Following the announcement (on December 16) via a story in the Boston Standard written by Gemma Gadd, several bronze/brass swords that appear to be nearly identical to Pulitzer's claimed Roman sword have come to light (one in a collection in Florida, one recently purchased in California, and one for sale on Italian Ebay). It also turns out that you can buy a currently-produced iron (or stone?) version of the sword from well-known edged-weapon retailers such as Walmart and Linens-N-Things.
If you weren't already suspicious of Pulitzer's sword just by looking at it, the existence of multiple brass/bronze swords that appear to have been cast from the exact same mold as Puliter's sword should give you pause. If not, you've probably already stopped reading.
There are several basic possibilities of what's going on here.
Possibility 1. All the brass/bronze swords are authentic Roman swords. That's really completely implausible for many obvious reasons that I don't have the energy to write out.
Possibility 2. Some of the swords are authentic and the rest are copies. It's possible, but, I think, pretty unlikely. The problem for Pulitzer, however, is that copies are generally worse than the original. The "best" of the swords I've seen so far is the one purchased for $25 in California - there is no way that is a copy of Pulitzer's sword because it preserves details that are worn off of Pulitzer's sword.
Possibility 3. All of the brass/bronze swords are modern (i.e., manufactured sometime during the last few hundred years). This is certainly possible. I think, in fact, this is probably the simplest explanation. It's possible, for example, that the swords were all produced as decorative souvenir swords for the Victorian tourist trade in the Mediterranean (i.e., to be sold to wealthy travelers doing a Grand Tour of Roman Italy). Can I prove it yet? No. But I think it's a real possibility.
Possibility 4. There is an authentic Roman or Greek sword somewhere that was the model for all of these reproduction swords. This is also possible. I'm not aware that such an ancient "model" sword has been identified yet. It may or may not exist. But I'm quite certain that if such an original exists it wasn't submerged off of Oak Island (how would copies have been made?).
In the original Boston Standard story, Pulitzer proclaimed that Nova Scotia sword to be "100 per cent confirmed." That's an unequivocal statement that he has done all of his work and there is not a single iota of doubt left that this could be anything other than an authentic, ancient Roman sword.
Apparently, however, that has changed. In a post this afternoon, Pulitzer wrote the following:
"Logically anyone should question the find of a single sword out of place, and you can bet we have been working hard to verify it's authenticity."
Wait - still working to verify its authenticity? I thought it was already 100 percent confirmed. Did I somehow misunderstand the meanings of "100 percent" and "confirmed"?
I guess Pulitzer didn't know about all those other swords out there. That's too bad for him. The more swords there are, the less likely it is that Possibility 1 is plausible. With four brass/bronze swords floating around, in my opinion, Possibility 1 is out the door. Possibility 3, however, looks better and better as more of these brass/bronze swords surface. But if Possibility 3 is correct, the whole idea of the sword being Roman goes down the tubes.
The existence of any "reproduction" swords really complicates things for Pulitzer as well. It seems he has "tested" his sword (and 100% confirmed its authenticity) by comparing the composition of the metal to that of another sword that he thinks is authentic (I would guess the Florida sword, but I don't know that for a fact). But if that reference sword is also not authentic, then a test tells you nothing (two decorative swords cast in the same foundry in Milan in 1850 would test as the "same" even though neither is from ancient Rome).
This is a significant problem for Pulitzer's story. So he's trying to figure out how to explain the existence of multiple other swords that look just like his. In one silly post earlier today, he even floated the idea that the "new" swords popping up since his announcement were a result of people trying to capitalize from his earth shattering news by quickly making swords to sell. He even suggested that some of the swords didn't exist:
"Take the hottest news story going, clone the photos, see if you can sell tons and make a mint! That's opportunistic capitalism!"
It's also a complete bullshit thing to say. Anyone with a pair of eyes can see that the California sword is a different sword than Pulitzer's, as it preserves much more detail (I would do a side-by-side comparison, but Pulitzer would probably threaten to sue me). The Ebay sword is real also. I'm aware of who purchased it, and (as a reader of my blog identified as Peter Geuzen informed me through a comment) you can see that it has been for sale since September.
If those posts weren't enough of an indication that there's some panic in the air over at Pulitzer's secret treasure fort headquarters, the text of the original Boston Standard story was edited today. Here is the original section that I have quoted several times:
"Now lead researcher and historic investigator J. Hutton Pulitzer, who also stars in the show [Curse of Oak Island], has put a large white paper together with a group of academics from the AAPS (Ancient Artifact Preservation Society).
The main discoveries include a Roman sword found submerged just off Oak Island - and what is believed to be a Roman shipwreck.
Here is how that passage reads now:
"Now historic investigator J. Hutton Pulitzer, who previously featured on the show, has put a large white paper together with a group of academics from the AAPS (Ancient Artifact Preservation Society).
He claims to have evidence of a Roman sword found submerged just off Oak Island - and what is believed to be a Roman shipwreck."
There a several differences worth noting. First, Pulitzer is no longer identified as a "lead researcher" and "star" of The Curse of Oak Island (I haven't watched the show this season, but my understanding is that he's no longer on it). Second, the announcement of the Roman sword is now nestled in the phrase "claims to have evidence of" rather than proclaimed as a discovery (at last check, Pulitzer is still quoted as saying that the sword is "100 per cent confirmed").
I'm not sure who is doing the rewrites to the Boston Standard article and on what basis the story is being edited. If I was the author of the article, I would be embarrassed to have participated in this nonsense.
Pulitzer loves attention, and he's certainly getting it. That attention has come with some scrutiny, however, and my sense is that right now it's really not breaking his way. He went for all the marbles with his Roman sword claim, and it's going to be pretty difficult to back off of that claim with so many eyes watching. Do you want to be right about the sword or do you want people to think you mean what you say? I'm not sure you can have it both ways at this point.
Sit back and enjoy the continuing saga of Swordgate. I'm sure it's not over.