Comments on America Unearthed: Medieval Englishman in Arizona

Share

Mimbres pottery is beautiful, enchanting, and expensive. Sometimes it is looted. Note the hole in the top pot. Click the picture for more images of pots.

Mimbres pottery is beautiful, enchanting, and expensive. Sometimes it is looted. Note the hole in the top pot. Click the picture for more images of pots.


This was the second show of the series and is interesting to me because I grew up in New Mexico and Arizona. In high school, I spent almost every weekend exploring the desert looking for artifacts, fossils, and minerals.
The most compelling evidence on this show was the connection between the runes in Arizona and the record of a man living in Great Britain about the time the runes were carved.
Everything else about the story bothers me. Here’s a list of problems:
1. The cave had been catalogued by the state archeologist in the 1980’s and no record of the rune stone was made at that time. My experience has been that sites are photographed when they are inventoried. Although the state archeologist was with Scott at the site, he did not mention of previous photos that could be used to compare the cave, now to then.
2. Scott points to the remains of an ancient wall and said someone probably knocked it down to loot the cave. Again, when the cave was officially recorded, the state of the wall should have been reported.
Let me digress. In the American Southwest there are 1000’s of these ancient sites.
A reconstructed pit house.  In the desert they were often covered with brush.

A reconstructed pit house. In the desert they were often covered with brush.


Many are simple nomadic camp sites, others are more sophisticated temporary pit houses, and others are extremely sophisticated pueblos that were centers of the Anasazi and other civilizations. Feathers from Macaws and shells from the Pacific Ocean have been found in these sites, demonstrating how well connected they were to other Native American cultures.
Chaco Canyon is a remote site today, but once was a urban center for the Anasazis.

Chaco Canyon is a remote site today, but once was a urban center for the Anasazis.


In the past, up to the 1970’s, no one cared about the primitive sites. I researched them in the El Paso library, where local ones encountered during construction were recorded. A typical report was 4 or 5 pages, with location, photos, and a count of artifacts found. A typical assessment was to set up sieves, toss the sand through them, then count and catalogue the artifacts. Example: 2 projectile points, 54 chards, etc.
The range of the Anasazi culture

The range of the Anasazi culture


3. Getting back to the rune stone, there must have been a lot of blow sand in the cave for the stone to have been hidden during the initial archeological assessment. That much sand would be a substantial deterrent to looters. Remember the site was not accessible by vehicle, which means all digging would be by hand.
My knowledge of remote site looting is that high value items, such as Mimbres pottery, are sought out and targeted. This is done by thrusting a pole into the rubble until a pot is hit, often breaking it, then they dig a small hole straight to the valuable item. They don’t care about bone, flint, and wooden tools, so digging the entire floor of a remote cave by hand is unusual.
4. Scott notes that the runes have a fresh appearance, which he thought might be because the stone was buried in blow sand and therefore was protected from the elements. But how long would it take for blow sand to fill the cave to the point that the entire stone was covered? Blow sand would fill the cave slowly over centuries, therefore the bottom runes, being covered for a longer time, would have shown less wear than the upper runes. This was not noted, or checked on during the show.
5. Next Scott goes to the Gila Cliff Dwelling Monument.
Gila Cliff Dwelling National Monument.  One of 100's of dwellings in the Gila River Valleys.

Gila Cliff Dwelling National Monument. One of 100’s of dwellings in the Gila River Valleys.


The show tries to point out the similarities between this and a shelter in England that was comprised of rooms dug into sandstone. The Gila dwellings are pueblo like structures that were built in a natural wind hollowed cave. Petra, in Jordan, is a dwelling where rooms were dug into the stone. It is similar to the English situation; the Gila is not.
Petra in Jordan. Buildings dug into the sandstone.

Petra in Jordan. Buildings dug into the sandstone.


However, the Gila is where Mimbres pottery comes from. The Gila Wilderness Area contains the East, West and Middle Forks of the Gila River. During pre-Columbian times the Gila River was believed to be the most populated area between the East and West Coasts of the US. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of ruins in those valleys. Since it is a wilderness area, no motorized vehicles are allowed. Three of us once spent a week backpacking there. We saw about a dozen ruins, and not one other person.
In conclusion, I have to be negative on the Englishman in Arizona until a more thorough investigation is done, including the following:
1. Check the depth of sand in nearby caves to see if it is reasonable that blow sand covered the rune stone until looters uncovered it.
2. Check the surroundings, including nearby caves for artifacts related to the medieval European. He would not have sat in that cave all the time he was there.
3. Check the rune stone for differential aging top to bottom.
4. Sift the damn thing to see if there is some other evidence.
5. Review the state archeologist’s record about the site. See if any photos reveal more information.

16 thoughts on “Comments on America Unearthed: Medieval Englishman in Arizona

  1. This is all crap, I was there in the late 80’s and again I think 1990 and I never saw this rock with writing on it. not alone I don’t even remember the rock it self. And there were bee’s in the back when I was there too and it dead end quickly with solid rock

    • You should have captured a bee and had its DNA tested to see if it were from England. In any case, I don’t know many people who thought that show was one of the better ones. I wonder why they led the first season off with it.

  2. Some plausibility to the story, but I could not believe it to be true without a body. No attempt was made to obtain an excavation permit? Too much speculation. Scott Wolter should know better than to draw such conclusions without solid proof. Some episodes do really make you think…like the one about Meriwether Lewis’ death. He may have been murdered but we cannot assume a government conspiracy. Land speculators or petty thieves…perhaps.

    • We must keep in mind that these shows are meant to attract a specific TV audience based on some stats about that audience. Conspiracy nuts may overlap or be a large subset of the targeted viewers, so conspiracy nonsense gets thrown in. Such nonsense may disenchant you and me, but then we may be a minority that can be sacrificed for the greater advertiser good.

  3. I grew up and lived 10 miles from this cave in Elgin. We used to camp all over the Mustang mountains. I know for a fact that these markings were made by a good friend of mine in high school about 15 years ago. He found it from and old book and thought it looked cool. He did it with an old railroad spike because it looked cooler that way. It is such a joke that they have a whole show on this!! H2 has become a joke of they think this is real. It is a cool cave but so many people visit it and leave their own mark.

    • Could you or your friend please supply some more information on what the book was that inspired the inscription? What does it suppose to mean?

  4. The show is a downer. I happen to have a great interest and openness with regard to alternative theories about the spread of civilization and of the human species in general. There are so many serious people looking into so many controversial finds all over the world. Wolters shows little healthy scepticism or intellectual curiosity and I feel like I’m listening to the local high school conspiracy theorist just jump to conclusions and imply that everything is a government cover up. Shame, could have been a much better series.

  5. As for my overall view of the episode and series, commenter Michael Anderson has stated my sentiments perfectly. Scott Wolter is a professional liar, and it is a travesty that such entertainments are passed off even as semi-serious speculation, notwithstanding any boilerplate that rolls with the credits.

    I agree with the blogger that the dwellings carved from sandstone in Staffordshire are not similar to the cliff dwellings in Arizona. The local Staffordshire historian whom Wolter found willing to play along there said that these were “not a coincidence”– a statement the truth of which depends on the fact that the two things do not actually coincide. The Staffordshire carved homes compare better to Petra, Jordan and Sassi di Matera, Italy. The Staffordshire shill is typical of the people appearing with Wolter in his scripted fictions, which are in a class of entertainment that includes the tongue-in-cheek tall tales of Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, and the World of Commander McBragg. I note with amusement that someone, whether wag or true believer, has posted the Arizona site on FindAGrave.com as the final resting place of one Peter “Rough” Hurech (11?? – 1200) of Staffordshire, England, and cites Scott Wolter as “noted Archeogeoligist” (sic).

    The original poster has done a fine job on the problems with the physical aspects of the evidence (so to speak) at the Arizona site itself. Therefore I think I can best complement his post by addressing other areas, starting with the choice of language (Anglo-Saxon) and script (runes) depicted as the putative burial marker’s inscription. Staffordshire is no seafarer’s place, but a landlocked county in the West Midlands of England. It lies within what was formerly the Kingdom of Mercia, one of the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy established 527 and disestablished 918. The Roman Period in England ended in 409 with the expulsion of the Roman civil administration; the time that followed is called “the sub-Roman Period.” Mercia resisted conversion to Christianity longer than did the other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, converting under King Peada in 656 probably by the influence of the monastery at Lindisfarne then under Bishop Finian. Mercian was one of four main dialectical forms of Old English (Anglo-Saxon or Anglo-Frisian), and was the one favored by, among other scholars, J. R. R. Tolkein, who used both words and names from it in his fictions. The time during which Old English was a living language spans from the mid-5th century to the mid-12th century, persisting longest in the southeast of Scotland and in pockets of England, so that its ultimate extinction had come some half century before 1200, the year ostensibly given on the Arizona stone. Old English was written originally in a Runic script, specifically futhorc, but only through the 9th century except as a matter of antiquarian interest, becoming rare by the time of the Norman Invasion in 1066 and wholly disappearing soon after that. Around the 9th century, Irish monastics introduced the half-unical Latin script for rendering Old English, this giving way to the Insular Latin script until the end of the 12th century at which time it was replaced by the Carolingian miniscule Latin script from the continent. Thus it appears very unlikely that Old English or Anglo-Saxon would have been used for the memorial of an Englishman from a Staffordshire manor house (as suggested in the television episode) rather than Latin, as was customary, or Anglo-Norman French which evolved from 1066 and remained the court language until the 15th century. Moreover it is wholly implausible that a member of a crew of seafarers in 1200, quite apart from the geography, would have chiseled an Anglo-Saxon burial inscription in futhoric (giving the benefit of the doubt, as any other form of Runic would be incongruous to England) in 1200. Runes appeal to the romance of the target audience, and their straight lines are more easily chiseled in stone than Latin script, even by one who is not a skilled stone carver. Indeed it is this practical consideration that gives us Latin inscriptions styling the “U” as “V” when carved into stone and minted onto coins in mimicry of the stone inscriptions.

    About the geography, it would not be much more of a stretch of the imagination to say that Hurech and his crew flew or teleported to the Mustang Mountains of Arizona from England, as sailed to North America and traveled the rest of the way over land to get there. While we know by indisputable archeological evidence that Vikings visited the northeastern fringes of North America, and cannot completely rule out other voyages from western Europe to the eastern shores of North America, the operative words are “eastern” and “shores.” Assuming these medieval Englishmen could have traveled a few hundred miles of Sonoran Desert from the northernmost shore of the Gulf of California to get there, this would have first required them to go around Cape Horn to get there, in an 11th century sailing vessel. Absent that, the trek from the Texas coast of the Gulf of Mexico is easily fifteen hundred miles, much of that desert as well. The only sense that the remoteness of the “find” makes is that it is off-road and thus easier to chisel a rock undiscovered in the process. This scenario also accounts, better than any alternative explanation, for its brand-spanking-new appearance.

  6. H2, like History Channel, is an embarrassment and worse: it is catnip to the minds of the kind of borderline-paranoid type that is now legion in our society. What was once educational TV has devolved into just one more aspect of the mass dumbing down of Western culture. “Idiocracy” may prove to be the most prophetic film of all time at this rate. I won’t let my child watch these shows; if he wants to learn history and science, there are genuine resources available. TV is just about selling crap you don’t need, and whatever it takes to get knuckle-draggers to buy the crap is fair game.

    • I liked Decoded. Although they didn’t delve into each topic with full diligence, they did at least brush over different view points on the issues. In the end, they tallied among themselves whether the idea being discussed had merit or not, and usually there was a split vote. I think it’s good to hear differing opinions and to have to sort out the best explanation for one’s self. Unfortunately, Scott seems to always take the most fantastic point of view. I assume the producers think this will get the greatest audience. I think it would be better to take the most reasonable view. In this case, I think the evidence points to the Mexican artist who lived near there some 50 or so years before the crosses were found. If Scott wants to discard this, he should say, “This is the most popular theory but it is wrong because…”
      I still like the show because I hear about things I never knew about before. It’s up to me to decide whether I believe them.

    • No, I did not know about it, but I’ll search for it on the Internet. I’m not surprised though. The Anasazi have a spot in Chaco Canyon that marks the solstices.

  7. With so many questions unanswered, so many possibilities of pre- Columbian Europeans and un-looked at information available, why is this not looked into more professionally? The inference of a persons name attached to pre-Columbian US and UK existance, could this rival King Tut for valuable information? Is there a rule for not looking beyond Christopher Columbus for Europeans actually being as far as the southwest.

    • I’ve heard that a lobby among the Native Americans does not allow DNA testing, or any disruption of burial sites. If true, this hypersensitivity is suspicious to me. Are they in danger of losing their rights if an earlier European presence is detected? It seems something is at play here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>