Photos by Arnoult Hyde, © 1983 WV Division of Natural Resources, used with permission

In 1983, the WV Division of Natural Resources published three articles in its Wonderful West Virginia promotional magazine claiming that some petroglyphs in remote areas of West Virginia are Christian messages carved in an ancient alphabetic script called ogham (or ogam) by Irish monks around 700 AD. One of these petroglyphs is known by several names. The Luther Elkins Petroglyph (46 Wm 3) was first recorded in 1965 by Edward McMichaels, based on information from two members of the West Virginia Archeological Society, Oscar Mairs and Hillis Youse. This should be the proper name of the site, following the convention that a site is designated by the name given in its first formal report. Robert Pyle reported the site in 1982 as the "Lillyhaven Petroglyph Site" and wrote about it in Wonderful West Virginia as the "Wyoming County Petroglyph." Some also call it the "Lynco Petroglyph."

The articles are widely cited by advocates of "fantastic" or cult archaeology, but are difficult to obtain. Since these allegations are often accepted uncritically, the Council obtained permission to reproduce the originals, along with skeptical articles published in the West Virginia Archeologist.

The Council places no credence in the three Wonderful West Virginia articles.

Each article opens in a separate window

W. Hunter Lesser (1983)
Cult Archaeology Strikes Again: A Case for Pre-Columbian Irishmen in the Mountain State?
West Virginia Archeologist 35(2): 48-52.

Start with Hunter's article. It covers several subtle but serious weaknesses the casual reader might miss on a cold reading of Fell's article.
Monroe Oppenheimer and Willard Wirtz (1989)
A Linguistic Analysis of Some West Virginia Petroglyphs
West Virginia Archeologist 41(1): 1-6.

A thorough critique of Fell's interpretive methodology. We added illustrations so the reader can follow the article better.
Robert L. Pyle (1983)
A Message from the Past
Wonderful West Virginia 47(1):3-6.

Most of this article promotes the notion that there is evidence in North America of "European, African, Semitic, and other languages ... created hundreds of years before Columbus."
W. Hunter Lesser (1989)
How Science Works – and How It Doesn't
West Virginia Archeologist 41(1):20-22

Some common patterns of pseudoscience that appear in the 1983 petroglyph articles.
Ida Jane Gallagher (1983)
Light Dawns on West Virginia History
Wonderful West Virginia 47(1):7-11.

Gallagher earlier wrote articles promoting Fell's work and pre-Columbian contacts in general. Here she provides clues to the advocates' expectations of the Luther Elkins petroglyphs, adds some details on the purported "Algonquian" and "Libyan" inscriptions, and provides a dramatic account of the solstice.
Roger Wise (2003)
Solstice Observation at the Luther Elkins Petroglyph
West Virginia Archeologist (in press)

Images of the 2002 winter solstice sunrise clearly show there is no solar alignment at the Luther Elkins petroglyph. Outline of an article in preparation.
Barry Fell (1983)
Christian Messages in Old Irish Script Deciphered from Rock Carvings in W. Va.
Wonderful West Virginia 47(1):12-19.

The Wonderful West Virginia editor described Fell's decipherment article as complex and difficult to read. Actually, it reads as if it had been hastily written, which only makes understanding his methodology more difficult – or obscures its idiosyncrasy. The more one studies this article and compares its illustrations, the less convincing it is.
Fell (1983) and Edo Nyland (1996)
Another Translation of the Horse Creek Petroglyph

Epigrapher Edo Nyland takes Barry Fell's transliteration of characters and applies Fell's methods, but uses a Basque dictionary to discover, it's not a "Christmas Card", it's about a bison stampede.
Janet G. Brashler (1989)
An Application of the Method of Multiple Working Hypotheses to Two West Virginia Petroglyph Sites
West Virginia Archeologist 41(1):7-19

Dr. Brashler formulates five hypotheses that could explain the petroglyphs, discusses what evidence would support each, and tests them against what we know.
                 


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