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Fake relics “found” in Michigan at turn of century still provoke interest

May 24, 2017

"Ancient relics from the Mediterranean found across Michigan!"

That headline turned heads at the turn of the last century.

Eric Perkins from the Michigan History Center joined Stateside to talk about the story of these ancient "relics" and how they ended up being "discovered" in Michigan.

According to Perkins, it all started in October of 1890 when a man named James Scotford was digging post holes in Montcalm County. He claimed to have found ancient clay and copper artifacts. Scotford created quite a buzz around town, to the point that Montcalm County formed an Archeological Trust. The goal was to "corner the market" on these relics and find more of them.

However, when experts were recruited to examine these artifacts, they were quickly determined to be fake. The trust was dissolved, but the story didn't end there.

"[The Michigan relics] becomes such a craze, if you will, because the things keep turning up,  that in 1907 a Detroit News reporter gets a hold of [the story] ... and in the great tradition of investigative reporting, he digs and digs and he goes and he finds the guys who are now in the Detroit area and he grills these guys," said Perkins.  According to Perkins, no one ever confesses, but one of the men was quoted as saying, "Who are you to interfere with a private enterprise?"  More than 3,000 items are known to have been created as the men would stage more finds across the state over the years.
   

Listen to the full interview to hear how much effort went into creating these "relics," including how Michigan's Secretary of State defended the scam and why there are still people who believe the "artifacts" are real.

This segment is produced in partnership with the Michigan History Center.

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