Archaeologist testing out theory on The Rock 0
Author and archeologist Robert Burcher with his new book, The Leather Boat, and a replica model of a leather boat.
Robert Burcher says his Newfoundland adventure has shaped up to be an eye-opening and rewarding experience.
The amateur archeologist who calls the Beaver Valley home has been in Newfoundland for about three weeks where he has worked with others, including archeologists from the Ne wfoundland government, studying rock inscriptions he believes could be thousands of years old and from ancient European cultures. If he is correct, it could rewrite North American history.
“It has been extraordinary,” said Burcher, who has put about 7,000 kilometres on his car in the past month. “It is this feeling of I really don’t believe this is happening after 19 years of pushing on a story.”
More than a decade ago Burcher garnered media attention and ruffled the feathers of historians and archeologists with his theory that a mound of earth near Thornbury was built by ancient Celts, who visited the Great Lakes 2,500 years ago in search of copper. In late 1999 an excavation of the mound revealed it was just a pile of earth, probably distributed by retreating glaciers.
But Burcher, a professional photographer, has continued his research and his newly published book, The Leather Boat, details the story of ancient Celts — “especially Celtic monks” — coming to North America around 500 B.C.
Much of the story focuses on the Peterborough petroglyphs, the largest known concentration of rock carvings in Canada, that Burcher first visited in the early 1990s.
The Newfoundland mission was spurred by Burcher’s continued research and the belief that inscriptions found throughout Newfoundland may be from ancient European civilizations that travelled to North America long before John Cabot in 1497, Christopher Columbus in 1492 or even before the Vikings inhabited Newfoundland’s shores around 1,000 AD.
Much of Burcher’s work has focused around a rock known as St. Brendan’s Boulder or Irish Rock, located in the community of St. Lunaire-Griquet. While the rock has been known about for decades, Burcher only recently linked the etchings on it to an ancient European language.
Burcher believes the language on the rock is Tartessian, from a culture that existed in what is today Spain. It is his belief people of that society made their way to North America more than 2,000 years ago in search of copper.
Other features at the site, including what Burcher believed could be the remains of an ancient village and a tomb site, were quickly dismissed.
“This is what happens in science. It is what they call peer review,” said Burcher. “I am glad when somebody else comes in with a fresh view.”
During the study one of the government archeologists found a second inscription on the boulder that hadn’t been noticed before.
“That was really a bonus and they started to get excited because they are contributing to the finding of this second inscription,” said Burcher, adding it appears to be of the same language as the first inscription.
Burcher said the local population has also been delighted with the work being done.
“Every small town wants to have a new tourist attraction,” said Burcher, who also has a videographer in tow who is shooting footage of the work with the prospect of it one day appearing on The History Channel.
“The History Channel is interested but they can’t afford to send someone out and do what I have done, which is basically driving and searching and looking,” said Burcher. The plan is he will provide the footage and the History Channel may build a story around it.
Burcher plans to be in Newfoundland for another three weeks. He hopes to visit a copper mine near the St. Brendan’s Boulder to study another inscription.
“The actual copper veins actually come right out to the coast so these people would actually be able to see the greenish, copper look,” said Burcher.
The next step for Burcher is to publicize his theories so others can double-check them.
“Right now I’m way out on a limb, but somebody has to do that,” said Burcher. “Since I don’t have a reputation to worry about or a position in a university I can go out and say these outlandish things, but I’m getting really good at knowing how far I can go to really stretch the bounds of credibility.”