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A View of The Bronze Age


       Salient aspects of the Bronze Age are now described by Fell.  "In northern Europe bronze weapons and implements first began to replace the stone artifacts of the Neolithic inhabitants when trade routes to the Mediterranean lands permitted imports from the south.  The change from stone and malleable copper to the more durable and more valuable bronze equipment is dated to about 2000 BC."


       At this time, which marks the opening of the Bronze Age, the most numerous and conspicuous man-made features of the landscape were the massive drystone monuments that had been erected during the last phases of the Neolithic, from about 2200 BC onward.  These great monuments, called megaliths (from Greek roots meaning huge stones) have remained an impressive feature of the European landscape ever since, and today tens of thousands of tourists visit the megalithic sites every year, to gaze with wonder at these mysterious works of our ancestors.


       When the English Pilgrims began to settle northeastern North America in the early 1600s they found that the forests and open hillsides carried similar ancient stone monuments.  Governor John Winthrop (the Younger) of Connecticut had become during his student years one of the first Fellows of the infant Royal Society, and after his arrival in America was regarded by the colonists as a fount of information on all matters to do with natural history and antiquities.  hew wrote papers for the early volumes of the Philosophical Transactions (published by the Royal Society in London) and thus drew attention to the salient features of scientific interest in his new world across the Atlantic.  Among his papers is found evidence of inquiries from settlers as to what could be the meaning of the strange stone "forts" they were encountering.  it was noted that the Algonquian Indians did not use stone in their constructions (save for some rare instances), and the Indians themselves shunned the stone chambers and could throw no light on their origins.


       Toward the close of the nineteenth century the opinions of a few influential archaeologists in North America were that no European had set foot in America until the time of Columbus.  Since such opinions precluded any possibility that the stone monuments of new England might be related to the megalithic monuments of Europe, the entire subject fell out of favor.  Americans were sent to Europe to study Stone Age and Bronze Age archaeology, and few, if any, though to pay attention to the problems raised by the New England megaliths.  So deeply ingrained is this view of the age long isolation of America that when in 1976 Fell published his reasoned thoughts on the parallels between American and European archaeological sites, his book America BC was dismissed by most archaeologists as ignorant rubbish.  In reality, much of Fell’s reasoning was based on a careful comparison of engraved inscriptions found on the associated stonework, both in European sites (especially Portugal and Spain) and in American contests.  Fell recorded, for example, well-known Iberian scripts of the late Bronze Age, found on hundreds of rocks in Pennsylvania, and his decipherments, utilizing Professor David Diringer's tales in The Alphabet (Hutchinson, 1968).  Such works as Resurrección María de Azukue's Diccionario Vasco-Español-Frances (Bilbao, 1969) enabled me to recognize and report Basque gravestones and boundary marker stones, apparently dating from about the era of 900 BC.


       European epigraphers and linguists, such as the foremost Basque scholars, carried out detailed checks on Fell’s findings, confirmed most of them, and, as already noted, in the latest volume of the Gran Enciclopedia Vasca [a discussion is] now given over to matters raised by these American Basque inscriptions, and the analysis by Imanol Agiŕe in his Vinculos de la Lengua Vasca gives a virtual total confirmation of his findings:  the inscriptions, in Agíre's opinion, do date from about 900 BC, and they do carry Basque phrases in the appropriate Iberian alphabets of that period.  These findings have been the object of much discussion by archaeologists.  For a current summary of the subject, reference may be made to the Occasional Publications of the Epigraphic Society, Volume 9 (1981), where some fifty opinions, pro and con, are set out.  In general, it can be said in summary that linguists and epigraphers agree that the American inscriptions are genuine and ancient, and that many of them relate to the Bronze Age.


       Since linguists and eipgraphers concur that the American inscriptions do include genuine products of Bronze Age scribes, and that the scripts and languages used show that the scribes came from European and North African lands, there is no longer any basis for doubting that the monuments of North America that resemble megaliths are indeed just that--megaliths.  By this it should be understood monuments produced by colonists from Europe in Bronze Age times.


       Now, a popular book is not the proper place to review the tedious details of various scripts and various languages employed and inscribed by these visitors, who came from so many different lands.  Besides, Fell already wrote about these matters in America BC and Saga America, as well as in around a hundred or so technical papers.  The most entertaining and attractive entrance to the subject is through visiting some of the sites where American megalithic monuments can be seen, and also through visiting the corresponding sites in Europe where, of course, there is no dispute at all as to the authorship or antiquity of megaliths.


       Visual presentation rather than written descriptions form the best introduction to the monuments, and in the atlas of photographs that are presented here.  European and American examples of each of the major categories of megaliths are arranged in comparable groups of similar structures.


       Radiocarbon and amino-acid dating has only recently been applied to the determination of dates of American megaliths [as of 1982 here], but analogous features suggesting early European penetration into North America include the low circular burial mounds that are called disk barrows.  Already noted previously the investigation of one of these, presently under way in New England by James Whittall.  it has so far been learned that Whittall's site was under continuous occupation, at least for ceremonial purposes, from about 5000 BC (amino-acid date 7200 Before Present), until about 500 BC.  Over that span of time a number of burials occurred and, as noted.... these include a Europoid skeleton.  Associated stone artifacts resemble tools of the era called Archaic in America (8000 to 500 BC), corresponding to the entire span of the Neolithic and Bronze Age in Europe.  Sometime before, AD 900,m stonework structure was added around the margins of the barrow.  These findings by Whittall point strongly to European arrivals in North America long before Bronze Age times.


       Other radiocarbon dates show that some of the megalithic chambers in New England are of later date, one in Vermont, for example, yielding charcoal from the foundation layer that gave a carbon date of about AD 200.


       As for those megalithic monuments that contain no artifacts or charcoal, dates can only be guessed at from indirect evidence.  The guesses made in that way suggest that most of them were probably built during Bronze Age and Iron Age times, as indeed many of the European megaliths can be shown to postdate the Neolithic period also.  So massive and enduring are megaliths that, whenever they were built, the affected the living space of later peoples, and certainly Bronze Age Europeans utilized the Neolithic megaliths. ........" ”.....further comments will be restricted to the actual megalithic monuments, merely noting here that the disk barrow, with its contained female skeletons lying in flexed positions, is regarded in Europe as a feature of the early Bronze Age and that therefore it is relevant to note here that similar features occur in New England in districts where megalithic monuments occur.  Fell’s own opinion, of course, remained unaltered; it is that the megalithic monuments of northeastern North America were used during the Bronze Age and therefore may have been constructed either shortly before or during the Bronze Age.


       The term dolmen is a Breton word meaning a stone table.  it aptly describes many of the smaller examples of the megalithic monuments that go under this name.  Such smaller examples, a meter or less in height are shown in Figs. 25, 26, 27,  28., 29. & 30.  As can be seen, they comprise an upper, horizontal slab of stone, the capstone, which is supported on several vertical slabs, like a table, with an internal cavity.  European archaeologists believe that the central cavity originally contained a burial and that the entire structure was originally buried in earth that has subsequently disappeared through erosion.  it is known that some examples had partial earth cover still intact a century or so ago.  Such bared burial chambers are often distinguished from other dolmens under the name cromlech.


       Of the examples shown, Figs. 25 & 26 are European, Fig. 25 from Carrazeda, Portugal, and Fig. 26 from the Orkney Islands.  The remaining four examples are all American.  Fig. 27 shows an example at Gay Head, on the island of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts; a faintly visible ogam inscription occurs on one of the stones at the entrance to the small chamber within....  The others, Fig 28., Fig 29. & Fig. 30, are all located at Westport, Massachusetts.  Similar ones occur in the Boston area.  Nothing is known of any former burial relics in these small cromlechs."  [Please see review of structures in <Megaliths>]


       Very much large examples, with massive capstones and relatively shorter vertical supports, form conspicuous dolmens.  These seem unlikely to have been covered by earth at any stage.


       A collapsed dolmen was found in Vermont.  The finder, John Williams, also found a remarkable sculpted ax and halberd that are cut into one end of the squared capstone (detail in Fig. 31).  "A similar occurrence has been reported from an early Bronze Age burial cairn at Nether Largie North, in Scotland, ax heads being engraved on one end of the capstone and a halberd with streamers on another upright stone of the same burial cist.  it is difficult to conceive of any Amerindian carving such devices and, as stated, the Algonquians of the New England region have no knowledge of the authors of these stone monuments.


       The example from Scotland cited above postdates the Neolithic period, to which megaliths are customarily assigned, and suggests that dolmens are not restricted to a single period.  Still more striking evidence is seen in examples from France.....  The elaborately carved Tuscan columns that serve as the supports for the massive capstone indicate that this dolmen cannot antedate the Roman era.  Also, dated Roman coins have been found under dolmens in France, and other evidence proves that they served as sites for some kind of ceremony even as late as the Middle Ages, when the church authorities regarded such assemblies s the practice of witchcraft.  By analogy, then, there are no grounds for insisting that dolmens are restricted to the archaeology of the Neolithic period, as do some British authorities.


       The largest of the dolmens utilize natural boulders, sometimes weighing up to 90 tons, supported precariously, so it would seem, on the underlying peg stones, yet their duration through 4,000 years shows their builders to have had a fine sense of stable construction.  An example is depicted in Fig. 33, from Ireland, and another in Trelleborg, Sweden, is shown in Fig. 34.  Corresponding examples from North America are illustrated in Fig. 32, Fig. 35, Fig. 36 & Fig. 38. , Fig. 35 shows the dolmen at Lynn, Massachusetts, locally known as the Cannon Stone.  Fig. 32 is an example from near Lake Lujenda, northern Minnesota, discovered recently by David Harvey, and the first to be reported from that state.  The other examples are from Bartlett, New Hampshire (Fig. 36), and North Salem, New York (Fig. 38).


       It difficult to distinguish the North American examples from the European ones and believe that both sets were produced by ancient builders who shared a common culture.  When the evidence of inscriptions is taken into account, ..... the relationship of the American examples to those of northern Europe becomes undeniable.


       A second category of megaliths is supplied by the underground stone chambers, and on some of these, too, the American ones included, inscriptions are found that use European scripts appropriate to the Bronze Age, as well as later graffiti, which have no bearing on the date of construction.  They fall in several categories, according to the mode of construction.  Some are in the form of rectangular chambers, up to twenty feet in length by ten feet in width, often with the long axis pointed toward the sunrise direction for either the equinoxes or for one of the solstices.  One at Danbury, Connecticut, carries engraved on a fallen lintel stone the ancient symbol of the equinox, a circle divided into equal halves, one half deeply engraved to represent night, the other left clearly visible; this chamber, as John Williams and his colleagues proved, faces the sunrise on the equinox days: that is, it is oriented due east and points to a notch on the horizon within which the sun appears on the days of the vernal and autumnal equinox. 


       The mode of construction follows patterns appropriate to the type of stone naturally available.  Where large slabs can be obtained, these are used as capstones to form the roofing, as in the Danish chambers called Jaettestuer ("giants, salons")  Fig. 39 shows an example at Aarhus, Denmark.  North American examples include a large chamber at South Woodstock, Vermont (Fig. 40).  The entrances commonly have a massive lintel stone supported on either two vertical slabs (called orthostats), as [one found at Mystery Hill, North Salem, New Hampshire] or on a drystone vertical column of slabs on either side (Fig. 41, Mystery Hill).  Alternatively, the construction may utilize natural features of the environment, as at Concord, Massachusetts (Fig. 42), and at Gungywamp, near Groton, Connecticut (Fig. 43).  The chamber may be wholly subterranean, as in one of the White River examples in Vermont (Fig. 44), or may stand free, as at Mystery Hill..... [See Fell 1982].  In the latter case the details of the wall construction are visible externally (Fig. 45, Vermont) as drystone and internally (Fig. 46, Mystery Hill), the latter example showing some degree of trimming of the blocks.  The internal chamber is usually rectangular (Fig. 47, South Woodstock, Vermont), but exceptionally, as in Fig. 46, the chamber may have lateral passages.  Some chambers are covered by mounds, as in the example shown in Fig. 48,, South Woodstock.  Where large capstones are not available locally, corbelling is utilized to produce a roofing, as in the chamber at Upton, Massachusetts (Fig. 49).  Chambers of the latter type seem to be related to the similar constructions called fougou in Cornwall, England, believed to date from the Iron Age and to have been used in and after Roman times.  The function of a fougou is unknown, but food storage or places of refuge are considered possibilities.  The New England tradition is that these chambers were built by the colonists as "root cellars," for storing vegetables.  But inquiries disclose that they were already present on some sites at the time of the arrival of the colonists, who, in any case, found that root vegetables survive the winter frost well when buried in straw in the soil, but tend to decay from mold if placed in the so called root cellars.  The enormous labor of construction, as opposed to the simplicity of building a log cabin, denies another legend, that the colonists built the chambers to live in while they were constructing their first farmhouses.  Chambers are also found on mountainsides where no farm has ever existed but where a good astronomical viewpoint is obtained.


       Like the dolmens, megalithic buildings continued to be utilized, and also to be constructed, until Roman times.  Fig. 50 and 2-30 depict Pictish broch construction at Baile Chladaich, northwestern Scotland.  The brochs are believed to be defensive structures made around 100 BC.


       Some other distinctive megaliths occur in both Europe and North America.  These include phallic monuments of standing stones, called also dall or menhir.  ...... [They ] are associated with male fertility.   So also the megaliths called men-a-tol (Cornish "Hole in the stone") or just "holey-stones," are [associated] with the fertility goddesses.  The well-known stone rings and monuments such as Stonehenge are also a feature of the megalithic industry. ....   [These are noted] in connection with astronomical observatories and calendar regulation.  For, although the English archaeologist Glyn Daniel denies any connection of these structures with astronomy, competent astronomers, notably the Thoms, father and son, of the Department of Astronomy, Edinburgh University, and Gerald Hawkins, Fred Hoyle, and John Carlson in America have all concluded that an intimate connection exists between these ring structures and the development of astronomical science." (Please also see Figs. 37 & 51 ),  [Please see review of these structures in <Megaliths>]


What the Excavations Reveal


       Fell (1982) continues that his professional work as an oceanographer had taken me to various remote oceanic islands, and while there he had learned of the existence of unexplained inscriptions cut in caves or painted in rock shelters.  These raised questions as to who had made the inscriptions and when they had been made.  Fell’s first paper on Polynesian rock art has appeared under the aegis of the Royal Anthropological Institute in 1941.  His colleagues began to look out for inscriptions, too, when they know of his interest, and he gradually assembled a considerable collection of photographs and casts as the years went by.  He soon became convinced that Stone Age humans were by no means an ignorant, land-tied savage.  On the contrary, he appeared to him to have been a resourceful and accomplished mariner, who could cross ocean gaps between Pacific islands greater than the total span of the Atlantic Ocean.


       As oceanography advanced, methods were developed of sending various ingenious devices down to the ocean floor to take samples by boring into the muds on the bottom.  Since mud accumulates extremely slowly far away from the effluence of rivers, even just an inch deep in the ocean floor takes us back to a time of deposition of the mud that amounts to thousands of years.  Also, since bones and shells of marine animals fall to the bottom, they are preserved there in the mud and become fossils.  This fact led to Fell’s becoming involved in paleontology, the study of fossils, and before long Fell was serving as consultant to various geological institutions.  One of the skills that Fell had to acquire was knowledge of anatomy, so that fragmented bones could be reassembled and identified.  Some of the restored bones that he  produced in this way became the object of research by specialists, and various museums sought his aid in these matters.


       Consequently when Fell learned by chance of the existence of hundreds of fragmented human bones taken from archaeological digs that had yielded artifacts on which he could see delicate inscriptions written in the Iberian alphabets of about 1000 BC, he naturally became very interested and inquired whether the bones might be made available to me for study.  They would be the first human remains we had yet encountered that were directly linked with gravesites from which readable inscriptions in an ancient European language were also recovered.  Through the good offices of Dr. William P. Grigsby of the Tennessee Archaeological Society, he eventually found himself sorting, washing, and restoring the skulls of the former owners of the inscribed artifacts.


       The first Americans, by which is meant people born and bred in the New World, certainly descended from migrants who entered North America by the only land route that links the Americas to the Old World, the now nonexistent land bridge of the Bering Strait.  Whether the first humans, pithecanthropoids of the species Homo erectus, ever reached the New World is unknown [Dr. R. D. Simpson, Callico Dig, CA. expressed a belief to Dr. Fred Legner in 1998 that Homo erectus might certainly have reached Southern California].  Their fossils span areas in Africa and Eurasia that are or were tropical and subtropical (as during interglacial phases in Europe).  Since it is doubtful whether a suitably warm climate could have occurred in the latitude of the Bering Strait, especially at times when the sea level was low enough to enable a land bridge to develop, it is possible that the reason why no pithecanthropoids have been found in the Americas is because none ever reached here [see Climate].  By the time humans had evolved to the stage represented by the Neanderthals of Europe, and the Old World generally, periods of low sea level were still occurring, and it seems evident that the bridge to America was crossed by humans on one (or many) of those occasions.  Fossil humans at the Neanderthal stage is now known from Brazil, and George Carter's latest (1980) estimate suggests that a conservative date for the entry of humans into America might be about 100,000 years ago.  How long people like Neanderthals may have survived in the New World is not known, but their cousins in the Old World were contemporaries of modern types of man, at least until about 40,000 BC.


       As to what kinds of humans came nest to America, opinions of the various anthropologists who have commented in recent years seem all to be much the same: that is likely that pygmies were early entrants, since they once formed an important part of the southern Mongolian population, still linger on in isolated parts of Malaysia and neighboring territories, and are known by carbon-dating to range back in time to at least 40,000 BC.  Before these latter facts were known, writers such as Harold Gladwin, E. A. Hooton and Carelton Coon suggested that there are traces of former pygmy populations in America, mainly in the shape of isolated communities of undersized people on the offshore islands.


      "Others, such as the zoologist W. D. Funkhouser, and the physicist W. S. Webb, of the University of Kentucky, drew attention to the extraordinary diversity of skull form in the prehistoric burials of Kentucky, and proposed that several distinct races are represented.  Bennett H. Young (1910) had encountered a living tradition among Kentucky folk that pygmies had once lived in some of the valleys of tributaries of the Mississippi in that state.  But when he tried to track the stories to their source he concluded that they must have been based on a misinterpretation of the cist burials.  The latter, are small stone-slab burial containers, some three feet in length, into which the disarticulated bones of the dead were placed.  The examples he saw did not disclose pygmy skeletons.


       Fell’s interest in this problem was aroused in 1980.  Fell was engaged on reconstructing the thousands of fragments of crania from sites in east Tennessee, sent to me by Dr. William P. Grigsby and his colleagues.  Among the best of the materials they sent me from 600 burials were several fragmented but almost complete crania, with jaws, in which the brain capacity was that of a seven-year-old child (950 cubic cm), yet the teeth showed from their complete development and severe wear that the skulls were from middle-aged individuals.  Later Fell received from Dr. Grigsby some complete skulls among which was one unbroken pygmy skull, with the jaws still attached to the facial bones.


       As is often the case in Europe, prehistoric burial grounds from which these and other skeletons were recovered by members of the Tennessee Archaeological Society showed from their associated artifacts that a broad time span is implied, and that whereas some of the burials had occurred during the Woodland period (ranging back to about 1000 BC), others had taken place later.  From the similar states of preservation of the bones of both the pygmy types and those of the other races present in the burials, it appeared that the pygmies were contemporary with the other races.  Fell obtained permission to sacrifice some of the long bones of the limbs for radiocarbon dating.  The result of a carbon-14 determination, with C-13 correction, made by Geochron Laboratories, Cambridge, on carbon dioxide recovered from the bone collagen yielded an age of 2,160 years plus or minus 135 years:  that is, they dated from about the third century BC. (Please see Figs. 52 & 53).


       The majority of the other skeletons conformed to the most common type of Amerindian anatomy, in which the head is of the rounded (brachycephalic) type, and the jaws project slightly (mesognathous), the lips therefore being full, as in many Western tribes today.  [Please see Fig. 56] This a typical Mongolian condition, and there could be little doubt that the population was derived from ancient forebears who had entered the Americas from Asia.  Some of the skulls, however, were of a Europoid type, and reference by Dr. Grigsby to his very large collections (some 32,000) of stone and bone and pottery artifacts from the sites had already disclosed to him that inscriptions in old European scripts were engraved on some of the objects.


       It looked, therefore, as if a mixed population of several races had lived in the east Tennessee area, and in all probability they would have interbred.  No pygmies are known to have survived to modern times in North America, at least not in the United States or Canada, but it does seem likely that pygmies may have been among the native peoples encountered by the first European explorers to come to eastern North America."  [The devastating effects of diseases such as measles and smallpox on Amerindians after 1492 AD and repeated European invasions, are known to have reduced population numbers by over 85% in many parts of America].


       Before Fell received the skeletal material he had already become interested in the problem of whether or not pygmies might have inhabited North America.  The ancient European word for pygmy or dwarf is a root based on the form nan.  Thus in ancient Greek it is nanos, in Basque it is nanu or nano (according to dialect), in Irish Gaelic it is nan, and modern French has nain, Spanish enano.  This strange unanimity among the various languages of Europe, not all of them closely related, seemed to suggest that there might once have been a race of pygmies known to ancient Europeans.  The lack of pygmy bones in European archaeological sites seemed to imply that the inferred pygmies, if they existed at all, may not have been European pygmies.  Yet it seemed inconceivable that ancient Europeans could have known about the pygmies of central Africa, of those of the remote highlands of Malaysia and the Philippines.


       What intrigued me still more, and prompted me to draw attention to the matter in two papers Fell wrote on the language of the Takhelne tribe of British Columbia, was that these American Indians also had a tradition of pygmies (or dwarves), whom they called the Et-nane.  Later Fell learned from a colleague that the Shoshone vocabulary also includes a similar word, whose root is nana- and is defined by the compiler of the Shoshone Dictionary as "elf-like people.”


       Now, when Fell began to analyze the anatomical characteristics of the pygmy skulls from Tennessee, he soon discovered that they matched those of the pygmies of the Philippines, who are also brachycephalic.  [Please see Figs. 58 & 59] Further, he learned from the accounts of explorers in Malaysia who had penetrated to areas where no racial intermixture had occurred that the pure or true-bred pygmy there has very prognathous jaws, as is the case with the American skulls.  These Malaysian and Philippine pygmies are regarded by archaeologists as remnants of a formerly extensive Mongoloid pygmy race that once occupied much of southern East Asia.  Carter believes that their characters area still to be recognized in dilute trace form in the occasional frizzy hair, dark skin, and squat stature observed among southern Chinese.  Significantly, perhaps, the best-known native name of the Oriental pygmies is the Aëta.  Perhaps this root is the origin of the prefix Et- used by the Takhelne.  Whether that be so or not, it is clear that the pygmies of Tennessee were of Oriental--that is to say, East Asian--origin; and since pygmies are not maritime people, they can have reached the Americas only by the land route.


       They must once have been more widely dispersed than our present finds imply.  However, since they reached as far east as east Tennessee, and their bones have been found in association with Europoids and inscribed artifacts of Europoid type, such as loom weights and pottery stamps, lettered in ancient Irish (noted as Celtic) and Basque [see Figs. 183, 185, 186, 187 & 189], Fell concluded that there were in fact meetings of the two races, and that therefore the European visitors could well have taken back to Europe some account of these mysterious undersized people.  An inscription that Professors Heizer and Martin Baumhoff had recorded from 1California (Fig. 63), when deciphered as Ancient Irish ogam, seemed also to suggest that early explorers had encountered some pygmy race that they considered dangerous.


       In addition to skeletal remains, a number of sculptures, evidently of ancient origin, have been discovered at varying depths in the soil, some of them depicting people of obvious Europoid origin, yet all the evidence indicates that these sculptures were created in America, at an era long before the colonists arrived in modern times.  Some representative illustrations (Fig. 60, Fig. 61, Fig. 62) may serve to show their nature and their similarity to ancient European sculpture that has been attributed to the Gauls.  Most striking is the head of a man, carved in Ancient Irish style, with the curving nostrils and staring eyes that one encounters in Irish art and wearing as a chaplet a twig of bog oak leaves and acorns.  it seems difficult to regard this as representing anything other than an Irish priest, or druid.  It was found in Searsmont, Maine, a part of a larger work of which the torso still remains on the site, the head being now in the museum at Sturbridge, Massachusetts.


       Fell believed that these heads and others like them are truly ancient American artifacts, and that the hands that carved them are also responsible for the engraved inscriptions in ogam and other ancient European alphabets, found on artifacts at burial sites and also cut in rock.


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