Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The Beardmore Relics: Hoax or History WHO

WHO found these objects?

This gets you a short version of the story on Wikipedia site for the Beardmore relics.


The following continues the A.D. Tushingham's article : The Beardmore Relics: Hoax or History, ROM 1966... reprinted by permission, courtesy of the Royal Ontario Museum, August 31, 2011.

October 18, 1938
The News Chronicle
James Edward Dodd 

The case rests ultimately on the credibility of James Edward Dodd, of Port Arthur (now Thunder Bay), a trainman on the Canadian National Railway. Like many other people in that neighbourhood, Dodd used to spend his spare time prospecting for gold.  It was during one of these trips into the bush that he allegedly found the relics. When the Royal Ontario Museum bought his objects, on December 3, 1936, Dodd made a statement which may be summarized as follows.

He had been sampling an exposed, nearly vertical quartz vein on a claim near Beardmore on May 24, 1931.  Where the vein ran into the ground these stood a clump of birch, consisting of one old tree that had died and a group of young trees sprung from its roots. To save cutting through that tangled mass, Dodd decided to use dynamite. Roots and all were blown over by the blast, and about 3 and a half feet of overlay was dislodged, exposing rock.  On the rock lay some rusty pieces of iron. Dodd was after richer metal - and threw them to one side. There they lay, on the surface of the ground, until1933, when he carried them home to Port Arthur.

Word Spread

Eventually word of the find reached C.T. Currelly, director of the Royal Ontario Museum of Archaeology.  He invited Dodd to bring the weapons to the Museum. As Dr. Currelly described the meeting some years later:
"It was obvious to me that the weapons were a set, that is, that the axe and the sword were of the same date, which I judged to be about A.D. 1000. I asked Mr. Dodd if he had found anything else, as I knew that there should have been another piece.  He said yes, that lying over the bar of metal was something like a bowl that was rusted into little fragments. He had just shovelled them out. This bit of evidence was as it should have been, and since no one unacquainted with Viking things would have known of this iron boss that covered the hand on the Viking shield.  I felt, therefore, that there was no question that these things have been found as was described."

Checking the Story

Nevertheless, Dr. Currelly asked Professor T.F. McIlwraith of the University of Toronto, an Indian Archaeologist of much experience, to check the story.  McIlwraith visited the site of the alleged discovery with Dodd in September 1937.  In his official report afterwards he supported Dodd's description of the physical features of the find, although dynamiting and trenching carried out in the intervening years had made it impossible to check all details. He concluded, " I believe the facts to be substantially as reported by him."

Dodd's story was supported by John Drew Jacob, who at the time of discovery was overseer in the Beardmore District for the Ontario Fish and game Department. On December 9, 1936, he made a formal statement that he had visited the site soon after the weapons had been discovered and had seen there, imprinted in the rock, the rust stain left by the iron sword.

Six months later Jacob amplified his  original statement. He explained that he had heard through an acquaintance of Dodd's find, had seen the objects in Port Arthur, had checked in reference books and had then visited the site himself. In both these statements Jacob assumed the date of the discovery to be 1931, as Dodd had said.  Soon afterwards, however, he checked in his diary and found he had visited the site and seen the rust impression between June 17 and June 21, 1930.

Dodd, himself, apparently soon afterwards, independently revised his account to place the discovery in 1930 rather than 1931, and the earlier date is contained in a formal affidavit sworn by him on February 3, 1939. the same day, affidavits also were sworn by Walter Dodd, his foster-son ("I have read my father's affidavit, and can testify to its correctness"): by William Feltham, who said he had accompanied Dodd to the alleged discovery site about the end of May 1930 and had seen the objects resting 'on the banking of earth around the cabin"; and by Fletcher Gill, a railwayman and Dodd's partner of the mining claims. Gill was not on hand at the time of the discovery but said he had a letter from Dodd in the summer of 1931 about finding an "old Indian cemetery".

In his 1939 affidavit, Dodd also stated :
(1) that P.J. Bohun, CNR section man at nearby Dorion, had seen the relics at the cabin on the claim, and that (2) subsequently in May or June, 1930, he, Dodd, had taken them to his home at 296 Wilson Street in Port Arthur. Four days later Bohun made a sworn statement that he was foreman at Warnford, one mile from Dodd's camp, that he used to visit Dodd there, and that on "one of these visits - between the 15th of May and the 1st of July, 1931 - ( I take these dates from staff records, which show that I was stationed at Warnford between these dates) - I saw the handle part of the sword...  lying on the ground outside the left side (south side) of Dodd's camp.Three other Port Arthur residents made sworn statements supporting Dodd's statement that he had the relics in his home on Wilson Street; and a forth swore that Dodd had possession of the weapons before he moved from Wilson Street.

The matter of Dodd's residence became increasingly important as the story unfolded. During this period Dodd lived in three different houses in Port Arthur. The first was at 296 Wilson Street. On June 29, 1931, he moved to 37 Machar Avenue.  There his landlord was J.M. Hansen (we shall hear more of him) who lived next door at 33 Machar Avenue. After only a few months, on September 18, 1931, Hansen moved out of 33 Machar Avenue and Dodd moved in. He remained there until March 9, 1933, when he moved yet again to 74 South Algoma Street.

It is obvious that Dodd's statements and those which tend to support it in substance are full of discrepancies in detail, especially in the matter of dates. Dodd originally told Currelly in 1936 that he had discovered the weapons in 1931 and had left them on his mining claim until 1933. In his later statements he pushed the date back to 1930 and said he had taken them home to Wilson Street during May or June of the same year. Certainly, if he brought them to Wilson Street it must have been before the end of June 1931.

These discrepancies would in themselves raise doubts about the veracity of statements made by Dodd and some other witnesses. But in the absence of other evidence the story, with some misgivings, could be accepted.  There was no clear factual or testimonial evidence to disprove its essential features - that Dodd had found the Norse weapons while blasting on his mining claim and after some time had brought them to his home in Port Arthur where several people saw them.


How else could Dodd have acquired genuine Norse relics? He apparently did not know what they were, and had made no effort to profit from their discovery.

Why would Dodd have spoken of a "dome of rust" if he had not actually seen it?

Why would  Jacob, a reputable man, well known to the Museum, have supported Dodd's claim so strongly before there was any newspaper publicity about it, if he had not actually seen the rust impression of the sword?  it is difficult to believe in collusion between him and Dodd.

By such reasoning, Currelly came to believe tha Dodd's story was in fact essentially true, and the Bearedmore Relics were proudly put on display in the Royal Ontario Museum.

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