The Newark Holy Stones, displayed at the Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum (JHM) in Coshocton, were discovered in Licking County between 1860 and 1867 by surveyor David Wyrick. One was found at the Newark Earthworks, and the other was at the Jacksontown Stone Mound. The collection comprises the Keystone, the Decalogue Stone, a two-piece box made to house the Decalogue Stone, and a bowl. Both the Keystone and Decalogue Stone are inscribed in Hebrew. The Decalogue Stone also bears an image of Moses. This controversial finding infers that these ancient Indians were the descendants of the “Lost Tribes of Israel,” the ten of whom were said to have been deported after Israel’s conquest by the Neo-Assyrian Empire around 722 BCE.
This and most of the museum’s collection were once the private collections of John and David Johnson, who grew up in Coshocton, Ohio. It’s not precisely known how the Johnson brothers came to possess the Newark Holy Stones, but it’s believed that they purchased them directly from David Wyrick.
There was correspondence between the Johnson brothers and scientists, among others, trying to authenticate the Holy Stones. After a time, the stones were just stored away. In a letter, they asked someone at Tiffany’s Department Store in New York City what they should do with them. The correspondence back from Tiffany’s offered to display them in their storefront. Instead, the brothers held onto them until they showed up in Coshocton by railcar with the rest of the Original Collection, which initially comprised the JHM Museum collection.
JHM had the Newark Holy Stones in a drawer, not even on display until Robert W. Alrutz, a professor at Denison University, authored a book. As a result of this book, belief in the authenticity of the Newark Holy Stones grew.
Countering Alrutz’s book, Bradley T. Lepper and his colleague Jeff Gill researched the stones. They published an extensive article, The Newark Holy Stones, published in the May/June 2000 edition of TIMELINE, a publication of the Ohio Historical Society. However, despite their effort, the controversial documentary The Lost Civilizations of North America also fueled the validity of the Newark Holy Stones. It largely ignored the archaeological community, particularly the Lepper/Gill findings.
“We think these forgeries were created to support a particular idea of the past that conflicted with the then-popular scientific theory that claimed that the mounds disproved the bible and that it supported slavery, in a convoluted sort of way,” explained Lepper. “So these holy stones, even though they’re fake, have a very fascinating story to tell about this early period in the history of archaeology.”
At the time that the Holy Stones were discovered, the issue of slavery engulfed the nation. One year later, the Civil War had begun. Lepper said the Holy Stones should be displayed because of this connection, even though he believes the stones are forgeries.
“We get many people interested in the Newark Holy Stones,” JHM director Jennifer Bush said. “I tell people my opinion based on scientific analysis, but some don’t want to hear that. They want to hear that they are real.”
Throughout the museum, many attention-grabbers open a new world of curiosity. Be sure to add http://www.jhmuseum.org/ to your list of places to explore later this year.
By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun
This is an excerpt from a much larger story, “Collecting A Legacy …And Controversy: Small Town Museum Hails Worldly Artifacts,” sponsored by Visit Coshocton.