“Bruce D. Smith, Curator of North American Archaeology at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, shares the opinion of other professional archaeologists that the Bat Creek Stone is an obvious fraud, as most recently documented in the article by Robert Mainfort and Mary Kwas ‘The Bat Creek Stone Revisited: A Fraud Exposed’, American Antiquity 2004. Along with other known fraudulent artifacts, we retain it in our collections as part of the cultural history of archaeological frauds, which were quite popular in the second half of the 19th century.
Long known to be a fake, The Bat Creek Stone has none the less been a source of entertaining and fanciful alternative interpretations for more than a century, and as is the case with mermaids and unicorns, it will no doubt continue to be the subject of speculation by people of all ages for years to come.”
I then issued a response:
"This statement borders on ridiculous. For the Smithsonian to issue a statement like this indicates one of two possibilities:
- Mr. Smith and his colleagues do not understand the scientific testing of the artifacts to date that are consistent with a circa 1500 year-old date.
- Mr. Smith and his colleagues are willfully ignoring scientific data and siding with unsupported speculation to continue to preserve an historical paradigm of the Smithsonian Institution’s choosing.
I don’t believe Mr. Smith doesn’t understand the scientific data which is consistent and conclusive with authenticity. Therefore, to accept unsupported speculation of Mainfort and Kwas and thereby disparaging the reputation of John Emmert, and by association casting doubt on all of the Smithsonian’s excavations and findings of this era, reeks of an agenda.
The seriousness of this situation, in my opinion, demands a Congressional investigation since the Smithsonian receives government funding. The tax-payers of this country, and indeed the world, deserve better given the Smithsonian’s perceived reputation of competency. In light of the extensive scientific evidence that appears to be being ignored in favor of an apparent agenda, this statement by Mr. Smith on behalf of the institution casts doubt on that competency.
I plan to do all I can to see this investigation happens.”
Dr. Smith then responded making sure to list all his credentials while trying to belittle my own qualifications:
“This about the response I expected from Scott Wolter - should make for good publicity for Wolter and the exhibition.
I am looking forward to reading of Mr. Wolter's "scientific data" once it is published in a peer reviewed scientific journal. I Hadn't heard of Mr. Wolter previously, but a brief scan of internet entries provides a clear profile of his qualifications and his reputation as a researcher (An undergraduate degree in Geology, it appears).
I am looking forward to hearing from Duane King and Anne Rodgers on this.
Dr. Bruce D. Smith
Past President, Southeastern Archaeological Conference
Past President, Society for American Archaeology
Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Member, National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A.
Bruce D. Smith
Curator of North American Archaeology
Senior Research Scientist
Program in Human Ecology and Archaeobiology
Department of Anthropology
National Museum of Natural History
Washington D.C. 20560
Don Rose, a senior elder with the Cherokee was not pleased and made his feelings known that he considered the Smithsonian’s statement to be an insult and if they insist in calling it a hoax, then the elders will rebury it:
It is my understanding that the Smithsonian has, in a recent correspondence, declared the Bat Creek Stone to be a fraudulent artifact and not worthy of further historical or scientific interest or investigation. That position is entirely inconsistent with the criteria the Smithsonian has imposed on us to protect the artifact; if it is a fake, then why be concerned with its welfare. However, since they have formally declared it to be a fraud, then I, as a tribal member and a member of the Museum Board, must oppose further effort to acquire an expensive display arena for an item that has been determined to be fraudulent. I respectfully suggest the relic be placed in storage or returned to the Smithsonian; or, if it is a fact that it was recovered from a Cherokee Mound, then the Tribe reclaims the worthless stone and return it to a burial site, as is our custom.
Donald E. Rose
Treasurer, Museum Board”
I wasn’t pleased either and made my feelings known as well:
With all due respect, I would have expected a more creative response than the old fall-back lines of academia such as personal attacks by criticizing credentials and reverting to the tired old phrase of, "Published in a peer reviewed scientific journal." If you are going to use the word "scientific", you better know what it means. The fact of the matter is we come from two different worlds. I am a licensed professional whose primary responsibility is the health and safety of the public. We are responsible for building and maintaining our country's buildings, roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure. When those structures fail, that is when they call me.
I certainly consider myself a researcher, but my primary work is material forensics. The standard I have to meet is to be able to testify in a court of law, under oath, to my scientific findings which must be supported by factual evidence. If I were to be found guilty of substandard work, or unethical behavior, I risk losing my license to practice and potentially could go to jail. I would ask you Dr. Smith, what accountability does a tenured professor have?
The fact is this lowly undergrad was formally trained in the scientific method and has used it in my work for nearly 30 years now. I can easily see when it has not been used properly. The Smithsonian's handling of the Bat Creek Stone, the Kensington Rune Stone, the Tucson Lead Artifacts, and other historical artifacts are textbook examples of the improper use of the scientific method.
My geological work on the Bat Creek Stone was professionally peer-reviewed in accordance with ASTM and AASHTO standards. It is those scientific standards that the building of our nation in the modern age was based upon. You can criticize me all you want, but it'll be interesting to see how the academic, opinion-driven peer-review process holds up during questioning, under oath, against factual scientific evidence."
I later added the following to the discussion:
“You, me, the Tribe and the Smithsonian (including Dr. Smith) know the artifact is genuine. Academia in Washington is defending a centuries old paradigm and we all know it. They know that, once one of these obvious genuine "anomalies" is accepted, the historical house of cards crumbles.
They know as we do, trying to scapegoat Emmert is unfounded and unethical, but it's all they've got.
As I said Friday, we need to wipe away the past 100 years and encourage the scientists do the work with fresh, objective eyes.
I'm confident the facts will lead to the truth.”
I stand by my comments and also wonder, if the Bat Creek Stone were such an obvious fake, why do they care so much about the artifact? Why did they bother for years to prominently display the artifact in the McClung Museum at the University of Tennessee, in Knoxville. And why did they make the Cherokee wait so long (almost three years), and fill out mounds of paperwork for a fake? The reason is because they know it’s not a hoax and is really an important historical artifact they lost control of thinking it was a Cherokee inscription back in 1889. This begs the question: Does anybody think it would have ever seen the light of day had the Smithsonian realized it was a Hebrew inscription back then?
This also begs another question for the skeptics who accused the discoverer, John W. Emmert, of planting a hoax to impress his bosses: If he was the one who carved it to allegedly impress his boss, why didn’t he point out that it was Hebrew? It wasn't realized that it was Hebrew for another 80 years. Emmert had no idea it was Hebrew!
The accusations don’t follow simple logic, have no basis in fact, and are clearly unethical since Emmert can’t defend himself since he is long dead. The accusations bring up another troubling fact for the Smithsonian. Since they have plainly questioned the integrity of Emmert in this dig; doesn’t it throw doubt on all the other digs he did for the institution? Apparently, the Smithsonian believes it can pick and choose who and what is credible based on what is found. On February 6th, Dr. Hu McCulloch asked Dr. Smith for clarification on this very point:
Dear Dr. Smith,
Thank you for clarifying the Smithsonian’s official opinion on the Bat Creek stone.
Does this mean that the Smithsonian now officially renounces the entire Mound Survey as unreliable, or just the substantial portion that was due to John Emmert? In the latter case, would it be possible to make public a list of the sections and artifacts that he was responsible for and which may now be disregarded? For the most part, the field agents responsible for the various sections were not identified by name in the Mound Survey report.
You mention the 2004 Mainfort and Kwas article as reflecting your position. You may be interested in my reply to that article, which is forthcoming (very shortly) in Pre-Columbiana. A preprint is online at http://www.econ.ohio-state.
While the Smithsonian has long basked in the glory and respect of being one of the world’s finest museums, their handling of the Bat Creek Stone transfer to the Cherokee over this past week was disrespectful to the tribe and created a large crack to form through its integrity. That crack can be fixed with the appropriate action moving forward. Otherwise, other cracks are sure to be found that could lead to serious structural damage.
Phil and Leslie Kalen outside the cave.
Phil and Leslie Kalen work with the Committee Films crew inside the illuminated cave.
Colin Thrienen works in a precarious spot inside the beautiful limestone cave.
Scott and Jim Morgan initiate three worthy guests onto their squad in the hotel lobby.