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OKLAHOMA MYSTERIES: Forty-six year old "tile" and "stone" puzzle continues to raise questions

Sarah Hussain / Red Dirt Report
Jim Pate, an Oklahoma City geologist, holds an interesting rock found by his father, Durwood Pate, in 1969.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – You just never know what sort of interesting story will be posted on Facebook.

It was this past week that one story really caught my eye: “Oklahoma’s ancient mosaic floor with mysterious ‘post holes’ could rewrite history of North America.”

Now that’s the sort of headline that gets your attention!

But was it legitimate? It was posted at a website I was unfamiliar with – MessageToEagle.com.

The story included information from a story that ran in the July 3, 1969 edition of The Daily Oklahoman which reported that “workmen leveling a rock shelf at 122nd Street on the Broadway Extension between Edmond and Oklahoma City uncovered a rock formation three feet below the surface that caused a great deal of controversy among investigating authorities.”

The formation, reported the newspaper, “looked like an inlaid mosaic floor. It apparently looked very much like someone’s floor to some of the experts as well.”

One of the geologists who investigated the site – which is now underneath a building, reportedly – was J. Durwood Pate. He went out and studied the site and came away convinced that it was not a natural formation.

“I am sure this was man-made because the stones are placed in perfect sets of parallel lines which intersect to form a diamond shape, all pointing to the east,” Pate told The Daily Oklahoman. “We found post holes which measure a perfect two rods from the other two. The top of the stone is very jagged, which indicates wear on the surface. Everything is too well-placed to be a natural formation.”

Pointing east? As Dennis William Hauck’s book Haunted Places notes, this would be in the direction of the famous Heavener Runestones, found in eastern Oklahoma.

And while a University of Oklahoma professor, Dr. Robert Bell, told reporters it was a “natural formation,” another geologist, Delbert Smith, then president of the Oklahoma Seismograph Company, said the site “appeared to cover several thousand square feet.”

A reporter from the Tulsa World came down to report on the unusual find as well in  that interesting summer of ‘69 and quoted Smith as saying, “There is no question about it. It has been laid there, but I have no idea by whom.”

The website, MessageToEagle.com, then speculates that Oklahoma may have been the site of “an ancient city,” or ever “travelers from prehistoric Lemuria” or “settlers from the lost continent of Atlantis.” Speculation, of course, but a find that remains puzzling to this day. And while the news reports say the site may be “200,000 years old,” we are not sure if that is a typo, although an anthropologist who later spoke to Red Dirt Report said that was most assuredly a mistake.

PATE’S DISCOVERY

In fact, after the news spread about the find, an object resembling a “stone hammer” was found in the dolomitic limestone formation, and that “geologists … were at a loss to explain the origin of either the formation or the artifact.”

Picking up the phone on Thursday, June 18th, this reporter dialed a number that was posted online for J. Durwood Pate. An office number for a business near 63rd and Portland was on there and Pate’s name was next to it. I presumed after 46 years, he may still be around.

But when I called, a woman answered.

“Is Durwood Pate available?” I asked.

“No. He’s not. He died six years ago. In fact it was on this date six years. This is the anniversary of his death,” the woman replied.

Indeed, J. Durwood Pate, a longtime Oklahoma City-based geologist had passed away on June 18, 2009.

The woman who answered was Cathy LaCava, Pate’s daughter. Her brother, Jim Pate, was not in the office but would be available after 4 o’clock.

Red Dirt Report asked LaCava if her father held his original opinion about the site. She said he did, that it never changed, although her brother would say that was not quite the case.

QUESTIONS REMAIN

A few days later, on Monday, Red Dirt Report visited the Pate Exploration building near Northwest Expressway and Portland Avenue.

Jim Pate, who now runs an office where his father officed for many years, kindly agreed to talk to us about his father and the find all those years ago. The Pate family, he told us, are a “family of petroleum geologists.”

On a shelf in his office, Jim Pate showed Red Dirt Report the object referred to as the “stone hammer” in those 1969 news reports. Pate had kept it, although his son said that few reporters inquired about it in the intervening years.

Picking it up, Jim Pate held it and showed how the object had no “tool marks” and that it was weathered on the sides.  

“If it was manmade, why isn’t it the same on all sides?” asked Jim Pate, adding, “I’m not even sure what kind of rock that is.”

This area in Oklahoma is part of the Permian geological period of 250 million years ago and the “age of glaciation” that followed.

Jim Pate said granite is not common in the Permian and it would be unusual for granite to be found in that area, although he again added he is not sure about what kind of rock it was and that it needed to be tested, something Pate was willing to have done.

A television station interviewed Pate a few years before his death about the mosaic-tile floor find.

Also, in 2005, this alternative-news website featured a thread on the "ancient tile floor" find and speculation about what it could be.

CHANGING OPINION

Back in 1969, Durwood Pate had told reporters, in a follow-up story, that “another intriguing point about the rock is that it contains marine deposits, indicating that it was laid down in the ocean …” Pate also called for the site to be preserved, since “people are flocking there and taking pieces of the rock away. We need to preserve it until something can be done about determining its origin.”

Red Dirt Report is working to see if local historians or archaeologists have any additional information on the original site or if anything else, beyond the Pate’s interesting rock, was preserved.

Jim Pate, meanwhile, countered his sister’s remarks about their father and his position about the site, that it was manmade, saying later in life he had a “change of opinion” and that the site was “natural.”

“Dad and I had many lunches together,” Jim Pate said. “He said he kind of regretted not coming forth (later) and saying it wasn’t manmade.”

And while we aren’t sure of the exact location of the site, Cathy LaCava, Jim Pate’s sister, said she would recognize the building if she were to travel on Broadway Extension.

In the original 1969 article, The Daily Oklahoman reported that the site was being excavated to build a “food stuffs warehouse.”

Red Dirt Report drove to the general area of 122nd and Broadway Ext. and surmised that the warehouse on the west side of the highway is where the site was located back in 1969.

OKIE MYSTERY SPOT

This area, straddling the Edmond/Oklahoma City boundary, has had its fair share of unusual activity above and below ground.

As reported in the Feb. 4, 2015 This Land newspaper, “Saucers over Oklahoma,” Edmond was part of a serious UFO flap that was taking place in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area.

And in the fall of 2013, Red Dirt Report reported on a strange UFO sighting where the witnesses – a mother and her daughter – were in traffic at Broadway Extension and 33rd Street in Edmond and saw what they described as a “jellyfish,” not far from the site of the tile floor site noted in our story.

Red Dirt Report is communicating with an Oklahoma City-based archeologist who is prepared to examine the Pate rock. We plan to have a follow-up story on the 1969 "tile floor" and "stone tool" discoveries in coming days.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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