Since 2017, I have spent a considerable amount of time researching the language of the Michigan Relics. The goal of my research was specifically to determine if the language was decipherable and if the language was consistent among the artifacts. I also spent some time learning Middle Kingdom Egyptian, but by no means have I become an expert.
Getting all known photographs of these artifacts has been a challenge. But what I do have is significant. Eric Perkins at the Michigan History Center allowed me to come on site and photograph many of the artifacts over a period of three days. It was rather a laborious task for him and others in the museum as the artifacts are generally well packaged and placed in storage for safe keeping. In addition to the photos, he also gave me a copy of a CD which presumably contains the complete collection as housed in their archives. I was also given verbal permission to place the photos on a website. I have since done so, and the images are available at this webpage – https://bookofmormonheartland.com/the-michigan-artifacts/.
As I have done my research, I am convinced that there exist photos of many artifacts of which I do not have images. Jeff Garff probably has the most complete collection of photographs of the Soper and Savage collections. These photographs are not publicly available. Jeff was a young man when his father took an active role in photographing artifacts with his company AAA Productions back in the 1980s when the LDS church owned the Soper and Savage collections. Jeff is still actively engaged in the laborious activity of digitizing the negatives once owned by his father.
I feel it quite appropriate to say that there are other collections with similar writings in the hands of other persons and institutions. I have only received a small number of images from these other collections, and hope to eventually obtain them for study.
While I may not have access to photographs of all artifacts, I do have enough artifacts of the Soper and Savage collections to at least make a good start on a deciphering effort. I now have a good number of symbols that I am rather convinced of their meanings.
My initial interest came as I found meaning in certain Egyptian symbols intermixed with this independent language. However, it did not take long for me to know that I needed a Rosetta Stone. A small version of a Rosetta Stone was found when I discovered a photograph of a Ten Commandments copper plate in Rudolph Etzenhouser’s publication called Engraving’s of Prehistoric Specimens published in 1910. I took this relic to the task to see if anything of worth could be deciphered.
The first thing to point out is the visual pattern. The left half contains the first five commandments. The right half are commandments six through ten. I also presumed that the language is written from right to left based on the placing of the numerical dots indicating the commandment number. This direction of writing is consistent with Hebrew. I made an assumption that the language may be related to Hebrew as I presumed it was a Ten Commandments artifact. I also took some context from the Los Lunas Decalogue stone to help me better understand Hebrew sentence structure. If you are not familiar with the Los Lunas Decalogue Stone, it is a boulder near Albuquerque, New Mexico found to contain the Ten Commandments written in an ancient variant of Paleo Hebrew. One particular YouTube video that was useful was of Todd Eaton reading the Ten Commandments on the Decalogue Stone.
The fourth commandment was the first one to stand out. That is because the first symbol is the same symbol that I matched to a Noah tablet for the name Shem.
Seeing the match with Shem, I considered that the image was a phonetic SH – just as the Hebrew word for Sabbath (Shabot) begins with a phonetic SH. Perhaps the next two symbols were the Hebrew spelling of Sabbath. So I compared these three symbols with Sabbath on the Los Lunas Decalogue stone. While the symbols are not a perfect match, they do seem related. My conclusion is that the Sabbath is indeed spelled out on the Michigan copper plate.
While the spelling of the word Sabbath is phonetic, it turned out that this was an anomaly. Most symbols of this Michigan script appear to be symbol/meaning based rather than a full phonetic spelling. The next symbol of the Fourth Commandment following Sabbath is likely to be “Remember”. This particular symbol which I now presume to mean “Remember” is used in numerous places, and the meaning of “Remember” appears to match the context in those other locations.
The image in this article specifying “Remember the Sons” comes from the bottom of one of the stone tablets of Noah’s flood. The image “Remember the Righteous” comes from an artifact presumably about the Tower of Babel.
Next I took a hard look at the Third Commandment – Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
As the writings go from right to left, the descriptions become visually awkward to the English reader. As I compared the symbols in this commandment with the KJV version of the commandment, the commandment word for word in Hebrew, and the commandment as recorded on the Los Lunas Decalogue Stone, I determined that wording would have to follow something like what I have annotated on the image of the Third Commandment. I shall describe each symbol below:
Speak – Same symbol as the first letter for the name of Noah.
God – Same symbol as the first letter of the name for Japeth. The Hebrew name of Japeth actually begins with the Hebrew Yud, the same first letter used in commonly used word for God – Yahweh.
Name – I do not have any reference for the phonetics of this symbol. Using the translation of “named” or “called’ cross references to numerous other locations very well.
To – Same symbol as the Egyptian water symbol which has “to” as one of its definitions. Past tense is another Egyptian usage for the water symbol.
Nothingness – Simply the word used in the Hebrew commandment for “vain”.
A Person Should Not Do – The “Shem” symbol seems to represent the word “Don’t”. A vertical nail (Vav) is placed in-between the “Don’t” symbols. The two Don’t symbols are emphasizing that a person really should not do this.
As I have at this point determined meaning for each symbol, the real questions are as follows:
Will these symbols cross reference to other commandments with the same meanings?
Will these symbols cross reference to writings on other tablets with the same meanings?
My answer emphatically is that they do. However, I will not be expounding on this today.
Yo Hey Va – The Mystic Symbol of Yo Hey Va has been previously demonstrated to be the name Jehovah in presentations by Wayne May. He has received verbal verification of this from certain Ojibwe Natives and epigraphers of Hebrew. In the Michigan Relics, the symbol seems to be way overused to be restricted to only this meaning. For example, many knives and other war implements from this collection have Yo Hey Va inscribed on them. If the ancient people of Michigan were indeed of Hebrew origin, certainly they would not want to be found guilty of taking the Lord’s name in vain, and hence would not place the name of Jehovah on swords and other instruments of war. As the vertical nail (Vav in Hebrew) also has an ancient meaning of a tent stake, and the nail appears to represent a “person” in numerous places on these artifacts, I am making a presumption that perhaps Yo Hey Va sometimes means Jehovah, and sometimes means People of God.
In the Sixth Commandment, the Shem symbol again holds the meaning “Don’t”.
The cross symbol I determined to mean “life”. Initially, I presumed the cross symbol and the next symbol together meant “kill”. However, after cross referencing to another artifact – Serpent on the Cross – I concluded that the cross was more likely a variant to the ancient Egyptian Ankh symbol meaning “life”. As a side note, I really love the symbolism of this particular cross, as the upper left corner has a tick which I believe to be a representation of the blood and sweat from the forehead of Christ. The lower right side of the cross I believe to be a representation of the blood and water which came out of the side of Christ when his dead body was pierced by a Roman soldier to verify his death. While I fully expect the scholastic world to scoff at such a notion, I personally believe that our presumed Hebrew friends in Michigan had more contact with the old world than the scholastic world will accept.
Regarding the symbol “kill”, it has a lower vertical (Vav) symbol on the right, the “vain” cross in the middle, followed by a rising Vav on the left. This symbol “kill” is found on two other artifacts, apparently having the same meaning – these being one of Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac, and the other being the artifact showing Christ on the cross.
I find this symbol to be strikingly interesting when comparing the symbol to the meaning of death as described by the Seneca Indian, Handsome Lake (also known as the Seneca Prophet). This statement comes from the book Willard’s Cumorah edited by Wayne May and Vicki Bean Topliff, pages 127 and 128. It states as follows:
“After death the soul ascends on an invisible road to this celestial habitation, first lingering for a short time near the body, then moves slowly upward and upward, gradually bearing westward until it comes onto the plains of heaven.”
In one image you see the depiction of Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac. You also see the angel commanding him to not sacrifice his son. There are two symbols that I interpret to say “Speak Kill”, or spelled out colloquially “He was commanded to sacrifice his son”.
The other image which also uses the kill symbol is the image of the depiction of Christ on the cross. Upon close examination, you will see much symbolism on this tablet. Above his head is the name Jehovah (missing the final hebrew Hey). You will notice Mary Magdalene and Mary the Mother of Christ at the base of the cross. You will also notice the twelve ticks in the upper right indicating the 12 disciples. You will also notice the Yo Hey Va written again to the right of the cross, perhaps representing the People of God in Israel. And most importantly, in the upper left is the symbol for “Kill” or “Crucified”.
I have only touched lightly on the language of these artifacts. There is much more that can be shown, but this will suffice for this article with more to come. In future articles, I will build on my arguments here, and you will see nearly complete translations in some places. I do believe there is enough here to demonstrate at least partially that linguistic viability exists. There are symbols found that appear to make sense as a language. There are also translatable symbols that are used on disconnected artifacts appearing to have the same meaning. This does not prove validity of all of the artifacts. However, I do believe that it presents a strong argument that the artifacts examined here are related linguistically, and are likely authentic and ancient.