Scholar Hopes to Share Rare Artifact Collection to Sanpete County – Press Release 10/13/2003

DATE 10/13/2003 5:55 PM

This is part of an occasional series by the Sanpete Country Travel and Utah Heritage Highway 89 Alliance on the people and places along U.S. Highway 89.

Scholar Hopes to Share Rare Artifact Collection to Sanpete County

A Brigham Young University professor emeritus is hoping to bring his extensive collection of petroglyph’s inscribed with an ancient Islamic alphabet to Sanpete County.James Harris, an ancient scriptures scholar, is engaged in talks to have the rare artifacts exhibited in a museum in Manti. The Manti Destiny Committee is planning to build a museum that would focus on the pioneers and American Indians and include a display of Harris’ collection.What Harris hopes to share with Sanpete County residents as well as the rest of the state and its visitors is a collection of petroglyph’s from the Western United States, including Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado and California, that are inscribed with symbols and signs of an Islamic alphabet.The petroglyph’s have been Harris’ passion for more than a decade. The retired professor has made numerous research trips to Israel both during and following his tenure at BYU. During the early 1990s, he was working in Negeve. “It was during this trip that we found some inscriptions of an alphabet that had 22-signs and symbols,” he says. It was later discovered that the same alphabet was inscribed on rocks found in the Western United States. “It was a very marvelous discovery, and the only discovery of this alphabet writing in the Americas,” he says.

Harris began searching for and collecting petroglyph’s inscribed with the alphabet. “I now have more than 500 inscriptions, mostly from Utah, Arizona and Nevada,” he says. Harris has also been in correspondence with people living in Australia, Brazil, Mexico and Hawaii who have found similar petroglyph’s. “The inscriptions are 99 per cent of the same alphabet,” Harris says. “It’s the same script and the words are spelled the same way,” he says, explaining that the signs and symbols are identical to those discovered in Negeve, including the menorah, the Star of David, a sun shield, and the same icons and abbreviations for the God of Israel.

There are many theories about how American Indians came to know and use an alphabet of Islamic origins, Harris says. They range from the Bering Strait theory (since Alaska and Siberia were once connected in the distant past, some people believe ancestors of Native Americans crossed the land bridge to North America) to trans-ocean migrations. “But how the alphabet got here isn’t important,” Harris says. “What’s important is the fact that the petroglyph’s are here.”

Harris spends much of his time doing presentations on his research and presenting papers at professional gatherings. His goal with the exhibit in Manti is to make people aware of the petroglyph’s and explain the interest Utah pioneers had in them when they arrived. “The unique situation with the pioneers is they considered the American Indians they encountered as remnants of Israel,” he says.

Officials hope to open the museum, which is still in the early stages of development, in the next two years.

For more information Contact:Monte Bona
Sanpete County Travel and Heritage Council
(435) 462-2502


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