A medallion from Lawn Ridge, Illinois

A sketch of the obverse of the medallion from Lawn Ridge
A sketch of the obverse of the medallion from Lawn Ridge

During the drilling of 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 (usually referred to as a ‘medallion’, although it lacks any hole or loop by which it might have been suspended) 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: it looks more like a warrior in a feathered headdress about to strike a fallen enemy. The other side is said to have 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; again, the drawing seems to show something slightly different from this. Around the edges of the ‘medallion’ were obscure symbols that are usually described as hieroglyphs, although they resemble no known script. It was of uniform thickness and appeared to have cut edges.

A sketch of the reverse of the medallion
The reverse of the medallion Source

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.

29 Replies to “A medallion from Lawn Ridge, Illinois”

  1. “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.

  2. 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??

    1. 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?

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

    1. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

    1. 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, in comparison with genuinely fossilised footprints, such as those at Laetoli in Tanzania.

  8. I think that the depth of the whole is not important as the sides of the bore hole would still be eroded as the slurry is removed. This means that this medallion could have been near the surface. Curiously Royal island in lake superior has copper mines 4-5000 years old, just to the north. Apparently the best quality. Love a mystery.

    1. The bore whole would be cased during the drilling process to keep it from collapsing onto the drill tools and seizing the tools in place. this also prevents wash out. The mechanics of the drilling process ( see above ) leave only two possible explanations; this is a total hoax or the “medallion” was accidentally dropped into the bore whole shortly before or during baling and was never party of the formation.

  9. For once I’d like and archaeologist to admit that there are some things in this world that at this point in time can not be explained without rewriting history. What’s so threatening about rewriting history? Thank God or whatever that there are some major megaliths out there that still have no explanation to how, why or what they were built for. I am fully open to the idea of human civilization having been on this earth in phases. Why not?

      1. How on earth can the theory of evolution be regarded as a “god”? It’s an entirely naturalistic theory that describes and explains phenomena in the natural world, not a supernatural causative agent!

        Any once again, I really don’t see the relevance of the theory of evolution by natural selection as having the least relevance to things like this. Unless, that is, you’ve been taken in by people like Ken Ham who insist that the world can’t be more than ten thousand years old at most.

        1. Ken Ham is a creationist clown, that is in denial of biblical and historical reality. The truth is, evolution is a lie, to try to prevent belief in a Creator. God (Yehovah) first created mankind 4.6 billion years ago, then there was an surface extinction of life forms in 245 Million BC, after the fall of Lucifer. Yehovah has since restored life on Earth five more times, after each extinction. That’s why evolutionists would block any discovery of advanced prehistoric mankind.


          1. Once again, what has the theory of evolution got to do with archaeology? Whatever your stance on it (and it’s utterly ridiculous to claim that “evolution is a lie, to try to prevent belief in a Creator”), the dating of archaeological material is unaffected by whether or not the theory of evolution is robust or will one day be falsified. If humans have been around 4.6 billion years (which means that we would have existed before the earth, so where were we?), where are the fossilised remains? Where is the material culture? Things like this “medallion” are so historically specific (they derive from coinage, first developed in the eastern Mediterranean lands in the first half of the first millennium BC) that a high antiquity cannot be upheld for them.
            And why would “evolutionists” have any interest in archaeological remains? They are entirely separate fields. You seem to imagine that these unnamed and sinister “evolutionists” wield unimaginable power, able to suppress data in any scientific endeavour that might upset them. In all my years as an archaeologist, I have never met, let alone had my discoveries suppressed by an “evolutionist”!

          2. I’m not sure how evolution refutes anything. The sun and the moon were made twice in Genesis. He made the dark and the light that separated the days, but then some days later made the sun and the moon… I mean… Hello? Which is it?
            Regardless, until you have a sun actually marking days–the first few days could have been eternities.
            I can spit and make all manner of life if I have an eternity to do it in.
            Plus no one knows who wrote any of that for sure, most of it is hearsay which wouldn’t be admissible in a court of law… but lets blindly follow?

            Also we used to believe in witches and keep black slaves and believe in the boogie man so I am not sure how tight we can hold scientific deductions of the 1800’s.
            I think simple logic that dictates we weren’t the first people here, especially in Illinois where they have pyramids (14.4 acres at the base bigger than mexico) that are tangible and utterly leveled by farmers every year because people are freaking stupid (still!) People who grew up around there swear that ravens used to speak to them as they were waiting to slide down them in the winter.

            If they had pyramids they had currency and language.

            1. Well, of course they had language. However, the point about coins is that we know the historical circumstances that led to their invention in the first millennium BCE. The Bronze Age Egyptians had pyramids and language but no coins.

  10. I think it depicts or commemorates the Nintu of the din gar holding aloft her red clay creation, a man we call Adam. Sumerian tablets have a similar picture. Therefore the coin is probably Minoan as they (and the later Phonecians) had a copper mining camp in nearby Michigan for several hundred years up to about the year 300 or so.

  11. Have you guys ever seen a demon? If your answer is no, your extrapolations regarding the subject at hand will undoubtedly be systemically compromised. Do to your apparent adoption of contemporary unfathomable conclusions popularized by contemporary experts whos hypotheses have turned the study of origins to madness. Regarding their paradigm to be the historical realty. No matter how absurd or improbable, not to mention mathematically embarrassing. Nevertheless they adhere to their preconceived beliefs.

    As a result they can not explain this archaeological anomaly.

    We must learn to ask better questions…

    1. I’m afraid I don’t understand your comment about demons; of course, the answer has to be “no”. I assume that you are a creationist (no-one else I have met uses the phrase “study of origins” in such an illogical way: this has nothing to do with “origins” but is about evidence and data).

  12. Since Demons, Gods, Angels, devils, ghosts, etc are all imaginary magical beings not bound by the laws of reality and quantum mechanics (i.e., how fusion works, cause and effect, etc.), no of course no one here has seen a demon or an angel, etc. Further since these things exist only inside over fertile imaginations, no one ever will, although human nature being what it is, some will claim they have, they do, they talk to them daily, etc. Further I would be really cautious about using Genesis as proof of anything. Genesis is a butchered extract of Hebrew writings and that itself is a hodge podge of plagiarized extracts of earlier written tales from Sumer and Mespotamia of possibly even earlier origin and plagiarism. Therefore, waving Genesis as proof of anything is roughly akin to pointing to Gone With The Wind as both an accurate history of the American Civil War and also all the explanation you will need to understand everything about the mid 19th century. Thatt said, Herman Cumming’s claim above that Genesis 1 claims man has been here for 62 million years is not supported by an examination of the document cited. Perhaps that number is hidden in some secret codex that only he can read?

  13. Always explaining away what you cannot prove due to narcissism! The coin was found in soil older than 200k years! We have been around for millions of years with plenty of evidence yet the scientific community refuses to acknowledge it because it would destroy the reputations of many prominent figures and religious organizations! Powerful people have been hiding this from the public for centuries!

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