Museum trying to cash in on Silverbell artifact popularity

The Curator of the Arizona History Museum has put the Silverbell Artifacts on display after an episode of the History Channel’s “America Unearthed” aired a documentary about the artifacts.

Mysterious Silverbell artifacts on display | | Tucson, Arizona.

It’s a desert mystery that has baffled Tucsonans and historians for nearly nine decades.

In 1924, Tucsonan Charles Manier was traveling with his family to Picture Rocks, when he discovered what is now known as “The Silverbell Artifacts”, along Silverbell Road.

The collection includes more than 30 lead crosses and swords. To this day, nobody knows where they came from. “Some people say the Romans lived here, others say they’re from the lost tribe of Israel, all sorts of theories,” says Julia Arriola, Curator of the Arizona History Museum.

Many of the artifacts have Latin words written all over them. “Some of the professors who looked at them found out the text was actually lifted right from textbooks,” Arriola says.

She says one other strange characteristic about the artifacts is that they were embedded in caliche, which is a type of cement. “So whoever did it went through a lot of work,” Arriola says.

The artifacts will be on display for the next few months. Many archaeologists think they are one big hoax. You can’t blame the museum for wanting to cash in on the interest. But there is a lack of critical thinking here. Lost tribes of Israel? The Romans? In ARIZONA? Unlikely. And it feels icky to suggest there is something more mysterious to them. It feels unethical.

As Jason Colavito notes: There is not a single archaeological trace of a colony of Europeans anywhere in Arizona. No trash middens with European artifacts, no foundations of European-style structures, no graves with European artifacts. Nothing.

The caliche mystery? Can be created in just hours.

It gets funnier. There is a dinosaur depicted on one of the artifacts.

Check out this piece for a review of the America Unearthed episode. As far as I can tell, these have virtually ZERO credibility, no supporting evidence, and should have been displayed as a “famous hoax”.

Tip: Jason Colavito

  8 comments for “Museum trying to cash in on Silverbell artifact popularity

  1. March 7, 2013 at 9:47 PM

    What would the Lost Tribes be doing with crosses? They were “lost” centuries before an instrument of torture ironically came to be recognized by most Christians as a religious symbol.

    Has critical thinking become a lost art?

  2. March 7, 2013 at 10:27 PM

    Aw cheez, has this curator ever thought of how useless a sword made of lead is? One hit against a shield or another weapon and the edge would split and the blade bend.

    Unless i heard wrong didn’t she mention that the ‘mysterious’ inscriptions were copied out of text books on Latin?


  3. daran
    March 7, 2013 at 11:44 PM

    “lost tribe of Israel” is a hoax in itself! there were 12 tribes and none “got lost”
    families of Israel`s maybe left Israel long ago and could have went anywhere.
    As for the artifacts, a 1924 find could put them back to pilgrims time and to toe the official history and archeological line is just silly.
    Ancient mariners could sail the world and did.
    Their genes are all over the pacific and Australia.

  4. Justin
    March 8, 2013 at 7:31 PM

    It makes me wonder if there is some sort of connection between the crosses and swords with Mormon historiography. Could fake archaeological evidence that “confirms” some of those stories be the purpose of the hoax?

  5. Justin
    March 8, 2013 at 7:36 PM

    Yeah, looking at it closely and pausing, you can see what the story doesn’t mention: the Hebrew words. The Hebrew is “pointed” with vowels like it would if it were from a textbook. It would be vowelless script if it were actually as old as it’s supposed to be. A very bad fake. Maybe, just speculating, that whoever made this wanted it to look like an artifact of Jesus in the New World; there are many Mormons in Arizona.

  6. C.George
    March 8, 2013 at 10:14 PM

    A 1950s article from a Phoenix newspaper tells of some dam structures and drilled holes in rocks in the Patagonia Mountains. It has been speculated that these holes, either for mining or simply horse and livestock hitching rings, were made by settlers left behind by the first expedition of Fray Marcos de Niza in about 1539 (The first European west of the Mississippi) The site has been washed away since the 1950s, but an old timer in the area clearly remembers seeing the old dams. The area is known for its lead deposits and was mined for lead up until the Civil War. DeNiza’s expedition also went north through what is now the Silverbell area in search of the fabled lost cities of gold. Is it possible that DeNiza or one of his company left these lead items behind?

  7. Justin
    March 10, 2013 at 11:23 AM

    It’s an intriguing possibility but I don’t think they’re that old (16th century), based on the Hebrew script–but it is technically possible. The style of the Hebrew letters and its Masoretic pointings depicted here were not really spread around in non-Jewish circles at this time. De Niza being a learned priest from Spain (with a long history of Jewish scholasticism) may have had some access to text like that. The orthography of the Latin text would give it away, but the video doesn’t really show it. It’s most likely they were either created in the 19th century or in the 1920’s when they were “unearthed.” The History Channel is such a horrible source for ancient history – it’s tabloid fodder.

  8. Justin
    March 10, 2013 at 11:27 AM

    I’m in the field of ancient languages and writing systems. One of the things that led me here was fascination with all the crummy forgeries people were making to try to get rich and/or famous.

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