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Michigan relics: Wikis

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Michigan relics is a name for forged, supposedly ancient artifacts that were supposed to prove that people of an ancient Near Eastern culture had lived in Michigan, USA.

In 1890 James Scotford claimed that he had found a number of artifacts, including a clay cup with strange symbols and carved tablets, with symbols that looked vaguely hieroglyphic. He put them forward as evidence that people from the Near East or Europe had lived in America. The find attracted interest and also eager looters who arrived to look for more artifacts.

Archaeologists and historians quickly concluded that the objects were forgeries. However, Scotford joined forces with Daniel E. Soper, former Michigan Secretary of State. They presented thousands of objects made of various materials, supposedly found in 16 counties all over Michigan. They included coins, pipes, boxes, figurines and cuneiform tablets that depicted various biblical scenes, including handing out the tables of the Ten Commandments.

The Detroit News article in November 14, 1907 reported that Soper and Scotford were selling copper crowns they had supposedly found on heads of prehistoric kings and copies of Noah's diary. Scotford often arranged a local person to witness him "unearthing" the objects.

Despite the fact that many authorities and collectors declared the objects fraudulent, Scotford and Soper had a large number of believing customers. In 1911 one John A. Russell published a pamphlet, "Prehistoric discoveries in Wayne County, Michigan" in which he argued for their authenticity. James Savage, former pastor of the Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Detroit bought 40 of the objects.

In the July 28, 1911 issue of the Detroit News, professor Frederick Starr of the University of Chicago declared that the so-called relics were fakes. Also Mary Robson, who lived a room next door to Scotford's sons Percy and Charles, stated that the boys manufactured more "relics" all the time. No one filed charges.

They finds had also attracted the interest of Mormon Church members. This led Mormon scientist James E. Talmage in 1909 to participate in a "dig" and then to thoroughly test the artifacts in his lab back in Utah. His investigations led him to label the artifacts as frauds. In August of 1911, he published a work on his findings titled "The "Michigan Relics": A Story of Forgery and Deception".

Later in 1911 Scotford's stepdaughter signed an affidavit where she stated that she had seen him making the objects. Scotford and Soper never confessed and no more objects were found after they died. Father Savage died believing they were genuine.

Latest studies of professor of anthropology Richard B. Stamps of the Michigan Historical Museum indicate that the artifacts were made with contemporary tools.[1] Current historians tend to agree that Scotford and Soper joined forces to sell the fake relics for money.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints kept 797 of the objects in the Salt Lake City Museum. In 2003 they gave them up to in Michigan Historical Museum in Lansing where they currently reside.

References

  1. ^ "Tools Leave Marks: Material Analysis of the Scotford-Soper-Savage Michigan Relics". BYU Studies 40 (3): 210–238. 2001.  

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