Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
In 1890 James Scotford claimed that he had found number of artifacts, a clay cup with strange symbols and carved tablets, with symbols that looked vaguely hieroglyphic. He stated them as evidence that people from the Near East or Europe had lived in America. The find attracted interest and also eager looters who arrived to look for more artifacts. They also attracted interest of the some Mormon Church members.
Archaeologist and historians quickly concluded that the objects were forgeries. However, Scotford joined forces with Daniel Soper, former Secretary of State for Michigan. They presented thousands of objects made of various materials, supposedly found in 16 counties all over Michigan. They included coins, pipes, boxes, figurines and cuneiform tablets that depicted various biblical scenes, including handing out the tables of the Ten Commandments.
The Detroit News article in November 14 1907 reported that Soper and Scotford were selling copper crowns they had supposedly found on heads of prehistoric kings and copies of Noah's diary. Scotford often arranged a local person to witness him "unearthing" the objects.
Despite of the fact many authorities and collectors declared the objects fraudulent, Scotford and Soper had large number of believing customers. In 1911 one John A. Russell published a pamphlet, "Prehistoric discoveries in Wayne County, Michigan" where he advocated for their authenticity. James Savage, former pastor of the Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Detroit bought 40 of the objects.
On July 28 1911 issue of the Detroit News professor Frederick Starr of the University of Chicago once declared that the so-called relics were fakes. Also Mary Robson, who lived a room next door to Scotford's sons Percy and Charles, stated that the boys manufactured more "relics" all the time. No one filed charges.
Later in 1911 Scotford's stepdaughter signed an affidavit where she stated that she had seen him making the objects. Scotford and Soper never confessed and no more objects were found after they died. Father Savage died believing they were genuine.
Latest studies of professor of anthropology Richard Stamps of the Michigan Historical Museum indicate that the artifacts were made with contemporary tools. Most of the current historians agree that Scotford and Soper joined forces to sell the fake relics for money.
The Church of the Latter-Day Saints kept 797 of the objects in the Salt Lake City Museum . In 2003 they gave them up to in Michigan Historical Museum in Lansing where they currently reside.
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