A NICKEL PICKLE

The Problems of Building High-Tech From a Meteoroid Wreck

by Bob Kobres

Part E


Short of a full contemporary investigation of the Carolina Bays, the strongest physical evidence that seems to link the mega-fauna extinction with an extraterrestrial event is in the form of an artifact known as the Lenape Stone.

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The largest piece of this gorget was discovered in 1872 by Barnard Hansell while plowing on his father's farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. After carrying the stone in his pocket for a few days, young Hansell put it in a tobacco box with other Indian relics he had found and there it stayed until the spring of 1881 when he sold it along with about 200 arrowheads and other artifacts for the sum of two dollars and fifty cents to Henry D. Paxon, the son of the local justice of the peace, Albert Paxon. The nineteen-year-old collector (Paxon) asked Hansell about the missing piece of stone and indicated that he would like to have it should it turn up. This prompted Hansell to be on the look-out for the other piece which he found while harvesting corn in the fall of the same year. Hansell gave the smaller piece of the Lenape Stone to young Paxon free of charge on the ninth day of November, 1881, while visiting the Paxon's home for the purpose of paying his (Hansell's) taxes.

This carved gorget soon attracted academic interest and became the subject of a small book published in 1885. The author of The Lenape Stone, H.C. Mercer, was very much aware of fraudulent Indian relics that were becoming all too common during this time period and so spent a great deal of time and effort to establish the authenticity of this find. During the course of his investigation, which included an excavation on the Hansell property, three other carved gorgets were found on this farm. Mercer felt very sure that this stone was a real artifact of the Lenni Lenape (Delaware) Indians known to have lived in this region. To date, nothing has been found to contra-indicate Mercer's assessment of this gorget.

Most impressive to Mercer was the correlation between the images on the stone and the legend Jefferson had recorded. After quoting this story from Jefferson's Notes on Virginia, Mercer conveys to his readers that:

Making due allowance for translation, and a reasonable amount of garbling, the points of similarity between the carving and the tradition--the great man above (the sun) looking down, the lightning, and the big bull presenting his forehead to the shafts, and at length wounded in the side--are very striking; and if we compare the curious circle enclosing a dot, on the inclined foreground to the right, with the "neighboring mountain," and the footprint on the rock of the tradition, the correspondence seems again too unusual for mere coincidence. On the other hand, the tradition says nothing of warriors or wigwams, or of planets, moon, and stars, yet these differences may naturally be accounted for if we suppose the stone older than the tradition, and that in the latter the local and matter- of-fact elements of time, place, and human agency would have been the first to fade away as time went on. But this is not the only Indian tradition of a great monster --presumably the mammoth--which has been preserved to us.

The element of divine wrath, common to monster myths among barbarous peoples, again occurs in a Wyandot version of the same tradition, taken down from a band of Iroquois and Wyandots by Colonel G. Croghan, at the Salt Licks in Kentucky in 1748, and given in Winterbotham's "History of the United States," vol. iii., page 139. The head chief, says the writer, having been flattered with presents of tobacco, paint, ammunition, etc., on being asked about the large bones, related the ancient tradition of his people as follows: "That the red man, placed on this island by the Great Spirit, had been exceedingly happy for ages, but foolish young people forgetting his rules became ill-tempered and wicked, in consequence of which the Great Spirit created the Great Buffalo, the bones of which we now see before us. These made war upon the human species alone, and destroyed all but a few, who repented and promised the Great Spirit to live according to his laws if he would restrain the devouring enemy; whereupon he sent lightning and thunder, and destroyed the whole race in this spot, two excepted, a male and female, whom he shut up in yonder mountain, ready to let loose again should occasion require."

Clearly, as Mercer asserted in his book, this gorget served as a mnemonic devise. Whether this particular artifact was carved in final days of the large herbivores or produced later from images on a prior story telling aide, the likeness of a large elephant is very strong evidence that the legend of Yah Qua Whee was born over ten thousand years ago.

The lines rendered on this stone convey much more today than they could have in Mercer's time. No scholar of the late eighteen hundreds knew of impact craters and the academic appraisal of comets was, as revealed earlier, far from accurate. Mercer, thus, had no conceptual basis for viewing the "curious circle enclosing a dot, on the inclined foreground" as anything other than the legendary "footprint on the rock." Ignorance of impact phenomena also blinded Mercer to lines that, given the overall context of the drawing, were likely meant to depict broken trees. One could, of course, argue that these two triangular scratches were, indeed, wigwams as Mercer thought and that there is nothing curious about the circular feature for it was intended to represent a pond. Such a contention would, however, be at odds with the rest of the picture--particularly Mercer's 'sun.' Actually this radiating bullet-like image, with face, combined with the crater-like feature, goes further in demonstrating the authenticity of this carved gorget than does the rendered proboscidean. Skillfully scribed images of the mammoth had been uncovered in France prior to the discovery of the Lenape stone, making it conceivable, though all circumstances of the Pennsylvania find argue against it, that the first carved image of an elephant found in North America was engraved upon a genuine native artifact by a palefaced prankster. However, if a mischievous anthropological savant of this era had planned to fool some people by producing a pictorial version of a known legend, would this late nineteenth century joker not make the 'footprint' look more like a footprint? And what would prompt a forger to render anything like the image actually carved on the Lenape Stone, if this was to represent "the great man above," whether the perpetrator took the term literally or as a metaphor for the Sun? Obviously, the projectile-shaped 'head' engraved on this stone has more in common with an image of a comet or meteor than any other celestial object. In the opinion of this author, the 'flying face' represents a very large comet in close proximity to Earth. As mentioned earlier, only fragments of this object have struck our planet. The main berg continued on, likely retaining its visually dominant status for thousands of years. Little imagination is required to posit that our ancestors regarded this chief comet as the head, or great, spirit which had the ability to influence events on Earth. An apparent lack of extensive tail in this rendering does not argue against the image's cometary inspiration. The length of a comet's tail is a function of its proximity to the Sun; when the head of such an object is near Earth its trail is shorter than it will be when the comet is at perihelion. Also, a comet falling toward the Sun on a path which brings it close to our planet will provide observers on Earth with an almost head-on view of the object, making full appreciation of tail length impossible.

There is, however, little reason to view the scene depicted on this rock as a realistic portrait of what took place. It is most probable that the legend of Yah Qua Whee and its pictorial record were composed several decades (perhaps a century or more) after the actual catastrophe. One of the problems Kulik encountered on his quest was finding native Tungus people willing to enter the devastated area; most believed the destruction was due to the wrath of Ogdy, their god of fire. To them the territory was cursed--visiting it might bring injury to the intruder, or worse, re-anger the god. Quite likely survivors of the Carolina Bays event held similar reservations.

It would be an error to infer that the Leni Lenape were the originators of this story. Assuming genuine native work, the only information gleaned from the engraving on the stone is that who ever first composed this scene knew what a living Mammoth looked like and had ventured into the devastated area soon enough to observe small impact craters and downed trees. The composition also suggests that the originator was aware of what caused the destruction. Quite likely the Lenape inherited this legend and its pictorial representation. Their own traditional history, the Walam Olum, suggests that they were located in the Pacific Northwest area when the 'mighty snake' attacked; this would square well with the vast flooding they record. It is quite possible that subsequent geologic field work will show that the major episode of flooding which created the channeled scabland was triggered by an impact event--probably the one that produced the Carolina Bays. An object entering Earth's atmosphere can quickly acquire an external temperature hotter than the Sun's surface. Glacial ice would readily absorb some of this heat in form of infrared radiation and, so, melt very rapidly. Obviously, this would quickly over burden normal melt-water channels and soon produce a swell of cascading water which no pre-established glacial lake could contain. A Chippewa legend provides a bit of support for such a supposition. It reads:

. . . In the beginning of time, in the month of September, there was a great snow. A little mouse nibbled a hole in the leather bag which contained the sun's heat, and the heat poured out over the earth and melted all the snow in an instant. The meltwater rose to the tops of the highest pines and kept on rising until even the highest mountains were submerged . . .

Enough though, of legends--no story from the past can, in isolation, provide proof that certain phenomena occurred; only objective field work will do that. Legends have been employed here primarily to show that there is ample reason to view, as suspect, a picture of our past which has been pieced together without regard to the potential influence of impact events. Contemporary evidence indicates a need for a total reappraisal of our journey through the last twelve thousand years.


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