The Graves Of The Golden Bear: Ancient Fortresses And Monuments Of The Ohio Valley, by Rick Osmon
I was loaned this book by a friend of mine at church who shares my great interest in antiquarian matters . This book has a lot to offer, for all of its fondness for conspiracy theories, namely the only sort of conspiracies that are likely to work for any length of time, conspiracies of silence . It is clear, especially from the book’s closing comments about the crucifixion, that the author believes a bit too much in conspiracies in general, if that was not clear from the earlier commentary about the strong connection between the antiquarians, Masons, and various religious ideas like that of the Mormons, and the equally biting discussion the author makes about certain Illinois politicians when he writes: “Powell had direct connections to the top of government after the 1873 expedition and the 1874 report. Until then, he had handlers in Illinois politics. Some things never change: unqualified people from Illinois with undeserved, forged, or questionable documentation achieving high office (78).” Despite the occasional inflammatory comments, which are perhaps explained by the fact that the author writes about fairly transparent examples of Europeans in the United States in the time before Columbus from an independent publisher in relative obscurity, wishing what he wrote about was more commonly understood by others, this book does manage to write about an interesting subject in a worthwhile way and for its flaws it is still a very insightful book.
Overall, this book contains twenty-two chapters divided into five parts that follow a thematic organization. The first part examines what we know about precolumbian European exploration, looking at the process of scrambling for American land claims in the early modern world, the process of proving a land claim in the 18th century, the use of ciphers in official French maps, early explorations in the Monongahela and Ohio river valleys (full disclosure: this is the area where I was born), the exploration and conquest of the area near the Wabash during the early period of American independence, the use of ciphers during the Lewis & Clark expedition, and the secrecy of such finds in the post-Powell world of “scientific” archaeology. The second part looks at what we have learned despite the gaps in schooling concerning the early Americas, including the global trade of Michigan copper, and finds involving Roman coins and swords in the eastern United States and a Roman statue head in Mexico. The third part examines the pattern of fortress building along a straight line in the Midwest near the author’s own hometowns. The fourth part looks at the problem of graves and the issue of pygmies and giants of biblical proportions. The fifth and final part looks at the problem of mistaken a priori assumptions, new tools in conducting research, boats and various speculations, and then endnotes and appendices and acknowledgements. At a little more than 250 pages of core material, this is a worthwhile book to read for those readers who are open to alternative history.
There is a lot about this book that is worthwhile. It is clear that the author has sought to read the relevant writings, and that he has done a large amount of personal investigation of various sites in the Ohio River Valley, and that he is generally inclined to give alternative views a fair hearing, and a high degree of credence. It is clear that he has a cynical view of history as well, one where people deliberately suppress truths that they find to be unpleasant rather than giving evidence a fair and honest hearing. It is this particular quality that makes this book somewhat frustrating to read, for even as it condemns the way that evidence is suppressed, the book simultaneously gives reasons why that knowledge is suppressed, because of the fact that there are people who greatly enjoy being a part of conspiratorial groups that use knowledge for their own selfish benefit and who perpetuate frauds on the credulous. Obviously, the best way to verify the author’s claims is to travel as best as possible to the places discussed in the book, hopefully with the goodwill of the people on it. Yet, ultimately, the author simultaneously seeks to attack the trustworthiness of others even as he presents a case that a reader ultimately has to trust, a difficult task for those who are deeply cynical. At the very least, it can be said that the author makes a persuasive case for extensive and frequent transatlantic transportation and colonization efforts, mostly on the scale of a few thousand people at a time, culminating in the Columbian exchange with all that it entailed in the colonial period. That case is more than enough to make this a worthwhile book, and for people to keep an eye open for future finds that would help to confirm the thesis given in this book.
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