Where Did Chief Joseph Get His Mesopotamian Tablet?


When Chief Joseph, a renowned Nez Perce leader, surrendered to Europeans in 1877, he gave a special gift to General Nelson Appleton Miles, wrote Vine Deloria, Jr. in his book Red Earth white Lies. The gift received by the general was a pendant that turned out to be an ancient Mesopotamian cuneiform tablet. According to Benjamin Daniali of AssyriaTimes.com, the tablet was translated by Robert Biggs, professor of Assyriology at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. Professor Biggs found that it was a sales receipt for a lamb dating back to 2042 B.C.

Mary Gindling of Helium’s History Mysteries wrote, “The chief said that the tablet had been passed down in his family for many generations, and that they had inherited it from their white ancestors. Chief Joseph said that white men had come among his ancestors long ago.” Chief Joseph was a man of honor, and there was no reason for him to invent a flowery story about the origins of his gift. Furthermore, Gindling eliminated the possibility of forgery based on the fact that cuneiform had not been deciphered until 1846, and a potential forger would have had to be “familiar not only with the ancient language itself, but with the shape of the tablets created by the ancient scribes”.

The story of Chief Joseph’s tablet leaves us with a mystery. How did the ancient Assyrian artifact make it to the Western Hemisphere? The scholars are still scratching their heads in search of an explanation.

Chief Joseph’s pendant was not the only Mesopotamian tablet found in North America. NativeVillage.org mentioned another cuneiform tablet that was found in 1963 in Georgia, by Mrs. Joe Hearn. It was written in the Sumerian language and dated to approximately 2040 B.C. According to Weird Georgia by Mark Sceurman and Mark Moran, the tablet discovered by Hearn was a receipt that recorded a purchase of several sheep and goats for a ceremonial sacrifice.

Gloria Farley, an independent researcher from Oklahoma who was interested in pre-Columbian visitors to North America, wrote about numerous occasions on which ancient coins and other artifacts from the Mediterranean and the Middle East were found in North America. One of such occasions was cited by NativeVillage.org: “In 1980, a small heavy black stone found near Hodgen was brought to her for her opinion. The design resembled a flower with a complicated base”. According to NativeVillage.org, Farley consulted with Dr. Barry Fell, a zoologist at Harvard who was also an expert in ancient inscriptions, and he concluded that the design resembled the seals from ancient Dilmun in the Persian Gulf. “The inscription, said Dr. Fell, appeared to employ the ideographs used by Dilmunian scribes, especially the ones for ‘Inanna, Goddess of Love and Queen of Heaven.’”

Do these discoveries beg for a reevaluation of world history? Do they prove that merchants and explorers traveled between the Western and the Eastern hemispheres long before Columbus stepped his foot on the American land? At the very least, they mean that may be, scholars need to start asking new questions.

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Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
my travels have found, many indian possessions over the years and returned them[arrowheads,moteroes,pestiles...the grandest including sacred kamaaya rain flute worth many thousands to war cultures.took 25 yrs searching before found out it was kumaaya. i found that there was no interest as the museum people call sacred medicine person rain flute, ''a pipe.'' they had no use for me,my white skin and blue eyes or my mothers story. they pd. no attention to me being a half breed. very sad as my family was broke and we need the ten thousand.have never heard a wrd. from barona museum

Drew Muir
Drew Muir
Submitted by Drew Muir on
The Minoans, The Romans, The Vikings, The Chinese were in N.America before Colombus, do some research for pity's sake!

RedGinger's picture
Submitted by RedGinger on
In the early 1800s "Egyptology" and all kinds of raiding of Egyptian (and middle eastern) artifacts was going on. They were stealing and shipping these things to North America. There are still mummies in "curiosity shops" that were shipped from the middle east. There are a few of these in Pike's Place in Seattle. Joseph Smith (Mormon founder) collected Egyptian things, and had scrolls that were written in hieroglyph and stones with cuneiform. He told people he could read them, but the eventual translation (after his death) was very different than what he had said. That is a little off-topic, but America was full of stolen artifacts from all over the world.