- Education and Science
Mysterious Wall at Chatata, TN
Over a century ago Bradley County, Tennessee became the focus of international attention with the discovery of an ancient, 700 feet long, mysterious buried wall, bearing strange hieroglyphic inscriptions. The Cleveland Herald first reported the find made by Isaac Hooper at Hooper Mill in the area of Chatata in 1891.
Hooper Mill was located about 7 miles SW of Charleston and 13 miles from the railroad in Cleveland, TN. The Herald also reported some of the stones were being exhibited and what was thought to be some ancient language were cut on them by a long lost race. New facts about the wall are still coming to light today.
Hooper accidentally stumbled across the find by noticing what seemed to be stone markers projecting from the ground every 25-30 feet. One stone seemed to be inscribed with strange symbols. Locals in the area apparently knew of them but showed little interest until Hooper explained they might be ancient writings.
The Smithsonian Institution became interested in the find and began excavations. What they found was a 3-ply sandstone wall-like structure cemented together by a reddish mortar. By splitting the sandstone sheets diagonal rows of markings became visible.
Experts first determined both wall and inscriptions were manmade. However, later geological studies suggested there may be a more natural explanation for the wall, mortar and inscriptions, such as burrowing mollusks. Many believe it is a more rational explanation since the “inscriptions” were almost completely covered by what was presumed to be mortar. If the markings were made by man they hardly would have covered their messages in such a manner.
Also, the inscriptions are irregular and it’s a tossup as to whether they have a natural origin or are manmade. There are two questions to consider in making an interpretation:
· Why were there regularly placed stones on the surface over the wall?
· Early reports also indicated there were pictures of animals, the swastika and other symbols. What happened to them?
The Smithsonian Institute displayed a segment of the wall for several years until questions concerning its authenticity arose. That was to be expected since there are conflicting stories concerning the find and excitement over the wall had died down.
One account says Isaac Hooper’s son, J.L. Hooper, came across the wall in 1920 while hauling stones from his 80 acre farm at Chatata. Apparently his father never mentioned it to him or it didn’t happen. But anyway, again the second discovery of the wall created little interest because most believed the etchings to be little more than old Indian inscriptions. That is, until noted visiting New York professor, A. L. Rawson, decided to investigate.
After studying the wall Rawson decided to have the inscriptions deciphered. He had a panel of cipher experts view the hieroglyphics. They declared them to be old Hebrew religious inscriptions. Rawson determined the wall had been buried over 4,000 years.
Pottery and stone images were also found nearby which Rawson announced were old Hebrew. To substantiate his claim he cited the story of the two "Lost Tribes of Israel." Rawson believed the Israelites tribes came to America by way of the Bering Strait.
According to Rawson the inscriptions were the Mosaic Law, making reference to the 7th, 9th and 11th chapters of Deuteronomy, the 8th chapter of Joshua and the 3rd chapter of Judges. These revelations created world-wide interest within scientific and historical circles. Researchers from around the globe descended upon the Hooper Farm.
However many locals still didn’t buy the story. Some said they knew the story but there was no wall, just stones.
The other account tells about a former county historian who was said to have located the son of J.H. Hooper and questioned him about the wall. Hooper said he had heard of the wall, but knew nothing about it. Many others, having recollection of the discovery, dismiss the story as not being factual. One reason being the history book, Heritage of Bradley County Tennessee, 1836-1998 makes no mention of it. A 1970 newspaper report says all that remains on the Hooper farm is just a big hole.
Was the mysterious wall fact or fiction?