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NSG Visit August 7, 1999

Mysterious Stones

Found in Genesee Country


Donovan A. Shilling

The site of an afternoon porch-chair investigation into the possible origins of the mysterious stones found in our Genesee Region was the Canandaigua Lake cottage of Dave and Bina Robinson. Along with our hosts were eighteen other members of the New Society of the Genesee who had gathered to enjoy our annual summer picnic on August 7, 1999.

Following a wonderful spread on the Robinson's high veranda overlooking the scenic lake, the group assembled their chairs to begin our seminar. Leader for the group was Don Eckler, Houghton College graduate, lecturer and ardent student of archeology, who captivated his audience with a two-hour session seeking to unravel the mysteries of several stones into which were carved a variety of ancient symbols.

The "Genesee Stone" was the first to be examined. It has "intrigued the dickens out of me," stated Don as he exhibited the two-inch artifact to his attentive audience. The small black stone was found by Bill Johnson from Belfast near the Genesee River, explained Don Eckler. Cryptographers examining the stone have noted the stone's striations and minute scratches, a clear indication to them that the carvings were made "on a prepared surface."

According to Don the nine symbols carved into the surface appear "to be Iberian script, circa second to fourth century A.D." Four symbols were trident-like shapes, others were: "Y" shaped, one "O" shaped, one "m" shaped, one "r" shaped, and the ninth one, a double triangle, one carved within the other. In Hebrew the first series translated respectively as "ta, waw, ain, and shin." This last symbol, the double triangle, however, was clearly unusual. The other symbols seemed to be derived from early Judea or possibly related to the writing used by Sephardic Jews that settled in Iberia (Spain) prior to the Inquisition.

Research by Don Eckler and Dr. Carol Meyers, head of the Religion Department at Duke University, revealed that the four tridents and the double triangle could easily be reshaped into a Semitic or Hebrew-like menorah. The triangles become the base with the tridents forming the branches supporting the candle holders. In early Judea the "menorah," meaning "lampstand," was a "cult object having protective powers." Perhaps, it was carried to our river valley as an amulet or gnostic talisman.

The trident shape was often associated with Hermes, the Roman god. In Greece, the winged-god Mercury, represented the same powers of speed, communication and commerce. Thus, the Genesee Stone may have been an Iberic Traders Token with its inscription meaning "I pledge to pay." But just how or when it made its way to the New World and into Genesee Country is yet an unsolved mystery.

The second stone was a four-inch-long, adze-shaped stone found in the Zoar Valley near Gowanda by Bob Marble, a friend of Don Eckler. Close observation in the proper light showed a zig-zag carving. Don suggested that this might be a Phoenician or Hebrew inscription or a variant form of the letter "M." Paleographers, experts in early script, may see it as the Hebrew "mem" or letter "M." Again we wondered how this unusual stone, inscribed with its ancient letter, came to be located in our Genesee Region.

The third investigation centered on a two-inch, oval-shaped artifact formed from sandstone and again discovered by Bob Marble. The small stone bears seven holes: three round holes above and three below a larger oval-shaped central hole. Could this organized grouping of seven holes represent the Pleiades stars in the constellation Taurus? They are popularly known as the seven sisters. In Greek mythology these seven daughters of Atlas were turned into stars by Zeus.

Regardless of the relic's origin, the seven carefully bored holes through the stone represent a "great puzzle." The artifact might have originated between 100 B. C. and 200 A.D. A similar design of holed patterns has been located as a part of the nautiloid-shaped "Phaistos Disc." Unearthed on the ancient island of Crete, the seven-holed pattern on the Phaistos Disc is one of a series of symbols on the disc's surface. Their meaning has not yet been deciphered by archeologists. It is conjectured that this unique talisman may have to do with the planting and harvesting times, indicated by the orientation of the Pleiades in the night skies. Mystery, however, still surrounds its meaning, how the object arrived at its location and the unique origin of the last traveler to have had this stone in his possession.

Five more stones were introduced, each with cryptic inscriptions or a bored hole. Some bore possible fertility symbols. Another, this one not passed around, was a 800 to 900 pound rock with a cone-like hole drilled in its center. And yet another stone was offered that was perhaps used as a ceremonial or sacred hand axe. These passed among the group while Don gave extensive accounts of his research into their origins and each of the stone's possible meanings.

Much applause was heard as Don concluded his session. We left the Robinson's rustic retreat imparted with a whole new body of knowledge. We're still pondering it as the fresh concepts swirl about in our thoughts. Thanks, Don Eckler, for a most stimulating afternoon.

© 1999, Donovan A. Shilling
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