|Robert Burcher points to an inscription on a rock. (Submitted Photo)
OWEN SOUND, Ont. - Did Europeans visit North America as early as 2,000 BC? Canadian amateur archeologist Robert Burcher has long believed it, and now he’s starting to get the academic support to back his theories.
Burcher, from the Beaver Valley area of Ontario, spent two months in Newfoundland this summer studying one particular piece of evidence - inscriptions on an ancient rock that look suspiciously like a language called Tartessian, spoken more than 2,000 years ago by inhabitants of what is today Spain and Portugal.
Recently, a renowned expert on the language at the University of Wales, agreed.
It’s the latest win for Burcher, who has also received confirmation from the Royal Ontario Museum that another inscription on an island in Placentia Bay in southeast Newfoundland appears to be Phoenician, a culture that was centred in modern-day Lebanon and dates back 3,000 years.
A third inscription Burcher has been studying near St. John’s is believed to be Latin. A professor at the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto saw what might be a date of 500 AD buried in the inscription. Academics at Trinity College in Ireland are also studying it.
“It has taken me weeks and months back here to realize the magnitude of what I am talking about, even for myself I can’t believe what I am finding or seeing,” said Burcher.
“It validates Native people, it validates Celts, it validates Newfoundlanders - all of these people who knew there was something important with their rock carvings, with their inscriptions and with their history and the mainstream of history wasn’t supporting that,” said Burcher.
The work Burcher is doing is an attempt to find further evidence that peoples from across the ocean made it to North America long before the Vikings in 1000 AD and before Christopher Columbus in 1492.
Burcher garnered media attention and ruffled the feathers of historians and archeologists more than a decade ago with his theory that a mound of earth near Thornbury, Ont., 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 the professional photographer, who has been studying rock inscriptions for close to 20 years, continued his research. He even wrote a book, The Leather Boat, detailing the story of ancient Celts who he believes came to North America around 500 AD. Much of his original work centred around North American First Nations rock art, but now he has moved on to something different in works believed to be from ancient Europe.
“All my feelings and intuitions about native art has been proved correct by finding on the east coast what the Natives were talking about. Yes, there were strangers coming through their land from time immemorial,” said Burcher. “In our time period, that would be going back 3,000 years to the Phoenician time period.”
During his trip to Newfoundland, Burcher was also able to document an inscription that was only discovered recently. While it has been proven the Vikings inhabited Newfoundland’s shores around 1000 AD at the L’anse aux Meadows archeological site that was discovered in 1960 at the northernmost tip of Newfoundland, a new inscription believed to be a Viking inscription was just discovered much further south.
“There is so much history in Newfoundland and they are just at the point where they have the money to deal with this, and there is enough education now,” said Burcher.
Burcher also knows of another inscription in Maine that looks similar to the one believed to be Tartessian.
“I thought I was going to lay this story to rest by going to Newfoundland, saying yes or no, done,” said Burcher. “Now there are four new inscriptions to deal with.”
Burcher said the fact he has found what appears to be so many different types of script from so many different civilizations and time periods, tells him that for thousands of years knowledge was passed down from culture to culture.
He plans another trip to Newfoundland next year to continue his research.