Mystery Stone's Writing Predates Columbus' Trip
LEOTI -- Nearly every school kid learns the name of the first European explorer to visit the state -- none other than Spanish conquistador Francisco Vazquez de Coronado, who explored Kansas in 1541, according to most history books.
Or was he?
After seven years of research, Leoti amateur historian Dean Jeffries has suggested a different theory -- one that puts Europeans in Kansas more than 1,000 years before Coronado's landmark journey.
Jeffries contends that ancient European sun-worshippers who crossed the states in about A.D. 500 inscribed an old stone tablet reportedly dug up in a Lincoln County field nearly 80 years ago.
If accurate, Jeffries' theory would send historians scrambling to rewrite history books, whose conventional wisdom maintains Europeans didn't begin exploring the New World until Italian-born Christopher Columbus's epic journey resulted in the so-called "discovery" of America in 1492.
"I know what they teach is that nobody was here before Columbus," Jeffries said last week. "But that can't be the case. I have a little problem with hidebound historical orthodoxy."
Earlier this month, the 64-year-old Jeffries released a translation of the 16-symbol inscription on the tablet, which he claims is engraved in an ancient language once common in the Iberian peninsula and known as Gaelic Punic. Jeffries contends the tablet marks the grave of a fallen comrade.
"It's a death chant, and that's not uncommon in ancient cultures," said Jeffries, an electrician by trade. "I think it was a Norse who used a drum to raise the dead, and in the Bible we had Gabriel's horn. And then the Romans under Julius Caesar would sing a loud song when they went into battle."
Known as the Beverly mystery stone, the tablet allegedly was unearthed by a farmer in the Beverly community as late as 1920, although Jeffries acknowledges the date of the artifact's discovery could be in dispute, as is the exact location of the discovery of the unusual piece of antiquity, measuring 11 by 9 inches.
"One thing I don't do is dig," Jeffries said. "I'm not an archaeologist. I'm a person who deals with old languages."
At some point after 1920, the stone was donated to the Kansas State Historical Society in Topeka, where the artifact remained undisplayed as the unauthenticated curiosity in the archeology department for more than seven decades, said retired state archaeologist Tom Witty.
"This thing comes to life on a cyclical bases," Witty said. "It sat on a shelf back there, and I think it was the freshness of the engraving and the cleanness of the stone that made it look too fresh."
Witty said the stone, which he first examined in 1960, also lacked any weathering or oxidation characteristics, which would be evident on any similar stone exposed to the elements for 1,500 years.
"The fact that the inscription looked strange to me could be my own ignorance about ancient languages," Witty said last week. "But based on the visual evidence of the stone, I would say this piece lacks the antiquity suggested by Jeffries."
Since 1993, the stone has been on loan to the Lincoln County Historical Society for display in the Kyne House Museum in Lincoln, the county seat.
On April 9, Jeffries spoke publicly for the first time regarding his interpretation of the stone's history at the ceremony marking the grand opening of a museum annex.[1/2]
 Lincoln Sentinel-Republican, 12/12/96