Creeping Away with Time

By B.L. Freeborn © 2013

How is that more than one researcher can claim these mounds are precisely laid out yet they are so out of round that they vary in their diameter? The Great Circle varies from 1163 to 1189 feet. The Observatory Circle varies from 1050 to 1058 feet. The Octagon is visibly unsymmetrical. It is wider at the end joining the circle.

Large burial mound overlooking Ohio River. See more images of mounds at http://moundbuilder.blogspot.com/p/27-largest-burial-mounds-in-ohio.html

There are three plausible explanations for these irregularities. The first is the variation was intentional as was suggested in the difference between the sides of Wright Square of 926 and 928 and later numbers will show that this stretching was done to achieve certain distances. The second explanation is that when they were reconstructed by the Ohio National Guard and others (see complete explanation in Hively/Horn) they were altered.

The last explanation is creep. Let us say the mounds are thousands of years old and that the reason they still exist today is that on a regular basis they were maintained. The manner in which this is done can contribute to their movement.

The Miamisburg Mound is burned every other year to keep weeds and trees from overtaking it. Many mounds throughout Ohio are owned by the Ohio Historical Society and they allow massive trees to take root. Over time the roots push out, break down and do their part in returning the mounds to the landscape. In effect the Society is allowing that which they have been charged with preserving to be destroyed. The Newark Octagon is a golf course and is groomed with precision machines. The grass cover keeps the soil in place.

Carbon dating of charcoal at the Alligator Mound tells us it was built about a 1000 BP. Or does this actually tell us the date of a forest fire or a controlled burn to maintain the site?

Trees, erosion and careless reconstruction all contribute to creep but there is another way they creep out of round.  Persons charged with digging the dirt out of the ditch at the Great Circle and putting it back onto the top of the mound year after year work around the circle. Each and every year slight variations are introduced. The change is so incrementally small that it is never noticed until someone comes back a thousand years later and says, “Yo, your circle looks like an oval!” They creep out of shape. What can contribute even faster to creeping is a sloped site. Fortunately, few are on slopes. Numerous reconstructions and rearrangements in areas such as Thornborough indicate that over the centuries different generations have left their mark, so too we must assume this has happened at both Hopewell and Adena sites.

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References/Footnotes:

  1. Hively, Ray, and Horn, Robert, Geometry and Astronomy in Prehistoric Ohio, “Journal for the History of Astronomy, Archaeoastronomy,” Supplement, Vol. 13, p.S1; also Science History Publications, 1982.      See:   http://articles.adsabs.harvard.edu
  2. Image of Mound from: http://moundbuilder.blogspot.com/p/27-largest-burial-mounds-in-ohio.html

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Altman’s Penny Theory

By B.L. Freeborn © 2013,

updated Nov. 2018

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 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

 

Lepper’s One-Way Leap into Oh-Oh

Stela of Ashurnasirpal II from 900 BC. Similarities to the Decalogue Stone are apparent.. From Wikipedia by Geni. CC-BY-SA GFDL

Stela of Ashurnasirpal II from 900 BC. Similarities to the Decalogue Stone are apparent. From Wikipedia by Geni. CC-BY-SA GFDL

By B.L. Freeborn © 2013,

updated Nov. 2018

Bradley T. Lepper, Ph.D. is the most anti-Newark Decalogue Stones voice of our time. He seems to be stuck in 19th century rhetoric and cannot see beyond the limited arguments of the past. Many arguments for/against the authenticity of the stones both then and now bring to light the politics of the era during which they were found. Lepper is stuck in the period and regurgitates the arguments of the past quite thoroughly. If you are looking for a review of past arguments then read his paper published by the Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum (present home of the stones)1. His article “The Newark Holy Stones” in Timeline2 is a repetition of these exact same beliefs. Or for no expense at all these articles can be summed up in total as:

They are fake. Proven fakes! Because I said so!

You may see this for yourself at these free sources:

In the second link, pause to look at his sources. Yes, all his sources are himself.

Perhaps it is time to recall a thing or two about archaeology.

The typical way to examine these stones usually contains an overview of the political environment in Ohio during the time period and then it deteriorates into an impossible who-dun-it. Lepper has forever committed himself to this one view. Let us look at another aspect of the historical time period that archaeologists then could not comment on because they did not have a crystal ball to see what was to be unearthed in their own newly developing field.

The Keystone was found in late June 1860 and the Decalogue Stone in November of the same year. The Civil War was just around the corner. What else was happening?

Frenchman Paul Emile Botta on the banks of the Tigris in the area of Mosul discovered Ancient Assyria in 1843 to 1846. He had unearthed a summer palace near the ancient city of Nineveh. Up until this time the oldest civilization known was that of Egypt. The only source of information on the ancient world at that time was the Bible. It was a newspaper sensation! He had happened on a city complete with monuments and written records in undecipherable cuneiform. The discovery of Nineveh would follow. This is a mere fourteen years before the Keystone would be found. It was twelve years after that in 1872 when George Smith labored over cuneiform texts and read the story of Gilgamesh for the first time in modern history. It would be some years before he would find the story of Ut-napishtim, one of the precedent versions of the tale of Noah. It was not until 1880 until the stela of Lagash would be unearthed. It would be some forty years before the Tower of Babel would be discovered.3

It is an image described as being that of Nimrod that Henry Layard discovered a few years prior to the stones’ discovery that Lepper uses in his article to compare to the image on the decalogue. Because they are both Caucasian men in profile under an arch, he concludes it is fake. Pardon me, but if it is authentic would it not show a Caucasian man in profile under an arch just as in the above image?

The Rosetta Stone was discovered in 1799. Thomas Young began to decipher the hieroglyphic version of the stone and published his discoveries in 1816. Jean Francois Champollian continued deciphering hieroglyphic Egyptian and published in 1822 only to be greatly opposed. Indeed as Cyrus Gordon summed it up “As a rule, innovation is welcome only when it is confined to surface details and does not modify the structure as a whole.” 4 Opposition to Champollian’s work did not end until 1866 when he was proven correct by another discovery. This was 34 years after his death and two years after David Wyrick, the discoverer of the Newark stones, took his own life. The Johnson-Bradner stone was discovered a year later. Into this level of archaeological science were these stones brought to the light of day. With this level of knowledge were they judged valid or fake.

Is everything known today about the ancient world so that a true assessment can be made? Of course not! Ugarit would lie beneath the soil undiscovered until 1929. Decipherment of their language moved quickly building on previous work and by 1930 it was solved. Is Ugarit an important language? Yes! It is used today to help define words in its relative language Hebrew. All of this was un-imaginable in 1900 let alone 1860.

An entire empire was rediscovered in the late 1800’s. Excavation began at Bogazköy, Turkey (Hattusa) in 1906. Archaeologist Hugo Winckler found a royal archive with 10,000 tablets.5 These tablets are still being translated. Work on this language continues at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. All of this ongoing work has revealed a vast and powerful empire that reigned for 600 years until its collapse in 1178 BC. It had been forgotten but for a whisper.

It will be sometime before this vast library is completely translated. What is Lepper going to do if one of those documents refers to great earth monuments built on a distant continent in a great valley far to the west in one of their distant colonies? What if another stone in a script similar to the Ohio Hebrew appears in the future at a “legitimate” dig?

If your exclamation is Frank Moore Cross, Harvard University Professor of Near Eastern Languages, is of the opinion that the Decalogue Stone is a “grotesque forgery that cannot be taken seriously.”  Please recall Cyrus Gordon (1908 – 2001) was not so adamant and thought they were Samaritan mezuzah stones (prayer stones that are put over the door) as opposed to phylacteries (prayer stones worn on the arm).

We have also not looked at Altman’s opinion as of yet either. In other words – don’t leap with Lepper just yet. We have a few other opinions to peruse and then those promised numbers ….. !

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Footnotes/References

  1. Lepper, Bradley T., Newark’s Holy Stones: the Resurrection of a Controversy, “Newark “Holy Stones”: Context for Controversy,” Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum, 1999.
  2. Lepper, Bradley T., Gill, Jeff, The Newark Holy Stones, “Timeline,” Ohio Historical Society, Vol. 17 (3), 2000.
  3. Ceram, C.W., “Gods, Graves, and Scholars: The Story of Archaeology,”  New York: Bantam Books, 1951.
  4. Gordon, Cyrus, “Forgotten Scripts,” New York: Dorset Press, 1987.
  5. Wikipedia: Hittites. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hittites
  6. Wikipedia: Ashurnasirpal_II.  See  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ashurnasirpal_II_stela_british_museam.jpg

Newark Decalogue Stone is Fake because there is No Garbage!

Front Face of Newark Decalogue Stone

Front Face of Newark Decalogue Stone

By B.L. Freeborn © 2013 (update Nov. 2018)

From Kenneth L. Feder, Ph.D. we hear, “Applying these post-Columbian historical models, most archaeologists deduce that if travelers from the Old World visited the New before Columbus they can be expected to have left similar, mundane material evidence of their presence in the form of artifacts culturally distinguishable from those of indigenous people.” 1

He means garbage. We all leave garbage lying about. They should have left more stuff with inscriptions lying about. They should have left more Old World origin stuff in their garbage piles. One can both agree and disagree.

Point in fact: David Wyrick found stones with inscriptions in 1860. Because he did, he lost his reputation and ultimately committed suicide. Suppose another intelligent person in 1860 had also found something, would he come forward to be lamb-basted? Not likely. So we might conjecture that any other ancient artifacts found in the 1800’s went into the garbage and fast.

Have things changed? If one found an artifact today would one come forward? Many would at the risk of their reputation. The artifact might also be confiscated never to be seen again. Things disappear even on legitimate archaeological digs. Is it worth impugning the reputation of the researchers over something out-of-place?

As far as other “garbage” in Newark2 we note there was:

  • a quartz ball found with the Keystone,
  • numerous other round balls were found at other mound sites,
  • the Keystone was found in a tough ball of clay,
  • “two beautiful plumb bobs but instead of being either round or oval they are eight square” were found with the Decalogue Stone,
  • the Decalogue stone was in an oval, round case which creates a large “rock” when closed and it was found with a small stone bowl,
  • the Johnson-Bradner stone found at the same location as the Decalogue was in a skull.

In fact, the other “garbage” these people left behind was monstrous earthworks that greatly resemble in detail earthworks in England and Ireland.

This does not mean the native people of the time period did not make these monuments. Of course they did! It does not mean today’s Indians are not descended from the original builders. Unless they all died off from disease or were killed off, of course they are descended from them! The mounds are enormous complexes that did not appear overnight nor were they built by a small group of people. (Nor were they built by Mormons, or lost tribes.)

What Dr. Feder wants to see to believe the stones are real is “a convincingly authentic, archaeological site with its complex of artifacts and features with all their spatial associations and stratigraphic contexts.”

In other words, he wants to see a typical community layout with an area of houses, a cemetery, and the always present garbage heap which in this case must contain relics similar to the Decalogue Stone or something from the Old World like a belt buckle.

What we do have is a site that has enormous spatial associations (the number stuff that is to come).  William Romain, Hively, Horn and James Marshall have begun to show us already that these sites were formally laid out geometrically. James Q. Jacobs and Joseph Knapp are hard at work showing the astronomical correlations. These mounds were not randomly built. In order to place these sites with the precision other authors demonstrate (and will be shown here later) they must have had either astronomy or surveying skills, or acquired the skills by association with another party. Today we hire engineering services. Today we are even persuaded by outside parties to build engineered monstrosities we do not want like Wheelabrator’s Incinerators. In other words, a small outside party amongst the population cannot be ruled out by the lack of their specific garbage. Their presence may be deduced by the results left behind, ie. a monstrous Wheelabrator Trash plant means “they were here.”

Someone engineered these sites. Who? How about the chap they unearthed where the plumb-bobs were found? Plumb-bobs are used in surveying. They found the Johnson-Bradner stone within a skull. That is a nice gruesome touch if it was forged. Two other interesting facts about this burial. The “crypt” was a coffin made from a hollowed tree trunk surrounded by and encased in fine white clay. Fine white clay is not found everywhere in Ohio. Its presence must indicate this person was special enough for his mourners to go to the trouble to get it. Over the clay was placed a layer of stones and wood bracing. Upon these were copper rings. Indeed, on top of this site was a mound of stones described as being 180 feet in diameter and 40+ feet high. This mound of stones was so large it took 75 wagon teams to remove the stones to make the dam to create Buckeye Lake in 1831-1832. This is an estimated 10 to 15,000 wagon loads. We may assume that each stone placed on that cairn was to show respect for those buried there. They were extraordinarily special in some way. They were so revered that people left so many tokens of respect that a great mound of stone was formed. For all we know the deceased was a visiting dignitary from the Old World. More likely he/they were the engineers who laid out the great Newark site and other vast mound systems. A plumb-bob was found after all. Would they not be laid to rest with their favorite tools?

We might ask where they learned their trade? Mesoamerica, Cahokia, or were they buried with something they brought from their homeland? Like a “Jewish looking” stone? There is another piece of forgotten history that will shed light on who might have been buried on that hill under that massive mound of stones.

“Another group of people also lived among the Cherokee. They were called the Ani’-Kuta’ni. Prior to Mooney there were other much older sources that stated these people were…

“…the priestly clan, having hereditary supervision of all religious ceremonies among the Cherokee, until, in consequence of having abused their sacred privileges, they were attacked and completely exterminated by the rest of the tribe, leaving the priestly functions to be assumed thereafter by individual doctors and conjurers.”3

“The Mound Builders are addressed in Mooney’s book. There are two versions to this story. One group said the mounds were built by another people with no association to the Cherokee while another story said they were built by the ancestors of the Priests Ani’-Kuta’ni.”

This report is from “The 19th and 7th Annual Reports Bureau American Ethnology,” 1897-1898. It gives us an unexpected picture of very early American history and may explain some parts of this story while still leaving us wondering about who the Ani’-Kuta’ni might have been.

We might also ask did they teach anyone else their trade and pass along their knowledge? There is evidence they did.4 The quick argument is that Native Americans did not own land and so surveyors were not required. The thoughtful answer is surveyors are required if you take the placement of your monuments very, very seriously. Were they placed precisely? They were, just as Romain concluded, but more than he could have imagined. This will lead to more numbers to be looked at!

Next we look at Lepper’s leap into oh-ohh.

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Footnotes/References

  1. Feder, Kenneth, Coming to America: Investigating Claims of Precolumbian Forays to the New World, “Newark “Holy Stones”: Context for Controversy,” Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum, 1999.
  2.  Alrutz, Robert W., “Newark Holy Stones: The History of an Archaeological Tragedy,” Coshocton, Ohio: The Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum, 2010.
  3. Mooney, James, “Myths of the Cherokee and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees, From the 19th and 7th Annual Reports Bureau American Ethnology,” 1897-1898.
  4. Brennan, Tom PE, Civil Engineer and Surveyor, “Land Surveying Long Ago,” 2013 Spring Conference Presentation NEARA.

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153 Years and the Debate Still Rages: Newark Mounds and Decalogue Stone

Front Face of Newark Decalogue Stone

Newark Decalogue Stone, photo by J. Huston McCulloch

By B.L. Freeborn © 2013 (updated Nov 2018)

If the Newark Indian Mounds of Newark, Ohio were not large enough to contain a golf course (which they do) they would have been declared a fraud and a hoax. The Decalogue Stone and Keystone, two stones with Hebrew inscriptions found at and near the site have been declared both a fake and real. The debate over the stones has raged 153 years.

Today’s greatest anti-stone debaters are: Kenneth L. Feder, Ph.D., Professor of Anthropology at Central Connecticut State University and Bradley T. Lepper, Ph.D., Affiliated Scholar at Denison University in Granville, Ohio and Archeology Education Coordinator at the Ohio Historical Society.  They are joined by others who parrot their words such as Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Archaeology Officer at North Hertfordshire District Council, England, educated at University of Lancaster and Letchworth Grammar School and is a former nightclub DJ who writes “Badarcheaology.”

They are opposed by J. Huston McCulloch, Ph.D., Professor of Economics and Finance at Ohio State University; Rochelle I. Altman, Ph. D. Medieval English Literature, Scotland, a specialist in ancient phonetic-based writing systems; Suzanne O. Carlson, architect and NEARA Board member, James Guthrie, retired industrial chemist and avocational epigrapher, and others.

Some of their arguments are logical. Some of them are not.

Keystone found near Octagon in Newark, Ohio

Keystone found near Octagon in Newark, Ohio,
Photo by J. Huston McCulloch

There is considerably less written on the Newark Mounds since there is just not as much to debate. They exist. They existed prior to European settlement so they are not forged. They have been altered but that work was either done in the interest of preserving them or removing them from existence, which is why three large portions of the mounds are in viewable park-like condition today and the rest has made way for progress. There is serious academic work being done on them with some pretty cool new instruments like LiDAR. William F. Romain, Ph.D. Archaeoastronomy, Research Associate for Newark Earthworks Center, Ohio State University leads in this field by far. He picked up where Ray Hively and Robert Horn of Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana left off in 1982. Joseph M. Knapp has written web-articles “Hopewell Lunar Astronomy: The Octagon Earthworks” and “On the Great Hopewell Road” which begins in Newark. He introduces us to James A. Marshall who has spent many hours actually surveying the mounds and has studied the geometry used in building them. This lovely image of the mounds is from James Q. Jacobs extensive site on the archaeoastronomy of ancient sites.

Newark Earthworks, Link to James Q. Jacobs Site and Photos.

Newark Earthworks, Link to James Q. Jacobs Site and Photos.

No one can say academic archaeologists are ignoring this topic. It is a mainstream debate and the arguments are becoming increasingly scientific … well…. except for Lepper’s and the Dj’s. To add to the topic at this point either good tools and/or observations are required.

There are a few gaffs in the arguments on the Stones on both sides. Perhaps the only way to really resolve the issue is to look at the Mounds themselves. Instead of debating endless rounds of “who is/is not guilty of faking them” perhaps we should change the question entirely. To do so we might have to throw out a lot of what we presume is actual fact. We need to see if there are any circumstances under which it would be appropriate for a “Jewish looking” stone to be found at the mounds pre-Columbus. In my mind their presence can only be logical and legitimate if they can be associated to the mounds themselves.

So we begin looking at the Stones by looking at some of the arguments of the current debaters and then there is a good deal of mathematical information about the mounds to share. The legitimacy of the stones aside, the geometric study proves a great intelligence lies behind the design and layout of the mounds. When done you will have a solid opinion …of some sort.

So we will pick up next with………… “They left no garbage!”

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Footnotes

  1. Newark Decalogue Stone and Keystone photos by J. Huston McCulloch.  http://economics.sbs.ohio-state.edu/jhm/arch/decalog.html
  2. Knapp, Joseph M., “Hopewell Lunar Astronomy: The Octagon Earthworks,” 1998.  http://www.copperas.com/octagon/oindex.html
  3. Knapp, Joseph M., “On the Great Hopewell Road,” 1998.  http://coolohio.com/octagon/onroad.htm
  4. More photos and archaeoastronomy information by J. Q. Jacobs.  http://www.jqjacobs.net/archaeo/octagon.html

Newark Decalogue Stone and Earthworks: An Unraveling Mystery

The following twenty-five posts were a pleasure to write and even more so to share with you. 

Newark Decalogue Stone and Earthworks: An Unraveling Mystery  … Full document as pdf.

B.L. Freeborn   © July 2013

“As a rule, innovation is welcome only when it is confined to surface details and does not modify the structure as a whole.” – Cyrus Gordon

Table of Contents

  1. Lepper’s One-Way Leap into Oh-Oh

    Front Face of Newark Decalogue Stone

    Front Face of Newark Decalogue Stone

  2. The Remains according to Romain

    Keystone found near Octagon in Newark, Ohio

    Keystone found near Octagon in Newark, Ohio

  3. Ohh… Let It Not be True

    Newark Earthworks, Link to James Q. Jacobs Site and Photos.

    Newark Earthworks, Link to James Q. Jacobs Site and Photos.

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See another example of Ohio Hebrew here.