Almost a century after the Glozel Artifacts were first unearthed from a muddy field, they still remain a mystery.
Were they a 17 year old’s elaborate attempt to become famous or were these indeed historical relics of distant times?
So many people have opposing opinions, fiercely arguing and even laying criminal charges in support of their beliefs.
So what is the real story?
What Are The Facts?
The objects unearthed consisted of inscribed tablets, bones, engraved stones, flint tools and axes. They eventually numbered about 3000 pieces in total, so were quite a large find.
Originally they were unearthed when 17 year old Emile Fradin was plowing a field on his farm in Glozel, in central France, using a plow drawn by a cow.
The cow came to a halt suddenly as her foot became stuck in a hole and, as he was trying to free her foot, Fradin discovered a clay brick walled underground chamber with a tiled floor and containing human bones and other items including ceramics.
It must have been quite dramatic for him.
Fridan realized that the find should be investigated by experts in archaeology. The first to investigate were a local teacher, an amateur archaeologist and another man called Viple who told Fradin that the site may be of archaeological importance, as it was perhaps a Gallo-Roma site which dated back to 100-400 A.D.
For safekeeping the artifacts were then contained in a specially created museum.
As word spread about the find, more researchers wanted to investigate. A physician and amateur archaeologist Antonin Morlet next excavated the site in return for a payment of 200 francs.
His conclusions were that the items dated much earlier, as far back as the Neolithic period, from 10,200 B.C. up to 2,000 B.C.
Moriet wrote a paper on this with Fradin as a co-author.
Meanwhile others were claiming that the whole site was an elaborate hoax and that the artifacts had been made by Fradin himself.
The findings of the Moriet paper were completely dismissed by French archaeological academics.
Modern archaeological dating methods such as Carbon-14, thermoluminesence etc. had not yet been developed so the arguments were able to rage on unabated with little scientific proof.
The inscriptions and engravings were of Phoenician type writing script but also featured images of animals extinct in the area since the Ice Age, such as reindeer and panthers.
This did not fit in with the current belief that writing had been invented by the Phoenicians.
Two experts, Salomon Reinach, the curator of the National Museum of Saint-Germain-en-Laye and Abbe Breuil, another famous archaeologist, excavated the site and came to completely opposing conclusions.
Fradin was accused of forgery by the curator of the Louvre, Rene Dussaud and in retaliation, Fradin filed a defamation lawsuit against Dussaud.
Police raided the site and removed as evidence several crates of artifacts.
Committees were formed in order to absolutely decide on the authenticity. Large numbers of curious spectators gathered to watch and later the conclusion was that the site was a hoax.
Later committees came to the opposite conclusion…
Excavations were forbidden after that and were not resumed till 1983. No totally conclusive reports have been received since then.
Some items were dated back to 500-1,500 A.D. but it was found that many of the artifacts found were forgeries.
However later testing using more modern methods of dating has tended to support the extreme age of many of the items…
Still the controversy has not died away.
Various theories have been advanced to account for the collection, including that it contains items from widely differing historical periods as the result of collections by ancient people and perhaps even some of their attempts at reproducing items.
There are a group of scholars who have an annual meeting on the topic of Glozel trying to decide once and for all on the authenticity of the site and its contents.
It seems that Emile Fradin had been humiliated for nearly fifty years without good cause. It is impossible now to ask him for a final word on this as he died in 2010 at the age of 103.
If there were any final secrets concerning this site that he still had not revealed, we won’t know now.
So we are left to piece together the evidence and draw our own conclusions about whether indeed the Glozel artifacts are valuable keys to understanding an ancient world.