Recently I took the opportunity to re-visit the Lenape stone housed at the Henry Mercer Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. I have visited the stone many times over the last few decades and although it has always fascinated me, I was never able to take a decent photograph. The stone is housed in 6th floor in a small attic like room and the lighting was quite poor. As it is enclosed behind glass, and a bit far from the viewer, the photos never really were as clear as I would have liked. Until now! The Museum has started some renovations to it's "Columbus" room and their modest Native American Artifact collection and now the stone is in a display that has a bit more natural light.
The stone is a slate "Gorget" or pendant type stone worn by Native Americans in the North Eastern United States over the last several thousand years. That much has not been disputed.
What sets this gorget apart from others are the incised designs that decorate the stone. Clearly visible is the image of a Woolly Mammoth, a native with a spear and several tepee like designs and trees. The reverse shows a collection of animal spirits such as a turtle, hawk, fish and such everyday objects as a canoe, a star, wampum belt and wavy lines perhaps suggesting the Delaware River or other body of water.
It has been suggested that this must be a hoax, as the local Delaware Lenape Indians could have never seen a living Mammoth, only inhabiting the region for about 3000 to 4000 years.
This is where the debate lies, as such historic documentation would suggest one of two conclusions: That the Woolly Mammoths did survive into the last few thousand years and were hunted by local natives, or that the Lenape did pass down a very exact oral tradition of hunting the great beasts so many thousands of years ago.
According to mainstream scientist, the Woolly mammoth and the American mastodon both went extinct 10,000 to 14,000 years ago. It seems unlikely the Lenape could have passed this story down over 6000 to 8000 years and be so accurate in their depiction, as no other images of a Woolly Mammoth have appeared in the North east.
However some would argue there have been vague Elephant like images found at other native sites in North America, such as the carved stone "Elephant" pipes found in Iowa in the late 19th century , and mysterious Elephant like sculptures found among the Maya in the Yucatan. However none of these have ever shown Mammoth tusks as the Lenape stone depicts .
So, the natural conclusion is that this is some sort of hoax, and easily dismissed as "Impossible".....however this is where the story gets interesting.
The stone was actually found in two parts, the first half found in 1872, the 2nd half found in 1881.
In the spring of 1872 Barnard Hansell, a young farmer, while ploughing on his father's farm, four miles and a half east of Doylestown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, saw, to use his own words, " He found a "queer stone" lying on the surface of the ground, and close to the edge of the new furrow. The plough had just missed turning it under. He stopped and picked it up; it was the larger piece of the fractured "gorget stone". According to the documented history he wet his thumb and by rubbing it he could see strange lines and a carving representing an animal like an elephant. The story goes he carried it several days in his pocket, and finally locked it up in his chest, where, along with his other relics, arrow-heads, spear-points, axes, and broken banner stones, thrown in from time to time as he found them on the farm, it remained until the spring of 1881, when he sold it to Mr. Henry Paxon, a young boy who was collecting artifacts, and as young boys do, he spent countless hours searching the fields where the first relic was found and one day, several months later he recovered the 2nd half of the stone in the same field.
Could this had been a 19th century Hoax?? Conceived and perpetuated over a nine year period involving two families and different characters and eyewitness accounts?
Sure, anything is possible , but it does seem unlikely that the stones were manufactured, split in half and hidden to be found over such a long period of time.
There was a native Indian presence in Pennsylvania certainly old enough to have witnessed the Woolly Mammoth. The most famous Paleo-Indian archaeological site in Pennsylvania, the marker Meadowcroft Rockshelter, shows evidence of human occupation possibly as early as 16,000 years ago, meaning it may be the earliest documented site of human occupation in North America. Carbon-14 dating on charcoal and bone fragments recovered from its ancient fire pits suggests that humans may have occupied this site as early as 16,000 years ago. If that is the case, then it is the oldest site of human occupation thus far documented in the Western Hemisphere, pushing back considerably the 11,500-year-old-date associated with the Clovis site in New Mexico.
However In much of the Northeast, stone gorget's first appear in the archaeological record during the Early to Middle Woodland period (2800 B.C. - A.D. 1000), and Late woodland (1000-1500 AD ). So mainstream archaeology would date our Lenape stone to this time frame or later, as the Lenape were documented as wearing gorget's when first encountered by fur traders in the 15th and 16th centuries.
The Incised designs are not uncommon on gorget and other artifacts, I have personally seen found artifacts in the Bucks county region with similar incised, stick like figures, suns and other natural images, even carved on a seed! So the imagery , however simple is more or less what you would expect to find by early natives carving with only stone age tools.
So The question remains: How did the Lenni Lanape Indians of Bucks County know what a Woolly Mammoth looked like?
I have taken some close up images of the stone showing what I conclude is patina and wear traditional from field use. The Gorget in my opinion is a true native artifact.
The Lenape stone has been written off as a hoax by main stream scientist since its discovery over 100 years ago , but perhaps we should take another look at this mysterious ancient relic , it may be proof that the current thinking on the extinction of the Woolly mammoth was not complete until much later in history.
For a very fascinating read , and one of my main sources was the document :
THE LENAPE STONE OR
THE INDIAN AND THE MAMMOTH
H. C. MERCER in 1885.
~ Todd Zieseniss