Friday, September 20, 2019

The Strange Case of the Crystal Skull

The Crystal Skull in the British Museum

The Crystal Skull is a 19th century con man’s scam.  In the late 19th century, when European interest in ancient culture was at its peak, clever con men went to work.  Crystal Skulls, supposedly of pre-Columbian Aztec or Mayan origin, soon appeared in major museums in England and France.  It was one, Eugène Boban, an antiquities dealer who opened his shop in Paris in 1870, who is most associated with 19th-century museum collections of Crystal Skulls. Boban is said to have tried to sell a Crystal Skull to Mexico's national museum as an Aztec artifact, but was unsuccessful. Boban later moved his business to New York City. The skull was exhibited at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in New York. It was sold at auction, and bought by Tiffany andCo., who later sold it at cost to the British Museum in 1897.

The French were no cleverer than the British when it came to skulls.  The Crystal Skull in the Musée de l'Homme's in Paris was donated by Alphonse Pinart, an ethnographer who had bought it from the con man Eugene Boban.

It was not until the 20th century that the truth came out.  Studies demonstrated that the skulls were manufactured in the mid-19th century. The skulls were crafted in the 19th century in Germany, quite likely at workshops in the town of Idar-Oberstein, which was renowned for crafting objects made from imported Brazilian quartz. This type of crystal was determined to be only found in Madagascar and Brazil, and thus unknown to the Aztecs or Maya.

In 1992, the Smithsonian investigated a Crystal Skull provided by an anonymous donor.  Supposedly the artifact was of Aztec origin. The investigation concluded that this skull was made in the 1950s or later.

Philip Wade and Ellen Ellsworth search for Paititi, the lost city of the Incas and final resting place for hidden treasure that eluded the conquering Spaniards hundreds of years ago. They will find more than they ever imagined possible in the high mountains and dark jungles of South America.  A paranormal romance.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

George Washington and Ham

 The Smokehouse at Mount Vernon

Inside the Smokehouse

Each morning at Mount Vernon, George Washington’s wife, Martha, met with the cooks to plan the menu for dinner, the main meal of the day served between 2:00 and 4:00.  Mount Vernon dinners required two cooks aided by several assistants who performed tedious tasks like peeling vegetables and plucking turkeys.  Martha Washington briefly hired German cooks but most of Mount Vernon’s cooks were slaves.  A great bell was rung fifteen minutes before dinner at Mount Vernon.  Guests changed into dressier clothes for dinner.  George and Martha Washington welcomed thousands of guests to Mount Vernon in the more than forty years they lived there.  A slave butler and waiters, in livery, were responsible for bringing food to the table quickly and efficiently.  Dinner consisted of two courses. 

The first course featured meat and vegetable dishes.  Ham was almost always featured.  A ham was boiled daily and Martha took great pride in her hams.  Martha sent hams as gifts.  In 1796 George Washington informed the Marquis de Lafayette that Mrs. Washington, “…had packed and sent…a barrel of Virginia hams.”  He reminded his friend, “…you know the Virginia ladies value themselves on the goodness of their bacon.”  In addition to ham, foods likely to be found on Martha Washington’s table included carrot puffs, chicken fricassee, pickled red cabbage, fish, and onion soup. Even though these foods appear familiar, the seasonings were very different from those used in modern cooking. Colonial cooks liked nutmeg and especially enjoyed a sweet taste. Salt and pepper were not heavily used. Some foods would make the modern diner blanche, rabbits and poultry, for example, were not only prepared with their heads and feet still attached, they were served at dinner that way as well.

Neither Martha Washington nor the women of the South’s leading families were marble statues, they had the same strengths and weaknesses, passions and problems, joys and sorrows, as the women of any age.  So just how did they live?

These are the often overlooked stories of early America. Stories such as the roots of racism in America, famous murders that rocked the colonies, the scandalous doings of some of the most famous of the Founding Fathers, the first Emancipation Proclamation that got revoked, and stories of several notorious generals who have been swept under history’s rug.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

The Peralta Stones: Key to the Lost Dutchman’s Mine?

The Superstition Mountains of Arizona, the Legend of the Lost Dutchman’s Mine, and the Peralta Stones are inextricably linked. The entire story supposedly began in 1748 when the Peralta family are said to have started mining silver and gold in the Superstition Mountains. With the Mexican War of 1848, law and order disintegrated in the area and the Apache Indians grew increasingly hostile, attacking the miners almost continuously. It is said, that disaster finally overtook the Peralta family in September 1848 with a general massacre by the Apaches. Following this massacre the Apaches controlled the Superstition Mountains until 1865.  Supposedly after the massacre of 1848 the Indians filled the mine shafts and disguised the remains.

Jacob Waltz, the “Dutchman” enters the picture in 1871 with his partner Jacob Weiser.  The two immigrants supposedly purchased a map drawn by the original Peralta family and located the mine “within an imaginary circle whose diameter is not more than five miles and whose center is marked by the Weaver’s Needle.”  Weiser soon vanished...the victim of either, Indians, desperados, or Waltz, depending on which story you want to believe. The Dutchman continued working the mine, carrying the secret of its location to the grave with him in 1891.

 For over fifty years after the death of the Waltz, treasure hunters followed the ambiguous clues that the Dutchman left behind as to the whereabouts of the mine, such as these helpful clues:

“No miner will find my mine. To find my mine you must pass a cow barn. From my mine you can see the military trail, but from the military trail you cannot see my mine. The rays of the setting sun shine into the entrance of my mine. There is a trick in the trail to my mine. My mine is located in a north-trending canyon. There is a rock face on the trail to my mine.”

Something significant changed in 1949 when the so called Peralta Stones were discovered in the desert. A Mexican bracero (a legal migrant laborer) was digging fence posts near Black Point, in Pinal County, when he came across a large flat stone.  He dug the stone out only to find that it was covered in strange writing.  He recognized a Spanish word, Indian petroglyphs, and some Spanish markings.  In all, the bracero dug up three stones carved with writing and a crude map. The bracero hauled the curious stones into Florence Junction, three miles away, where he washed them, and prepared to sell the curious stones to any willing tourist who might come along.  
Robert G. Tumlinson (or Travis E. Tumlinson depending on who is telling the story) of Portland, Oregon turned out to be that tourist.  The bracero pocketed the equivalent of a week’s wages, and Tumlinson drove off with the stones.  Tumlinson went on to Phoenix, to visit his brother.  The two brothers thoroughly washed the rocks and examined them, determining that what they were looking at was some kind of coded map.

There a number of variations on exactly how, where, and by whom the Stones were discovered, but many “Dutch Hunters” believe that the Stones refer to the location of the Lost Dutchman’s Mine and that they were carved by the Peralta family. The Stones consist of two red sandstone tablets and a heart-shaped rock made of red quartzite. Each red stone block is carved with lines and one long line. When the two blocks are placed side by side and the stone heart is inserted the long line has 18 dots pecked into it. This style of map is known as a Post Road Map and it is a style used in Mexico and Spain during the period of the Mexican-American War. Inscribed on one the stones is the date 1847, and one stone contains a sunken relief of a heart, into which the heart-shaped stone fits perfectly. The back of the stone that the heart-shaped stone fits into has the outline of a cross carved into it.

Apparently, Tumlinson spent a number of years in the Superstition Mountains trying to track down clues from the Stones.  The Stones emerged again in the early 1960s, after Tumlinson’s death.  One Clarence O. Mitchell persuaded Tumlinson’s widow that he could decipher the stone maps.  Mitchell organized the M.O.E.L. Corp. in Nevada and began a stock selling campaign among his friends and close associates to raise capital for the treasure expedition. Mitchell raised more than $70,000 over a two-year period. Eventually Mitchell ran into difficulties with the Securities and Exchange Commission for over selling the number of shares the corporation had issued.  The corporation was forced into bankruptcy.

In 1964, freelance writer Richard B. Stolley sold a story about the stone maps to Life magazine.  The article provided the first public photographs of the Peralta Stones (although certain markings on the maps were covered by black tape).  These photographs inflamed the nation’s imagination.

In 1967, Barry Storm, the “Dean of American Treasure Hunters”, wrote an article for Treasure Hunters in an attempt to decipher the Peralta Stone Maps. This article was followed by a variety of other writers, photographers, film makers, and con men who have since used the Peralta maps as a factual source for treasure hunting in the Superstition Mountains.

So the real question is, “Are the Peralta Stones real or fakes?”  Do they present genuine clues, or phony clues?  For more than seventy years the Peralta Stones have been the subject of heated controversy.  Over this time period those who’ve studied the maps have remained firmly and pretty evenly divided into two separate camps: (1) those who believe, and (2) those who do not believe. It does not appear that this will change anytime soon.

These are the stories of treasures great and small and of those who hunt for them. The book includes the world's most famous treasure cipher, sunken treasure ships, treasure caves, and tales of over fifty of the most famous lost treasures of the globe. For all who dare to go in search of golden opportunities and glittering prizes.

A lively history of the Civil War sprinkled with tales of over 60 buried treasure in sixteen states. History buffs and adventure seekers will enjoy this work.