The Irish in North America before Columbus?

This seemingly silly idea first reappeared during the years that I was attending universities (Late Stone Age). A series of pop culture books by such authors as Erich von Däniken attributed the rise of all Indigenous American civilizations to the arrival of extraterrestrials, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Atlanteans, etc. The Irish, Scots and Welsh were on the pop culture list, but considered late comers. Especially, after my fellowship in Mexico, I was extremely hostile to their delusional messages.

What all the authors had in common was a lack of educational credentials and total ignorance of Indigenous American cultures. Von Däniken wrote his best-selling book, Chariots of the Gods, while serving prison time in Switzerland for embezzlement and tax fraud!

Part 11 of the Mesolithic Period in eastern North America

by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner

An Ogham Stone in County Kerry, Ireland. In subsequent articles readers will learn that the petroglyphs in County Kerry are identical to those in the Etowah River Basin in the State of Georgia, USA. Kerry is an Anglicized version of the region’s Gaelic name. One of the tribal divisions of the Creek Confederacy has a name that is identical, phonetically, to County Kerry’s Irish Gaelic name. Several Uchee tribes also had Gaelic names.

Immediately after receiving my Masters Degree in Urban Planning from Georgia State University, I was hired by James Wright Associates in Midtown Atlanta to be its Director of Physical Planning and Urban Design. At my previous employer, the Atlanta Planning Department, I had prepared the Midtown Atlanta Urban Design Plan . . . major credentials for getting a good job! LOL However, my first assignment involved Native American reservations. JWA had been awarded a contract with the American Indian Housing Council to provide architectural and land planning assistance to reservation housing authorities. My first client was the Qualla Housing Authority in Cherokee, NC. Their houses were washing down the sides of mountains.

I bought some books to read in the motel rooms at night, while I was on site at these rural reservations. One of them was America, BC by Dr. Barry Fell. It was almost immediately a best seller. Fell was an internationally respected expert on ocean crustaceans, a professor at Harvard University, educated in the United Kingdom . . . but not an anthropologist. At least he was not serving time in a prison somewhere.

The early chapters of Fell’s book were quite compelling. They included many photographs of what appeared to be Ogham, an early form of writing in Ireland and western Scotland, that was principally used in the 4th. 5th and 6th centuries, AD. Fell claimed to be able to translate the engravings. I had no way of knowing, if his translations were accurate.

The remainder of Fell’s book degenerated into the same type of pseudo-archaeological poppycock that was popularized by “pop culture” authors in the 1960s and 1970s . . . namely that Indigenous Americans were too stupid to develop sophisticated architecture independently, so the great American civilizations were started by voyagers from advanced civilizations in the Old World. Fell did include photos of crude engravings of letters and symbols that possibly could be Mediterranean Basin writing systems. However, the visit of an occasional ship from across the Atlantic does not equate to its crew creating a civilization.

Earlier articles in this series have presented to readers strong evidence of just the opposite . . . it is highly possible that Indigenous Americans introduced the building of mounds and stonehenges, plus the fabrication of copper implements to western and northern Europe. Indigenous Americans were building ceremonial earthworks (aligned to precise astronomical radians) in Louisiana, when the British Isles, northern France and Scandinavia were still covered by a thick sheet of ice.

While Barry Fell made a lot of money from the book America, BC (Before Columbus) and subsequent TV documentaries, initially his book was almost universally dissed by academicians in the United States. The following published commentary is typical of their responses throughout the late 20th century.

In 1978, Ives Goddard and William W. Fitzhugh of the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institute stated that “the arguments of America B. C. are unconvincing. The only accepted case of pre-Columbian European contact in North America remains the Norse site of L’Anse aux Meadows in northern Newfoundland. Perhaps someday, credible proof of other early European contacts will be discovered in the New World. However, America B.C. does not contain such proof and does not employ the standard linguistic and archeological methods that would be necessary to convince specialists in these fields.”

Source: Goddard, Ives; Fitzhugh, William W. (September 1978). “Barry Fell Reexamined”. The Biblical Archaeologist. 41 (3): 85–88. doi:10.2307/3209452. JSTOR 3209452

David H. Kelley, an archaeologist at the University of Calgary, who is credited with a major breakthrough in the decipherment of Mayan glyphs, complained about Fell in a 1990 essay: “Fell’s work contains major academic sins, the three worst being distortion of data, inadequate acknowledgment of predecessors, and lack of presentation of alternative views.”

In the same essay, however, Kelley went on to state that “I have no personal doubts that some of the inscriptions which have been reported are genuine Celtic ogham.” Kelley concluded: “Despite my occasional harsh criticism of Fell’s treatment of individual inscriptions, it should be recognized that without Fell’s work there would be no [North American] ogham problem to perplex us. We need to ask not only what Fell has done wrong in his epigraphy, but also where we have gone wrong as archaeologists in not recognizing such an extensive European presence in the New World.”

Source: Kelley, D. H. (Spring 1990). “Proto-Tifinagh and Proto-Ogham in the Americas: Review of Fell; Fell and Farley; Fell and Reinert; Johannessen, et al.; McGlone and Leonard; Totten”. The Review of Archaeology.]

In 1961, Fort Caroline National Memorial in Jacksonville, FL consisted of a 25 acre lot, purchased by the City of Jacksonville in 1950, some Confederate artillery emplacements and a historical marker. Then President Lyndon Johnson signed an executive order to release discretionary funds for building a rather inaccurate 1/12th scale reproduction of Fort Caroline, so tourists would have something to look at. You see . . . no 16th century European artifacts have ever been found anywhere near that site. All Spanish, French, English, Dutch Colonial Era maps . . . and even a United States map from 1794 place Fort Caroline on the south bank of the Altamaha River in Georgia! It is a boondoggle. President Johnson released the funds to reward the US Congressman from Jacksonville for supporting the Civil Rights Act. Your tax funds since then have enabled that 25 acre tract to grow into a 46,000 acre national park. Such is the nature of much American history.

A 180 degree change in my attitude

In 2012, I was desperately trying to escape the undeserved stigma of being “that Mayas in Georgia nutcase” and get back to practicing architecture. No one was being told by the media that I had probably visited and studied more Mesoamerican archaeological sites than virtually anyone outside of Mexico . . . but there seemed to be no way of making any income out of that dirty little secret. The public was also not being told that I had received much recognition for the restoration of many Colonial and Federal Period structures. So, I began research for a series of books on Colonial Period architecture. The first book published was: Fort Caroline . . . the Search for America’s Lost Heritage.

I opened up the first book on Georgia History by William Bacon Stevens . . . A History of Georgia [1843]. At the beginning of the first page was an astonishing statement. Early colonists on the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina encountered fair-skinned Indians, who spoke a dialect of Gaelic, which could be understood by Irish immigrants. Stevens then referred to the Duhare tribe, which was pronounced Tuhale by the Creeks. I checked his references.

There were no colonial authorities confirming this statement, but his references included Irish and French monastic journals, which described numerous voyages by Irish and Scandinavian refugees across the Atlantic to Witmansland in the late 1100s AD. The Scandinavians furnished most of the boats and colonized a region north of where the Irish settled. Witmansland is Norse and Swedish for “White Man’s Land.”

I checked the historical background for these voyages. It’s a dirty little secret today, but married clergy were quite common in the Irish and Anglo-Saxon churches. The priests, who were not formally married, nevertheless, had one or more women living with them. These were often widows and it was a form of charity. In addition, much of their services were in their native languages and the Irish utilized minimal liturgy. Their brand of Christianity was like the Christianity of the Roman Empire, prior to Emperor Constantine making Christianity the state religion.

In the early 1100s French Norman clergy became very powerful and pressured the Vatican to require celibacy among all the clergy. The celibacy requirement became an edict in 1139 AD. Eastern Orthodox churches continue to have married clergy to this day.

The ancient Church of Ireland generally ignored the Celibacy Edict. However, an Anglo-Norman army invaded the Irish kingdom of Leinster in 1169 then another army captured the Scandinavian-Irish kingdoms of Dublin and Wexford in 1170. Anglo-Norman bishops were appointed over these regions. Soon they began persecuting the Irish Christians and Scandinavians. Most Scandinavians were Arian Christians. Some were still pagans. Priests, who refused to cast out their wives and children were burned at the stake. Parishioners, who continued to worship in the manner of the Gaelic or Arian Churches were either burned at the stake or butchered by Anglo-Norman soldiers.

A sea-going Irish coggin, originally developed in the Early Middle Ages. The coggin was approximatelt the size of the ships, which carried the first English colonists to Jamestown, Virginia. Interestingly enough, one of the “Indian tribes” near the coast of Georgia was named the Tamacoggin. Tama is the Itza Maya and Georgia Creek word for “trade.” The Tamacoggin moved to present day Jackson County, GA (Metro Atlanta) to escape the Spanish. They eventually joined the Creek Confederacy.

Obviously, the people of Ireland were well aware that there was a land across the Atlantic where their ancestral relatives had settled in the past. The single Norse colony in Newfoundland, now accepted by academia, was just a stopping point for reaching Witmansland. At least for the remainder of that century, repeated voyages were made by Scandinavian sea-going cargo ships and Irish coggens, loaded with refugees.

Stevens also referenced a book named De Orbis Novo Decades [written in several additions from 1504-1530] by Peter Martyr D’Anghera. He described a province, named Duhare, on the South Atlantic Coast near present day Savannah. Its people were tall, brawny and freckled with red or brown hair. They raised dairy deer and made cheese from the deer milk. This last statement has caused scholars for the past five centuries to ignore the story about Duhare.

We will have a separate article on Duhare, but to summarize, I wrote a letter to the new Consul General of the Republic of Ireland in Atlanta, Paul Gleeson . . . asking someone to comment on the words and descriptions surviving about the people of Duhare. He forwarded my letter to the Irish Cultural Attache’ in New York City, who forwarded my letter to some professors at Trinity College in Dublin.

Well . l l . . . it seems that the ONLY source of milk and cheese for Ireland were dairy deer, until the Norse introduced dairy goats and the Anglo-Normans introduced dairy cows. Du H’ai-re means “Irishmen” in Early Medieval Irish Gaelic. That “re” suffix appears in many place names, both in Ireland and in the lower Southeastern United States.

All of the personal names, listed by Peter Martyr, could be translated with a Medieval Irish Gaelic dictionary. Barry Fell, Ives Goddard, William Fitzhugh and David Kelly did not do their homework. They all were making speculations without thoroughly carrying out cultural and linguistic research.

My research has revealed evidence of multiple immigrations from the British Isles (including Ireland) over a period of over 3,000 years. Each wave of immigration will be addressed by a separate article.

Readers are in for many surprises. North America’s real history is quite different than what your high school Social Studies textbook told you.

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