Did Celts from Europe build the Northeastern U.S. stone ruins?                  




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Celtic stonework

In 1976, Barry Fell, a Harvard marine biologist, wrote America B.C.: Ancient Settlers in the New World, a wildly popular book which proposed that the New England stone antiquities were the work of naked Celtic Druids from Europe who somehow

  • fought their way into an occupied continent

  • stayed genetically separate from the local population

  • built a great deal of stonework and

  • vanished into the ether. 

This book is a perennial bestseller, having been reprinted countless times.  It was slapped together in mere months by an author who knew nothing about Native Americans and even less about Celts

Did European Celts build with stone?

No, except for small amounts of hilltop fortifications.  [See sidebar on right for the few minor exceptions to this rule.]  And if they did not do so on their home continent, it is unlikely they did so in North America.  In 1977, in the wake of the controversy which Fell had engendered, a conference was held at Castleton State College in Vermont to address this issue.  Among those attending was Anne Ross, perhaps Britain's leading Celtic authority.  Dr. Ross commented on the New England stone antiquities she viewed, and while noting they were interesting and deserving of further study, stated they were definitely not Celtic. This did not stop the true believers of Fell's grand vision.  They would not be dissuaded by evidence at odds with their fantasy.  For the curious, a Google search for "Celtic stonework" [click the button on the left] will reveal only a few references to "Celtic" designs on much later, Christian gravestones or to ridiculous efforts to follow Fell's lead in claiming a vast Celtic presence in America.

There is a great deal of ancient stonework in Europe, but this long predates the emergence of the Celts.  Those who claim Stonehenge is a Celtic creation are only off by a millennium.

While Fell was wrong about who built what on this continent, he had a lot of preceding company.  Fell also spawned a small band of followers who would go on to author their own contributions to the Myth.  For much of the 18th and 19th Centuries, considerable speculation existed over who built the massive collection of earthen mounds (and some stonework) found in the middle of the continent.  Speculation ranged from Egyptians to Phoenicians to lost tribes of Israelites.  Countless books and articles appeared putting forth these concepts, especially the notion that Indians were descended from Jews.  Indeed, this was the dominant belief for the better part of two centuries. 

As early as the latter part of the 18th Century, a distinct deficit had arisen in in the common knowledge of Native American traditions.  Only a few non-Natives, who through special circumstances had a familiarity with Native customs, were still able to make the connections.  One of those who did have this understanding was George WashingtonThomas Jefferson also contributed thoughtful reasoning to this debate: ›››››More›››

Did Old World peoples create the antiquities of North America? ›››››More›››







Who were the Celts?

The Celts were a pre-Roman European civilization.  They are generally agreed to have originated in central Europe (near Bohemia).  They begin to expand to the east, west and south around 1200 B.C., and entered Britain en masse c. 500 B.C.  They were an Iron Age society which reached its peak during the first century B. C. before being conquered, first by the Romans (in the 1st century A.D.) and then by Germanic tribes (in the north during the 1st through 3rd centuries). This ended their civilization.  Caesar's Gaelic War tells the story of a part of this conquest.

Prior to the Celts, the Megalithic civilization was active in western Europe and Britain from approximately 3400 to 1500 B.C.  Visit here for a glimpse into the rich monumental heritage left behind in Britain by these people.  The best online compendium of the ancient stonework of Ireland is found here.

References to Celtic stonework are obscure.  The few most frequent examples which can be located include carved stone heads and cashels. The latter are encircling drystone walls which functioned as forts surrounding farmsteads.  Crannogs are islands constructed as refuges, created by filling oaken palisades with stones.  These are generally 50 feet across or less.  Some of the many European holy wells may date to the Celtic period, but this is unclear.  Souterrains are underground storage/shelter rooms, generally found inside cashels or raths (fortifications with earthen, rather than stone, embankments).  These were defensive in nature. [Learn more:  Stone forts, Souterrains and Crannσgs ]  Highly decorated carved stones appear late in the Celtic record.  In sum, these have little in common with the styles of Native American ritual stonework featured in this web site.  The absence of such antiquities in North America is perhaps the best evidence against a Celtic origin for the indigenous stone ruins.

Learn more: www.irelandstory.com


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