Professor Norman Totten, Islamic historian and archaeologist who has conducted a number of expeditions in the Near East and North Africa, and who teaches a course on the origins of writing, here gives some reasoned consideration to the claims of those archaeologists who deny the reality of New World epigraphy.
The Epigraphic Society
Vol. 9 no 215 June 1981
EPIGRAPHIC RESEARCH IN AMERICA
Reply to Archaeologists Denunciations
Swords to Walking Sticks
About three years ago I viewed a marvelous exhibition of Mimbres pottery at the University of New Mexico, Museum of Anthropology, in Albuquerque. In adjacent cases were bowls showing men holding long objects, both labeled walking sticks. One obviously was, a crooked stick with a bent old man using it for support. The next showed an apparently strong, upright figure with a sword, its tapered point on the ground, with handle and guard at the opposite end. Supposedly because swords of European and Asian origin should not have been present 1100 AD New Mexico, this one was labeled "walking stick."
Admittedly, fakes and wild theories exist in abundance, but one should objects fraudulent simply because they do not fit preconceptions. Uncritical rejection is just as unscientific as uncritical acceptance. Many legitimate discoveries are discredited as hoaxes because they run counter to the prevailing climate of archaeological opinion. It is an absolute untruth frequently repeated by American archaeologists That no Old World artifacts have been excavated by professional archaeologists in strata that is clearly precolumbian (e.g., Jose Garcia Payon uncovered a small Greco-Roman terra cotta head near Calixtlahuaca, Mexico, in a twelfth-century stratum --with a cremation, under three intact layers of stone and cement. Heine-Geldern)
Caution is, of course, justified. In 1961 I visited a rather large gallery in the British museum filled with fakes, all of which the museum had acquired and exhibited as genuine. In 1962 I found a bushel basket full of supposedly ancient bronze weapons and tools in a little antiquities-curio shop in Old Jerusalem. They looked good, yet because of their quantity and cheap price I could not believe they were genuine. Eventually I learned who made them and how. Not so much for profit but for fun of fooling the public, a man cast them and buried them in the guano beneath his pigeon coop, where he also added a personal touch by urinating. Occasionally he would dig up a few to examine, until they looked ready to market. In 1954 obsidian points for sale at Teotihuacan, Mexico, looked crude when compared to those in museums, but some of those for sale today are excellent replicas of ancient artifacts. The same may be said for North American flint knives, points, and "eccentrics," some of which are superbly recreated types.
Changing InterpretationsThe kind of scientific methodology I learned in my college chemistry courses is that new ideas, together with their supporting evidence, ought to be considered objectively, not treated as obscenities to be suppressed through misinterpretation and ridicule. I received a good lesson in this from my first graduate-level course in archaeology in 1958. I wrote a term paper on "Solomon's Stables at Megiddo," only to learn about a year later from Yadin's new excavations at Hazor and Megiddo that whose particular remains had not been built by Solomon (as previously thought, based upon the University of Chicago Oriental Institute's excavations there in 1925-35) but by Ahab and that they were probably not stables but storehouses.
Marshall McKusick is firmly on record (two books, numerous articles and reviews) favoring the archaeological dogmas and strongly opposing those who challenge them, especially Barry Fell. If the dogmas are wrong, then virtually all of his recent writings are wrong. Neither Fell nor anyone else wished this dilemma on him. He chose the role he has assumed, and his methods, including the substitution of scorn and fantasy for evidence, in his two reviews of SAGA AMERICA:
As a spontaneous creation of New World prehistory, SAGA AMERICA is the sequel to the delusions Professor Fell perpetrated upon the lay public so successfully in AMERICA B. C. (Times Books, 1976). His current book has no redeeming features and in years past would have disappeared into merited oblivion without benefit of comment from ANTIQUITY...
SAGA AMERICA and similar books of this genere represent a populist, antiquarian revolt against the more prosaic conclusions of archaeology. In explanation of this social movement conformity is no longer fashionable and almost any anti-establishment opinion is received with favor by many. There is, in addition, a growing public enchantment with outer space, science fiction, astrology, eastern mysticism, and other marvels, which allows an easier acceptance of the relatively more down-to-earth doings of wandering Jews, Vikings, Celts, Algonkians, Greeks, Romans, and others. The New Antiquarianism does not just stem from these aspects of contemporary culture, but has racist overtones which a considerable segment of the population appears to find appealing...
It is necessary to continue and mention the sources for this extraordinary and fanciful book. Professor Fell dismisses a century of North American archaeological research with barely a passing wave of his hand. His insights derive entirely from undocumented finds of Old World coins and pseudo-inscriptions. I will not leave readers in suspense about the latter; they are an assortment of plough-mark ogham, aboriginal petroglyphs, phony runes, erosional groves, recent graffiti, and marks of unstudied and therefore unknown origins...
Reputable scholars search for the truth and in my opinion Professor Fell is not among them, but rather he chooses to lead the public into a wasteland of erroneous, naive, and unsubstantiated conclusions. It is not uncommon for a commercial success to be followed by an even lesser sequel. SAGA AMERICA is SON OF BATMAN.
--McKusick, ANTIQUITY (July 1980). 154-5
"Shockingly deceptive"... "totally erroneous"... "all seems to be poppycock"... "fanciful speculations without factual foundation"... "deceiving the reading public".. "a deluded scholar"... "A Prophet for profit".. these are the published and unpublished judgements of professional archaeologists when confromted with the enormously popular books written by Barry Fell...
The butt of humorous scorn and subjected to devastation professional rejection, Fell nevertheless has a large and dedicated following...
Fell provides us with a pretentious series of revelations, a visionary imagining, speculative might-have-beens, and all constructed on phony artifacts, phony coins, phony inscriptions, make believe history and preposterous linguistics. He has greviously erred, and in deceiving himself has deceived the reading public...
That such a book as SAGA AMERICA could be perpetrated upon a naive reading public represents a scandal deserving censure of the issuing press and author alike... "poisoned chocolate" in the words of Glyn Daniel... In my opinion Barry Fell, late of Harvard, is the Typhoid Mary of popular prehistory.
--McKusick, ARCHAEOLOGY (Jan./Feb. 1981), 62-6
THE INSCRIBED SHERBROOKE BOULDER
Clarke goes on to relate how the editor of a Canadian anthropological journal, himself a champion of the unorthodox, was interested in Fell's work and sent him a sketch of some rock markings which he had received from a local priest. Fell promptly responded with a Phonecian decipherment of the markings. However, soon after this, the Canadian editor had a chance to examine the original stone and found to his surprise that the 'inscription' was a set of cracks made by nature.
-- Davies, op. cit., 154
Seven hundred and fifty-one days have now passed since that historic evening when Dr. Barry Fell of Harvard University bluntly stated in a letter that he could read the Sherbrooke and Beauviour inscriptions, that they were "well preserved Libyan," and he would send me "a prompt report and detailed analysis of some Punic elements in the script." Time enough, surely, for reason to replace euphoria, and to now make a sober assessment of what has transpired... How are we to absorb the shock of four different translations of the same inscriptions, by the same expert, the last totally unlike the others?
--Thomas E. Lee, "If At First You Don't Succeed...", ANTHROPOLOGICAL JOURNAL OF CANADA (XV,3,1977), 11
In mid-January, 1975 Fell sent Lee his preliminary decipherment of two ink sketches, identified as from Quebec, which had been forwarded to Fell via George Carter. In retrospect, this was a mistake, for Lee rushed to print Fell's informal communication in an initial article about the stone's (AJC, XIII, 1975, no. 2. "Hanno, not Bjarni, Leif or Christopher?"). As a result of this, Fell felt hesitent about forwarding additional working materials to Lee. The following year Lee severely criticized Fell in his journal (XIV, 1976. no. 2, "Et Tu Hanno")."
James Whittall, Director of Archaeological Research, Early Sites Research Society, decided to go to Sherbrooke and investigate the whole matter himself. He did so, and obtained color slides, latex peels, and considerable information. From his slides and casts made from the peels, Fell completed his decipherment and interpretation. He and Whittall published their research in two articles (Early Sites Research Society BULLETIN, IV May 1976: "The Inscribed Stones of Sherbrooke, Quebec," by Whittall, and "Decipherment of the Bifacial Sherbrooke Stele 33-7, by Fell).
The following year, Lee composed a satire on the events as he saw them, taking liberties with the evidence, selecting and misconstruing information so as to make Fell look ridiculous. (AJC, XV, 1977, no. 3, 11-14, "If At First You Don't Succeed...").
Thomas Lee (1977) reports on the several conflicting 'translations' of the Beauvior Stone or Stones at Sherbrooke, Quebec. The scientific explanation of the marks is that they are a series of natural cracks on, in this case, an igneous boulder. This explanation is entirely credible, and far outweighs the 'linguistic interpretation' which depends upon a high degree of selectivity and interpretation of hitherto unobserved detail (Whittall and Fell, 1976).
--Ross and Reynolds, op. cit., 102
Except for the deletion of "moored his ship" (one word), there is no meaningful change between Fell's preliminary and final decipherment of the Sherbrooke text. Choice of English wording is only a matter of style. Fell produced no conflicting decipherments. Lee made much ado over little, and had he not rushed into print without proper consultation with Fell, the misunderstanding might have been avoided.
Whittall's search for the Beauvoir inscription proved fruitless. The only unusual stone shown him at Beauvoir Sanctuaire du Sacre-Coeur was marked by natural causes and bore no resemblance to Lee's sketch (Fell has never published anything on this).
All of the authors quoted seem to imply Fell is ignorant of geological markings on rocks. From 1953 to 1977 Fell was a consultant to the geological Society of America. He contributed large sections through jointly authored books published by that society, some of which included studies of various natural causes producing unusual markings on rocks. These were classified and named. His work as an oceanographer involved deepsea remote-controlled photography of the ocean bed and brought to light many previously unknown markings in sedimentary rocks including some which might be mistaken for writing (e.g., X's, Y's, Z's, ect. ).
All in all, Fell has been badly reported: by Lee first for jumping the gun and failing to supply sufficient data (he never sent Fell photographs or information on the stones' exact whereabouts) and then blaming Fell for just about everything; Ross and Reynolds for being unable to distinguish cracks from cuts, despite Whittall's excellent photographs; Davies (and Clark) by referring to his decipherment as the reading of natural cracks as Phonecian.
LATEX PEELS AND LICHEN DATES
On other rocks and stones too large to remove to 'safety' the preparation of latex molds has removed all possibility of scientific microscopic and chemical analysis... Apart from the microscopical and analyses which should be fundamental to the enquiry, the presence of lichen on a great majority of the stones is also worthy of study. This particular aspect has been totally ignored, although there is every reason to believe that lichen growth can be used as an indicator for dating rock surfaces. (Bechel, 1961)
--Ross and Reynolds, op. cit., 102
The Matter of Latex peels
Ross and Reynolds assert on unspecified grounds that latex remove all possibility of later microscopic and chemical analysis. This is untrue. Archaeologists have long employed this method for later study and analysis of material which must be left in situ or in the country of its finding, and it has been used to reproduce cuneiform tablets and many other artifacts. Its applicability is limited so as not to include objects of a very delicate or fragile nature. Latex does tend to leave some small residue in objects with small crevasses, but with microscopic analysis it isn't hard to distinguish this biodegradable and removable material from other things such as traces of metal.
While a peel may remove minute particles of loosely adhering rock and other matter, it does not constitute the vacuum cleaner implied by those criticizing Fell. Incidentally, Fell has done a lot of microscopic analysis, virtually daily over many years, enough to know when it is and is not applicable. In any case, with regard to Vermont inscriptions, this criticism is pie-in-the-sky. Except for one initial experiment, all of Fell's molds from Vermont stones were made by gently tapping a brush on aluminum foil against rock surfaces, involving neither latex nor any other chemical.
Fell's technique for recording inscriptions is merely a modern adaptation of the brush-and wet-paper technique employed by 19th century Irish epigraphers, subsequently adopted universally, and used with special success by the Epigraphic Survey of India. B. CH. Chhabra, former president of the Indian Epigraphical Association and for forty years an epigrapher with the Archaeological Service of the Government of India, personally demonstrated this technique to Fell (for his collaboration with Fell, see AMERICA B. C., 219-31).
The Inapplicability of LichensI had a long talk with Ann Ross at Cook's Vermont conference and found her altogether delightful-- an intelligent charming and lovely person. I liked her very much and find it unpleasant to have to criticize her writing, but there is little in the ANTIQUITY article which I can justify as valid.
Although my ignorance may be abysmal, I was quite surprised by the emphasis upon lichens, as I have never read of a case where an archaeologist has dated an artifact by its lichen growth. I telephoned Fell to be certain about the scientific aspects of this and have incorporated much of that conversation into this section.
It is almost unbelievable that Ross and Reynolds have seriously accused Fell of destroying evidence by removing lichens from a few Vermont rocks. Lichens have some limited applicability to dating in Arctic climates where xerophytic lichens (unrelated to the hygrophilous genera that grow on the sodden rocks of the Vermont hills) grow very slowly, spreading out from the center at a reasonably steady rate. At most, and only where such lichens grow, they can be used for determination of a few hundred years.
The lichens observed by Fell in Vermont were fast growing species mostly of the genus Cladonid, and consequently could have no bearing on the age of the inscriptions they covered. The problem that concerned Fell during his research of AMERICA B. C. was not the possible use of lichens as age-indicators (obviously inapplicable in this case) but rather certain allegations in the press that he might be forging the inscriptions. To deal with these claims he photographed inscriptions before and after the removal of their lichen cover, with portions of the inscription having lichens intact. On subsequent trips to Vermont he found that the lichens had already begun to grow back over the denuded areas, after a lapse of only two years. Thus for whatever its worth since the lichens are a meaningless issue, inmost cases he did not remove all the lichens from the inscriptions. Since Fell did not find or record all the and since Ross and Reynolds don't believe they are inscriptions and since numbers of the inscriptions have remained totally intact with original lichen growth and since the state archaeological team with whom Ross and Reynolds have made, so far as I know, no effort to date the lichens-- the whole matter seems ridiculous.
Observations of lichens, however, do serve important non-archaeological functions. As is well known by scientists, lichens of the type which grow in Vermont and ecologically-similar genera, disappeared from the environs of industrial areas some decades ago in consequence of atmospheric pollution. Following environmental amelioration as a result of legislation, these same lichens are reestablishing themselves. The suburbs of Boston have already recovered much of their lost lichen florule, as observed by Fell, a change which has occurred since 1964. Fell has also published original research on microscopic lichens growing on meteoric rocks in the Australian desert. We can only hope that the non-issue of dating Vermont stones by lichens does not become, as so many other instances involving Fell's work, garbled in successuve retellings by those anxious to find fault.
In the face of erroneous charges that Fell has destroyed meaningful evidence, it does seem that before he identified Ogam in Vermont, nothing (except by a few private owners) was being done to protect or preserve any of the inscriptions. During the summer of 1975, Byron Dix, who has done much outstanding work in testing possible astronomical significances of Vermont's lithic structures, took me to see an Ogam inscription on a very large boulder, but when we arrived, we found the whole area recently bulldozed and the boulder overturned some distance from its original location.
While activities such as these, and vandalism. Elicit no comment from Ross and Reynolds, it is only in response to efforts by members of the New England Antiquities Research Association, the Early Sites Research Society. And the Epigraphic Society (whose joint meetings on New England lithic structures I chaired at Harvard in 1975) that major recent interest in study and protection of Vermont's lithic structures has come about. Warren Cook's "Ancient Vermont" Conference (1977) provided another major boost in this direction. Even these efforts and attendant studies seem sometimes seem more lamented than supported by archaeologists. Note, for example, Dean Snow's seemingly clairvoyant statement:
Neudorfer's work will eventually turn up evidence
for the colonial origins of stone chambers, too,
for these structures cannot be precolonial merely
because it's more exciting to think of them that
way. It is perhaps unfortunate but necessary
that she must spend her time laying to rest
hypotheses that should never have been taken
seriously in the first place.
--VERMONT HISTORY (Winter 1980), 39
Although the scorations on this stone (a Vermont boulder) have been 'translated' as alleged Ogam inscription, the marks could well have been made by the plough since they follow a specific pattern of shallow entry groove following the land contour which deepens and ends abruptly with a further similar entry after a gap of approximately 0.20m. The physical explanation here offered is the striking of the rock by the ploughshare, the momentary lodging of the tip, followed by the lift under traction and the secondary strike. The majority of the grooves correspond to the directions in which the stonewall field boundaries run. The marks mirror the experimental ard marks achieved by Hansen in Liere (1967). Subsequent erosion and deepening of these marks has clearly occurred as the topsoil has eroded down the slope exposing the boulder to the extremes of the local climate.
--Ross and Reynolds, op. cit., 101
Linguists and many others must pause in wonderment when archaeologists generalize epigraphic inexperience by offering elementary misconceptions, dressed up in technical terminology, as scientifically legitimate alternative explanations for documented, readable inscriptions.
What is obvious to many does not seem obvious to some archaeologists, so let us set forth once again. Glaciers, frost, ice plowshares, have all created marks on rocks; organisms and nonorganisms have left patterns in mud and other matter which have later become rocks; certain types of crystallization, fossils, even unusual sedimentary concretions mat look to the inexperienced like artifacts. Rarely do individuals have the background to distinguish between all these natural markings on or in stone and human inscriptions, but Barry Fell does. He is a skilled epigrapher and has a international reputation among scientists for his work with fossils and other geological matter. He studied geology under the noted geomorphologist Charles Cotton, one of whose specialties was glacial geomorphology. For archaeologists to assume that their opinions in these matters are as good as anyone else's simply because they hold them leads to continual errors and misevaluations.
The explanations offered by Ross and Reynolds is that the Ogam inscriptions are not really weathered writing but weathered marks created by plowshares. But Ogam inscriptions of similar form to those in Vermont are attested on both igneous and sedemtary rocks, in climates ranging from Canada's cold winters to Africa's hot deserts, on dressed stones and natural boulders and small objects, even in places where plows would have to be hoisted by cranes to make their marks, such as the inside walls of caves and the sides of huge boulders and cliffs. Curiously, Ross and Reynolds believe the marks would deepen with erosion, when the opposite actually occurs. Plowshare marks are generally much shallower than genuine inscriptions.
An Arkansas Analogy
I grew up on a small, rocky (shale, slate, sandstone, quartzite, ect.) farm in Arkansas. Our vegetable garden and several of our cultivated fields had been the site of Amerindian camps, and I learned to observe rocks very carefully as I gradually amassed a collection of stone artifacts. I estimated that I spent a minimum of 1000 days walking behind animal-drawn plows and many other days removing stones from fields cultivated by tractor. I have examined thousands of plow marked rocks, without finding one that might be read as any kind of script.
On a recent trip to Arkansas I checked all the plows in my father's barn, and spent several hours examining rocks in the garden and in a nearby stream. The plows were of the following varieties:
1. Middle Buster
2. One Horse Turning Plow
3. Straight, or Georgia, Stock - one share, a 10" sweep
4. Double Shovels - two shares (5" sweep, Bull-Tongues, or Buzzard Wings)
5. V-Harrow - 13 spikes
6. Jones Harrow - 9 spikes on each of four boards
7. Spring-toe Harrow (almost a cultivator) - 4 shares
8. G-Whiz scratcher - 5 curved shares
9. Walking Cultivator (same work as G-Whiz) - 4 shares
10. Disk (for tractor) - 3 large concavo-convex disks
11. Chain-driven tiller (recent) - series of curved blades
12. Drag - heavy boards for leveling
Several other tools were used which could mark rocks: sleds with metal runners, hoes, rakes, spades, potato diggers, picks. Plow marks in rocks tend to be very shallow. I found a few that might be viewed as symbols in various scripts, but none whatsoever that could be called readable inscriptions. All resemblance between plowmarks and inscriptions are superficial, and the same may be said of rocks scratched in flood-swept streams with bedrock bottoms.
Ross and Reynolds are certainly not the first and probably will not be the last to suppose that plows may have created quantities of readable inscriptions. This was widely stated about the Pennsylvanian Susquehanna Stones, of which Fell's decipherment as Iberian-Basque has now been confirmed by the eminent Basque scholar Agire.
The readiness of numerous archaeologists to accept as valid such a totally unfounded and discredited hypothesis should be a professional embarrassment. Commonsense is enough to tell us that if the plow-writing hypothesis were correct, there should be scattered throughout the world literally tens of thousands of rocky, plowed fields loaded with plow marked rocks readable as Ogam or Iberian. But there is no evidence for this.
Whenever persons insist on making judgements with insufficient skill to make those judgements valid, it is almost hopeless to convince them of what is genuine and what is false and why. Experts in one area may or may not be experts in another. The assumption that one can be so instantly is almost always wrong. Our best hope is that archaeologists of the future will receive sufficient training in epigraphy to recognize the difference between inscriptions and other phenomena.
The premiss listed below, its corollaries and conclusion, typify the expressed views of numerous archaeologists who have addressed the matter in print and many who have not. It has some limited validity as a working bias, but none whatsoever as a tested, proven theory. It is a matter of faith, not science. Those who believe in it often have difficulty tolerating challenges to their faith.
Crusades in its behalf have not discriminated between unpopular scientific investigation and science fiction. "Cult Archaeology" may sound feasible, but when derived from imaginings more than empirical data, has no more validity than any other abstract theoretical possibility. To make one's opponents in scholarly matters the butt of humorous scorn, instead of recognizing the vast quantity of data which Fell has presented and then testing it scientifically, is nothing to be proud of.
Smokescreen attacks against Fell, such as those dealt with in this paper, do not deal specifically and accurately with the matters they purport to treat. Offering little substance, they monotonously rehash many of the same nonentities over and over again. Just as tragic as the penalties the dogma attaches to persons with opposite views, or even with open minds on the issue, is the resulting suppression and loss of other data relevant to our understanding of the American past.
Premiss: There were no significant precolumbian voyages to America,
with introduction of Old World people and cultures.
Corollary: Depictions of horses in America are either post-columbian or frauds.
Corollary: Depictions of Old World ships are post-columbian or frauds.
Corollary: Precolumbian Old world coins found in America were lost since
1492, or are hoaxes.
Corollary: Early explorers' descriptions of black-skinned and fair-
peoples scattered throughout the Americas are either
fanciful or erroneous.
Corollary: American motifs and artifacts (e. g., pottery and tools)
similar or identical to Old World types are the result of
Corollary: Caucasoid features of many east coast Amerindians and their
legends of having come originally by boat from the east are
to be denied or ignored.
Corollary: Old World scripts found in America postdate Columbus, or
they are hoaxes or misinterpretations of natural phenomena.
Corollary: Precolumbian transplanting of domestic plants and animals
have been caused, if at all, by accidental drift.
Corollary: Amerindian language cannot be viewed as derived from Old
World languages during the past 5,000 years, despite some
very strong similarities.
Conclusion: Those who refuse to accept this premisss and its corollaries
unscientific at best, misguided, or visionary crackpots
and hoaxters at worst--whose views are matters of
faith, hope, or deception.
Many archaeologists reject the above premisss, corollaries, and conclusion. Unfortunately, many others believe in and defend them as stated or unstated dogma.
FELLS DECIPHERMENTS: DENIED BY ARCHAEOLOGISTS,
CONFIRMED BY LINGUISTS
Fell's just a phony. He doesn't know what he's talking about. Fell has claimed 35 major decipherments, any one of which would be astounding if true. All are phony. He makes it all up. --Marshall Mckusic, as reported in the CHICAGO TRIBUNE, May 22, 1980
(Fell) sees mysterious signs everywhere that he deems significant. The rest of us don't.
--Gordon R. Wiley, as reported in the CHICAGO TRIBUNE, May 22, 1980
BasqueIn a new work, VINCULOS DE LA LENGUA CON LAS LENGUAS DE TODO el mundo (1980), The great authority on the Basque language, Imanol Aguire, confirms Fell's decipherment of the Susquehana Stones as Basque (ESOP, II, 1975, no. 45). He translates and comments upon Fell's article point by point. William Bright, editor of LANGUAGE (Linguistic Society of America) hails Aguire's new work as a major contribution toward solving the problem of the origins of languages. Professor Malmberg of Lund, Director of Studia Linguistica, considers Aguire the only living scholar with sufficient experience and skill to completed this particular research. Archaeologists' comments on the Susquehana Stones have suggested that their markings were created by plowshares.
Ogam and TakhelneSanford Etheridge, department of classical languages, Tulane University, in the Irish-language periodical, GAELTACHT (VII, May 1980, 3) refers to Fell as the leading living scholar in Ogam. Earlier in GAELTACHT (VI, 1979, 6, 7, and 8), Etheridge notes in agreement with Fell that Celtiberians left Ogam inscriptions across America, and of the Amerindian language Takhelne "in British Columbia is so full of Celtic words...that one may call it a Celtic language." For Fell's articles see ESOP, IV, 1977, no. 92, and ESOP, VII, 1979, no. 140. In a 1979 issue of KELT it is reported that Lou Menez, a Breton Missionary among the Takhelne tribe, "is that Professor Fell's theory on the origins of the Takhelne language is correct. He too believes that the roots relate to Celtic languages."
Phaistos DiskFell's decipherment of the Phaistos Disk was first given in a separate paper, December, 1973, but reprinted for wider distribution in ESOP, IV, 1977, no. 79. Ruel Lochlore of New Zealand, long involved in the study of ancient Anatolian languages with a doctorate in languages and logic, not only confirmed Fell's decipherment, but wrote a 47 page "Analysis of the Phaistos Decipherment" (ESOP, V, 1978, no. 108). It covers the establishment of the text, the decipherment itself, the script, translation and etymologies of the text, phonetics and morphology, syntax and the vocabulary.
Minoan (Linear A)"The Minoan Language--Linear A Decipherment," 65 pages, by Linus Brunner, the distinguished Swiss etymologist of Indo-European and Semitic languages, has confirmed it in a number of European publications and ESOP, VI, 1979, no. 129, "Etymology of the Minoan language." His opening sentence reads: "The last great (linguistic) enigma of antiquity, the Minoan language of the second milennium B. C. in Crete, has been deciphered by B. Fell, too, after his decipherment of ancient Libyan, Etruscan, Ogham, in America, etc. Every historian must thankful to him."
Linguistic Confirmations Take TimeWhen considering the decipherment of extinct languages and forgotten scripts, linguistic confirmations do not usually come overnight. The most qualified linguists in each area are normally engaged in ongoing research which is not conveniently altered. Sometimes there are very few experts to judge. Younger linguists working either partly or wholly within the confines of other disciplines such as anthropology are not always free to make really independent public comment against the prevailing views without risking funding, opportunities to publish, or even their jobs. An open climate does not prevail everywhere in the academic world.
Not all the verdics on Fell's work are in, and it is almost too much to expect that every single case will be positive. Judging from a few private communications from linguists, his work on Etruscan appears to be valid, but no public confirmation or denial by competent linguists specializing in this or related areas has yet been made. His decipherment of the Indus Valley script is somewhat more problematical, though it is by far the best effort to date and the only one which has made consistent sense of the famous seals.
Fell, A Pioneer ResearcherFell's work is outstanding, even unprecedented in its range. He is one of the greatest decipherers of ancient languages and scripts of all times. Not withstanding numerous minor and possibly some few major corrections which may have to be made in due course, Fell's work and the potential impact upon our understanding of the historic past is fundamental. Perhaps this is just too much for some archaeologists to accept. By believing that his decipherments are phony they are relieved of the tremendous task of revaluation and integration which his new data call for. Individually, they may, of course, preserve old prejudices. But the doors he has unlocked cannot be closed or the glimses seen through them forgotten. Fell's challenge is real, essentially valid linguistically and far reaching in it's implications for the understanding of America's past.
Of course Fell has not personally made all possible technical analysis or all possible surveys--no one human being can, or should. Fell has endured a lot of abuse, yet he and I both hoped the general nature of criticism would move from unfounded denunciation toward scholarly critiques of the evidence and that this kind of reply could be avoided. But whereas most linguists have responded to evidence, archaeologists have frequently expressed negative judgements with unwarranted hostility, bias, and never-never-land mentality.
Practical or not, these are my hopes. Let each specialist contribute his part to addressing the vast and exciting array of new areas opened up for research. Approach them without reluctance and without intention to debunk, but only with the intention to find out. Replace academic dogmas with inquisitiveness. Redress seriously and without ad hominem attacks, any methodological weaknesses within archaeology and epigraphy. Seek to replace condemnation with cooperation.
The verdict of history will be harsh upon those how obstruct progress in the present, but will validate its pioneers despite their obstacles.
Agire, Imanol (1980). Vinculos de la Lengua Vasca con las Lenguas de
Todo el Mundo (Bilbao).
Allen Derek F. (1978), An introduction to Celtic Coins (London).
Brunner, Lunis (1979). "Entomology of the Minoan Language," ESOP (VI
no. 129) 121-5.
"Bye Columbus: Did the Chinese Arrive First?" (1980). Time (Aug. 18).
Cf. Boston Globe (Jan. 16, 1976) earlier report on Chinese anchors.
Carter, George F. (1976). "Chinese Contacts with America: Fu-Sang
Again:" Anthropological Journal of Canada, hereafter AJC (XIV
no, 1), 10-24.
* Zhongpu,Fang (1980). "Chinese Buddists in America: 1,000 Years
Before Columbus," China reconstructs (reprinted in The Asian Mail,
Dec. 1980, 22).
Carter, George F. (1975). "Elephants and Ethnologists: Fifty years
Later, The New Diffusionist (Oct.), 139-53.
----- (Forthcoming). "Invention, Diffusion and racism," AJC.
----- (1971). "Pre-Columbian Chickens in Mexico," in Man Across the
Sea (Austin, eds. Carroll Roley et al), 178-218.
----- (1968) "Ule's Mastadon," AJC (VI, no. 1), 21-4
Coe, Michael (1966). The Maya (New York).
Cole, John R. (1980). "America Before Columbus - A Theory Full of
Holes" (review of SAGA AMERICA) Christian Science Monitor (June 9).
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The Bulletin New York State Archaeological Association, (Nov.), 1-3.
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Cook, Warren L. (1978). "Ancient Vermont" (Castlton).
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* Davies, Nigel (1979). Voyagers to the New World (New York).
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Jett, Lee, Mundkur, Paulson, Prem, Reyman, Dorado, and Totten.
Etheridge, Sanford (1979-80). Comments in Gaeltacht (VI: 6, 7, 8;
Farley, Gloria (1977). Letter, Rutland Daily Herald (Oct. 26).
Fell, Barry (1977). "A Letter from Hiram III, ca 540 BC," |iESOP (IV), 68-9.
----- (1976). America B. C. (New York).
----- (1979). "An Ancient Zodiac from Inyo, California," ESOP (VIII), 9-14.
----- (1976). "Decipherment of the Bifacial Sherbrooke Stele,"
Bulletin (Early Sites Research Society, IV, May), 33-7.
----- (1975). "Epigraphy of the Susquahana Steles," ESOP (II, no. 45).
----- (1978). "Etruscan," ESOP (V, no. 100) 1-48.
----- (1979). "Ogam Inscriptions from North and South Africa," ESOP
(VI, no. 116) 23-6.
-----(1973-75). "Protosanskrit, Bronze-age Language of Mohenjo Daro,"
ESOP (II no. 39).
----- (1979). Saga America (New York).
* Dix, Byron (1976). "An Early Calendar Site in Central Vermont" ESOP
(III, no. 51), also nos. 60, 61, and reports since.
----- (1977). "Takhelne, A Living Celtiberian Language of North
America, ESOP (IV, no. 92) 168-95.
----- (1979). "Takhelne, part two, ESOP (VIII, 140), 21-42.
----- (1979). "The Islamic Inscriptions of America," ESOP (VIII,
no. 187), 57-76.
----- (1977). "The Minoan Language--Linear A Decipherment" ESOP
(IV, no.77) 1-65.
----- (1977). "The Phaistos Disk, ca 1600 BC," ESOP (II, no. 43).
---- and Eric Reinert (1975). "Iberian Inscriptions in Paraguay,
ca 4th c. BB,"\i ESOP/i (II no. 43).
Goddard, Ives (1978). "Eastern Algonquian Languages," Handbook of
North American Indians (Washington), 70-7.
----- and William Fitzhugh (1978). Review of America B. C., mimeographed
on Smithsonian letterhead (May), 11 pages.
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from Parahyba," Orientalia (XXXVIII), 78-80, with additional
commenta 425-36, 461-3.
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* Heine-Geldern, Robert, (1961/7). "A Roman Find from Pre-Columbian Mexico,"
AJC (V, no. 4) 20-2, reprinted from anzeiger der Phil.-
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\iMan Across the Sea,/i 275-92
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Lochlore, Reuel (1978). "Analysis of the Phaistos Decipherment,"ESOP
(V no. 108), 48 pp.
* Grieder, Terence (1975). "Rotary Tools in Ancient Peru," Archaeology
** Lauden, Harvey (1980). "Vermont History," ESOP (VIII, no. 184), 36-43
Logan, Robert Archibald (1964) Cree Language structure and Introduction
to a Cree-English Dictionary (Ann Arbor), 105 pp.
----- (1964). Cree-English Dictionary and remarks on the Cree
Language, 2 v. (Ann Arbor), 1044pp.
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Lycea, Western Anatolia," ESOP (VIII, no. 208), 241-2.
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4 v. (London).
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Robisek, Francis (1972). Copan, Home of the Mayan Gods (New York).
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of "Ancient Vermont", Vermont History (Winter), 33-40.
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Totten, Norman (1977). "Crathaginian Coins Found in Arkansas and
Alabama," ESOP (IV, no 88), 150-6.
----- (1978). "Numismatic Evidence for Precolumbian Voyages," in
"Ancient Vermont", 44-6.
----- (1977). "Phaistos Disk: the Oldest Printed text." ESOP (IV,
no. 82), 106-10
---- (1976). "First European Colonists in New England," ESOP
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Trento, Salvatore(1978). The Search for Lost America (Chigago).
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Maya," Ibero-Amerikanisches Archiv (Berlin), 285-9.
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Twenty-third International Congress of Americanists (New York), 247-58
Van Sertima, Ivan (1976). They Came Before Columbus (New York).
de Waldeck, Frederic, and Brasseur de Bourbourg (1866). Palenque et Autres
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Bulletin ESRS (IV, May), 28-32.
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