Tucson Artifacts

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by Becca Gross

Several Tucson Artifacts.[1]

What are the Tucson Artifacts?

Four of the 31 Artifacts.[2]

The Tucson Artifacts, also known as the Tucson Crosses or Silverbell Artifacts, totaled more than thirty lead objects resembling crosses, swords, and other religious related objects. [3]

Where were the Tucson Artifacts found?

The Tucson Artifacts were found in Tucson, Arizona. To give some context, in 1924, Tucson, Arizona was dry, hot, and a vast desert. The town had a record low year in terms of rainfall at this time. There was nothing special about Tucson, except for the University of Arizona, which only had 1600 students and a faculty of 130. [4] All in all, Tucson was not a well known town.

The Discoveries and Excavations

There were two main discoveries of the Tucson Artifacts. The excavation of these discoveries were well documented by in the newspaper and with photos.

The New York Times reporting on the excavation of the Tucson Artifacts.[5]

The First Discovery

The first Tucson Artifact was found in Tucson, Arizona in September of 1924 by Charles Manier. Manier and his family were traveling along Silverbell Road and they became interested in these abandoned lime kilns. The family stopped and approached the kiln. As they did, Manier saw an object sticking out of the ground. [6] It turns out that Manier saw a metal cross sticking out of the ground by the abandoned lime kiln on the property of a man named Thomas W. Bent. Upon further discovery, the metal cross was two pieces stuck together in the form of a cross. When Manier broke the two pieces apart, he discovered a foreign looking lettering engraved onto them.[3]


Manier made the first discovery of the Tucson Artifacts by discovering the two part cross with foreign lettering. Upon this discovery, he contacted Dr. Frank H. Fowler, a professor at the University of Arizona who teaches Latin, and he was able to interpret the Latin lettering. [3] Included is the partial translation done by Dr. Frank H. Fowler of the First Tucson Artifact:

     "We are borne over the sea [to] Calalus, an unknown land 
      [where] Toltezus Silvanus ruled far and wide over a people.
      Theodore transferred his troops to the foot of the city Rhoda 
      and more than seven hundred were captured. No gold is taken away.
      Theodore, a man of great courage, rules for fourteen years. Jacob 
      rules for six. With the help of God, nothing has to be feared. In 
      the name of Israel. OL. Jacob renews the city. With God's help Jacob 
      rules with mighty hand in the manner of his ancestors. Sing to the Lord. 
      May his fame live forever. OL." [7]

The Remaining Discoveries

The cross that was discovered by Manier was found on Thomas W. Bent's property. After Manier had the cross translated, he went back to Thomas Bent's property with an anthropologist, Karl Ruppert of the Arizona State Museum at the University of Arizona. They continued to excavate and discovered a broken triangular artifact that was had a head drawn on it and a partial date in Roman numerals. <refname="mormon"/>

After this discovery, Manier contacted Thomas Bent, who, at first, dismissed the finding as nothing significant. Manier persisted and went to Bent's house with the primary discovery, the cross. After close examination, Bent believed there was something really important about these discoveries and his interest was peaked. [7]

Together Bent and Manier excavated the rest of the artifacts. The other thirty-some artifacts consisted of more crosses, swords, spearpoints, and religious artifacts. All of which have been referred to as the Silverbell Road artifacts, Silverbell artifacts, Tucson artifacts, Tucson Roman artifacts, and lead crosses. [4]


A second cross was excavated and translated:

       From the egg (i.e. the beginning), A.D. 790 [to]
       A.D. 900. Nothing but the cross. While the war was 
       raging, Israel died. Pray for the soul of Israel. 
       May the earth lie light on thee. He adds glory to 
       ancestral glory. Israel, defender of the faith. 
       Israel reigns sixty-seven years. Israel ll rules 
       for six. Israel VII [should be III] was twenty-six 
       years old when he began to rule. Internecine war. 
       To conquer or die. He flourishes in ancestral 
       honor day by day. But for either event our hope 
       is not broken in this day of grace (or: by grace
       of God). Time having elapsed since the source and
       beginning of evils, the last day and unavoidable 
       time had come (or: is coming?). I the Lord am with Thee. OL [7]

Upon further excavation, a fifth cross was discovered and translated:

       Benjamin ruled the peoples. From the Seine the 
       bravest of the Gauls came to Rome. He came to the 
       aid of the people to lay the foundation for the city. 
       He built a wall around the city to resist the enemy, 
       Mighty in strength, Benjamin. He filled the multitude
       with religion. He was slain by Thebans. This I heard 
       from my father five hundred years after, behind the 
       mountain. In memory of my father Joseph.
       A.D. 880: Israel III, for liberating the Toltezus, was 
       banished. He was the first to break custom. The earth 
       shook. Fear overwhelmed the hearts of men in the third 
       year after he had fled. They betook themselves into the 
       city and kept themselves within their walls. A dead man 
       thou shall neither bury nor burn in the city. Before the
       city a plain was extending. Hills rung the city. It is a 
       hundred years since Jacob was king. Jacob stationed himself
       in the front line. He anticipated everything. He fought much 
       himself. Often he smote the enemy. Israel turned his attention 
       to the appointment of priests. We have life, a people widely ruling. OL [7]


Despite any controversy surrounding the discovery of the Tucson Artifacts, Thomas Bent remained a true believer in the authenticity of the artifacts. Additionally, he wrote out a report in length surrounding the discovery of the artifacts in great detail. This book was entitled "The Tucson Artifacts". Sixty-six years later, Bent's son, Thomas W. Bent Jr., donated the collection and all the artifacts to the Arizona Historical Society. [6] The collection consisted of the following:[6]

Box 1

Series 1: Correspondence and Personal Materials, 1956-1994

Subseries A: Correspondence of Thomas W. Bent, Sr., 1956-1992.

Folder 1-8: Correspondence, A-McGee 1964-1992

Box 2

f.9-11 Correspondence, McGee-Z 1964-1971

f.12 Miscellaneous Letters, Sketches, Etc. 1956-1971

Subseries B: Correspondence of Thomas W. Bent, Jr., 1956 -1994

f.13 Correspondence, A-L 1971-1994

Box 3

f.14-19 Correspondence, M-Z 1956-1993

f.20 Institute For the Study of American Cultures 1992-1993

f.21 Planning for 1989-1990 Re-Examination of Silverbell Site 1989-1990

Series II: Research Materials, 1924-1990

f.22 Book 1, Sections A and B 1924-1953

Excavation and Investigation Statements

Communication With Church of Jesus Christ of Latter

Day Saints, Salt Lake, City, UT

f.23 Book 1, Section C 1929-1957

Letters With University of Arizona Individuals

f.24 Book 2, Section A 1924-1925

Agreements and Contracts

f.25 Book 2, Section B 1961-1964

Copyright Material Information

Authorization Letters

f.26 Book 2, Section C 1925

Early Excavation Data (Records and Statistics)

f.27 Book 2, Section D and E 1925-1947

Material on Persons and Organizations Interested

Publicity and Stories

Box 4

f.28 Book 3, Sections A-D 1925-1963

Investigative Report by George Howley

Assay Reports

f.29 Book 3, Sections E-L 1956-1961

Radiocarbon Dating Reports

Metal Analyses

f.30 Book 3, Sections M-P 1924-1963

Sun Worshipers

Story of Navigating Serpent

f.31 Book 5 1924-1926/1956

Newspaper Clippings

f.32 Book 6 1924-1971

Printed Materials/Articles Mostly Not Directly Related to Artifacts

f.33 Book 6 (Photos)

Some Tucson Artifacts

Other Artifacts Unrelated to Bent’s Artifacts

f.34 Miscellaneous Research Notes, Translations, and Rubbings 1925

f.35 Research Materials from Peter L. Steere (University of Arizona

Library) 1990

 Also see Box 6 and 7 for Research Notes on File Cards

Series III: Manuscripts and Published Materials, 1928-1990

f.36 “The Tucson Artifacts” by Thomas W. Bent 1928

Box 5

f.37 “The Silverbell Artifacts” (Draft) by Jan Eppinga 1990

f.38 “Calalus 775-900 A.D.: A Re-Examination of the Bent Artifacts”

by Cyclone Covey

f.39 “The Tucson Artifacts-Revisited” (Draft) by Chris Hardaker 1986

f.40 Articles or Publications Referencing the Tucson Artifacts

f.41 Documents/Background Information Set to Lawyers 1971

f.42 Presentation Outlines

f.43 Newspaper Clippings 1925-1926/1970

Series IV: Photos, 1925-1992

f.44 Artifacts on Display

f.45-48 Artifacts at Excavation Site 1925/1956

f.49 Artifacts and Researchers 1925

f.50 Panoramic Photos 1925?

f.51 Photos From Thomas W. Bent Jr. Correspondence 1992

f.52 Unidentified Prints 1989

Box 6

Indexed File Cards-Research Notes, Library Call Slips, etc

Box 7

Research Cards-Organized by Subject and Related to Artifacts

Psuedoarchaeological Narrative

There are multiple psuedoarchaeological narratives as to what these artifacts prove or contribute to. Depending on who you ask, you will get a different story, which contributes even more to the pseudo nature of these discoveries.

The following are a few explanations for what the Tucson Artifacts indicate or history they are claimed to support:

Romans in Tucson

When the Tucson Artifacts were translated, they revealed a narrative of a battle in the 8th Century between Native Americans, described as "Toltezus", predecessors of the Aztecs, and a settlement of Roman Jews. The artifacts in nature suggested there was an Ancient Roman Settlement in Tucson, Arizona. [8]

Additionally, another narrative of Romans in Tucson was found on the the inscription of the cross that supported the traveling of ships from the Roman Empire to the New World. Yet these ships, carrying 700 Christianized Romans, landed on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Then the Christian Romans marched northwest until they got to, what is now known as, Tucson, Arizona. According to the cross, they built a city named Terra Calalus. This was all said to have taken place from 775 A.D. to 900 A.D. In 900 A.D. the Native American tribes that had lived there previously destroyed the Roman colony, which is why there was no trace found until these artifacts. [9]

This explanation is pseudoarchaeological because of the use of A.D. for the dating on these artifacts before that had become common terminology for establishing dates and their is also usage of modern words in the inscriptions of the artifacts. [6] These observations point to a more modern construction of artifacts meant to further an agenda and bring attention to the small town of Tucson.


The Mormons attempted to use the inscriptions on the artifacts to prove the book of Mormon to be truthful. Other reasons provided as motivations for the Tucson Artifacts relating to Mormons are best described that they might range from gaining notoriety and fame to proving a pet theory or religious or political worldview. [10]

Some of the names that were translated on the stones: Jacob, Israel, Benjamin, Joseph, are similar to those in the Bible, however, the dates that were inscribed are similar to those in the Book of Mormon. The Arizona Daily Star reported:

       While laymen and scientists, novice and expert file past the display of artifacts 
       taken from hte excavations in the lime kiln near the Silver Bell road, arguing the 
       authenticity of the leaden relics, followers of the Book of Mormons, of which there
       are about 150 in this community, are the only ones to offer a solution of the mystery. 
       The relics, the Mormons say, bear out the epic tale of their golden book...The parallel, 
       as drawn by Gordon Kimball, first counselor to the presiding elder, A. B. Ballanyntne, 
       points out the definite resemblance between the inscriptions on the artifacts and the 
       story as told in the Book of Mormon. [7]

Many of the local Mormons were eager to make a connection between the Tucson Artifacts and the Book of Mormon. Church leaders were dragged into the hoax, and were said to have avoided commenting in the local newspaper about such events. As time went on and the local Mormons continued to pursue the hoax of the Tucson Artifacts and their relationship to the Book of Mormon. With all the newspaper coverage surrounding the ancient artifacts, lots of information was compiled to create an article about the artifacts, the excavation, and the discoveries. [7]

A hill that was referred to on the artifacts was speculated to be the Hill Cumorah because the dates appeared to align well with the chronology in the Book of Mormon.

However, these claims are still pseudoarcheology. The dates on the inscriptions use A.D., which was not common terminology at the time these were said to have been created. Additionally, there are many Mormon leaders within the church that discourage against the use of these artifacts as evidence because it provides confusion and misinformation to new followers of the religion. [10]


  1. Nelson, Rian. “THE AMERICAN INDIAN IS OF SEMITIC ORIGIN/LEAD ARTIFACTS.” Bofm.blog, 2020, https://www.bofm.blog/the-american-indian-is-of-semitic-origin/.
  2. “Tucson Artifacts Suggest Romans Made It to New World in 8th Century: Expert.” Www.theepochtimes.com, 10 Apr. 2016, https://www.theepochtimes.com/tucson-artifacts-suggest-europeans-made-it-to-new-world-in-8th-century-expert_2017332.html.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Moran, Gary. “Genuine Ooparts Crucial to History or a Colossal Hoax? A Thorough Examination of the Tucson Artifacts.” Ancient Origins, Ancient Origins, 26 Jan. 2021, https://www.ancient-origins.net/artifacts-other-artifacts/tucson-artifacts-0011720
  4. 4.0 4.1 Burgess, Don. “Romans in Tucson? The Story of a Archeological Hoax.” Go.gale.com, University of Arizona, 2009, https://go.gale.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA203330630&sid=googleScholar&v=2.1&it=r&linkaccess=abs&issn=08948410&p=AONE&sw=w&userGroupName=anon%7E42debf.
  5. America, Post author By Ancient. “Tucson Crosses and Quetzalcoatl.” Ancient America, 6 Oct. 2015, https://ancientamerica.com/tucson-crosses-and-quetzalcoatl/.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Tackenberg, William. “Bent Family Collection - Arizona Historical Society.” Bent Family Collection, https://arizonahistoricalsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/library_Bent-Family.pdf.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 Hunter, J. Michael. “The Kinderhook Plates, the Tucson Artifacts, and Mormon Archeological Zeal.” Journal of Mormon History, vol. 31, no. 1, Mormon History Association, University of Illinois Press, 2005, pp. 31–70, http://www.jstor.org/stable/23289247.
  8. “Romans Allegedly in Tucson.” Pima County Public Library, https://www.library.pima.gov/content/romans-allegedly-in-tucson/
  9. Hudnall, Ken. “Did Europeans Settle in the Arizona Desert Thousands of Years before Columbus Sailed to America?” Borderzine, 2 Mar. 2012, https://borderzine.com/2012/03/did-europeans-settle-in-the-arizona-desert-thousands-of-years-before-columbus-sailed-to-america/.
  10. 10.0 10.1 “Why Should Latter-Day Saints Beware Fraudulent Artifacts?” Book of Mormon Central, 21 Aug. 2019, https://knowhy.bookofmormoncentral.org/knowhy/why-should-latter-day-saints-beware-fraudulent-artifacts#footnoteref35_eeeja12.