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.