Lenape Stone

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By Tyler Grubb

black and white photo of the two sides of the Lenape Stone[1]
Both sides of the Lenape Stone

The Lenape Stone is a piece of slate believed to have possibly been an ornamental necklace worn by the Lenni Lenape. The stone is named after the eponymous Native American tribe, Lenni Lenape because the stone was found within an area of Pennsylvania that was known to have been inhabited by the tribe for many generations. The stone is broken into two pieces and has two holes considered to have possibly allowed it to be used as a neckpiece. On both sides there are cravings: one side has carvings of fish, turtles, birds, and snakes, and the other side has a detailed carving. The detailed carving is of multiple individuals fighting a mammoth with arrows and bows and has a background with mountains and the sun. Not only was this considered to be the first artifact in North America that contained a drawing of a mammoth, but it was also considered to be evidence of humans and mammoths existing during the same time period and interacting in some form. There is a lot of controversy surrounding the authenticity between the scholarly archaeologist community and the town where the stone was found. However, the authenticity of the stone gorget has never been confirmed and is largely believed to be contrived. [2]

Discovery

The Lenape Stone was discovered in 1972 in Doylestown, Pennsylvania on a farm by Barnard Hansell the son of the owner of the farm. Barnard Hansell was plowing on his father’s farm, he noticed a rock on top of the ground. Barnard Hansell claims he picked up the rock piece and placed it in his pocket not thinking anything of the rock he had found. He then placed it in a box leaving it there for nine years until he pulled it out and looked at the carvings on the stone. Eventually, in 1881, Barnard Hansell sold the stone to Henry Paxton. Henry Paxton, at the time, was the son of a prominent man in Doylestown. Paxton had a fascination with Native American artifacts and relics. He would collect Native American artifacts discovered around the town and would then display them in his own personal collection. [3]

Future Discoveries

About 9 years after the first original discovery, Barnard Hansell discovered another stone in the same field, and the exact same spot, where he had originally found the Lenape Stone. Multiple other supposed Indian artifacts were found throughout that year. Each time Barnard made a discovery, he would sell his findings to Henry Paxton, who would then display them in her own personal collection. The discoveries included another stone with carvings, and a few other small relics believed to have been created by the same Native American Group: the Lenni Lenape. [3]

After The Discoveries

After the discoveries, the artifacts were scrubbed down multiple times in order to display them at the Bucks County Historical Society exhibitions. The cleaning process was intended to make the artifacts the most appealing to the public and to make the carvings in the stone the most obvious. However, through this process, archaeologists' ability to date and find the stone’s origin completely depleted. Archaeologists cannot compare the surrounding soil from the Hansell farm to any soil matter on the artifacts, so there is no molecular evidence of the origin and the validity of the Lenape Stone. [3]

Precursor To The Findings

Eight years prior to Hansell’s discovery, a carving of a mammoth was found on cave walls in La Madeleine, Perigord, France. This carving depicts an extremely detailed and accurate mammoth. After the discovery, the world viewed this as evidence of humans living in the same time period as mammoths. Today, there are many arguments of the meaning of the La Madeleine carvings mainly caused by the accuracy of the carving. The physicality of the mammoth is considered very accurate in the size and structure of a mammoth. Some individuals argue that the carving was a warning of male elephants that go through a period of musth where their testosterone levels soar, and others argue that only someone who has seen a mammoth could create a craving so accurate. [3]

La Madeleine Carvings

image of La Madeleine mammoth carving in Musee de l'Homme in Paris [4]
La Madeleine mammoth carving
At the time the carving was found, there was a large conversation on human history and evolution, as well as North America's importance in the human timeline. During this time, multiple parts of the world had discovered evidence of the potential interaction between humans and mammoths. However, North America, especially the United States, had no evidence of this interaction at the point when Barnard Hansell made his original findings.
The most influential discovery in the history of mammoth and human interactions was in Dordogne, France in 1864, a joint British and French archaeological team traveled to the Abri De La Madeleine rock shelter. The team discovered multiple detailed carvings within the shelter including a bison licking its shoulder, a reindeer and a calf, as well as a woolly mammoth.[5] Edouard Lartet and Hugh Falconer considered two of the leading paleontologists at the time, were at the cave during the time of the discovery of the mammoth carving. The carving was formed in a two-inch-thick plate of ivory. The ivory was later discovered to be mammoth ivory, further proving the significance of the findings. At the time, this was the first evidence archaeologists had of humans knowing the existence of mammoths. [6] The details of this carving were specific and accurate to parts of the mammoth that were not known by archaeologists until a mammoth carcass was found preserved in Siberia. [7]

The Lenape Stone or, The Indian and The Mammoth

The Lanpe Stone or, The Indian and The Mammoth by H.C. Mercer is a book written to defend the discovery and validity of the discovery by Barnard Hansell. The introduction acknowledges scholarly archaeologists doubts in the legitimacy of the artifact: the lack of evidence because the stone has been heavily cleaned, no scientific observer during the discovery, multiple frauds of Native American relics in Philadelphia, and the suggestion that it is the earliest artifact representing a mammoth. H.C. Mercer continually states that he is only stating the facts of the discovery as he has learned them, and that is up to the audience to decide if the stone is legitimate or not. Along with giving the audience the ability to decide the quality of the artifact, Mercer uses a dialog towards scholarly archaeologists that questions their knowledge and authority. By using quotations around a modern scientist and scientific observer, as well as other scholarly terms, Mercer undermines the authority of archaeologists and their argument against the validity of the stone and its subsequent discoveries. [3]
However, Mercer attempts towards the end of the book to acknowledge that there is a lack of evidence to be able to prove in one way or another that the Lenape Stone could be used as evidence for the interaction between humans and mammoths within the United States. Because this is the only major publication about the Lenape Stone and information regarding the stone is lacking, Mercer’s connotation is extremely important to the public’s perception of the discovery. Although Mercer tries to state that his findings were unbiased, the language that he uses towards the situation lends itself to a questioning tone. The book questions not only the discovery but also the arguments of scholars. If the public’s only major access to information about the stone is coming from a source that questions archaeologists’ authority, they too may begin to question the authority given to scientists.

H.C.Mercer

Henry Chapman Mercer is a founder of the Bucks County Historical Society (BCHS) in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, the same city where Barnard Hansell made the discovery of the Lenape Stone. The Bucks County Historical Society was concentrated on the written history of the town. However, H.C. Mercer tried to change the intent of the BCHS by displaying artifacts alongside the written histories. Mercer received major backlash from the society and was removed from the BCHS. While the BCHS disagreed with Mercer’s decision to display physical artifacts, the public was drawn to the displays. During the time Mercer was removed from the society, public engagement and membership had a drastic increase. This drastic increase resulted in H.C.Mercer being reinstated into BCHS in 1905, multiple years after his removal.[8]
Throughout Mercer’s career, he strived toward discovering great histories about the people of Pennsylvania, specifically in the Delaware Valley. Mercer was educated at Harvard University, but later gained an interest in archaeology. His interest led him to travel throughout Europe and Africa to visit archaeological sites. Although he had an interest in archaeology, he was not a scholarly archaeologist. His lack of education in the field caused scholarly archaeologists to not view him of equal level. In an effort to prove himself to the archaeological community, Mercer conducted research on the Lenape Stone and published his findings in The Lenape Stone or, The Indian and The Mammoth. [8]

Lenni Lenape Native Americans

The Lenni Lenape Native American tribe live throughout NewJersey, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, and Oklahoma, and is derived from the Delawares. The tribe is autonomous, but in Pennsylvania, they are not officially recognized as tribes by the United States Government and do not have reservation land. The Lenni Lenape are advanced with their own religious, political, and cultural systems that have existed for centuries. [9]

Lenni Lenape Artifacts

While the Lenni Lenape tribe does have historical stone carvings, the style and size do not equate to the stone carving that Barnard Hansell discovered on his father's farm. Often carvings were of their language and not necessarily of images. [10] Not only are the carvings themselves different, but the style of gorgets was also different. They were often made is stone, had two holes, and were most likely intended to be worn around the neck, similar to the predictions of the Lenape Stone, none display the same extensive carvings that are displayed on the Lenape Stone. The differences in the artifacts and their styles cause doubts in the authenticity of the stone. The discrepancies are not the only questionable part of the discovery, but the Lenni Lenape have never taken credit for or acknowledged the possibility of their tribe being the origin of this stone. [11]

Motive of The Discovery

This discovery could have been a major turning point in not only North American history but could have also played a major role in enlarging the importance of Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Barnard was the son of a small farmer in a town that prided itself on the historical significance of its people. Barnard then sold his findings to a man whose father was well known within the town and had a fascination with Native American Artifacts. The artifacts were then shown in the town’s historical society’s exhibitions to show the impact of the town in human history. Barnard’s motive was to bring attention to both the importance of his father’s farm and the significance of Doylestown.
  1. H.C. Mercer 1885 The Lenape Stone or, The Indian and The Mammoth
  2. Mullin, Paul 2017 ‘’The Original People - The Lenni Lenape’’ Westtown Township Historical Commissioner. https://www.westtownpa.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/2017-Fall-The-Original-People-The-Lenni-Lenape.pdf, accessed December 5, 2019.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Mercer, Henry C. 2014 The Lenape Stone or, The Indian and The Mammoth’’ The Project Gutenberg. Electronic document, https://www.gutenberg.org/files/45853/45853-h/45853-h.htm, accessed December 5, 2019.
  4. Hitchcock, Don 2018 The original mammoth from La Madeleine
  5. Hitchcock, Don 2019 ‘’La Madeleine - A Rock Shelter in the Dordogne With Exquisite Art Objects from the Magdalenian’’ Don’s Maps https://www.donsmaps.com/madeleine.html, accessed December 5, 2019.
  6. 2013 ‘’10,000-year-old Mammoth Carcass Found Preserved in Ice - Video’’ The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2013/may/30/10000-year-old-mammoth-carcass-preserved-ice-video, accessed December 5, 2019.
  7. McKie, Robin 2014 ‘’The Mammoth That Trampled on the History of Mankind’’ The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/may/25/mammoth-trampled-on-history-of-mankind, accessed December 5, 2019.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Ryan, Kathleen 2002 ‘’Implements of Change: Henry Chapman Mercer and the Bucks County Historical Society’’ Lehigh University. https://preserve.lehigh.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1735&context=etd, accessed December 5, 2019.
  9. Redish, Laura and Lewis, Orrin 2015 ‘’Lenape Indian Fact Sheet’’ Native languages of the Americas. http://www.bigorrin.org/lenape_kids.htm, accessed December 5, 2019.
  10. Scott, Susan H. 2011 ‘’Native American Artifacts’’ The Hunt Magazine. http://www.thehuntmagazine.com/arts-antiques/2011/03/native-american-artifacts/, accessed December 5, 2019.
  11. Kraft, Herbert C. and Kraft, John T. 1985 ‘’The Indians of Lenapehoking’’ Seton Hall University Museum. https://www.digifind-it.com/njhistoricalportal/data/ringwood//The%20Indians%20of%20Lenapehoking.pdf, accessed December 5, 2019.
  12. Retrieved from "http://www.fakearchaeology.wiki/index.php?title=Lenape_Stone&oldid=2797"