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NSG Picnic August 19, 2000

The House at the Edge of the World

A Visit with Bina and Dave Robinson


Donovan A. Shilling

On a cool Saturday, August 19, 2000, a dozen plus members of the New Society of the Genesee enjoyed the hospitality of Bina and Dave Robinson. Their summer retreat rests high above Canandaigua's blue lake waters. The Robinson's hundred-plus-year-old home is located on the end of a very narrow trail and that twists, turns, rises and slopes. Getting there is half the fun as we're told. The worthwhile effort allowed society members to enjoy a fine picnic spread followed by a most thought-provoking presentation given by regional archeologist, Don Eckler.

Don began his talk by a diversionary account relating the exploits of John Wesley Powell and his legendary expeditions down the Green, Humboldt and Colorado Rivers. Powell was born in Mount Morris, New York. Was he accompanied by Oramel and Seneca Holland from Oramel, New York?

Returning then to his main interest, the unusual objects found in the Genesee River Valley, Don explained the opposing concepts of "diffusion" and "independent invention" held by archeologists. Adherents to the diffusion idea believe that skills move from culture to culture around the world. The contenders for "independent invention" argue that people living on different continents developed their tools independently. Professors Dr. George Carter and Cyrus Gordon were cited by Don as avid proponents of the "diffusion theory" and were two of the men he had conferred with regarding unusual artifacts found in the Genesee River Valley.

One of these items is a small sandstone bearing seven holes, six neatly surrounding a larger, seventh center hole. Could this represent the Pleiades in the constellation Taurus known to the ancients? The seven-holed artifact also seems to resemble a "Phaistos disc" found in 2000 B. C. Crete.

He next introduced a slide of a stone bearing what might be "tree ogham," primitive, 5th century script, of early Celtic writing. The scratches appearing on this stone could represent the letters "B" and "L." Could these, Don muses, stand for "bel," a Celtic god?

A small stone artifact found in Houghton, New York, was in the form of "an almost prefect trapezoid." It was discovered atop the first bench of the Genesee River. Could this have been left by a pre-Columbian wanderer? Then there was the two-holed gorget bearing fine inscription markings. Perhaps yet another artifact left by people pre-dating Columbus? Moreover, the "Genesee Stone" found in Belfast, New York, has what could well be South Iberic script, in use from 250 B. C. to 150 A. D. The images of a "Y," an "O," and a triangle within a triangle are clearly shown on the slide of this stone object. Don went into some detail explaining the possible association of these images with earlier, pre-Columbian, civilization.

Stones appearing to be male and female fertility talismen were also shown. Another slide revealed an adze bearing an "M"-like marking that could represent a "mem" executed in "proto-semitic script" dating to the sixth century B.C. Was this the work of an early traveler or merely another "strange coincidence"? Don calls these objects which appear to be related to far-off places, "anomalies"; Don Eckler seems to be an ardent "diffusionist."

A Rushford, New York, discovery made at Taylor Hill, locally termed the "corn mortar stone," was of particular interest to Don. He speculates that the four foot by two foot sandstone block, bearing a nine inch deep, sixteen inch diameter basin was much more than a simple Indian relic. His investigation of the 800 pound to half-ton stone led to his discovery of a finger-size hole in the bottom of the basin.

One possible use of a stone formed in this fashion could be to perform a religious rite. Perhaps it was part of a sacrificial altar that received the blood of a slaughtered animal. The blood, Don speculates, would have drained out the small hole consecrating the ground where it spilled. He passed out a five-page document with his findings. In it Don cites eight passages from Leviticus referring to the use of such an altar stone in biblical times.

In the concluding part of his presentation Don introduced us to the German origin of the word "swamp." It meant "a dark place," and that's what, Don said, our virgin forests were. He then passed among us samples of tree trunks taken from the muddy bottom of the Genesee River. Sections from these trees have been analyzed by Carol Griggs and Peter Kunehome at Cornell University. One oak specimen shown us was about 1500 years old and had fallen in the Genesee River in 460 A.D. The Cornell studies have provided a 9000 year sequence of tree rings dating back to 7000 B.C. Some of the ancient wood has been fashioned into belt buckles and boxes. Ken Walker, a friend of Don Eckler, even turned one into a mellow sounding flute.

As an addendum, Don suggested a possible connection between his search for a four--horned goat and goat-like, four-horned images that could be produced from inverted five-pointed stars. He noted that such a star with two of its points down stood for good while the reverse was associated with evil.

It was a great meeting. We were shown an intellectual and archeological pathway many had not previously traveled. Coupled with the scenic drive, Bina and Dave's hospitality, and the tasty picnic food, it was a day we'll long remember.

© 2000, Donovan A. Shilling
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