altman, it was mistakenly assumed while reading her article that she was trying to prove an origin date of 1500 BC +- . However, she concluded it was medieval. A second read through clarified the misunderstanding … almost.

These then are the reasons from her report that seemed to indicate a date far earlier than she  concluded:

See article at:   http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/Altman_Newark.shtml

Sec. 2) Format: Incantation format dates back to Babylon 8th century BC. (This is the style in which the stones are inscribed.)

Sec. 3) Sculpture: Body portrayed in profile dates back to oldest known stele from Akkad (2371-2255 BC). “In the classic Semitic pose, the figure is in profile, one hand is raised or the arm is bent forward pointing at something or holding something.”

Note:  In this case both are true, the right arm is raised and the left is bent forward.

Sec. 4) Script: Base script in which eleven letters match is late Medieval Hebrew squared fonts. (Yet, 1st century BC fonts are extremely similar.)

The “m” she calls South Sinaitic from the 16th century BC. The tsadik is from 16th century BC as well. Both are converted from cuneiform letters. She discusses the possible “magic” reasons why it would have been used as opposed to a more modern version.

Perhaps we should pause to question how a forger in the 1860’s would have known about Cuneiform letters when the symbols were newly discovered and their decipherment still being debated. The same question can be asked of an artist in the Medieval period who certainly should have not known of these letter forms. Does this not indicate a far earlier period?

Sec. 4) Script: The ayin is in a South Semitic form dated to 10th century BC.

She notes the vav and zayin are consistently reversed. Their forms are dated to 10th century BC Phoenician. The gimel (g) is similar to a Phoenician g from the same period. The straight line yod was used in the late BC. The L she calls Nabatean is also Phoenician from the same era. The Hebrew alphabet had its beginning in 10th century BC when the letters were borrowed from Phoenician.

The Keystone was written in Modern Hebrew with letters using stress and durational notation. This “modern” style of letters dates back to 1st century BC and durational notation to the age of Sumer.

At the center top front there is a symbol she says is unidentified. It looks like a modern Y or the Hebrew Ayin. On the center back no comment is made about the symbol at the top of the inner arch that looks like an incomplete circle. Ironically, both Altman and the Epigraphic Society Report by McCulloch state the letter tet is not represented, yet this symbol is the modern way of denoting a tet.

Overall, her explanation of the stones’ appearance, script, and use is complete and thorough. She believes the items to be of medieval origin. Furthermore, it turns out the small bowl is by far the most important artifact indicating an age between 1st century BC and 2nd century AD. As far as her theory as to how they came to be in Ohio …. well … let us look for a better explanation.

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References / Footnotes

  1. Altman, Rochelle, ” First,…recognize that it’s a penny”: Report on the “Newark” Ritual Artifacts.”  See:  http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/Altman_Newark.shtml

 

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