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A sketch of the ‘medallion’ from Lawn Ridge

A sketch of the ‘medallion’ from Lawn Ridge

During the drilling for an artesian well at Lawn Ridge, 31 km (20 miles) north of Peoria (Illinois, USA), in August 1870, one of the workmen, Jacob W Moffitt (1841-1922) of Chillicothe, discovered a coin-like object when the bit had reached a depth of about 35 m (114 feet, or 42.5 m according to Peter Kolosimo). The object was made from an indeterminate copper alloy, about the size and thickness of an American quarter dollar of that period and was decorated on both sides. On one side there were two human figures, one large and one small; the larger is wearing a headdress. This is usually described as a crowned woman holding a crowned child, but the sketch does not bear this out. The other side apparently depicted a central crouching animal with long, pointed ears, large eyes and mouth, claw-like arms and a long tail, frayed at the tip, with a horse below it and to the left. Around the edges of the ‘medallion’ were obscure hieroglyphs. It was of uniform thickness and appeared to have cut edges.

According to an account by Professor Alexander Winchell (1824-1891, State Geologist for Michigan) in his book Sparks from a Geologist’s Hammer, he received a statement from another eye-witness, Dr William H Wilmot, dated December 4, 1871, of the deposits and depths of materials made during the boring. The numismatist William Ewing Dubois (1810-1881) gave a report to the American Philosophical Society, in which he suggested that it had passed through a rolling mill, the edges showing evidence for machining. The figures appeared to have been etched with acid.

Professor Winchell presented the object to a meeting of the Geological Section of the American Association at its meeting in Buffalo (New York, USA) in 1876. One participant, a J R Lesley, suggested that the artefact was a practical joke and that it might have been dropped into a hole by a passing French or Spanish explorer centuries earlier. He also suggested that the figures on either side of the object represented the astrological signs of Pisces and Leo, and claimed to find the date 1572 in the symbols. Winchell was adamant that the symbols were indecipherable in terms of any known script and that the practical joke hypothesis failed on the grounds that no-one could have dropped an object into a hole in the expectation that someone several hundred years later would happen to drill at that precise spot. He was convinced the coin had been in the deposit at a depth of 35 m before its discovery and had not fallen into a hole.

It is difficult to know what to make of this curious object when we have only descriptions and an inadequate sketch. It was clearly not a coin of recent date, but there are problems in accepting it as being ancient or pre-Columbian in date. There are good reasons for this. Firstly, coinage is an historically specific development, beginning in the first millennium BCE in the eastern Mediterranean region: all coins and coin-like medallions derive from these original models. Secondly, copper alloy production was unknown in pre-Columbian North America. If it was not a hoax, which is possible, it may have been a curio or souvenir of nineteenth-century date.

12 Responses to A medallion from Lawn Ridge, Illinois

  • privacyisazombie says:

    “It was clearly not a coin of recent date”

    Patina can give metal a copper coloured sheen. Add the facts that it had about the dimensions of a contemporary quarter dollar and had been subject to erosion, and I’m not surprised it had unintelligible markings.

  • Carl Thomas says:

    Does seem odd that there’s no actual coin, just picture or impressions. And a coin on its own with nothing to suggest a settlement. Where would you spend it??

    • Medallion and coin aren’t the same thing. Medallions can be charms, name tags/badges, or symbols shared within groups, among other things.

      I don’t see those astrological signs represented. There is no fish or lion. There may however be astrological significance, which is not the same thing as representing a zodiac sign.

      The mother and child could be a variation on Magna Mater and the drawing looks like the symbols are runic.
      This would be consistent with pagan Europe.

      The animal you described (other than the horse) is not. But it could be a jaguar or similar creature from South America.

      Magna mater isn’t that surprising in pagan europe but it is a little bit in the Americas, even though astrological considerations were common place. It may depict a different character, a goddess and child, perhaps a fertility goddess, one associated with Maize perhaps as this stuff was a big deal.

      The Americans have a way of building and doing things in Parallel development with the Mediterranean. And working with rolling mills and acid – depending on the kind – is not impossible to consider (although it suggests more recent fabrication).

      If it was a genuine artefact it was likely meso or south american and one needs to ask why it was in Illinois.

      Maybe people in the Americas discovered each other a long time before Columbus showed up, eh?

  • Mark Bender says:

    Assuming that the well was being drilled and not bored it would be almost impossible for a coin to come from this depth, or any over a few feet, with out being totally distorted if not destroyed. Well drilling relies on crushing large materials into small fines that can easily be removed from the bore hole past the drill bit or mixed into a slurry for bailing. I say this with thirty years of drilling experience using methods similar to those of the period.

  • John kayser says:

    I am a firm believer that there have been advanced civilizations before ours, millions of years ago, leaving nary a recognizable trace and when we find a trace, we are puzzled. Conventional, accepted teachings on human history may be all wrong.

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      You may believe that to be the case, but where is the evidence? The evidence assembled by the alternative writers is (in most cases) quite explicable in terms of what we already know.

  • The first chapter of Genesis declares that mankind has been on this Earth, in his present likeness, for more than 62 million years. Mankind has come and gone, at least five times, since Earth was created.

  • John says:

    The fact that homo sapiens-like footprints were found in sandstone, next to the footprints of a dinosaur may support that man has been around for longer than we are taught.

  • jeannot1 says:

    By the way, Keith, just so you know where I am coming from, I firmly believe in evolution as stated by Darwin, so these human footprints in sandstone were quite a shock to me … and I must question you: what would make you qualified or an expert to have such a strong, opposing view? At least I am open minded enough to consider the possibility that there may have been long lost civilizations that preceded ours.

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      What makes me qualified to take such an opposing view is that I look at the evidence, I weigh the arguments put by both sides and try to judge which people have the true expertise to make reliable statements on such matters. With alleged fossilised human footprints, I trust the work of geologists and palaeontologists who understand the erosion patterns of specific rock types; I also use the evidence of my own eyes to assess how accurately these supposed footprints mimic the sole of the human foot, ion comparison with genuinely fossilised footprints, such as those at Laetoli in Tanzania.

  • rousseau says:

    I had in my old hard disc images from this coin.
    I convey to you.

Agree or disagree? Please comment!