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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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