The Decalogue Stone

According to religious tradition, the Decalogue is a list of religious and moral rules commonly called the 10 Commandments. According to tradition, these commandments were passed from God to Moses. Carved into two stone tablets, the commandments have featured prominently in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

In 1860, David Wyrick described a carved stone found in a burial mound self of Newark, Ohio. The stone appears to show a condensed form of the 10 Commandments using a strange form of Hebrew. The inscribed black stone is said to depict Moses receiving the commandments.

This stone was found inside a carved sandstone box, hollowed out to hold the black stone. Several months before, Wyrick had found what became known as the Keystone. Named because of its shape, the Keystone also appears to be inscribed with Hebrew letters. Unlike the black stone, however, the Keystone uses letters of the Hebrew alphabet that were known at the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Over the past 1000 years, the Hebrew language has, in its written form, included both vowel and consonant points but are not found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, or on the Decalogue and Keystone.

Later archaeologists accused Wyrick of perpetrating a hoax. In 1861,Wyrick published a pamphlet, including a woodcut showing the inscriptions on the stones. Out of 256 letters, Wyrick made errors on 38 of them – making some letters illegible, making others into different letters, and sometimes omitting letters completely. The errors he made make it unlikely that he was the author. Subsequent study of the stone carving of Moses, compared with Wyrick’s woodcut, show that the two images were created by different people.

Some theorized that the “Lost Tribes of Israel” were responsible for the stone; however, these Lost Tribes would have used an older version of Hebrew. It is highly unlikely that the lost tribes of Israel were responsible for the stones.

In 1971, some of the letters were identified as Paleo Hebrew from the first to second century A.D. According to Cyrus Gordon, five letters on one stone read, “for Judea.” Interestingly, wood fragments found with the stones were carbon dated in 1988, the results showed that the width dated between 32 to 769A.D.

Today the stones are kept in the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC.

The figure of Moses on the Decalogue Stone. The stone is black, though appears brown in these photos.