For teaching purposes only;
[ References for this review may be found at <Fell> ]
An important part in the recognition of the language and origins of ancient peoples consists in studying their grave goods closely in search of inscriptions. Small but telltale comments or notations often occur on objects that look unimportant but that formed some part of household or artisan's equipment. For example, loom weights may carry a notation indicating whether they belong to the warp of a standing loom or to the pairs of threads that form part of a so-called card loom. Archaeologists are prone to overlook these, supposing them to be some decorative marking of no significance. Thus, Basque token coins of the second century BC, issued in imitation of Aquitanian silver coins of the Ancient Irish and carrying an ogam statement in the Basque language have been erroneously identified as "buttons" or "necklace beads," and classified as Aurignacian artifacts of 20,000 BC In America stone loom weights, labeled in ogam with the Ancient Irish word meaning "warp," have been identified as Amerindian "gorgets." Pottery impress stamps, labeled to that effect in Iberic script, have been mistaken for decorated combs. Cases could be multiplied of similar mistakes. The errors arise from the fact that archaeologists often do not realize what important light epigraphers can throw on their finds, and that what may be mistaken for mere decoration is often an ancient form of script, which can identify the people who once owned and used the artifacts.
The occurrence of burials with associated inscribed relics was first reported for North America in 1838, when a tumulus at Grave Creek, Moundsville, West Virginia (Fig. 179), was excavated and yielded an inscribed stone tablet, obviously written in some alphabet related to the Phoenician or Carthaginian (Fig. 180). When a Danish authority on scripts, Dr. Rafn at Copenhagen University, was sent a copy of the writing on the stone, he promptly identified it as being in one of the Iberian scripts. As Grave Creek is 300 miles from the sea, the implication seemed to be that an Iberian settlement had once occurred in North America-- a notion that later archaeologists rejected. hence the Grave Creek grave goods and the included tablet were either forgotten or attributed to the treacherous invention of forgers." [Please also see Fig. 181 for European example]. Edo Nyland has translated the Horse Creek Petroglyph of West Virginia, finding the text written in the Basque Language (see Horse Creek Petroglyph).
In more recent times more artifacts have been found with inscriptions in Iberic (as well as other ancient European scripts) and have been recorded and published, but only as "decorated" artifacts. Since archaeologists did not expect to find inscribed artifacts, they were unaware of what might constitute an inscribed artifact." Dr. William P. Grigsby of east Tennessee, who has assembled one of the largest collections of excavated artifacts of eastern North America, began, after reading America B.C., to recognize on some of his specimens markings that appeared to match both Iberian letters and ogam script; he wrote to draw Fell’s attention to his specimens and then allowed me to research them.
When the attention of archaeologists was drawn to the presence of ogam inscriptions on the artifacts as also on some of the megalithic chambers, their response was often disbelief. Their skepticism is based on the mistaken notion, long held, "that ogam was invented no earlier than the fourth century A.D., for use in Ireland." The best answer to criticisms of the kind cited lies in numismatics, for dates of coins can be established with considerable accuracy.
Illustrated in Fig. 177 are two Ancient Irish silver coins of the second century BC They are imitations of the coinage of a Greek trading center in Spain named Emporiom. The lower example, which dates from before 133 BC, is lettered in Iberian script, and reads nomse, the Celiberian version of the original Greek word for a coin, nomisma. the upper example is drawn from a specimen, now in the British Museum, of a silver coin of the Gauls of Aquitania. it has been dated (Allen, Celtic Coins, British Museum, 1978) to the second century before Christ. The ogam inscription is in ogam consaine and therefore omits the vowels. It reads N-M-S (nomse, coin), and below are the letters L-G, probably the mint-mark of the city of Lugdunum in Aquitania. A clear photograph of the inscription may be seen on page 35 of Allen's Celtic Coins.
This disposes of the claim that "ogam was invented in the fourth century AD at the earliest." We shall now deal with the remark that ogam "is peculiar to the Celts and in particular to the Irish…: the use of “Celts” here is vague.
The bone disk with an engraved design and ogam inscription, shown in Fig. 178, is one of a number of similar examples found at the Paleolithic site at Laugerie-Basse, in the Basque country of the Pyrenees adjacent to the old Pre-Irish (noted as Celtic) kingdom of Aquitania, from which the previously mentioned coin derives. This disk has been identified by archaeologists as "a bead from a necklace, or less probably, a button." and it has been described as an artifact made by the cave-dwelling Paleolithic people of Langerie-Basse.
These statements cannot be correct. The ogam consaine inscription reads in the Basque language S-H-T (šehe-te), which means, "to serve as money." More precisely, the standard Diccionario of Azukue explains that the word refers to what numismatists call a billon coin of very small value; "billon" means a debased alloy of silver. Clearly the bone disk is a Basque imitation of the coinage of Aquitania and can be dated to about the same period as the piece it simulates: the second century BC. Like many other inscriptions of ancient Europe-- and America-- it has nothing to do with Ireland, nor does it express an Ancient Irish tongue. it is improbable that the engravers of any of these coins were "familiar with the Latin Language," nor should such a familiarity have any relevance to the subject.
Many other Iberian (noted as Celtiberian) and Gaulish numismatic examples of ogam consain can be cited. However, we now refer to the inscriptions found in North America, written in Iberic script (like that of the Grave Creek mound) and using Basque or other Iberian language. In the case of the Iberian script cut on stones in Pennsylvania, and reported by me as Basque in 1974, the Basque Encyclopedia now includes these inscriptions as the earliest recognized Basque writing,.." This is "in contract to American archaeologists claim that they are marks made by roots of trees or by plowshares. When Dr. Grigsby first discovered the Iberian script on some of his artifacts, the signs he found were precisely the same set of letters that make up the Iberic alphabet, and which had earlier been found on the grave markers and boundary stones of Pennsylvania. Asked if these markings are caused by miniature plows, archaeologists have thus far maintained a stony silence." [It is worth noting here that before the recent decipherment of Mayan scripts in Mexico and Central America, American archeologists steadfastly maintained that there was no "writing" of any kind in America].
There are also quite independent and unrelated reasons for thinking that ancient European voyagers came to America. They concern the mining of metals.
For the past twenty years leading mining engineers and university metallurgists have been seeking from archaeologists and explanation of a most baffling mystery in the history of mining technology. So far no answer has been found.
Around the northern shore of Lake Superior, and on the adjacent Isle Royale, there are approximately 5,000 ancient copper mine workings. In 1953 and 1956 Professor Roy Drier led two Michigan Mining and Technology expeditions to the sites. Charcoal found at the bases of the ancient mining pits yielded radiocarbon dates indicating that the mines had been operated between 2000 BC and 1000 BC. These dates correspond nearly to the start and the end of the Bronze Age in northern Europe. The most conservative estimates by mining engineers show that at least 500 million pounds of metallic copper were removed over that time span, and there is no evidence as to what became of it.
Archaeologists have maintained that there was no Bronze Age in Northern America and that no contacts with the outside world occurred. On the other hand, the mineralogists find themselves obliged to take a different view: it is impossible, they argue, for so large a quantity of metal to have vanished through wear and tear. An since no large numbers of copper artifacts have been recovered from American archaeological sites, they conclude that the missing metal may have been shipped overseas. Such an opinion, as is obvious, now becomes entirely reasonable, for the inscriptions of Woden-lithi [at Peterborough, Ontario, Canada] declare that copper ingots were his primary targets in coming to Canada. Previous shippers must have passed the information to the Norseman king, since otherwise he could not have known that copper was available and that a suitable trade commodity in exchange would be woven fabrics and cordage.
Thus the sum total of evidence from burial sites, from the chance discovery of burial marker stones and boundary stones, from the other sources mentioned ...[previously], all adds up to a consistent and simple explanation of all the baffling facts; it is simply this-- European colonists and traders have been visiting or settling in the Americas for thousands of years, have introduced their scripts and artifacts and skills, and have exported abroad American products such as copper. [Please also see Figs. 182, 183, 185, 186, 187, 189 & 190].
How Stone Age Language Was Preserved in Bronze Age Petroglyphs
In the 1960's a Swiss Scholar, Dr. Rudolph Engler, drew attention to the extraordinary similarity existing between the rock carvings of ships engraved in Scandinavia during the Bronze Age and certain rock carvings found in North America. Fell (1982) continues, "Dr. Engler's name and his thought-provoking book Die Sonne als Symbol (The Sun as a Symbol) are still little known in America, unfortunately. he expressed the opinion that an explanation for the facts would one day be supplied by epigraphic research. Certain easily recognizable symbols are found beside the Scandinavian ship engravings, and the identical symbols occur beside the American ones. When Engler wrote his book, however, none of the symbols had been deciphered, and consequently the writing-- for such it appeared to be-- remained unread and mysterious. We may speculate as to whether the Scandinavian rock engravings of ships may conceal a message unperceived by us because of the infantile aspect of the art itself.
One way to examine the matter is to let our mind's eye escape from the trammels of the age in which we happen to be born, and to take flight in fancy through time and space, to watch the artists at work (Figs. 191 & 192).
Our first stop is to be on the Baltic seashore at Namforsen, in the Gulf of Bothnia, in northern Sweden. As we touch down, a Bronze Age artist has just engraved a representation of a ten-oared boat, with the crewmen represented as plain sticklike marks. he now takes up his gouge and hammers out a bent left arm on each of two facing crewmen. Next, to our surprise, he adds what seems an utterly irrelevant detail, a stylistic head of a horse suspended in midair (so it would seem) above the vessel's stern. Next we take flight southward to the island of Sjaelland, in Denmark, to watch another artist at work near Engelstrup. he has chosen to decorate a boulder. First he carves a stylized ship, a twenty-oared vessel. Again the crewmen are shown like vertical pegs. he now adds two more men, one at the bow and one suspended above the other rowers. Each of these two figures is now given a bent arm. Next (and this time we are prepared for it) he adds a horse in midair above the stern. Now we take flight across the Atlantic to visit one of King Woden-lithi's artists [near Peterborough, Ontario, Canada]. He, too, has cut a ship engraving, some 15 feet due east of the main sun figure. He has cut only 6 rowers. He now adds a larger stick figure at the bow, taking care to bend the forearm. Last, as we expect him to do, he adds a somewhat misshapen horse, suspended over the stern.
As we watch, [the Canadian engraver at Peterborough] then walks across the site to a point that lies about 12 feet southwest of the central sun figure, where other engravers have begin to lay out the figures of a zodiac. He cuts a four-oared ship. Beside it he engraves a man in the bow and a very pregnant woman in the stern, and above them he engraves a large ring-shaped motif. Meanwhile, our Swedish and Danish artists have been busy. When we return to Engelstrup we find that the Dane has added a second ship to his boulder. Beside it, he has placed two figures, a man and a woman, and between them he has engraved a very conspicuous ring-shaped object. As for the Swede, in his remote Bothnian fastness, when we arrive there we find he too has added a second ship, has carved a man and a pregnant woman beside it, and over their heads he has placed a ring-shaped design.
Now, to an epigrapher, a sequence such as just described-- and the actual engravings do exist, at the places named-- can mean only one thing: the artists in each case were following a formalistic, well-defined system of writing. The scribes of ancient Egypt had similar procedures. Egyptian writing depends on the use of the rebus-- a word that is easy to depict as a picture is used to indicate another word that sounds the same but that cannot be represented by a picture. Here is the principle, as the Egyptians developed it. Suppose you want to write the word man or male. That is easy, for you can make a little pictograph, a matchstick figure or a more elaborate one, depicting a man. The reader sees a man, and is expected to read "man," as indeed he will. But suppose you wanted to write, not man, but brother. That is much more difficult, for no matter how accurately you depict your own or someone else's brother, the average reader (who knows neither of the persons) will just say "man." How can you make him understand that the word intended is brother? The Egyptian discovery lies in the fact that in the Egyptian language the word brother is pronounced like sen. But in that language there is another, readily depictable, thing that was also called sen-- namely, a ladle. So the solution is to draw a pictograph of a man, and then beside it place a pictograph of a ladle.
All that then is needed is to ensure that you teach your young people to read, and that in turn means teaching them to recognize in each word a classifier (or determinant) and a second element called the phonoglyph (sound-giver). In the word brother the man picture is the classifier, telling the reader that the word has something to do with male human beings, and the ladle picture is the phonoglyph, telling the reader that the male human has a name that sounds like sen.
When Professor Fell lived in Copenhagen he became acquainted with Icelanders, whose language has preserved most of the features of Old Norse. They delight in word play and also are noted for the high proportion of poets in their population. One whom he knew used to invent risqué punning games to tease some innocent party. He would first dream up some complicated pun in Danish and then make me say what appeared to be a harmless statement, the others present waiting breathless to see what would result. When Fell knew the words, he would then say, "Faster, say it more quickly," whereupon the entire room would dissolve in laughter. To Fell’s innocent inquiry he would then be told that, by saying the words faster, he had made them run together to form a totally different and usually quite obscene statement: one of those Old Norse customs for whiling away the long winter nights along the Arctic Circle. In Polynesia Fell encountered similar customs, there called riddles and taken very seriously by some anthropologists whose knowledge of the language was too slight to enable them to realize the traps they were led into. Entire articles appear in the Journal of the Polynesian Society in which the unwary authors have reproduced scores of the most scurrilous material, thinly disguised as something different by dividing the words in different places. These so-called riddles were also a means of passing the long evenings. Also, tribal lore deemed to be too sacred for ordinary ears can be concealed in complex puns that the uninitiated does not fully comprehend.
With these experiences in mind, and knowing now as we do that the language spoken by the Bronze Age engravers of Scandinavia and Ontario is a Norse language, we can test whether the inconsequential assemblages of horses in midair, men with bent arms, and rings gazed upon by male and female matchstick figures may be written puns, like ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. The test, of course, is to utter aloud the names of the depicted objects in sequence.
Since the Danish example carries both of the statements on the same stone, one above the other, we will use that one.
"In English we have: (reading each line from left to right):
English: People, arms bent, and a horse. A man and a woman at a ring gaze.
Norse: Menneskjor, olna kviesand'ok hrossr. Ok mann ok kvinna't hring da.
Homophone: Menne kjol-nakvi Suna dagi hrossa, ok man-nokvi natt hrinda.
English: Men to the keeled sun-ship at dawn give praise, and to the moon-ship at her night launching.
Thus, the seemingly childish pictures are readily seen to be not pictures, but hieroglyphs. They seemed to be examples of Stone Age writing, poetic and religious, hallowed by centuries of use before the Bronze Age and carefully preserved intact as historic and religious expressions of piety from a former age.
By treating the messages of the Bronze Age as literal and childish, we have completely failed to interpret the true sense they impart. The rock-cut petroglyphs deserve the close attention of linguists, who may be expected to produce more perfect interpretations than those that can be offered. Often linguists are prone to spend so much time splitting hairs over dictionary-authorized spellings and grammatical niceties that they often forget that ancient peoples had no dictionaries, no written standards of spelling, and that the grammar of each hamlet and village was likely to deviate from that of its neighbors.
(See Nyland’s account).
Before going further with the account of Norsemen exploration in the far northern seas we should pause to take note of events in the Mediterranean world at the onset of the twelfth century BC. These were turbulent times in the southern lands, where violent attacks by a mysterious group of raiders referred to as the Sea Peoples laid in ruins the Aegean civilization and even threatened the very survival of the Egyptian monarchy. Egypt at this time was ruled by one of the most powerful of the Pharaohs, Ramesses III, who reigned from 1188 to 1165 BC.
Only the smoke-stained ruins now remain to speak mutely of the onslaught that suddenly struck down the peaceful trading empire of the Aegean peoples who fell victims to the raiders from the sea. In Egypt a stout and effective resistance was made against the pirates, adequate warning having no doubt reached the Nile Delta when the disasters occurred in the archipelago to the north of Egypt. As to what happened next, we are almost wholly dependent upon Egyptian records carved at Medinet Habu to memorialize the defeat by Ramesses III of the Libyans and Sea Peoples in 1194 and 1191 BC., and a final attack in 1188 BC. by yet one more wave of Sea Peoples, this time not from Libya but from the east. In the bas-reliefs that depict the naval battles (Fig. 193), the defeated Sea Peoples are represented as having a European cast of face. Some of them are shown wearing hemispherical helmets that carry two recurved upward-directed horns. For other clothing, they wear a kilt. Their weapons are swords and spears, whereas the Egyptian marines are armed with bows and arrows, and are shown able to attack the invaders with a fusillade before the Sea Peoples could come near enough to board the Egyptian vessels. According to Ramesses III, the defeated remnants of these invaders fled westward to Libya. Two centuries later the descendants of the invaders seized power in Egypt, reigning as the XXII or Libyan dynasty for a span of 200 years.
Other writers have already made the suggestion that the Sea peoples may have included Norsemen sailors, largely because the monument at Medinet Habu depicts some of them as men that look like Vikings. Fell expressed a view that the inscriptions have forced upon him: that it is very probable that the Sea Peoples included substantial naval detachments from the Baltic region, that their language was a Norse dialect of the Indo-European family, that the so-called "Libyan" alphabet is in fact an alphabet of Norse, or at least northern European origin, and that it was taken to Libya by the defeated Sea Peoples who survived the Battle of the Nile. For some reason the alphabet they introduced has continued in use throughout subsequent Libyan history, whereas in its northern homeland it died out, to be replaced by runes. Fell hazarded the guess that the blond Tuaregs who clung most tenaciously to the "Libyan" alphabet are probably descended from Norsemen immigrants around the time of the Sea Peoples' invasions. All these proposals may seem bold inferences, but there seemed little in the way of plausible alternatives in the light of these new finds of supposed Libyan inscriptions in Europe.
It is, after all, a question of relative motion. We thought at first that Libyan voyagers had traveled to Scandinavia, to leave their script there as a calling card. It now seems that the script is Norse, and that Norsemen ships and crews carried it to Libya, where it survived." Recent articles in National Geographic Magazine, confirm the possibility that Norsemen peoples brought writing to Mediterranean lands in prehistoric times. Barry Fell’s suggestion that Egypt might have had intense contact with North America is strongly supported by the huge boats, which were discovered in 1950 adjacent to Khufu’s great pyramid. They were buried between 2589 and 2566 B.C.. One has been restored and it shows considerable wear as if it had gone on long journeys. Its length is 43.63 meters, width 5.66 meters (see Egyptian Boat). This ship was perfectly capable of crossing the Atlantic. The other boats were left intact, awaiting additional funding to rebuild them as well. An excellent article about these boats may be found in the April/May 2004 issue of Ancient Egypt Magazine.
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