Newark Ohio Keystone
In June of 1860, Wyrick had found an additional stone, also inscribed in Hebrew letters. This stone, shown above, is popularly known as the “Keystone” because of its general shape. However, it is too rounded to have actually served as a keystone. It was apparently intended to be held with the knob in the right hand, and turned to read the four sides in succession, perhaps repetitively. It might also have been suspended by the knob for some purpose. Although it is not pointed enough to have been a plumb bob, it could have served as a pendulum.The material of the Keystone has been identified, probably by geologist Charles Whittlesey immediately after its discovery, as novaculite, a very hard fine-grained siliceous rock used for whetstones. The photographs here show its natural color.
Wyrick found the Keystone within what is now a developed section of Newark, at the bottom of a pit adjacent to the extensive ancient Hopewellian earthworks there (c. 100 BC – 500 AD).
The letters on the Keystone are nearly standard Hebrew, rather than the very peculiar alphabet of the Decalogue stone. These letters were already developed at the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls (circa 200-100 B.C.), and so are broadly consistent with any time frame from the Hopewellian era to the present. For the past 1000 years or so, Hebrew has most commonly been written with vowel points and consonant points that are missing on both the Decalogue and Keystone. The absence of points is therefore suggestive, but not conclusive, of an earlier date.
Note that in the Keystone inscription Melek Eretz, the aleph and mem have been stretched so as to make the text fit the available space. Such dilation does occasionally appear in Hebrew manuscripts of the first millenium AD. Birnbaum, The Hebrew Scripts, vol. I, pp. 173-4, notes that “We do not know when dilation originated. It is absent in the manuscripts from Qumran … The earliest specimens in this book are … middle of the seventh century [AD]. Thus we might tentatively suggest the second half of the sixth century or the first half of the seventh century as the possible period when dilation first began to be employed.” Dilation would not have appeared in the printed sources nineteenth century Ohioans would primarily have had access to.
The Hebrew letter shin is most commonly made with a V-shaped bottom. The less common flat-bottomed form that appears on the first side of the Keystone may provide some clue as to its origin. The exact wording of the four inscriptions may provide additional clues.
Today, both the Decalogue Stone and Keystone, or “Newark Holy Stones,” as they are known, are on display in the Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum in Roscoe Village, 300 Whitewoman St., Coshocton, Ohio. Phone (740) 622-8710 for hours (note new area code). Plaster casts of the Decalogue stone and Keystone may be purchased from the Museum.