The Bourne Stone

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The Bourne Stone

The Bourne Stone is a 300 pound, four feet by one and a half feet slab of pink granite that is shrouded in mystery. Currently, it is displayed in the Bourne Historical Center, located at 30 Keene St. In Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts. It has been displayed there since 2003. Its origins are debated, but most agree that it was originally used as a doorstep for a Native American meetinghouse. [1] The slab itself has two sides, each being unique. One side contains an inscription of some sort of language and is smooth, and the other side is rough and natural, much like a normal rock. It is speculated that the smooth side is from natural weathering from environmental causes. [2] There are many theories on what kind of language this is and the implications this could bring to the history of this area of New England.

History

The Bourne Stone has made its way around the state of Massachusetts. The estimated date it began its journey is in the 1680’s [3] as the stepping stone into a Native American meetinghouse in the Native American community of Herring Pond. According to the oral history collected by the Bourne Historical Society itself, the meetinghouse (or mission) was owned by a man by the name of Captain Tupper of Sandwich. Captain Tupper was a missionary in the 1600’s and was very influential in the area where the Bourne Stone originated. He and his father owned a lot of land in the area, and they established this meeting house to try and spread religions to the Native Americans living in this area. The meetinghouse was built close to a pond called Herring pond, and by a burial ground as well. [4] It was here until 1900 when a Native American woman named Katherine Parker she moved it to her property, since the mission was no longer in use.[2] The property then passed on to a white family, and then finally to Percival Lombard. Percival was the one who really started to explore the property and the Native American relics held within it. [5]. Lombard is the one who was important in founding the museum that exists in Massachusetts today. Many relics from his property of Native American origin rest here.

Context In Which it was Excavated

According to many sources, this relic was never truly excavated by an archeologist. Instead, it has changed hands many times between Native Americans and white people and ended up in the museum where it stays to educate many generations. The year 1935 is the first recorded time someone of an educational background looked at the stone.

Psuedoarcheological Claims

The claims and theories that surround this artifact are vast. These have to do with the inscription on the stone itself. Many have tried to decode the language, its meaning and the implications behind it. Most agree that these are Native American in origin, but some disagree and have ideas of their own on where this inscription has come from.

  • Olaf Strandwold analyzed the stone 1939. His take on the Bourne stone was that the stone itself was a "Norse rune stone with inscribed with Norse runes". [3] He translates the Norse runes that he perceives with a dictionary of Old Norse runes, claiming it states "Jesus amply provides for us here and in heaven" [6]
  • Edmund Delabarre from the Brown University Psychology Department explained that he thought they were petroglyphs carved into the stone by Native Americans. He said that from what he saw, these were pictures of Native American objects like a moon, a pipe, and a few colonial objects like a cross, and a Native man shaking hands with a white man. The other inscriptions he thought looked like wigwams. [3] He went on to say in multiple articles he wrote, that he believes that “that the Portuguese explorer Miguel Corte-Real accidently began exploring New England between 1502 and 1511. Most historians agree that Corte-Real had been on mission to find his brother Gasper, who had never returned from a previous expedition to the New World. Like his brother Gasper, Miguel was never heard from again. Most believe he and his crew were lost somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean or along the coast of Newfoundland.” He thinks that the Portuguese settled in this area and made families with the Natives.[7].
  • Barry Fell is the next big name to investigate the Bourne Stone. Fell is a marine biologist from the esteemed Harvard University who has made an impact in the archeological community. In his eyes, many groups had made pre-Columbian contact with the New England area. His proclamation about the Bourne Stone was that it translated to “A proclamation of annexation. By this Hanno takes Possession.” [2] . He came to this conclusion by using the Punic alphabet from Carthage (an ancient Phoenician state). Fell thought that this writing had been used on the ancient Iberian Peninsula which is close to modern day Portugal. [7] Fell believes that this “Hanno” person was Hanno the Navigator, who came to explore the northern coast of Africa at some point in the 5th century. He founded a bunch of cities around the coast of Africa.[8]

Some More Realistic Conclusions

  • Larry Zimmerman was one of the first to truly draw a conclusion closer to the truth. In 2004, he brought in an expert trained in the ancient Norse language since there was some suspicion the inscription could be Nordic. His colleague stated that he did not believe these were Norse in origin. Zimmerman, using his training in Archeology and Native American studies, to conclude that this language is indeed Native American in origin.[1]
  • Henrik Williams is the most recent to discuss the stone in the year 2014. His report completely deconstructs what Strandwold said in the past. According to Williams, Strandwold translated the inscription badly, and used a mixture of runes from different time periods that could never possibly appear together. Williams also states that the grammar Strandwold uses is incorrect. He states "Nothing like these have been found on a Nordic Monument". [6] Williams goes on to say that "The Inscription is quite obviously man-made and intentional and it appears to be quite old. The lines are very shallow and probably were at the time they were produced. These are not regular incisions in the surface but superficial furrows, possibly produced by hammering or scraping with a tool made of stone or some metal". [6] He then gives an example of a rune, thought to be on the stone by another person who observed it, but he debunks this quickly, saying that this specific rune "does not appear as late as the year 1000 AD - Since rune using people did not reach America before the year 1000, the three rune - like symbols on the Bourne Stone cannot be Runes". [6] He concludes that these symbols could possibly be Native American in origin, but the stone itself is not a runestone at all.

Further Deconstruction

First of all, some of these claims discredit the Native Americans in the area at this time. This shows there could be racism and/or ethnocentrism at play with some of the pseudo archeological thoughts. The claims make it seem like the Natives would not have been able to carve these inscriptions without the inspiration from explorers or from other more developed research. If you do some digging into the background of the first few people I talked about, you will see they do not really have an archeological or historical background at all. Even someone with training in ancient languages or linguistics would have had a better background for looking at an artifact like this. For example, Delaburre is indeed a scholar, but he teaches psychology. This is not the same training needed to draw real conclusions about a piece of evidence of the past like this. Barry Fell is indeed a zoologist, not having the background to make sound conclusions about this ancient stone. Furthermore, there is little evidence that Hanno the navigator made it all the way over here, estimating the farthest he could have gotten was most likely Cameroon in Africa. [8] Making claims about an artifact with little to no formal education in that area is discrediting to real archeologists. Many have made comments on this stone as it is famous in the area it is from. It is possible that some who went to try and figure out the stone wanted some fame from stating their opinion on it. Archeologists work hard to discover the truth about the past and educate the world on what really happened in human history. Pseudoarcheology itself while it may seem interesting, does much more harm than good in the long run. Even though to this day no one has truly cracked the code of the Bourne Stone, we are much closer than we have been before because of real archeologists attempting to decode the stone. They had to spend extra time explaining why other theories were not true, which takes away from their core work.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Fritzinger, Jerald 2016 Pre-Columbian Trans-Oceanic Contact. Lulu.com
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Chartier, Craig 2016 New Thoughts on an Old Rock or Confessions of an Ignorant Skeptic. Plymouth Archaeological Rediscovery Project. January
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Bourne stone timeline PDF handout given out at the Bourne Historical Society
  4. Capt Thomas Tupper (1637-1706) - Find A Grave.... Find A Grave retrieved from https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/41305189/thomas-tupper
  5. Bourne Historical Society. Cape Cod Museum Trail. Retrieved from https://www.capecodmuseumtrail.com/museum-directory/bourne-historical-society/ )
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Williams , Henrik The Bourne Stone Massachusetts - Preliminary Report . The Bourne Stone Massachusetts - Preliminary Report . Vol. 2 retreived from http://files.webb.uu.se/uploader/267/The%20Bourne%20Stone-2.pdf
  7. 7.0 7.1 Daley 2012 Wicked Yankee. Wicked Yankee. October 31 retrieved from http://wickedyankee.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-bourne-stone-bourne-ma.html
  8. 8.0 8.1 Stein, Stephen K. 2017 The sea in world history: exploration, travel, and trade. Vol. 1. ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara, CA