Enter your email address to subscribe to this site and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 313 other subscribers


The so-called Metcalf Stone

The so-called Metcalf Stone

While looking for stones to make a barbecue pit in 1966, Manfred Metcalf picked up a slab of sandstone about 230 mm square at Fort Benning, near his home in Chattahoochee County, Georgia (USA). It carries an inscribed text that Cyrus Gordon (1909-2001) examined after being sent a cast in 1968 by Joseph B Mahan (1921-1995) of the Institute for the Study of American Cultures. He thought it might be an inventory, using a form of the Minoan Linear A script that was developing towards a true alphabetic script, the origin of the Classical Greek alphabet. He linked it with the Yuchi Indians, claiming that, according to their oral history, they originated in the Mediterranean region, and suggested that it was of Canaanite style (Cheesman 1972, 3). Stanislav Segert (1921-2005), a professor of North-West Semitic languages at the University College of Los Angeles (USA), also identified the script as a version of Linear A.

In an interview with William F Dankenbring, Cyrus Gordon claimed that “There is no doubt that these findings, and others, reflect Bronze Age transatlantic communication between the Mediterranean and the New World around the middle of the second millennium BC.” He also believed that there might be a connection between Linear A and other Bronze Age Aegean scripts and those of the New World, and that knowledge of the European scripts would assist in deciphering the American; however, Gordon reached his conclusions before significant progress had been made in the decipherment of Maya hieroglyphs, which owe nothing to any Old World types.

There are several things worth noting. The ‘text’ has only eight symbols, which is hardly enough to be confident about ascribing it to any particular writing system, least of all one from the other side of the Atlantic. Secondly, the two scholars who passed opinions on it were Semiticists, whose expertise is not in the Aegean script they claim to detect on the stone. Thirdly, Cyrus Gordon believed fervently in Bronze Age contacts between the eastern Mediterranean and North America, a variant of the ‘Lost Tribes of Israel’ theory, despite a complete lack of stratified archaeological evidence for such contacts. Whether the stone is a hoax or a misidentification of meaningless scratches (natural or deliberate) is unclear, but it is certainly not a Cretan Linear A inscription.

8 Responses to The Metcalf Stone

  • Gary Metcalf says:

    Disagree…This is my dad’s find…he is not an archeologist…it is pretty impressive to look at.

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      Thank you for responding to the page, Gary: it’s always good to hear from someone close to the find. Do you have any insights into the nature of the stone that you could share? It looks to me like fairly random scratches on the surface of the stone, not a deliberate script. Also the surface doesn’t look to have been prepared in any way to receive a proper inscription. I’m sure that it’s a simple case of over-interpreting the marks.

      • gary metcalf says:

        I was born in 1966, my brother keeps the stone. Dr Mahan and dad went several places for the stone to shown and throughout the years they said it was writing from the island of Crete, They also felt it was part of a larger stone or several tablets that were an inventory of some sort. It is an impressive stone to view. Thank you for the interest, and my dad never took money for displaying the stone or ever charged anyone to display the stone, my dad was like that. He had it on loan to the Columbus Collage Archives (Columbus State University), and never made a penny off of it. He did not know how it got here, he just shared it. It was found while finding stones for a bar b que patio, fire pit, which is still at the house today. Thanks for the interest

        • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

          Thankyou for getting in touch. It’s good to hear from people who are close to the object in question!

  • I am looking for PROOF of ancient inhabitants in America that can be linked to Old World cultures. It there a chance I could see a closeup of your stone?

  • Solon says:

    Do not overlook that Dr. Gordon was a former chairman of Mediterranean studies at Brandeis University when attempting to paint him as biased. He merely agreed with Dr. Mahan’s conclusion that the symbols bore strong similarities to Minoan writing as opposed to Cherokee, which was the original theory proposed.

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      Cyrus Gordon may have been Chair of Mediterranean Studies and an expert on Semitic languages. His eccentric ideas about the Semitic origins of Minoan and Greek civilisation have not met with approval from archaeologists or other linguists. There are too few symbols on the stone and they are so poorly carved that it is difficult to know what language they are supposed to represent; it certainly can’t bear the interpretative weight put on it by Gordon as evidence for transatlantic contacts in the Bronze Age.

  • Terry Jackson says:

    Dr. Joseph Mahan, a historian, was well known to imagine and other misinterpret findings in the little field archaeology he was associated with. He once claimed that fired wall daub (clay with plant fiber tempering)from one Mississippian Period temple had indications of floral motiffs on its surface wheras neither of the two trained archaeologists at the site agreed with him. He finally relented when he couldn’t find anyone else to cooroborate his ‘discovery’ either.

Agree or disagree? Please comment!