In 1890, James O. Scotford, a sign painter living in the central Michigan town of Edmore, claimed to have found a strange clay cup and carved tablets in the ground near his home. As he found more ancient artifacts he started drawing the attention of investors who purchased the strange objects with intention of making a profit off of displaying them to the public. By 1907 he partnered with Daniel E. Soper former Michigan Secretary of State who resigned after being accused of embezzlement.
Scotford would find the artifacts and Soper would sell them. They found thousands of ancient relics in 17 counties around Michigan. It was said that Scotford would take investors out and dig around looking for relics. when he found one he would let his investors or landowners remove them from the soil. Know one know for sure but it is believed he used sleight of hand tricks to partially bury the artifacts.
As scholars and experts began looking at them they seemed fake with multiple languages on the same artifact and details that were missing that should not have been. The number of relics found was also suspect. Scotford and Soper never admitted to faking any of the artifacts and maintained they were authentic to the day they died.
Because of their religious theme, many of the relics were purchased by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the early 1900s. As time went on many experts proved that the artifacts were fakes. By 1960 technology could prove the copper used was manufactured using modern 20th-century technics and was not thousands of years old.
The church gave most of the relics to the Michigan History Museum where they were put on display in 2003. Since then they have been picked up and put into storage like the ark in Raiders of the Lost Ark. There is way more to the story than what I have written here, but I wanted to keep it a short read for my daily post. It has been said to be one of the largest hoaxes in the archeological world and has brought into question, what artifacts found in Michigan are legitimate and what is fake. I am surprised the story has not been made into a movie yet.
P.S. If you can find it, the documentary Hoax or History: The Michigan Relics is fascinating. I watched it several years ago on PBS. It shows up on Amazon Prime HERE but it is not available for viewing.
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