We may have some different reasons for why #Swordgate is fascinating, but we all care about the sword. It's okay to care about the sword.
I've written a little bit before about why I think #Swordgate is important. I'll have more to say about that at some point in the future, after it has all run its course. I'm sure, in fact, that there are probably at least two publishable papers in this whole experience. There are several seriously interesting dimensions to how this has played out so far -- it's unprecedented, really, I feel lucky to have been a part of it.
As far as what's going to happen on the program tonight, I've already said what I think:
"I'm willing to bet that [Dr. Myles] McCallum comes to the same conclusion: not Roman, probably a souvenir produced in the last couple of centuries."
Assuming that I'm correct (that McCallum says it's not Roman), I think that a lot of people will be willing to stop paying attention to the sword. A negative evaluation of the sword by an archaeologist who works in the Roman period, together with all the independent information and analysis we've generated here, will probably be enough to convince the vast majority of people who are paying attention that it's time to stick a fork in the "Roman sword." The safe money says it's not Roman, and it actually barely even qualifies as a sword. It's probably a piece of tourist kitsch, probably purchased by someone in Italy sometime during the last century. It was probably not found during scalloping. It was probably never actually underwater. Somewhere along the line, someone got confused or made up a story about it, and the people who looked at it on the hood of a car in a Nova Scotia parking lot bought it hook, line, and sinker.
I think that's the most likely scenario, and I think that's the scenario that most reasonable people will embrace if the The Curse of Oak Island goes down how I think it will tonight.
There are some people, however, who will probably never give up on the sword. Chief among those is J. Hutton Pulitzer, who has staked all of his credibility on his interpretation that this crappy brass Hercules sword is a "smoking gun" that's going to "rewrite history." There's no backing down from that, and he hasn't. No matter what you think of Pulitzer, you have to admit that he has stuck to his guns on this one. Refusing to adjust your interpretation in the face of almost overwhelming evidence that you're wrong is not typically the best way to do science, but . . . what can I say? He has flat out lied about the evidence that suggests his interpretation is wrong, he has threatened legal action against me, and he has urged his "warriors for truth" to embark on a complaint campaign against the government of Nova Scotia, the newspapers that write critical stories about him, and anyone who will listen at The History Channel. It's been a bizarre display, and I don't think I've ever seen anything like it. I've always wondered how far Pulitzer could push his fact-free agenda. I don't think we've seen the end of the pushing yet.
It actually makes me a little bit sad to say it, but unless there's a big surprise, I think Swordgate will probably start to ramp down after tonight's discussion of the sword. It makes me a little sad because I'm still interested in solving the mystery of the origin and history of these fake Hercules swords, and I think that many of the people who have been regularly contributing to the discussions on this blog probably are also. Uncovering the real story of these things has become a more interesting pursuit than answering the "is it Roman?" question, which I think has been pretty well addressed. I hope the discussions and information sharing related to the swords will persist, but I worry that they won't once the drama is gone. I think the drama and urgency that made Swordgate fun was important to the emergence of the critical mass that made it possible to generate the leads and data to address the issue. With no "smoking gun" to evaluate, interest will fade. I'll pack up my Roman sword, get on my unicorn, and ride off into the sunset to do archaeology, teach my classes, and write more about things that I think are cool but few other people care about (like dragonflies, my work in South Carolina, "giants," etc.).
Swordgate has been a blast. I'd do it all over again.
Cue the denouement music, pop the popcorn, and let's see what goes down. I'm going to have a drink and enjoy the show. I've got some paint drying on the wall just in case I need something more exciting to distract myself with while they're standing around an empty hole in the ground.
Update (1/20/2016): This blog post was featured in today's Investigating History Daily, Pulitzer's own (apparently self-generated) daily newspaper. Thanks for the exposure!