Cumberland Academy

Ogham Petroglyphs in Ireland and West Virginia

In 1981, archaeologist Robert L. Pyle of Morgantown, West Virginia began exploring the mountains of the southern part of the state studying petroglyphs (markings on stone) that at first glance resembled archaic runes and were different from traditional ancient American rock carvings. His archaeological research focused on petroglyph sites in Wyoming County, West Virginia, and Manchester, Kentucky.

Research indicated the markings were an ancient alphabet known as Ogam (or Ogham), found in the British Isles, especially Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. (The petroglyphs in West Virginia and Kentucky exhibit what is known in Europe as “stem type Ogam.”) The markings were considered in connection with the tradition of St. Brendan’s voyages to this continent in the 6th century.

These are not the only Old Norse or Latin carved petroglyphs on the North American continent of the CE time period. But, this petroglyph is heralded by some as the Rosetta stone of Old Norse and Latin as the same message is written in both symbologies.

“Dr. William Grant, Edinburgh University, Scotland, and Dr. John Grant, Oakland, Maryland, both Celtic linguists/scholars, participated in Pyle’s Ogam research in southern West Virginia and endorsed the West Virginia petroglyphs as authentic archaic Ogam. The Grants were former students at the Catholic University in Washington, DC, under the direction of Dr. Robert Meyer, Celtic professor and linguist for 33 years.

In 1998 and 2000, Pyle traveled to Ireland to investigate Ogam markings. In 2000 Dr. William Grant invited Pyle to participate in a research team that examined the first known Irish Ogam petroglyph panel, located in the remote and rugged mountains of southern Ireland. Ogam has commonly been found on corner edges of tombstones, not on rock formations. The unique Irish petroglyph panel turned out to be larger and more complex, yet the markings were virtually identical to the West Virginia and Kentucky petroglyphs.”

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