Early Study of Fraudulent 'Michigan Relics' Available

Now available from FARMS is a reprint of Dr. James E. Talmage’s 1911 report that goes a long way toward exposing the “Michigan relics” as forgeries. From 1874 through 1920, hundreds of archaeologically anomalous objects—including tablets, tools, weapons, vessels, and ornaments—bearing crudely rendered inscriptions were reportedly dug up from various sites near Detroit, Michigan. The inscriptions somewhat resembled characters from cuneiform, Egyptian hieroglyphics, and Greek, Hebrew, Assyrian, and Phoenician alphabets. Moreover, some of the objects contained pictographic representations that suggested ties to Hebraic peoples.

Because some people, including Latter-day Saints, continue to give credence to these “relics” and are apparently unaware of Talmage’s studied conclusions in this regard, FARMS is recirculating his report, which is still highly informative.

In 1998 the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies (vol. 7, no. 1) called attention to Talmage’s report in an article that discusses the revival of the Michigan relics story in recent years and the ease with which credulous people accept spurious information about “the mysteries of the past.” The article also mentions devastating evidence against the relics that Talmage never made public because an informant privy to the deception, before signing for him a declaration that the relics were fakes, obligated him not to make the information public during the lifetime of her mother, whose husband had manufactured many of the phony artifacts (see “James E. Talmage and the Fraudulent ‘Michigan Relics,’” 78).

Beginning in 1909, Talmage, a geologist (and soon-to-be apostle in the LDS Church), conducted a field investigation of the Michigan relics and published his findings in the Deseret Museum Bulletin in 1911. The report, titled “The ‘Michigan Relics’: A Story of Forgery and Deception,” details Talmage’s sleuthing that led him to make this pronouncement: “As a result of my investigation, I am thoroughly convinced that the alleged ‘relics’ are forgeries and that they are made and buried to be dug up on demand.”

Although further points could be added, this 30-page report contains keen analysis, engaging commentary, and photographs of many of the counterfeit relics. To obtain a copy, use the enclosed order form or visit the FARMS Web site.