Cuneiform in America 4000 years ago

Judging from the artifacts they left behind, the Assyrians and Sumerians made quite an extensive voyage to the Americas about 4000 years ago. This the first installment of a three entry blog that presents the evidence.

Chief Joseph’s Cuneiform Tablet


The most famous piece of evidence passed down among the Nez Perce tribe of Montana was a strange cuneiform tablet known to us as the Chief Joseph Tablet. Housed in the museum at West Point, this tablet was photographed by Warren C. Dexter in 1991, the tablet was taken from—some say gifted by—Chief Joseph when he was captured in 1877.

Chief Joseph, best known for his statement, “I will fight no more forever,” claimed he inherited it from his white ancestors and that it had been in his family for generations. He carried the inch square baked tablet in a medicine pouch with the Star of Ashur, an Assyrian symbol, on it. (That is the subject of my next blog.)

Translated by Professor Robert Biggs of the University of Chicago, the Chief Joseph tablet reads, “Nalu received 1 lamb from Abbashaga on the 11th day of the month of the festival of An, in the year Enmahgalanna was installed as high priestess of Nanna.” That would be 2042 BCE.

Now, some websites claim this tablet is a forgery, to which I would reply: Really? Chief Joseph knew the Assyrian language and wrote in cuneiform, you say. And he knew the history of the priestesses of Nanna, too. So tell me how Chief Joseph came by that knowledge in the 1880s? (That in itself is a good mystery—especially since cuneiform was first deciphered in 1857 in Britian.)


The Hearn Cuneiform Tablet

hearn_cuneiform_tablet-1.jpgThe Hearn tablet was discovered in Georgia in 1963. It is a receipt for sheep and goats intended as sacrifice to the sun god Utu and the goddess Lama Lugal. The scribe, Enlila, states it was the 37th or 38th year of the reign of King Suigi of Ur, Sumeria. That dates this tablet to 2040 BCE, two years prior to the Chief Joseph tablet.

The Hearn tablet is made of lead, not clay. There are other lead pieces found on the Hearn property dated to the same time. So it would seem at least this tablet may have been created here in the Americas. Lead smelting and the need to create a receipt for goods exchanged, I would say, indicates a larger presence than just a handful of explorers.


The Shawnee Creek Stone of Oklahoma


The Shawnee Creek Stone is yet a third important discovery.

According to Gloria Farley who was one of the pioneers of the movement to discover and preserve evidence of pre-Comumbian trans-Atlantic travel:

“Borrowing the [Shawnee Creek] stone, I made a latex mold and my son Mark Farley obtained a clear photograph, both of which were sent to Dr. Barry Fell. His returning telephone call told me that he believed the find to be of great importance, as the design resembles the seals from ancient Dilmun in the Arabian Gulf. (This is the name which the Arabs give to the Persian Gulf. Dilmun was located mainly on the island of Bahrain.) The inscription, said Dr. Fell, appears to employ the ideographs used by Dilmunian scribes, especially the ones for ‘Inanna, Goddess of Love and Queen of Heaven.’ He told me that Inanna also related to the Sumerians. Sumer is now modern Iraq.”

Molds of the inscription were sent to Ali Akbar H. Bushiri a scholar of ancient Bahrain who wrote about the Dilmun culture. He confirmed that four of the five symbols related to Inanna. We have the circle with 8 rays (the Venus star), the vertical line with semicircle (Inanna), the “U” shape (Nanna, Moon God and father to Inanna), and the vertical line with 2 of 3 bars–the third bar having been chipped off (symbol of fertility).

Who was Inanna?


The reign of Inanna (also spelled Innana) as the Goddess of Love seems to have begun in 5300 BCE (the date for the “founding” of Sumer) and lasted right through the period of Akkadain rule in both Sumer and Assyria (2334-2218). Dilmun is south of Sumer. This places the Shawnee Creek Stone in the same date and geographic range as the two cuneiform tablets, although the stone could also have been much earlier or even later.

So we have one tablet (2042 BCE) that is Assyrian, one tablet (2040 BCE) that is Sumerian and one that is carved stone related to either Sumer or Assyria. All three can be related to one single era—just before the Akkandian rule of both Sumer and Assyria.


How did these artifacts get to America?

It is argued that neither the Sumerian nor the Assyrian people were navigators and could not have made it to America. So how did the tablets come to be found in America?

We need to remember that the Akkadian period began with the conquest of Assyria and Sumeria by Sargon of Akkad. His desire to expand and gain power may have extended to exploration, even across the Atlantic.

But the two cuneiform tablets are dated firmly to 2042 and 2040 BCE and Sargon’s conquest is dated to 2334 BCE. So either the tablets were made in Assyria and Sumeria before the conquest and then brought to America during a later Akkadian exploration, or they were made in America signifying Assyrian/Sumerian exploration before Akkadian rule.  In which case, we need to re-examine the statement that the Assyrians and Sumerians were not navigators. Perhaps they did navigate far distances, even across the Atlantic.

And we must remember Chief Joseph claimed his “white ancestors” passed the stone down through the generations. Is it possible that Assyrians and/or Sumerians came to this country to escape Sargon of Akkad and his conquering armies? If so, this would not be the last time the Americas became a haven for those escaping harsh conditions in their motherlands.



Photos of the tablets and some basic information in this blog are from the much quoted articles by Benjamin Daniali of the Assyrian Times.

But for more detailed and substantiated information see: Farley, Gloria (1994). In Plain Sight: Old world records in ancient America. Muskogee, OK: Hoffman Printing Company (pp. 150-155).        (There is a picture of the Shawnee Creek stone translation on p. 153.)

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