It was one year ago today that J. Hutton Pulitzer's claim of a "100% confirmed Roman sword" first surfaced in an online newspaper article. The story arc over the last year has been fascinating to watch. The original claim began to crumble almost immediately, as swords nearly identical to the claimed "ancient Roman" sword began surfacing. It quickly became apparent that these Hercules-hilted swords had been produced and sold as tourist souvenirs during recent times (i.e., sometime in the last two centuries). So much for that.
So that's case closed, right?
No. One of the hallmarks of pseudoscience is the unwillingness or inability to change one's conclusion when confronted with evidence to the contrary. We've seen that in spades over the past year.
Caught unprepared by the appearance of so many Hercules-hilted swords, Pultizer attempted to dismiss them as "recent replicas" that were somehow different from his "ancient Roman sword." He has continued to insist two things: (1) the replicas are copied from an original, authentic Roman sword that is curated at some museum in Naples; and (2) the replicas have a different metallic composition than the original swords. As I wrote earlier this month, keeping those two assertions alive has been the center of gravity of a shell game that's been going on for almost a year now.
Multiple times I have challenged supporters of the sword to provide evidence supporting either one of those assertions, and so far they have not. Read the comments on this post for an example of how the conversations go: I'm told over and over again that all that information is freely availabe, yet when I ask for some kind of source (because I haven't been able to find it), I'm told "do your own research."
The best anyone has been able to do for the elusive XRF data that are purportedly in the "sword report" is page 52:
The ommision of the percentages is key, since Pulitzer's initial reaction to the metallurgical data from St. Mary's University was one of shock about the high percentage of zinc. The high level of zinc was one of the main factors leading to the conclusion that the sword was modern. Pulitzer's current claim that zinc levels are high bcause of naturally occurring zinc in the ores that were used is completely inconsistent with his original claim (based on his own data) that there wasn't much zinc in the sword. This is why he won't provide his data/methods with percentages: they can't possibly be consistent with all of his statements and will therefore reveal that that he is playing a shell game.
After a full year of this nonsense, the energy over the "Roman sword" claim isn't what it was in those early days of Swordgate. That's all right and good. As far as I know, the real-time engagment with the ridiculous "Roman sword" claim was without precedent. It was a group effort, and all of us that participated in this (and the small core of us that are still working on the problem of the actual origin and history of these swords) should be rightfully proud of what we've done and what we've accomplished. I'm looking foward to what Year Two will bring.