Here is the video. It's well worth a listen if you've got an hour to kill.
This morning I woke up to the news that there was a video on YouTube discussing Swordgate, Hutton Pulitzer's colorful past, and his current involvement in various efforts to question the results of the 2020 U.S. presidential election (the content was originally produced in March, but posted to YouTube just recently). I haven't followed Pulitzer's exploits closely since Swordgate faded (other than him contacting the University of South Carolina to lie about me), and he has removed most of his online baloney. So listening to this podcast -- an interview with Mike Gorman of Frank Magazine about his experiences with Pulitzer - was an enjoyable stroll down memory lane. I learned a few things I didn't know. I think some of the chronology was a bit garbled, but I also may just not be remembering the order of events clearly. Anyway, it made me laugh out loud several times. I kind of miss the Swordgate days. But I guess we can't expect people to sell fake swords to gullible windbags in Nova Scotia every day.
Here is the video. It's well worth a listen if you've got an hour to kill.
Fans of #Swordgate will remember December 16, 2015, as the date when the whole debacle about the "100% confirmed Roman sword" from Nova Scotia began. Those of you that continue to follow along after all these years know that it's still not over. Because it's an ongoing legal matter now, I don't want to go into too much detail about exactly what's happening. I do think it's appropriate, however, to provide some minimal information to those of you following this story, especially those of you that have chipped into my Woo War Two fund created to offset the legal costs of defending this blog and the Swordgate content that lives here.
This fall there have been multiple attempts by J. Hutton Pulitzer, the person who originated and defended the claim about the sword, to pressure me into taking down or altering much of the Swordgate content that I produced in late 2015 and early 2016. The first of those attempts included asserting claims of intellectual property infringement (specifically trademark and copyright infringement) to both me and my employer. Following that, Pulitzer contacted my employer with a list of false and defamatory claims about me.
I am now represented by a law firm specializing in intellectual property law, and my attorney has been in contact with Pulitzer's lawyer.
That's all I'm going to say for now. There will be a full accounting when all is said and done. For further insight I recommend reading the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, how fair use relates to trademarks, a primer on defamation, and the state-by-state statutes of limitation for bringing a defamation case.
And so it goes on . . . I have student videos to finish and post from this semester's Forbidden Archaeology class, and I have several upcoming announcements related to my (real) archaeological work. The field school will be running again starting in January, and there will be extra stuff this year to go along with that. And I'll keep you posted on my art activities. I may or may not write another post to mark the official Swordgate anniversary on Monday (I still haven't sent Carl Feagans his award for winning our contest last year -- sorry Carl). If not: happy early Swordgate!
I have recently become the target of efforts to erase important parts of #Swordgate (the battle over the authenticity of the "100% confirmed Roman sword" that was purportedly discovered on Oak Island). As I discussed in this video, there are many reasons why it is important that the story of Swordgate remain accessible online. I wanted to take a minute this morning to discuss one of my chief motives for keeping our work on the "Roman sword" visible: the simple fact that the original claim is still accessible online and, therefore, in essence is still being made.
The meat of Swordgate unwrapped itself from December of 2015 (when the claim was originally published) through the spring of 2016. Since that time, many of the original blog posts, videos, and sound files used to attempt to support the claim have become unavailable. Even the link to the original story in The Boston Standard is now inactive.
I can only speculate as to why all of these original sources have apparently disappeared. I can say, however, that removing those sources has not removed the claim from the internet. A Google search on "Roman sword Nova Scotia" still returns over 700,000 results; "Roman sword Oak Island" returns over 4 million. Although some of the highest ranked hits are skeptical blog posts by me, Carl Feagans, and Jason Colavito, the sources reporting the claim as a credible one predominate.
Clearly, the claim lives on. Someone searching for information about the purported "Roman sword" online will be shown numerous articles that breathlessly and uncritically report the central components of Hutton Pulitzer's claim: the shipwreck origins story, the nonspecific XRF results, the verification of the sword by a "Roman antiquities authority," the other evidence of a Roman occupation of Oak Island, etc. In this January 2016 Ancient Origins article we even get a part of Pulitzer's rebuttal to the growing number of swords that were being documented :
"The Roman sword found off Oak Island is believed to be part of a rare set of votive swords. Four similar swords having been recovered and verified, now in private collections and museums, including the Museum of Naples, Italy, which issued cast iron replicas of the sword. Many replicas of these rare swords can now be found on websites such as eBay and Amazon."
For the record, no-one has ever produced an image or a record of the supposed "Naples Museum" sword that is key to the argument for the sword's authenticity. The statements that such an item exists have remained simple assertions for years now, with zero evidence provided to back them up.
You will notice that the Ancient Origins article is completely unbalanced: it does not challenge the key elements in any real way, and it does not cite or quote any part of the contemporary evidence and analysis that suggested the sword claim was incorrect. Many many sources questioning the sword claim were available when the article was written, and yet none is included. This article is one of the top search results.
The claim remains in other places as well. If you have the time, I recommend you listen to the entirely of this February 2016 interview of Hutton Pulitzer on Earth Ancients. In addition to a full-throated defense of the sword, Pulitzer describes his other evidence for the ancient Roman occupation of Oak Island, communicates his expansive, world-wide research agenda, and teases the publication of the elusive "white paper" and multiple books that will explode all of our outdated ideas about history. He concludes with these remarks:
"I'll take the heat. They can call me names. I will not back down. And we'll all do this together. . . . This is a war for truth, folks, and we need warriors for truth. You have to fight this battle and not let the system suppress it."
I suppose the subsequent disappearance of many of the videos, blog posts, and sound files arguing the case for the authenticity of the sword and an ancient Roman occupation of Nova Scotia could make one question the outcome of the "battle for truth." To the best of my knowledge, the vaunted "white paper" was never released and the books that were being produced were never distributed.
But, nevertheless, the claims about the "Roman sword from Nova Scotia" remain extant and active as long as the original articles and interview videos continue to be available. And as long as the claim is active, our engagement with that claim must also remain available.
If you're so inclined, I invite you to donate some material support to the effort to keep the counter-claim alive and accessible.
NEWS FLASH: #Swordgate is back!
Although those heady days of swords raining from the sky are long gone, the effects of the debacle continue to reverberate. As you probably figured out from my post earlier this week, content related to Swordgate is at the heart of the threats against me and my blog. As I plan my defense strategy, I won't go into exactly what those threats are and how I'm going to counter them. I will say that I'm not going to sit on my hands.
Swordgate was a team effort: that's one of the things that made it fun and probably the main thing that ultimately made it successful. It was about way more than just me digging in -- it was about a community of people who shared a passion for the adventure of finding the real answer to the mystery.
The defense of all that we did is also not just about me. This blog is controlled by me, but the Swordgate content is the result of the work of many, many people. While I remain friends online with some of you, there are many of you that I don't know personally. I'm asking all of you, however, to think about the importance of Swordgate and your role in it, and consider stepping up to the plate again. It ain't over.
I made a quick video to hopefully help get the word out about the situation. If you support the truth and think it's important to continue to have open and honest discussions about these kinds of claims, please consider contributing something to the Woo War Two campaign I organized on GoFundMe: the money will go to legal fees as the situation develops. Thank you for your support.
I have spent many hours and much effort over the last few years creating content on this blog that deals with pseudo-archaeological claims. That content -- and, really, ultimately my right to engage in an open and honest discussion about "fringe" claims -- is currently under attack.
If you appreciate the content that I've produced and published here, I hope that you'll consider contributing to the Woo War Two GoFundMe campaign that I created to offset the costs of defending this blog (and the Argumentative Archaeologist website). I have always tried to play fair, and I believe that this blog is a valuable educational resource that is protected by law. The content that I and my readers/contributors have produced over the years is too valuable to simply let go. And so I don't intend to simply throw my hands up and surrender.
I won't go into any details at this point, but my longtime readers are smart and will probably be able to figure out some of what's going on. I'll communicate about the details as I'm able upon the advice of my attorneys.
I hope you'll join me both for the sake of preserving what is here and for the general principle that we don't decide vigorous debates about claims related to the human past by threats of lawsuits.
Three years ago today, I was cleaning the kitchen floor in anticipation of the arrival of relatives for the holidays. Through Facebook I became aware of J. Hutton Pulitzer's ludicrous claim that a ""100% confirmed" Roman sword had been recovered from a shipwreck off of Oak Island. The debacle that followed remains, in my opinion, a great example of how facts, logic, and reality can triumph over lies, nonsense, and fantasy in real time. Swordgate remains the most fun I've ever had dealing with pseudoarchaeology online. I can't imagine it will ever be repeated, which is why it's worth remembering and celebrating.
The final chapter on Swordgate remains to be written. There are still a few swords that we're aware of that we don't have many details about, and we're still missing the real "smoking gun" to nail down exactly when and where these Fake Hercules Swords were first produced. Without a doubt, however, they are all modern creations. There is and never was a "Naples Museum sword." The sword purportedly found on Oak Island didn't come from a shipwreck, was not covered in gold, did not have magical navigational powers, and it is not made using Roman-era metallurgical methods. The sword will never appear in history books. There will never be a "White Paper," and you will probably never get an admission from the principal proponent of the sword that the whole thing was a big pile of baloney. C'est la vie.
This is a guest blog post contributed by Peter de "Man-of-Many-Faces' Geus: the latest iteration of his world famous Swordgate poster. It ain't over until it's over. Enjoy!
Swordgate Poster version 6.0: get your FREE 3’ X 4’ foot digital copy HERE (click the "Download This File" button)
As promised back in October, here’s the unofficial official Swordgate Poster v6.0. It’s been more than a year since v5.0 which was essentially the 2016 poster du jour for Swordgate Year 1. The new v6.0 is the 2017 Swordgate Year 2 Anniversary version.
The poster tops off with an abstract of the whole Swordgate saga and study as updated over past versions and continues with the full inventory and group type presentation. The key stuff we’ve done and figured out and collected follows. Sections on the art of the science, 3D modelling, bivalve mold casting, metallurgy notes, morphometric notes, the timeline in quick view mode, and the primary working hypothesis, are presented. Graphics are crammed in to encapsulate and summarize everything important.
Cover your walls or your computer screen with this executive summary poster of the single greatest crowdsourced kick in the pants debunking of pseudo artifact nonsense that’s ever happened within the history of man as we know it...or just share the inner giggle this has been for many of us Swordgaters. Once again, congratulations and thanks to all contributors.
Here’s the changelog update from v5.0 to v6.0:
There’s also a summary video version of the poster on the unofficial official Swordgate Youtube channel HERE.
Keep it real. Keep it Swordgate.
This is a guest blog post contributed by Peter Pirate Pablo Pandy. #Swordgate fans will know Peter-of-Many-Faces as the producer of numerous illustrations documenting the proliferation of Fake Hercules Swords and the development of our understanding of the chronological implications of variation in their features and characteristics. In this post he gives his latest thoughts and introduces a new poster, which I will have printed for my office. Enjoy!
Get your FREE 3’ x 4’ digital poster copy HERE (click "Download This File").
The almost two-year-old saga of Swordgate has brought us to a near complete understanding of the Hercules Sword’s origin and life story. The lineage of almost all examples in the inventory has been established and a functional predictive model has been produced. Using morphological features and a handful of known purchase dates, group types have been created and organized chronologically. The first version of the model was given limited release within the Swordgate community earlier this year for scrutiny and discussion. Version 2 now represents an enhanced effort with added sample corroboration, new identifiers, and upgraded annotations and graphics. Version 2 is the formal release to the world, or at least to those still playing along at home.
First some clarity on the name and term usage during Swordgate. Hercules Sword is the global term we use to describe any and all of the swords in the inventory. The salient sword of interest that started this debunking effort was the example seen on the Curse of Oak Island TV show in season 3 at the end of 2015. This example goes by its specific inventory name of the Nova Scotia Sword and has the ID tag of 1J(c), meaning #1 in the inventory and a member of the sub group J(c). Find locations and finder or owner names have been used as the general approach for most inventory naming. The other term commonly used during Swordgate to link identity with the TV show and the related pseudo history nonsense from Jovan Philyaw, is the Oak Island Fake Roman Sword. Finally, just to be clear, these pseudo artifacts are not swords by any objective definition. They are souvenir collectables in the general shape of a sword and are referred to as swords only in a representative sense. If you are new to Swordgate please consider reviewing the full Swordgate blog category or visit the unofficial official Swordgate Youtube channel for more details.
We started the Swordgate odyssey with early comparative examples that hinted at some sort of relationship between swords. The now legendary J mark and supporting dots and ridges seen on early finds hinted at a grouping scenario. When the Curse of Oak Island TV show presented the definitive metallurgical results on the Nova Scotia Sword, identifying it as modern era copper and zinc alloy brass, it became a Swordgate blog and Facebook group challenge to identify the true origin story. Andy put a bounty on the table and the stakes were huge!
The swords kept coming. Contributors of sword examples gradually provided a range of acquisition tales, including original source provenience to markets in Rome and Pompeii. Weeks and months passed and the inventory became substantial enough that morphologic similarities were indexed into multiple groups. Three dimensional model scans added to the identification of features. Swordgaters on the blog and on Facebook worked together to create predictable lineage for all swords. The pseudo history promotion of the Nova Scotia sword being something other than modern was debunked and falsified to a clearer focus on where it came from and when it was made.
By the start of 2017, the primary working hypothesis that all brass swords are relatively recent souvenir collectables from Italy was rock solid. Characterization of the full inventory ultimately resulted in the first 2’ x 2’ poster version of the Timeline Morphology Model in April 2017. Version one was presented and distributed on Facebook and a subsequent summary was included in a video posted to the Youtube channel. The model presented six group types with two sub types, a timeline from the mid 1970s to present, and eight primary, seventeen secondary, and six tertiary morphologic indicators spread over each group type and sub type.
Over the summer of 2017 additional nuance and annotation has been incorporated. One additional secondary indicator and two additional tertiary indicators were added, and one indicator flip from secondary to primary has been done. One confirmed feature trend pattern is also added as a secondary indicator. Two more swords were added to the inventory and each fit nicely with established group types and lineage. The Timeline Morphology Model is now updated to version 2.0.
The following summary presents group type and sub type letter identifier and naming identifier, primary metallurgy, sample size (for the salient Italian brass years), known purchase source locations, and known/weighted interpretation of time period limits.
X for Xiphos / iron(?) / pre 1975(?)
F for Fuller (partial) / brass / n=3 / Rome / 1975-1980
T for Transitional / brass / n=2 / Rome / 1980-1983
J(c) for J Mark & Circle Mark / brass / n=3 / Rome / 1983-1987
J(r) for J Mark on Reverse of blade / brass / n=1 / Rome / 1987-1990
J for J Mark / brass / n=3 / Rome / 1990-1995
CS for Clean Sword / brass / n=7 / Pompeii / 1995-2008
I for Iron / iron / 2003 to present
CS2 for 2nd generation CS traits / brass / 2015 to present
F2 for 2nd generation F traits / brass / 2015 to present
The model’s primary, secondary, and tertiary indicators are presented on the poster with example pictures and annotations. Interpretation of the indicator features should be relatively straightforward and most have been discussed previously in the blog and on Facebook. Primary indicators are the single dominant feature consistent in the group type. The two sub types in group J have a consistent sub identifier. A mix of hilt and blade traits are used as primary indicators. Secondary indicators are also consistently seen in all examples in the group or sub type but clarity can vary. The secondary indicators are primarily related to hilt differences. Tertiary indicators are not necessarily seen in all examples in a group or sub type or more examples are felt to be needed for corroboration.
The model poster also presents a selection of enlargements for added clarity. Annotation providing characterization of the main Italian brass period and the more current iron and polished brass pieces is also included. The Nova Scotia Sword is illustrated at full scale with annotation for added context, and the most current and unique sword from Italy is illustrated at full scale for interest and comparison.
The timeline distinctly shows the early Italian brass sword years, 1975-1995, reflecting Rome as the known market for Types F,T,J(c), J(r), and J, and later years of 1995-2008 reflecting the Pompeii market for Type CS. More current iron swords and the most modern brass sword examples from Italy are noted as 2003 and 2015 respectively with regard to original retail date. The distinct largest sword identified, Type X, has been inserted as the possible earliest sword based on a combination of morphology clues.
The Italian tourist market brass swords representing the span from 1975 to 2008 are the critical comparative examples for the purpose of determining the origin of the Nova Scotia Sword. The Timeline Morphology Model identifies the Nova Scotia Sword in the span of ca.1983-ca.1987 and it is sourced to the souvenir trade in Rome.
By comparison, the find story of the Nova Scotia Sword provided by Jovan Hutton Pulitzer and the Curse of Oak Island TV show is without a doubt false. The claim that it was pulled up by scallop fisherman from a Roman shipwreck near Oak Island in the 1940s is a fabricated story with no evidence. It should be clearly noted that the association of the sword to an alleged and fake Roman shipwreck was never detailed on the TV show but rather was only explicitly told by Pulitzer and used in his fake news releases. Pulitzer clearly did not use critical thinking and due diligence to determine facts. Facts matter. The producers and cast of the TV show did use due diligence to have the sword professionally tested. The metallurgy tests by St. Mary’s University confirmed the sword as modern era brass. The magnified truth of specific origin as a tourist souvenir from Rome in the mid 1980s is now quite clear.
Many thanks and congratulations are extended to all the Swordgaters that crowdsourced the finds, the data, and that provided discussion used to build the knowledge base for the model. We can all split the reward and reap the glory. There are still a few unanswered questions that linger and some fine tuning that can occur, but a well played battle has been won.
Stay tuned for the unofficial official Swordgate Poster v6.0 update that will present the full sword inventory (we’ve hit 25!) with summaries of the primary hypothesis, 3D analysis, hilt design, metallurgy, morphometrics, and bivalve mold casting.
Keep it real. Keep it Swordgate.
I'm writing this post as a placeholder for Fake Hercules Sword 18. While we've known of the existence of this sword for over a year now, all we have is a single image and a four sentence email. I responded to the original email at three different times asking for more information but alas . . . crickets.
Anyway, in the interest of sharing what we know (and satisfying the squeaky wheels over at the Swordgate Institute of Research, I give you the only image of Fake Hercules Sword 18:
The owner reported that he/she lives in Louisiana and got the sword when his/her father passed away. That's all we know.
By the luck of the draw, my city of Columbia, South Carolina, was within the 70-mile-wide path of the totality during yesterday's solar eclipse. We hosted friends and family from southeast Michigan, northern Georgia, and Washington, D.C. There where some large clouds in the sky, but we had an unobstructed view from about a half hour before totality until well after. I didn't have to leave my front yard.
It was the strangest, coolest natural phenomenon I've ever seen. No question.
Knowing that there would be thousands of experienced photographers training their cameras on the sun, I made the decision to focus not on trying to take a good picture but on soaking up the sensory experience. I think one of the things that makes this so different from other natural wonders was its transitory nature. While there were gradual changes in light leading up to totality that signaled that something different was happening, the period of time that the sun was completely blocked by the moon was brief (in our location, about 2.5 minutes). There's a lot to experience during that short window.
I was in Bloomington, IN, for the annular solar eclipse on May 10, 1994. I remember walking outside from working in the lab and noticing the dappled lunate shadows on the pavement from the partially-obscured sunlight passing through a tree canopy. That was about it. There may have been some other subtle changes in the light that I didn't notice because I was inside working. The only thing that made an impression on me was the strangeness of the shadows, the result of the leaves creating a fabric of natural "pinhole cameras."
Yesterday was different. No offense to my friends outside of the path of the totality who enjoyed yesterday's eclipse, but . . . nothing compares to being centered in the crosshairs of the moon/sun dance. As the last sliver of the sun slides behind the moon, multiple senses get triggered simultaneously. The light changes dramatically, the noises around you change (birds, insects, etc.), the air cools down. The sky wasn't as dark as I thought it would be (it often looks pitch black in photos -- it's not). Instead it was about as bright as twilight but with a totally different feel, perhaps because the sun was so high in the sky so there was no "direction" to the twilight. And it was more crisp than twilight. The sight of the black-hole sun blazing away high in sky, Venus off to one side, a yellow glow on the horizon so far removed from the light source. . . it is truly bizarre. I've never seen or experienced anything like it. It was absolutely qualitatively different from a partial eclipse.
Experiencing the totality was both communal and individual. Each person in our front yard did his or her own thing. With eclipse glasses off and no cars on the street, there was conversation, staring in wonder, pointing, exclaiming, and at least one kid (my six-year-old) running around yelling about apocalypse and alien invasion.
When the sun began to peak out from behind the moon I looked down on the asphalt and saw shadowbands racing across the road.
As an anthropologist and archaeologist, I was really curious to experience this for myself so I could try to think about what it would have been like for societies with no foreknowledge that something like this was going to happen and no scientific way to explain it. Because the sun is so bright, you have no warning that the moon is near it (you just can't look up in the sky to see what's happening). I was first sure that I could detect a change in the quality of the light at about 20-25 minutes before totality -- even though it was sunny it felt like I was wearing sunglasses, like the light was direct (i.e., not shade) but dimmed unnaturally. I think it was around 10-15 minutes from totality that we were all noticing the lunate shadows. The dimming effect grew more rapid as totality approached, but sped up dramatically in the last minute or so.
Without over-analyzing it, I will just say (from my perspective) that the changes felt so bizarre and so unlike anything "normal" that I have a hard time seeing how people attuned to the regular rhythms of the seasons, day/night, etc., could have experienced something like this without interpreting or explaining it to themselves somehow. Even having had described to me what to expect, even knowing something about the physics of what was going to happen, and even being told by scientists when it was going to happen -- down to the second -- I still was unprepared for what it actually felt like.
I highly recommend the experience if you can swing it.
On a related note, I wanted to pass on to my regular readers (and especially Swordgate fans) that we hosted Pablo Benavente as a house guest over the last few days. Pablo is involved in a photography project on Kickstarter called "Chasing the Great American Eclipse." After helping me out by taking photos of some of my sculptures, Pablo spent the afternoon photographing and interviewing eclipse watchers in downtown Columbia on campus and at the State House. I took him to the Amtrak station at 4:00 this morning for the start of his journey back home to Washington D.C.
I offer the above photograph as demonstration that, contrary to what proponents of the "100% confirmed Roman Sword" maintain, Pablo and I are not the same person. I can vouch for the fact that I am real and that Pablo is also real. And that he has a very long day of train travel ahead of him. He does like coffee, and beer, and walking around taking pictures just like I do, only his pictures are much better than mine. It was great to have him as a guest, and a real pleasure to hang out with another veteran of #Swordgate, which remains perhaps the most epic debunking of a ridiculously fraudulent archaeological claim in the internet era. As long as sword proponents continue to claim, for whatever reason, that all skepticism about the sword comes from me posing as different people on the internet, you can (and should) rightfully discard as false everything else they say by applying the legal principle of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus. When your opponent's case rests on easily disproven lies, you know you've won. It's a 100% confirmed victory for the good guys.
All views expressed in my blog posts are my own. The views of those that comment are their own. That's how it works.
I reserve the right to take down comments that I deem to be defamatory or harassing.
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