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“First, …recognize that it's a penny”: Report on the "Newark" Ritual Artifacts


[1] Dr. Arnold Fischel, lecturer at the Sephardic synagogue in New York (founded in 1654, thus with a Sephardic-Dutch connection), a noted scholar and authority, had written a paper, "The Hebrew Inscribed Stones Found in Ohio," delivered in June of 1861 to The American Ethnological Society. In this paper, he stated he was convinced of the authenticity of
the artifact and ascribed it to "medieval and European origins." (See Alrutz, "The Newark Holy Stones: The History of an Archaeological Tragedy," Journal of the Scientific Laboratories, Denison University, 1980, 57: 1-57.) In Fischel's paper, he commented that he had nothing
with which to compare these artifacts (Alrutz 44), yet accustomed to Medieval Sephardic styles, if not this precise object, he would certainly have noted the obvious medieval and Sephardic attributes of the artifact.

[2] The Report from the committee appointed by the society was issued in 1863. (See, Alrutz, 44).

[3] Whittlesey, Western Reserve Historical Society Historical & Archaeological Tract #9..

[4] Alrutz, "Tragedy" 1-57..

[5] Williams, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1991, 167-75.

[6] Lepper and Gill, TIMELINE: A Publication of the Ohio Historical Society, 2000, 17-25.

[7] Cyrus H. Gordon, "Diffusion of Near East Culture in Antiquity and in Byzantine Times," Orient, vol. 30-31 (1995): 69-81. Gordon was not familiar with late-medieval scripts and artifacts.

[8] Deal, Ancient American, Issue # 11 [Jan/Feb 1996], pp. 10- 19.

[9] McCulloch's site is at McCulloch includes other items, such as the Los Lunas inscription (an obvious fake) and the Bat Creek inscription, which appears to be an authentic "souvenir" of Judea, as it states. (Another European family heirloom displayed whenever the words, "Next Year in Jerusalem," were uttered?) McCulloch has also written numerous articles on the artifacts.

[10] See, Jonathan Waxman, "Arnold Fischel: 'Unsung Hero' in American Israel," American Jewish Historical Quarterly, Volume 60, No. 4, June 1971.

[11] The tefillin were the subject of much debate for centuries. The color, however, has never been debated as, from the time of Sumer and Akkad on down through the centuries, black is the color of the Law. This is why the robe of a judge is black to this day.

[12] The item is referred to as a “yad” (hand) tefilla by Rabbinical sources and, even though worn on the arm in more modern use, it is still referred to as the “yad” tefilla.

[13] Similar condensed "decalogues" (with abbreviations and composite graphs) appear in Samaritan documents and among the Dead Sea Scrolls. References in the 2nd century CE to not using the "decalogue" indicate that the text dates earlier. Curiously enough, these condensed versions have points in common with the condensed decalogue in Josephus, Ant. III, vi, 3.

[14] In 1996, David A. Deal and James S. Trimm came to the conclusion that the "decalogue" was a phylactery. ("Ohio Decalog is Ancient Arm Phylactery," Ancient American, Vol. 3, Issue 13: May/June 1996, 25-27) Deal and Trim are correct, if off by 800 odd years on the dating. In 2002, Myron Paine of Martinez, California suggested that the other piece was a head phylactery. It is. (see: The Newark, Ohio Decalogue Stone and Keystone)

[15] The flow detector has been named the "Keystone" because of its shape. It was also stated to be a "Masonic" device in 1860.

[16] The data has been biased by more than ignoring Fischel and the Committee Report. The bias extends to the mistransliterations and mistranslations of the Hebrew texts. The tetragrammaton (YHVH) translates into English as "Lord." El or Elohim (plural) translates as "God." 

[17] "Torah" means "instruction" or "direction," not "law."

[18] The translation of QDS as "Holy" is a King James-ism and there is also a semantic shift in meaning to complicate matters. QDS may be translated as to sanctify, to purify, to cleanse, to hallow, to make sacred --depending upon context. The inscription has been mistranscribed and mistranslated as "Holy of Holies." (A closer translation would be Sanctity of Sanctities/Sacred of Sacreds.) Even using the translation terms of the KJV, "Holy of Holies" would be transliterated as “Qodesh Haqadashim.” The definite article "ha" (the) is not written on the flow detector; it does not translate as "Holy of Holies." What is written is idiomatic; in context the translation would be "Most Pure"; but other possibilities have been given as well.

[19] This was mistransliterated as “Melek Eretz,” "King of the Earth." Eretz translates into English as "land," as in "Eretz Israel," land of Israel; "Eretz Mitzrai'im," Land of Egypt." Aretz is translated as the equivalent of "Earth." The definite article, "ha" is missing; the text does not read "the Earth" but is more encompassing.

[20] Durational and stress notation dates back to Sumer. They were in continuous use for nearly 4,000 years. The notations appear on items as diverse as the Yadi and Roman Imperial stelae; the Dead Sea Scrolls and Anglo-Saxon Chronicle A. Their use on the Continent tapered off slowly, depending upon location. By the 12th century, they were no longer in use to the north. Their use in the south lasted for another century. In England, durational notation was still in use in the Age of Elizabeth I. (See, Altman, "Some Aspects of Older Writing Systems: With Focus on the DSS." Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Jerusalem., 1999; Altman, "Writing Systems and Manuscripts." Guest Lecture: St. Mary's School of Divinity, University of St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland, 1999. For Elizabethan use, see Altman, Absent Voices: The Story of Writing Systems in the West. Newcastle, DE: forthcoming.

[21] The “size of a teacup” accords with the size of the water vessel per rabbinic halakha.

[22] Tefillin are kept in a special "phylactery" bag. Whether this ritual set had a special bag cannot be ascertained.

[23] As Hanan Eshel noted in his paper, given at the 3rd symposium on the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1998, with respect to the stone vessels found at Qumran: "In the late Second Temple period, from the first century BCE to the second century CE, we find a stone vessel industry in the Jerusalem region whose products were used for storage and measurement. These stone vessels were made for observant Jews who observed the laws of purity strictly, since according to rabbinic halakha, stone vessels always stay pure." Eshel cites the following sources on the ruling: M[ishna] Kelim 10:1; M. Oholot 5:5, 6:1; M. Para 5:5; M. Miqwa'ot 4:1; M. Yadayim 1:2. (see: Stone Vessels Found at Qumran).

[24] One need not be a police forensic detective to reconstruct events. Historians are detectives and are accustomed to evaluating and reconstructing evidence from textual sources. With these artifacts, we have unambiguous physical evidence in addition to textual evidence. The artifacts were deposited after 1802. For a thorough discussion of the events surrounding the finding of the artifacts, see, Alrutz, "Newark Holy Stones."

[25] Any hard object thrown into river-bed clay of this type, if the clay is moist, will quickly accumulate a spherical mass around it. When the soil dries out, it will leave behind such hard clay balls.

[26] The two small objects, square in shape, are now missing. Two other artifacts were found in another mound some distance away. One was a carved head with Hebrew writing in Square script on it. The other is said to be some sort of "talisman" with intertwined human and animal heads, also with a few letters of Hebrew writing in Square script on it. The Corresponding Secretary of the Ethnological Society, Theodore Dwight, Jr. (1796-1866), sent a copy of the drawing of the incised head to Dr. Fischel in Amsterdam in 1865. Fischel was reluctant to trust a drawing but did state: "These stones as described in your letter could never have been the work of a Jew." The drawing may not be accurate, but that this item is a fake is patent. A photograph of the "talisman" exists: it is an intriguing object, but the reproduction of photograph is quite poor. From what can be seen, however, the object would appear to be an authentic artifact that was defaced by scribbling a few Hebrew graphs on it. Like the "inscribed head," this object "could never have been the work of a Jew." (Fischel-Dwight correspondence; National Anthropological Archives at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.).

[27] The site was described for the first time in 1852, two years after the "coffin" was found. For specifics, see Alrutz..

[28] For specifics and cites, see Alrutz.

[29] For a partial description of the find, see Alrutz, 36; Bradner, 1873. For further information on the depth at which the hand phylactery and the bowl were found. (See: The Newark, Ohio Decalogue Stone and Keystone)

[30] Bradner assumed that the skulls "powdered" because of "great age." The rate of disintegration of bone depends entirely on the ph of the soil. In some soils, such as this river-bed clay, disintegration is very rapid. The powdering was due to the soil, not "great age." (See Alrutz)

[31] See Alrutz, 42, for more details and cites..

[32] See Altman, “Report on the Temple Tablet,” Altman, Absent Voices.

[33] J. Mann. "Changes in the Divine Service of the Synagogue due to Religious Persecution," Cincinnati, Ohio: Hebrew Union College Annual 4, 1927. 288-99.

[34] See Jerome's "Commentary on Matthew, 25:3."

[35] Mann, "Changes," 292.

[36] Cited as given in Sanhedrin 88b.

[37] We should also bear in mind that the Ancients were literalists. When the ancients spoke of the "voice of authority," they meant it literally. When referring to the "colors of music," they meant it literally. The colors of music number 12, as in a twelve-tone scale. The first indications of color-to-tone appear in Pythagorean documents (6th century BCE). Recorded evidence from the 3rd and 5th centuries CE places the central color as yellow/gold and the equivalent of “C;” red equaled ”F.” When staff lines first appeared in musical notation systems, two lines were drawn: yellow (C) and red (F). These ancient colors of music can still be seen today on the academic gowns of doctors of musicology. We have reason to suspect that the ancients also meant inscribed in heart (left hand) and in mind (on the forehead) literally as well.

[38] This connection between the phylacteries, amulets, tattoos, and other signs were already hotly debated in the late 19th century in works such as History of Amulets, Charms and Talismans, New York, 1893. The bibliography on the subject is enormous. For concise discussions and bibliography on the subject of magic in the ANE and the MT, see the Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), Vol.IV, 464-471.

[39] For a discussion of the block format, see Altman, Temple Tablet; for a discussion of the "centering" technique on bi-ethnic (bilingual) inscriptions, see "Report on the Zoilos Votive Inscription from Tel-Dan." Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Jerusalem.

[40] For a discussion of conglomerate fonts, see Altman, Temple Tablet..

[41] Xenographic (foreign graph) exchange is the use of Font B in a text written in Font A. Dating back to Akkad, the use of italics to denote "book title" or "foreign word" is a modern use of xenographic exchange..

[42] For further information on the design of the consolidated font used in 11QPs, see, Altman, "The Writing World of the Dead Sea Scrolls." Lecture: St. Mary's School of Divinity, University of St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland, 2001.

[43] For discussions on the "shape of the law," see Altman, Temple Tablet; Altman, Absent Voices, 33-35.

[44] Interesting aspects of the grave markers used in Islam are 1) a marker is placed at both head and feet -- which may refer to the two tablets as is written in Exodus; and 2) pairs of Islamic "cloud" arch and "Mosaic" arch tablets appear, but on different graves.

[45] For both the Symposium, Nov. 6, 1999, and Bork and Hawkins. See: The Newark Ohio Decalog Stone and Keystone, by J. Huston McCulloch." (

[46] Existing class Crinoidea, phylum Echinodermata include sand dollars, star fish, and sea urchins.

[47] Both poses appear to have something to do with the concept of the "eyes as the mirror of the soul." The oldest known sculpture, the "venus" head from the Magdalene period (ca. 22,000 BCE) is lifelike, but where the eyes should be are two concave "blanks." These same concave "blank eyes" appear in archaic Greek sculptures-in-the-round. Cave paintings from ca. 5,000 BCE show rounded, lifelike figures, usually in perspective, but their backs are to the viewer. A similar taboo on depicting the eyes, though not concave, appears to operate in the late archaic Greek frontal pose. The subject warrants further research.

[48] The replacement of the left-leg on an “A” with a cephalicus neume to indicate, for example, which of three singers was to lead the congregation can be seen in BN MS. Lat. 8824 and in St. Gall MSS. 329 and 359. See, Altman, Absent Voices, Chapter 10.

[49] Many of the South Sinaitic graphs are adaptations of cuneiform graphs, minus "wedges," for use in dry surface writing.

[50] The Nabatean language was the formal Aramaic of Achamaenid Persia. Their script systems were a territorial variant. The modern Arabic script systems descend from the Nabatean.

[51] See Alrutz, "Tragedy," 44.

[52] The "triangle arch" led people to believe that the item was a "breastplate," although a breastplate would be in the center, not tucked under an arm.

[53] While the ephod is described in detail, nobody knows exactly what the item is, and it is not translated.

[54] The "priestly" hat in this sculpture seems to follow the description in Josephus, Ant. III. vi, 3 rather closely..

[55] The identifying hat worn by European lawyers during the period also has a tight band, but it has a crown and the hair is free in the back above the band..

[56] Again, the robe seems closer to the description in Josephus, Ant. III, vii, 1 than to the one in the MT.

[57] The Samaritan Chronicles relate feuding between Zerrubabel (the builder of the Second Temple in Jerusalem) and Sanballat, the Samaritan priesteven while in Babylon during the exile (6th BCE). (See, Paul Stenhouse, The Kitab al Tarikh of Abu'l-Fath Sydney: Mandelbaum Trust, 1985.)

[58] The appearance of the "Phoenician" triangle arch used on this hand phylactery gives external corroboration that the "beit david" stele found at Tel-Dan is the correct "shape" for the area and is authentic. Its use also has very important implications in respect to the differences in interpretative traditions between the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom..

[59] The hand piece also makes it patent that the tradition of reciting the decalogue, albeit in a condensed form, continued for at least 1100 years after it was forbidden in the Babylonian and Tiberian communities in the 2nd century CE..

[60] See above, footnotes 5 and 6.

[61] The interchange of the “vav” and the “zayin” cannot be classed as "spelling errors." Once the two graphs were interchanged, they were used consistently to represent the opposite graph..

[62] "Stems" on fossil crinodea come in a variety of shapes: circular, v-shaped, and irregular. The "stems" embedded in the artifact would have to match the "stems" in the black limestone from these Ohio counties; the structural granulation from the way the limestone was formed would also have to match. These tests are performed by "thin-sections," that is, thin "wafers" or cross sections of stone are cut and then glued to a glass slide. The wafer is ground and polished until the structure and fossil contents can be seen through a microscope. These tests have not been done, although such tests are crucial to asserting that the artifact is a forgery and that the material comes from Ohio.

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