Silverbell Artifacts

The Silverbell or Tucson Artifacts recovered along Silverbell road in the 1920s reside in a case at the Arizona Historical Museum in Tucson. They are a group of objects made of lead with inscriptions in Latin indicating that they were cast in 800 A.D. for a Roman king of Southern Arizona. They were found near the site of the oldest Catholic mission in the area and appeared to have been in the ground a very long time.

Cross from the Silverbell Artifacts

Cross from the Silverbell Artifacts

Historians have a long list of reasons why they have to represent a hoax. Some are good reasons. What became of these Romans? Why is there no other record? Why haven’t we found any other artifacts especially ceramics, other metals and glass all of which survive a very long time in the desert. We should note that all of these although good puzzles are negative evidence. And negative evidence isn’t evidence. Something might be out there that we haven’t found.  There are other reasons that represent misunderstandings of history and archaeology. Some analysts have looked into who might have created the artifacts. It probably doesn’t matter. There must have been many people with the skills needed.

Was this used to bake communion wafer?

Was this used to bake communion wafer?

I wonder why no one has ever come forward to claim the hoax. But perhaps I don’t understand hoaxers. Perhaps the fun lies in sitting in a dark corner laughing at those discovering your hoax. The hoaxer in this case seems to have waited many years for his objects to be discovered.

Ttr 062We’d like to reject the objects out of hand because they fly in the face of everything we’ve been taught. Nonetheless, we should keep an open mind. This doesn’t mean we have to be foolish or silly, nor does it mean we have to accept wild theories with little basis in fact.

Consider though that I’ve found that when I get back to primary documents, things written by participants and observers of events, I’ve found that a great deal of what we were taught as history was nonsense. Dig through the evidence and you often find where the error crept in, who altered the story and why, or who misunderstood. Several days ago I was at the scene of the Camp Grant Massacre with friends. One of them related to the others that the only survivor was a small boy. A small boy first reported the massacre to the Army at Camp Grant but there were over 200 survivors and so it goes.

Cross with Latin inscription

Cross with Latin inscription

Keeping an open mind we know that a good deal of what we were told about Columbus was nonsense. Scholars and writers didn’t understand the sea. Ships were safer far at sea than close to shore and while they may have been superstitious, their superstitions weren’t shared with scholars.

Sailors didn’t leave records. Where they sailed was a trade secret. Would you tell everyone about your best fishing hole? They didn’t either. Their methods of navigation were not those used by later scholars. Consider how far the Norse sailed and what they used. There are indications that the sea was crossed by many fishermen and that many people made trips to North America. While every story isn’t true, some might be. The Norse made it, didn’t they?

Ttr 065And then there are the Cocaine Mummies, mummies wrapped up with traces of cocaine and tobacco, both New World products not found in Europe or Africa. How did that get there? Could the Egyptians have crossed the Atlantic? Thor Heyerdahl proved their boats could make the trip and that the currents were with them.

Not all stories are true, but some are. Are the Silverbell Artifacts a hoax? Probably. Very unlikely, but not impossible.

About dhocking

Doug Hocking is an independent scholar who has completed advanced studies in American history, ethnology and historical archaeology. He grew up on the Jicarilla Apache Reservation and attended school among the Indios and paisanos of the Rio Arriba (Northern New Mexico). He retired from the military as an armored cavalry (scout) officer. His novels immerse the reader in the times, terrain and cultures of 19th century New Mexico. Doug lives near Tombstone with his wife, dogs and a feral cat. He writes both fiction and history and is currently working on a biography of Tom Jeffords and has two historical novels in print: Massacre at Point of Rocks and Mystery of Chaco Canyon. His articles have appeared in True West, Wild West, Buckskin Bulletin and Roundup.
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2 Responses to Silverbell Artifacts

  1. It’s amazing how scholars turn a blind eye to any evidence of pre-Columbian appearance in lower North America, Central and South America. The reaction of a large segment of leading archaeologists, anthropologists and other followers of the ‘not before Columbus’ mindset cry “hoax!”, “fraud!” typically sight unseen or uninvestigated scares the crap out of any of the minions associated with them. The associates might disagree with the hoax claims but dare not show it for funding, employment and social reasons. To tell the truth I would discount anything the mainstream scholars and their textbooks put forward as facts unless I could see for myself the truth they expound as being real. Not that I believe all Diffusionist’s theories but the automatic stonewall the Isolationists throw up is rather revolting not to mention conspirationally suspicious.

    • dhocking says:

      I’m inclined to agree. In this case though, it’s almost certainly a modern tribute to a man’s father and nationality. He’s confessed and scholars have looked into the inscription. But, it fun to speculate.

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