The Mysterious Michigan Relics

“All matter must be in a constant state of flux to ensure progress, for what was wrong yesterday might be right tomorrow.” Henriette Mertz

In the late 1800’s, farmers and laymen alike were migrating to different areas of Michigan and claiming their newly acquired parcels of land. These common folk were unaware of the amazing discoveries that would soon be unearthed from the many ancient mounds that dotted the landscape. Farmers destroyed many of the mounds while preparing their lands for crops. In the meantime, other citizens were digging into the mounds out of pure curiosity.

Imagine the disbelief when they began uncovering what was perceived to be ancient relics from a forgotten time. Estimates on the number of relics recovered ranges from 10,000 to 30,000. The artifacts were comprised mainly of clay, copper, and slate. The majority of the relics contained strange inscriptions that were unrecognizable to those who discovered them.

The thousands of relics bearing an unrecognizable language were almost immediately declared a hoax of unprecedented proportions. Although this was, and is, the conclusion of mainstream archaeology, there were, and are others who disagree.

The hope of this article will not be to prove or disprove the authenticity of the artifacts but to bring awareness to them. They have been all but forgotten by the general public. If they did turn out to be authentic, they would be one of the most important archaeological discoveries of all time. That said, let’s see what the authorities say in regard to what they feel could be the greatest hoax of all time.

During the time the relics were unearthed, it did not take the authorities long to dismiss them as forgeries. Not only did the relics contain inscriptions that seemed to be a mix of several ancient languages, but the tablets contained depictions of ancient religious art. The art on the tablets contained depictions of Noah’s Ark, the Tower of Babel and the Crucifixion among others. Many times the stories depicted had a slight variation to the known beliefs of the 18 and 1900’s, making no sense to those analyzing them. Considering the scrambled language and the “cartoon-like” religious art, they were dismissed as forgeries. They even had a group of culprits to blame.

The Mysterious Michigan Relics
Left Photo: Father James Savage, Right Photo: Daniel E. Soper.

Although no one was ever “charged”, the authority’s main culprits were James Scotford, Daniel Soper and Father James Savage. Soper was a former Secretary of State and Father James Savage was pastor of Detroit’s’ Most Holy Trinity. James Scotford was a relics collector and a supposed expert at “slight-of-hand” maneuvers. It was postulated by some that these men, Scotford in particular, would forge Daniel the artifacts and then bury them in mounds around the state of Michigan. At a later time, they would then take groups of artifact hunters out and unearth what were perceived to be ancient relics.

Others thought that Scotford may have introduced the relics (sometimes large tablets) by a slight-of-hand, consistently fooling fellow treasure hunters. In general, all digs were said to have been accompanied by highly acclaimed witnesses who later signed affidavits in regards to their discoveries. Unconvinced authorities proclaimed the artifacts hoaxed leading to the “Michigan Relics” largely being forgotten for much of the 20th century.

The Mysterious Michigan Relics
James Scotford and Daniel E. Soper stand around their “artifacts.” Photo circa 1911.

After Father Savage passed away, his collection of artifacts were eventually relocated to Notre Dame. The main bulk of the artifacts remained there until an authority from the L.D.S. church showed enough interest that the university gifted him the collection in its entirety. Milton R. Hunter also purchased Daniel Soper’s collection from his son around the same time.

With the death of Hunter, the relics were finally deeded to the Church of L.D.S. They remained in storage for years, unavailable for viewing for the most part. Then in 2001, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Oakland University, Dr. Richard Stamps, was asked to do an analysis of the relics. After analyzing several relics with modern technologies, Dr. Stamps concluded they were forgeries. On some of the slate tablets, he has discovered what he feels are modern saw and file marks left by the hoaxers. In regards to some of the images, he points out that the use of perspective wasn’t used until the 15th century. He also had several of the copper relics analyzed by a metallurgist and concluded the copper wasn’t pounded as one would expect from the natives, but rather smelted. It should be noted that one of the tablets portrayed a possible smelting process.

The Church of Latter-Day Saints was convinced with Dr. Stamp’s results, declaring the relics frauds and in 2003, returned them to their original home of Michigan. They were briefly displayed in an exhibit at the Michigan Historical Museum called “Digging Up The Controversy.” They now reside in a back storage room due to renovations at the museum. Michigan’s lead archaeologist says, “They may be in this condition for the next five to six years.” He wonders if anyone will see them again.

According to not only the Smithsonian Institute but mainstream archaeologists, these artifacts were hoaxed. Their mind is made up. It should be noted at this juncture, for an archaeologist to admit the “white-man” could have pre-dated Columbus in North America is akin to a scientist contemplating UFO’s: career suicide.



There have been several other top minds over the years who have full-heartedly disagreed with the conclusions of the authorities in regards to the Michigan relics. In 1986, Henriette Mertz’s eye-opening book The Mystic Symbol. was released. Henriette Mertz was born in 1896 and passed in 1985. She was a patent lawyer who was admitted to practice before the U. S. Supreme Court, the United States Patent Office, the Canadian Patent Office and the Supreme Court of Illinois. Henriette also worked on the Manhattan Project and As if those weren’t enough credentials, she was also considered an expert in cryptanalysis and was extremely interested in ancient artifacts. Known for her expertise in analyzing writing and language, she was asked to analyze the Michigan artifacts.

The Mysterious Michigan Relics


The Mysterious Michigan Relics
Not all of the relics were tablets. Photo courtesy of Wayne May and Ancient American Magazine

Before the actual language(s) were analyzed, Henriette made some basic observations. The first and most obvious observation made was that every relic seemed to bear a three-character symbol or the “Mystic Symbol”. She postulated that this three-character symbol may be akin to the Greek symbol of IHS (Jesus), which made its appearance around 312 A.D. The artifacts and tablets mainly consisted of clay, copper, and slate.

The Mysterious Michigan Relics
“The Pale One.” A tablet clearly representing the crucifixion of Jesus. Photo courtesy of David A. Deal and Ancient American Magazine.

The tablets were then able to be categorized again into ones that were: Covered in writing, tablets containing writing and pictures and those containing mostly depictions with few words. She then was able to categorize the relics containing both writings and depictions into three more groups: Biblical, battle scenes, and calendar records. Upon analysis, Henriette noticed something almost immediately that others had failed to recognize. She said, ”One peculiar thing stood out, even though the letters may be a mixture, the mixture within itself appeared consistently uniform.”

Continuing analysis, she discovered that the measured symmetry indicated that whoever engraved the plates must have been familiar with the language(s) in which they wrote. She felt that “Copied writing lacks fluency and no one could doubt that but one person engraved both sides and understood what he wrote with fluency, sureness, and no slight of hesitation.” Henriette claimed, “Analysis, such as would be acceptable in any recognizable court, showed that the writing had not been forged. Each tablet had been written by a different hand and no two tablets bore characteristics stemming from one single hand.”

The Mysterious Michigan Relics
One of the tablets in the Michigan Relics collection. Photo courtesy of Wayne May and Ancient American Magazine.

Turning her attention to the larger questions, Henriette began to focus on “who” could have manufactured these amazing relics. Postulating that whoever inscribed the tablets must have had prior knowledge of the region, a connection was made. Here the link is made between the ancient copper mines on Isle Royal Michigan (carbon-dated to 1800-1000 B.C.) and the Greek and Egyptians extensive use of copper in the same time period.

Both Greek and Egyptian records spoke of an alien people who were thought to be closely connected with the import of copper. Egyptian records had referred to them as the “Keftiu” or” Keftians”. The “Keftiu” were said to be “red-skinned” and came from the “Isles of the Sea”. It was believed that it took approximately three years to return with the copper from the “Isles of the Sea” and was postulated that the “Keftiu” may have road upon Phoenician ships. Henriette now had a possible explanation for an alien people who may have once visited North America and retained the knowledge. Now it was possible to speculate on who may have actually created and deposited the ancient Michigan artifacts.

The Mysterious Michigan Relics
One of the tablets in the Michigan Relics collection. Photo courtesy of Wayne May and Ancient American Magazine.

After the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., the early Christian world was plunged into turmoil and many Christians were forced to flee for their lives, “many sailing away to parts unknown.” Henriette contemplated, “Could the depositors of these texts have been the Coptic’s who had been forced to flee from persecutions?” She felt, “If inscriptions on the Michigan tablets arose about the same time as Coptic, the mixture of Egyptian hieroglyphs with Greek alphabet letters would not be unrealistic for those times.”

After much research and analysis, Henriette Mertz came to the conclusion: “Analysis indicated that each individual tablet containing writing originated with a different hand. No two specimens examined produced identical characteristics – a humanly impossible feat if one person alone would have been guilty of forging the entire group of 3000.” And, “As noted earlier, we believe the persons who inscribed this material were Christian refugees fleeing from the Decian or Diocletian persecutions and sailing out from the harbors of Dome, Naples, Alexandria, Carthage, and other Eastern Mediterranean ports and assumed lost in the turbulent waters of the North Atlantic.” Unfortunately, Henriette Mertz passed on in 1985 leaving her legacy of research behind for others.


Another researcher into the relics is David Allen Deal, who has helped pick up where Mertz left off (among a few others), yet coming from a slightly different perspective. A few details may differ between the two, but his conclusions are strikingly similar. Mr. Deal feels the three-character “Mystical Symbol” is the equivalent to “YHW,” a shortened form of HWHY-Yahweh. David came to the conclusion independently that the relics must have been manufactured and transplanted by 4th century Coptic, Egyptian Christians.

The Mysterious Michigan Relics
Michigan-Egyptian Heiroglhpys. Photo courtesy of Ancient American Magazine.

The first clue that led him down this particular path was the theology incorporated within the majority of artifacts. He has demonstrated that many of the tablets incorporate two subordinate deities; a son of the right hand and a son of the left hand.

He says, “The Copts identified these two as high angels, as Little Yahu “Yao” sabboth the good, messiah “son of the right hand” and “Sama-el” the evil, messiah “son of the left hand…Satan.” It is these repetitive pictorial elements that have led to the speculations that the creators of the artifacts may have been in all probability with the Coptic brand of Christianity. Deal feels this is an extremely important discovery pointing out, “The theology incorporated on the plates was largely unknown until the translation in 1895 of the 3rd century Coptic, Gnostic ”Christian,” Pistis Sophia.” This, in essence, may negate the possibility of a hoaxer(s) having this knowledge prior to the date of 1895.

Obviously, this was a good piece to the puzzle. Now having an estimated time frame to play around with, it was decided to take a closer look at the tablets containing calendar systems. What was to be discovered on one tablet, in particular, was nothing short of amazing. David Allen Deal discovered a tablet showing a 13-month calendar system portraying a solar eclipse in conjunction with a meteorite!6 The tablet was unearthed on September 3rd, 1896. On the tablet, there is a figure of a man’s head and nose which are seemingly pointing to an area of the calendar that would correspond with the end of July. Mr. Deal estimated that the time would correspond to the dates 325 A.D.-425A.D. in conjunction with the Nicean Council when the Egyptian Coptic’s may have been forced to flee from persecutions. Speculations were confirmed when it was later discovered that on July 27th, 352A.D. at 10:54, there was a Solar eclipse.

The Mysterious Michigan Relics
Solar eclipse tablet. Photo courtesy of Ancient American Magazine.

It also happened to pass precisely over Rowland Township, where Isabella County would someday be and where the artifact was unearthed! In regards to the meteorite depicted in front of the eclipse, July 27th 352 A.D. just happened to be one of two days of maximum intensity for the annual Delta Aquarid meteor shower! David concludes that “Whoever made these tablets were depicting an actual event.” This scenario begs the question: Could hoaxers have had both the knowledge of the Coptics in conjunction with astronomical information from 352 A.D. in the late 1800s and early 1900’s? Mr. Deal feels, “This single artifact has proven the time, or at least a moment in time, that the Coptic Christians were there.”

The Mysterious Michigan Relics
One of the tablets in the Michigan Relics collection. Photo courtesy of Wayne May and Ancient American Magazine.

The Michigan relics now reside in storage due to renovations at the Michigan Historical Museum collecting dust. Both sides of an extremely important discovery have been presented in hopes of bringing awareness to a portion of Michigan history that has been all but forgotten. This leaves us with two scenarios. 1) The relics are one of the most elaborate hoaxes of all time or 2) The history of the Americas and Michigan, in particular, are not as we have been lead to believe. At a minimum, should we not ponder the possibility? The investigation is ongoing…



In case you missed it:

The Giant Problem of The Smithsonian

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  • “Digging for the Truth”; Michigan Historical Museum Exhibit; 2004
  • “Tools leave Marks”; Dr. Richard Stamps; 2001
  • “Trashing America’s “Politically Incorrect” Prehistory” ; Fred Rydholm; Ancient American Magazine#32
  • “The Mystic Symbol (Mark of the Michigan Mound Builders); Henriette Mertz; 1986
  • “The Mystic Symbol Demystified”; David A. Deal
  • “Michigan Solar Eclipse Tablet and Mound Builder City”; David A. Deal; excerpt from (The Mystic Seal)