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Archaeologists gather to hear story of Brandenburg Stone

Photo courtesy Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center
The Brandenburg Stone is now displayed in the Indiana Room of the Charlestown-Clark County Public Library. The stone traveled from Meade County to the Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center and then to the library. Once a suitable location can be found for display locally, it will be returned to Meade County, archaeological technician Sundea Murphy said.

Messenger Staff

Myths were debunked and commentary regarding a unique Meade County stone were revealed March 3.

The Brandenburg Stone, found on the Paradise Bottoms farm of the late Craig Crecelius in 1912, easily kept the attention of Meade County Archaeological Society members.

Sundea Murphy, past president and a charter member of the Falls of the Ohio Archaeological Society, started with her top five reasons as to why the Welsh had not visited North America, dismissing them all.

One was the fact the boats couldn’t make it across the water.

“If the Santa Maria could get here, the Greek and Phoenician vessels could have gotten here as well,” she said.

The Santa Maria reportedly could carry 100 to 200 tons, enough to carry a year’s supply of food.

Murphy said the Maria was more of a “big-bottomed” boat and the others flat-bottomed.

“Ptolemy’s ship was 500 feet long and carried 1,700 tons and that was in 200 B.C.,” Murphy said.

This ship carried the largest amount of men overseas than any previous example, Murphy said, adding it featured five decks and resembled Noah’s Ark.

A Viking war ship was the last example Murphy cited, adding this ship traveled the world.

“It was called a treasure ship and they didn’t need a big group of men on board. They only had about 100 crew and the rest of the space was to store the treasures they would find,” Murphy said.

The second reason, was the Atlantic Ocean was too vast and it would be dangerous to make the trip.

“The Mediterranean Sea was 2,400 miles wide and 1,600 miles from north to south,” Murphy said.

The sea depth was close to that of the Atlantic, with a few deep ridges in the center.

“If someone were to average it out it would be similar in depth to the Mediterranean,” Murphy said.

“The only problem is people didn’t go from Point A to Point B,” she said. “They had plenty of stops they could make along the way.”

The third reason was early explorers had no reason to believe the Earth was round.

The first person to measure the Earth and determine it was round was librarian Eratosthenes of Alexandria.

“He spent his whole life there and his theories were unmatched until we had satellites,” she said.

The final reason was early explorers didn’t have enough instruments to navigate great distances.

Photo by Larry See Jr.
Steve Straney and Ron Richardson compare notes with speaker Sundea Murphy after the Meade County Archaeological Society meeting last week. The April session will feature Rick Brown speaking about his work related to county archaeology.

“They did have a nocturnal sight, called the northern star and they could tell where they were all the time,” she said.

Another early device was a “spoon compass.” This device was made of hematite and placed on a brass plate with an extremely smooth surface.

“Did they even need a compass?” Murphy questioned. “They could have used beetles.”

According to Murphy, the Vikings always carried beetle boxes.

“There were lots of pictures of beetles, moths and butterflies and some honey bees as well,” she said. “After they got lost they would shake up the box, dump them out and watch them get re-oriented. Every time they did they would face north.”

In setting the case for the Brandenburg Stone being unearthed in Crecelius’ field, Murphy had no doubt in her mind the Welsh came here.

“I’m a scientist and go by facts,” she said. “I’m always looking for the opportunity to be able to prove something scientifically.”

She said there is a considerable amount of limestone in the area.

She recalled how Crecelius hauled the stone to different fairs trying to get someone interested.

“He was a no-nonsense kind of guy and there is no reason he would be trying to make up this story,” she said.

She said Crecelius tried to de termine what the stone said, but eventually gave up.

The stone, now on display at the Charlestown - Clark County Public Library will be returned to Meade County after an appropriate place is located to display it, Murphy said.

“It would have to be in a case so people can look at it,” she said. The stone is 15.5 feet by 29 feet long and is between 1 to 3 inches thick. During the travels it broke into three pieces.

Few explanations exist as to what is written on the stone, and some of those being disseminated are unreliable. “One person said it actually was a fossil embedded in the stone like a fish,” she said. “And the top was where the spine was. If that’s the case that’s the weirdest fish I have seen in my life.”

Another explanation is the stone’s impressions were caused by water, perhaps by being placed on a cave floor.

One explanation, offered by a participant, was that the stone could be a tally sheet of some kind.

The stone is composed of oolite, a soft, pliable material, but once the stone exits from its mud stage it quickly hardens.

If that were the case, Murphy said, the inscriptions would be gone.

Another explanation is the stone resembles a boundary marker.

Historians with the Arthurian Research Foundation in Wales translated the writing.

According to them, the stone reads: “Toward strength (to promote unity), divide the land we are spread over, purely (or justly) between offspring in wisdom.”

In her review, Murphy couldn’t find one stone letter in their translation.

She also asked people who specialize in Celtic and Gaelic languages to review.

Murphy said there were blue beads, which were difficult to make, due to the fact they contained cobalt.

“This was the hardest color to get to set,” Murphy said. “And the Mandan actually had this. They had it before the time of Columbus. All of the others could make this in the area but it faded and cobalt was the only color which wouldn’t fade.”

Murphy said cobalt is one of the most common colors in the Earth’s crust, but it’s everywhere.

“The only way to get cobalt to do what they made it do was to smelt it,” she said. “They either made it or got it from somebody as none of the early explorers never seen anyone smelting metal. That’s one of the things we need to hone in on.”

Murphy showed pictures of a Kentucky fort identical to Welsh ones.

She concluded by saying, if anything found could be tested for DNA, that would greatly assist the investigation.

“The DNA results would tell the whole story,” she said. “All of the other pieces would fall into place somehow, I think.”

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