Archaeologists in West Virginia say stories that propose a non-native origin for prehistoric landmarks in the Mountain State ignore facts and dishonor Native Americans.
A member of the Council for West Virginia Archaeology stressed the problem in an open letter to Appalachian Magazine this month after the magazine published an article that proposed prehistoric works in Wyoming County were of European origin.
The December 2018 article titled Could the Celts Have Explored Appalachia Long Before Columbus? disregards research and “has problematic imperialist, or even racist, undertones,” council spokeswoman Charity Moore wrote.
“We understand that your magazine aims to entertain readers; however, we urge you to remember that speculative fiction is just that — fiction,” she wrote in a letter shared on social media through the council.
Speculation that Europeans might have created the Luther Elkins Petroglyph, a series of carvings in a cliff at Lynco, near Oceana, West Virginia, was proposed in the 1980s by the late Robert Pyle, who was not a professional archaeologist.
Archaeologists, however, have documented that the petroglyphs and most other earthworks, such as mounds and stone walls, were created by indigenous peoples, who inhabited the region until the mid-17th century.
“It is disappointing to see these same ideas re-emerging decades later,” Moore wrote.
“We believe that the lack of medieval Irish artifacts and the questionable validity of the ‘ogham’ translations prevent Robert Pyle’s ideas from having scholarly merit.
“We also believe that attributing Native American sites to Europeans has problematic imperialist, or even racist, undertones and that these ideas undermine the work of legitimate archaeologists.”
Moore encouraged the magazine to consult the council when reporting on such matters and welcomed its continued promotion of West Virginia’s heritage.
Representatives of Appalachian Magazine have not yet returned requests for comment on the matter.