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Mar 7, 2013 12:46 PM

Mysterious Silverbell artifacts on display

TUCSON - It's a desert mystery that has baffled Tucsonans and historians for nearly nine decades.

In 1924, Tucsonan Charles Manier was traveling with his family to Picture Rocks, when he discovered what is now known as "The Silverbell Artifacts", along Silverbell Road.

The collection includes more than 30 lead crosses and swords. To this day, nobody knows where they came from. "Some people say the Romans lived here, others say they're from the lost tribe of Israel, all sorts of theories," says Julia Arriola, Curator of the Arizona History Museum.

Arriola recently decided to pull the artifacts out of the vault, after the History Channel's "America Unearthed" aired a documentary about the artifacts. "I think people are just fascinated by buried treasure," Arriola says.

Many of the artifacts have Latin words written all over them. "Some of the professors who looked at them found out the text was actually lifted right from textbooks," Arriola says.

She says one other strange characteristic about the artifacts is that they were embedded in caliche, which is a type of cement. "So whoever did it went through a lot of work," Arriola says.

The questions have led many to believe the collection is one big archaeological hoax. Arriola says we may never know. "I invite anyone to come in, have a look, do some research and find out for yourself," Arriola says.

"The Silverbell Artifacts" will be on display at the Arizona History Museum at 949 E. 2nd Street for the next few months.

To check out the History Channel documentary head to: www.history.com/shows/america-unearthed/videos

The video is titled "America Unearthed: The Desert Cross".

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