Explorers, traders, even settlers, left their words inscribed on canyon walls, on artifacts, and on trade goods found in the Americas many centuries before Columbus sailed the ocean blue. For many strange reasons, the very idea of alphabets carved on such objects and in America is generally considered to be without scientific value.
Most examples are considered to be forgeries or fakes and are conveniently discounted by those who guide our thinking.Despite these hazards, researchers in ancient epigraphy have been able to read such examples, at least to their own satisfaction. Some of the examples are so compelling that one wonders why the resistance should be so strong.
One of the foremost decipherers of ancient writing was the late Dr. Barry Fell, who has found evidence of writing in Peru related to Easter Island, in Canada (near Toronto) related to a heretofore little known early Scandinavian alphabet (Tifinag), and in New England, in West Virginia, and in southeastern Colorado (related to Ogam, known in ancient Iberia and Ireland). What do these messages say?
The Peruvian message is charming and appropriate for the high Andes environment. One tapestry with lots of pretty patterns, examples still being sold to tourists, can be translated into a message saying, roughly, Make hay while the sun shines. The patterns and words are clearly related to Polynesian examples.The Canadian example (Peterborough petroglyhs site in Ontario) was dated about 1700 B.C., by Fell's interpretation of the orientation of a Zodiac carving.
The Ojibwa midewiwin, who care for the site, say that it was inscribed by Algonquin shamans and the carvings of mythological figures tell their creation story. Fell compares these figural carvings to Scandinavian gods. The Vastokases (archaeologists) think the petroglyphs were carved over a lengthy time period. If this is so, several interpretations may be correct. Dr. David Kelley stated that the writing is proto-Tifinag and iconographically Scandinavian.
One Colorado example, in vowelless Ogam, explains roughly, The sun is six months in the north and six months in the south. Apparently an equinox site is involved, and indeed, as I have myself witnessed, this is the case. As the sun slowly sets toward the west on September 22-23, a shadow falls exactly on the center of a grid beside the inscription.
In the meantime, nearby, a similar shadow falls on a curious image of the Egyptian jackal-headed god known as Anubis. Identification of this image of an Egyptian deity was first made by Gloria Farley, who has also found runic inscriptions (a Northern European alphabet) at Heavener, Oklahoma.
In her book In Plain Sight: Old World Records In Ancient America, Farley summarizes her life's work following up clues for epigraphy (ancient writing) in Colorado, Oklahoma, and nearby states. As a field representative, she followed up rumors and stories of curious rock art along the various rivers of her locale. She then sent drawings to Barry Fell for his skilled analysis and interpretation. Their relationship worked exceedingly well for decades. Some items even seemed to be Arabic.
Another Ogam player was Dr. Don Rickey, whose specialty as a historian covered American horse soldiers during the so-called Indian Wars. He followed up one Army report to a hidden spring, where a battle had occurred. He noted spear sharpening marks on the nearby rocks. A week or two later, he happened to be in Edinburgh, Scotland, where he noted similar markings displayed as Ogam in a museum. When he returned home, Fell's book America B.C. was waiting for him. Subsequently, he forwarded photographs to Dr. Fell, who was able to make some important translations.
Oklahoma has another epigrapher of note, namely H. Mike Xu, at the Central Oklahoma University. Dr. Xu has been able to read Chinese words on some artifacts located in the National Museum of Mexico. The words mention people and events related to the Shang dynasty, which ended about 1,200 B.C., whereupon thousands of refugees possibly fled to what is now Central America. Dr. Xu believes these people founded the Olmec civilization.
A word should now be said for William McGlone, who controls visits to the ranch areas of interest in southeastern Colorado. Initially, McGlone made a presentation at a meeting of some 50 ranchers in the area. On display were photos of the kind of thing we are looking for. Fifteen of the ranchers said they had similar inscriptions on their property. As a result McGlone was appointed to control visitors to the sites in an orderly way.
Dr J. Huston McCulloch has made important analyses of Hebrew writing on the Bat Creek Tablet found in a Tennessee mound. The site was excavated years ago by professional Smithsonian archaeologists, who published one illustration upside-down. Inverted, the words can be read in a type of Hebrew lettering used about 1800 years ago. The tablet's date has since been confirmed by carbon-14 dating of wooden ear spools and the analysis of metallic composition of brass bracelets found with a skeleton in the mound.
One effort related to the supposed Ogam located in Southeastern Colorado resulted in a series of 180 photographs being published in an album. The best photos were selected from four collections taken by Richard Lynch, Sharon and Robert Wilson and this writer. The idea was that if someone saw these examples, that someone might be able to make translations. (By comparison, translation of the Mayan glyphs took 200 years, because everyone held onto their examples, selfishly).
The happy consequence is that Michel-Gerald Boutet, of Quebec, Canada, took only six weeks to translate ten of the Colorado Ogam examples. He writes about it in The Celtic Connection.The story of how Boutet found out about Colorado Ogam reads like an unbelievable yarn. Boutet, at present an art instructor, was trained in France in Burgundy. While there, he became interested in the rock art of the area, some of which included early Ogam. He learned to make translations. Then back in Quebec, he was viewing a television program by Dr. Gerald Leduc on the subject of rock inscriptions in Quebec. Surprisingly, as the TV images of the inscriptions flashed by, Boutet found he could read them. He wrote to Dr. Leduc, who suggested he obtain a copy of The Colorado Ogam Album. Boutet is now a valued friend of mine, and his work is progressing apace.
At a conference of the Institute for the Study of American Cultures (ISAC) concerning pre-Columbian subjects, held, interestingly enough, at Columbus, Georgia, it was my privilege to meet Nobuhiro Yoshida. He is president of the Japanese Petrograph Society. Learning that Yoshida and his colleagues were finding Ogam in Japan, arrangements were made to publish his article in The Eclectic Epigrapher. Indeed at the time, Yoshida had already met Barry Fell, who was able to translate short words of Ogam found in Japan. The occurrence of Ogam in Japan boggles the mind. But Japanese Ogam does exist, as explained by Yoshida in an updated article in The Celtic Connection.When Dr. Leo Dubal of Switzerland was in Japan, he sought out Yoshida because of their mutual interest in rock inscriptions. Dubal also seeks examples throughoutf the Mediterranean region, with a special interest in the inscriptions of the Val Camonica Valley of the Italian Alps.
The contacts among serious epigraphers literally reach around the world, from Georgia to Japan to Switzerland and back to California. Thus, the community of epigraphic scholars continues the work started by Barry Fell, who everyone agrees was the Father of epigraphy in America.His heirs, in addition to those already mentioned in this article, included the late Joseph Mahan who founded ISAC (Institute for the Study of American Cultures), now run by his successors. As a historian, Dr. Mahan brought together those interested in epigraphy and in pre-Columbian voyages to America. His academic credentials were impeccable, and he had the precise father-image personality needed to keep his associates going ahead in the right direction.
Suggested reading:The Celtic Connection, by Michel-Gerald Boutet and others.
The Colorado Ogam Album, edited by Donald L. Cyr.The Eclectic Epigrapher, edited by Donald L. Cyr.
In Plain Sight: Old World Records in Ancient America, by Gloria Farley.
America B.C., by Barry Fell.
Origin of the Olmec Civilization, by H. Mike Xu.American Discovery:
Our Multicultural Heritage, by Gunnar Thompson.
The Crystal Veil, Avant-Garde Archaeology, by Donald L. Cyr.
These books are available at several book stores, including: STONEHENGE VIEWPOINT, 2261 Las Positas Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93105, (805) 687-9350 (Ask for free catalog). E-Mail Stonevue@aol.comCopyright (c) by Donald L. Cyr, 1997. Epigraphic Society Occasional Publications and for Stonehenge Viewpoint.