HORUS VOL II. Issue 3
The Newark Holy Stones
Robert W. Alrutz
I think we have to put everything in time and place. In order to understand an event you have to know its history, particularly with the respect to the mounds in this area. This
area was part of the Northwest Territory -explored basically in the latter half of the eighteenth century. Most the individuals coming through followed the Indian trails that
existed, and of course, many of those were buffalo trails.
We are, for those of you who are not familiar with the area, in the town of Newark, Ohio. Down just South on 1-79 is Buckeye Lake, and we will be talking about a site near
there. It lay along a major trail connecting Chillicothe with major settlements toward the northeast - that is; they were major settlements before the tide of disruption of the
white invasion and the movement of East-coast people to the West.
And what did they find when they arrived? They found a giant complex of earth mounds which, entirely covered the area which is now the city of Newark. Figure 2 is a
sketch of the Central Mound, often referred to as the Eagle Mound.
[*!* Image: Eagle Mound: Newark, Ohio]
The myths all about this - interestingly enough, the myths that I dug up dealt with the lost tribes of Israel, the Celts, the Africans, and the Phoenicians. These were references
in local literature. Obviously the early thinkers felt the great moundworks could not have been done by the Indians. And I think one reason for that was not merely the fact
that the Indians said they didn't know anything about them. If they had been built by the Indians, that would have given better stature to the Indians and we couldn't have
slaughtered them so easily. But there is much more to the story.
Some of the mounds were studied as early as the later 18th and early 19th century, for instance, the great scientist who traveled Ohio. He gave them pipe water and left his
great diaries, writing about his observations quite early. But the largest and the best study of the local site was done by the great early archeologists, Squire and Davis.
[*!* Image: Ephraim George Squier]
[*!* Image: Edwin Hamilton Davis]
Squire was an editor of a newspaper and Davis was a physician. But these gentlemen published a fantastic volume - the first contributions of the knowledge of the mounds, as
the first publication of the Smithsonian. But even then, they observed and registered some destruction of the mounds.
Later a more extensive survey of the Newark Earthworks was done by Charles Whittlesey. Charles Whittlesey was a fascinating figure of the 18th, 19th century - a Cleveland
resident. He was in the Civil War, Black Hawk Wars, was a consultant to the copper mines of Michigan, agricultural surveys in Wisconsin, and for two years was supported
by a grant to study the mounds. He then became to a large extent Ohio's resident specialist because Squire and Davis moved out.
[*!* Image: Charles Whittlesey]
I don't know whether Whittlesey inspired David Wyrick or not. The Wyricks were local. We know that David born down South of here. He moved to Newark in about 1840
and was the surveyor of Licking County. He was quite instrumental and surveyed much of this county. We know he had skills and he too surveyed and made a map of the
Newark earthworks in 1860. If you would be interested in seeing it you will find it at the Western Reserve Historical Society drawn on wrapping paper. I feel at times that his
perhaps is the best survey. The area has a lot of interesting things about it.
Wyrick also drew the Alligator Mound. Actually he drew this hoping it would sell as a postcard - it's on cardstock and this too is in Western Reserve Historical Society - and
sketches of a number of sites that I have yet to be able to identify. He was quite an artistic surveyor.
So we knew where he grew up, where he married, that he published a newspaper, and that he came to Newark. We know he lived down in the southeast part of Newark where
he listed himself as running a nursery and also we know that he perhaps was highly regarded for his mathematical ability.
But we also know he was a digger. The local boys would refer to him as a potato digger, and I still wonder if, perhaps, he originally had been inspired and encouraged by
He was studious and probably knew of artifacts such as the pipes that were found, and the copperwork and the famous Adena pipe, and knew in these mounds one would find
fantastic things such as the Mica possibly from Arkansas, and grizzly feet from the Rocky Mountain area.
[*!* Image: Map of the Newark Earthworks by David Wyrick, 1860. The probable site of the "Keystone" discovery is indicated by the arrow (from Beers, 1866)]
But, not unlike others, he thought the mounds were the result of the Lost Tribes of Israel. Now this, of course, was in a period when nobody knew anything - everybody had
his right to an opinion but later it was held against him. Perhaps the most critical note about David Wyrick is that he was sick. The fact is that he probably ceased to be
surveyor because of rheumatoid arthritis. He is described as being a pitiful figure whose hands were almost like clubs and one wondered how he could hold a pencil. His feet
were so swollen as to look hardly human but he kept on working. Eventually he had to quit as surveyor and since there was no workmen's compensation, no social security -
he was destitute.
We pick up his story a bit again in June, 1860 in Newark Ohio with the introduction of the "Holy Stones!' This is how they were labeled in the 19th century and are still
referred to as that today.
The site were are interested in was in McCrory's Woods. This is just near the so-called public road, Main Street today - and one could locate the site today except that you
would be in somebody's back yard. On his map I found an indication of a red line pointing at one of the small Cshaped mounds. These were for him a cache; his explanations
are on the manuscript. Cache was a term given to numbers of these pits along the earth works. Some people called them bone pits.
On the last of June in 1860, his digging brought up a most remarkable find - the so-called Keystone. On this stone were inscribed four Hebrew phrases - " Holy of Holies",
"King of the Earth", "the Wall of Jehova" and "the Word of the Lord"- rather standard Hebraic phrases.
This discovery of the Keystone is perhaps one of the greatest events in mound research in Licking County. The translations were made by the local Episcopal priest - a young
man by the name of John Winspeare McCarty who was a graduate of nearby Kenyon College.
[*!* Image: John Winspeare McCarty]
David Wyrick's discovery was exposed to the intellectuals, one of whom was no lesser person than Isaac Wise of the Hebrew Theological Seminary in Cincinnati. Wyrick
was also visited by and showed his stones to the sculptor, Jones, the great Ohio sculptor of Lincoln. [Jones happened to be a Granville resident in the Welsh Hills nearby.]
The result was an absolute disaster. The general opinion was "that's modem stuff - anybody could scratch characters on a stone - don't give us that nonsense."
He had a little bit of turmoil because in Harper's Weekly a reporter known only by his initials, wrote a most bitter tirade about this "fakery" in the West. In was full of
snobbery and bigotry. It was a terrible thing. This appeared about September and it must really have been a blow to Wyrick. Later that year or early the next year he
published his own little pamphlet on the subject and you can feel he was responding to that article.
[*!* Image: Sketch of "Keystone" (front view)]
[*!* Image: Sketch of "Keystone" (side view)]
Now let's shift the scene just South of here to Jacksontown. The time is in November of 1960 at a spot known as the Great Stone Mound, just a mile from Jacksontown. A
drawing in an 1839 atlas probably represents only the mound core. We know the original size was much larger by the fact that between 10 and 15 thousand wagon loads of
stone were hauled from that site up the National Pike to Hebron, put on barges and taken out to the Licking Summit Reservoir for the dike.
One could say "they tore it down and hauled it away" but if they hadn't we would not have known that it was covering a ring of earthen mounds with smaller mounds in their
center. Though this was all that was left, one of the exposed earthen mounds had been dug into sometime in the 1850s. The diggers had exposed a coffin, as the phrase was
used, and apparently left.
[*!* Image: The Decalogue Stone lying in the lower half of the stone box in which it was sealed [Photo: Katy Pieters]]
Someone encouraged David Wyrick, so, David went there in July in 1860 - I think he took some others with him but I can't support that - and he brought back the coffin. [See
page 13.1 It caused no end of mirth in Newark, and it is quite a miracle that David kept it from the hatchets and the knives of the boys who wanted to make tokens out of it.
[Something was made from it- a gavel was made from it and presented to the president of the Licking County Pioneer and Archaeological Society. Wouldn't it be wonderful
if we could find that gavel for carbon dating.]
Now this is a critical little thing in part of our story. Wyrick went back again in November, and he took a party of five with him, including a cousin, a local dentist and some
others. They dug down underneath where the coffin had been through a layer of clay that the dentist described as being light enough for dental impressions; one could say
like fire-clay, perhaps. There is no clay like that at that site. It had to have come from some miles away, possibly from the coal fields which are East or South.
Wyrick, in digging down, uncovered a stone box. It was sealed together with a white cement, and the party was very excited. All agreed that this "giant spectacle case" would
not be opened until they got back to Newark and so it would be opened before the crowds - and within five minutes they opened it.
It had a hole in the end and one of the party blew in the hole and it came open. [It was cracked during shipment to and from New York by express.] Traces of reflectivity
along the top rim may be all that is left of what Wyrick described as a kind of bronzing on it. There were linear grooves matching between the two halves. Two other little
holes in the case didn't match in alignment.
Inside was the most remarkable thingthe Decalogue Stone. On it was carved a priestly figure and the word, "Moses." Every surface was covered with Hebrew characters,
even the edges. If you can follow it, it is the Ten Commandments - with some problems - as if, as a Rabbi from New York said at the time, it was carved by someone who had
recently learned or had forgotten his Hebrew. But it could not have been done by a Hebrew because no Hebrew would have put a picture of Moses on a holy plaque. This
fact, along with the mistakes was used to discredit the authenticity of the stone.
Now the coffin didn't attract much attention but this thing blew the lid off. Wyrick was, of course under attack. Remember that Wyrick was also broke and was accused of
trying to make money. He was derided because he made woodcuts of the stones and was trying to sell prints. I've seen the prints of the woodcuts that he had made to have the
printing done. It's a miracle how some of this material survives.
Wyrick was in trouble. Somebody, possibly Squire or Davis, put him in touch with Theodore Dwight who was the corresponding secretary of the American Ethnological
Society, the national organization in New York city. Frankly, Wyrick was trying to sell the stones. He was broke, starving by then.
Dwight first had to validate the find and formed a committee, including Squire and Davis. For reasons of health and so on they didn't get to it for quite a while. Finally their
report did appear and in no way did it discredit the stone. Neither could they, any more than someone could today, from the evidence, say the artifacts were genuine. But they
said there was no evidence of fakery that they could see.
By now the Civil War was on, but finally David found a buyer. At Coschocton were two sons of a banker. David Johnson is the one who was in the foreground. In high
school, David Johnson already had become a museum curator - his father built him a house to store all the artifacts. Somewhere along in the period - probably 1863-1864,
Wyrick sold the stones to Johnson; we do not know for how much.
But it was too late. In 1864, in one issue of the paper, the local Advocate, there appeared the notice of the sheriff's sale of David Wyrick's possessions. On the opposite page
was the notice of David Wyrick's death from an overdose of laudanum. It was sold across the counter then. David had rheumatoid arthritis and needed something - and he
That was the end of David. One of his friends, the president of the local Pioneer and Archaeological Society, John Wilson, together with the Reverend William Bower, who
had replaced McCarty at the Episcopal Church, wrote a letter to McCarty who was in Cincinnati at the time and who had the letter printed in the paper. It said; "We're back in
the Holy Stone business."
It seems that a group of Newarkites, including the dentist and some others, dug in a mound East of Newark in Madison township. There they found two remarkable artifacts
which have come to be called the Inscribed Head and the Cooper Stone. The inscribed head was about the size of a hen's egg with Hebrew characters across the forehead that
have been translated as having something to do with the young, the newborn, or untimely death. This has been translated in various ways. The figure below is not a good
illustration but it is the only illustration of it in existence - a pencil sketch appended to a letter.
[*!* Image: Sketch of Inscribed Head]
The other stone, we know only from the description of one Rev. Mathew Miller. He was the Methodist Minster to the Jews of Ohio. He apparently was quite a speaker about
this stone, and from his writings about it, I tried to get a couple of my art students to reconstruct it - but they just couldn't do it. Later, a friend of mine near Buckeye Lake
called me one night and asked me to describe the stone I'd never seen. This man was a photographer and collected antique pictures. He had three pictures of the Cooper Stone
which he had picked up at a sale.
[*!* Image: Edge-on view of the Cooper Stone]
It was a sculpture with an animal along one side, and several human faces along the edges. One face has an arrow on the forehead, a common feature in the artifacts around
here, and the other face is inscribed on the forehead with what appear to be Hebrew characters. It has never been translated. Seen from different sides and angles, it turns out
that there are about six faces. The photographs are the only existing illustrations of it.
Then in 1867, Johnson who bought the Holy Stone, made a dig at another dirt mound at the site of the great stone mound. He took back some skulls still embedded in the clay
- if you tried to get the bones out without the clay they fell apart. He took them home and gave one of them to a physician friend, N. Roe Bradner. Bradner took the skull
home to New York. Later Bradner wrote Johnson a letter noting that when he arrived and took the skull from its box, the whole fell apart, and what was in it? - a stone with
more inscriptions. Some critics who have looked at these declare that the Hebrew is too modern to have been done during the period of the Mound-Builders.
[*!* Image: Two views of the Johnson Stone]
But that isn't all of it. We started out with the Newark Holy Stones - five in all. Not very far from here near Zanesville - there was discovered the Brush Creek stone. It was
discovered during a construction project (around 1860). It shows not only a few pick marks, but also very clearly inscribed characters. According to Dr. Barry Fell, it is a
burial stone in a language akin to ancient Arabic. A picture of it was used as the frontispiece for a book on the history of Muskingum. county and, because the publisher
himself absconded with the pre-subscribed funds, the attitude developed that the find itself was a fake.
[*!* Image: The Brush Creek Stone]
In 1969, Newark, Ohio, East Main Street bridge, three blocks from the courthouse, an Ohio Power employee was installing a pole. He looked down, he saw something,
picked it up, washed it off in the river, and it turned out to be an inscribed profile on a small stone. On the other side, there was a frontal view of a face inscribed and,
alongside the face on one side - inscriptions. Along the outer edge an incised groove created a rim which seemed to run around the whole originally, much as the rim on a
[*!* Image: Frontal view of an inscribed artifact discovered in Newark, Ohio (1969)]
Dr. Barry Fell has translated the inscription and identified this artifact as a copy of an Iberian trading piece.
Let us also remember that Great Stone Mound site, and the coffin that David Wyrick brought back. Well, he sketched that, and how he thought the mound had been
constructed. Now when he got there, much of the upper part had been removed. I'm not sure how he reconstructed the shape unless he talked to people who had seen it before
it was reduced. He might have done that. What was intriguing was the central concavity which had been lined with the fine fire-clay. It was in the concavity that the coffin
was found, and in that coffin there were bones around which there was still cloth, copper bracelets, and hair. Now this is most unusual in any North American burials I know
of. The coffin itself is most unusual.
[*!* Image: Cross section of the burial mound drawn by David Wyrick. Sectional view of the clay mound by David Wyrick, published by B. Lossing. "A the upper part of the
clay mound, and B the lower portion. In these the open dots indicate the places where it was evident timbers had been placed, and had rotted away. C the arch stone, 1111
indicating two layers of small stones from six to ten inches [15-25cm] in diameter, and 2 a layer of broad flat stones. D the coffin and skeleton, and E the cavity filled with
water, in which they rested. The clay had evidently been formed into a kind of mortar, and was as hard as sun-dried brick" [Lossing, 1868].]
In a book about the "Bog People" of Denmark and the "Mound People" of Denmark I learned that the Mound-Builders buried their dead in hollowed-out oak coffins
(remarkably similar to that drawn by Wyrick), in clay basins built beneath the mounds, which held water so well that when you cut the coffin open, the water poured out and
the bodies were so well preserved that the brains were still intact In our local situation, there was a period that the [Great Stone Mound] coffin had been exposed, I don't know
how long, before Wyrick got there. We don't know whether it originally may have been well preserved.
As a corallary another dig by a very respectable archaeologist, discovered in a mound at the same site, peat moss that had been carried from Buckeye Lake. The only source
of peat was Buckeye Lake. Bog people? In some of these Danish mounds, there's peat. Diffusion?- or confusion?
This all got me interested, of course, in the general question of what in the world this was all about. Why did they do all of this? Quite independently, in thinking about it, 1
came up with an idea only to discover that in 1870, a man who lived on a farm here just south of Granville, had presented a paper before the Pioneer meeting on July the 4th -every July the 4th they had a Pioneer meeting - this one didn't get published until 1925.
[*!* Image: Two views of the Johnson Stone]
Let any person who is well acquainted with the face of the county inform himself as to the location of 50 or 100 of these scattered mounds in the different counties.
Then let him ascend a few of them and imagine the timber all removed and he will be astonished at the harmony of the relations. Nearly all will seem to be in plain
view - from one, almost every point. And further that nearly all of them seem to have been built with reference to Cherry Valley as a common center. [If you go to
Octagon Mound, you're in Cherry Valley] On this plain is situated several of the largest and most singular works to be found in the county. The Great Circle Mound
seems to constitute a central point in the extensive cluster of works lying in this and adjoining counties. I have found these mounds everywhere on this territory, both on
the hills and the plains, in sufficient numbers to overlook the whole surface of the land, and I do not believe that within the bounds of my research there can be found a
single 50 acre lot that can not be viewed from some one or more of these artificial mounds. I have examined the location of more than 100 and have not found a single
exception to the rule that each one is so situated as to command a view more or less from which others can be seen ... These [referring the highest ones as "signal"
mounds,] are not always found on the highest hills but where they will command the most complete view of the whole land, whether above or below their location, and
where they can be seen by the greatest number of other mounds by views through valleys or between the distant hilltops. This feature is an important one and can not be
the result of accident. On the contrary it shows a careful economy in locating them. We must find some other use for these works more in harmony with the human
mind or on its conception of the nature and relation of things than that of treasure tombs, or military works, or acknowledge that we don't know anything about them.
I mentioned to our host last night that, since his preliminary visit here to arrange these things, I'd come upon something else. We have a newspaper in Granville, the Granville
Times - established in 1880. Today it is run by a young man who is continuing a custom that has existed for quite a few years now of printing a particular page from old
newspapers. Lo and behold, I opened it up to a page - July 27, 1893. Now it's likely that the article could be from 1892 because they sometimes stacked things up and put
them in where needed - [from the London Spectator]
America Not A New World: Indeed, it is quite as venerable as the other continents.
Archaeological lore from researches in Ohio mounds shows relics of a vanished race. We are so accustomed to think of America as a New World, the assertion of a
recent writer that America is an Old World, as compared to other countries is this respect, comes upon the reader as something of shock. But when we find how lavishly
the remains of prehistoric races are scattered over the length and breadth of the North American continent, we realize that ancient monuments are no more numerous on
this side of the Atlantic, than over there. When we consider the work left by the lost races we are constrained to admit that the prehistoric relics of America are as
interesting as any yet discovered within our own quarters. The American archaeologist is, it is true, confronted with a great and peculiar difficulty. This continent is
covered with the remains of prehistoric races. But prehistoric time for him, begins at least, no earlier than the landing of Columbus. And the mystery which must
always envelop a people who have so little in written records commences for him but four centuries ago...The civilization of Mound-Builders at one time was thought
to be equal to that of Tyre or Babylon or Egypt. It is even confidently asserted that here were the relics of Ten Lost Tribes ... It must now, however, be admitted that
there are points in the work of the Mound-Builders in their effigies, pyramids and sacred enclosures which strongly support the view that America was at some remote
period visited by successive waves of invaders from Europe from the coast of Asia or even from Mongolia. Rites such as prevailed in Phoenicia in the Old Testament
times were widely practiced in the North American continent. The more closely the relics of the lost race were examined, the more clear becomes the evidence that
their worship combined elements of the Druids, the Hittites and the Phoenicians.
Dr. Robert W. Alrutz is Professor of Biology, specializing in ecology, at Denison University, Ohio. A long-time resident of Granville, near Newark, Dr. Alrun's study of the
Newark Holy Stones and their history adds a fascinating chapter to the argument for diffusion among ancient cultures. He has published a detailed monograph on the
subject,"The Newark Holy Stones: The History of an Archaeological Tragedy," Journal of Scientific Laboratories, Denison University, 1980, 57, 1-57 & 5872.