Dolmens in New England? Really?

The late Harvard prof. Dr. Barry Fell was a biologist-but devoted much of his life to investigating claims that Bronze-Age europeans visisted and traded with North America. In his book “America BC” he shows pictures of what he says are dolmens in New England.
Dolmens are prehistoric burial structures-consisting of 3 or four stones, covere with a flat capstone. He has identifed dolmens in Vermont, Westport, MA and at locations in CT and RI.
Amazingly, these look a lot like dolmenst found in Europe.
Most historians deny this-they claim that the New england dolmens are actually natural structures left by the glaciers.
Anyway, does anybody accept Dr. Fell’s theories? Or is he considered deluded?

Much as I’d like to believe some of Barry Fell’s stuff, he doesn’t inspire with confidence. His books are woefully short on anything resembling arguments for the authenticity of the writings he finds or any sort of proof that would convince anyone not already a believer. A lot of his claimed “epigraphs” consist of little more than individual scratches. A lot of what claims to be “ogham” isn’t taken at all seriously by experts on ogham, especially for inscriptions which he claims are much older than the accepted development of Ogham, and in languages not compatible with it. An article in Skeptical Inquirer noted that not only could the “writings” on one of his stone be identified as from a farm plow, but they could even identify the type of plow. (I don’t know further details).

The sorriest piece was one where Fell claimed to be able to interpret a controversial Mormon inscription. The problem is that his interpretation wouldn’t be satisfactory to LDS believers, because it was too late to fit in with Book of Mormon history. But it wouldn’t have satisfied non-Mormon folks, either, as it wasn’t consistent with generally accepted history, either. the only person that the translation made any sense to was Fell himself.\

As for Dolmens in New England, there’s been a contingent of believers in Vikings/Irish Monks/others (including Romans and Phoenicians) that claim that their guyus built massive stone structures (generally not dolmen-like, though) in New England. I mentioned America’s Stonehenge in a recent thread, but there are others, as well. Most of these guys are suspicious of Fell, though.

I do not believe you, Doctor Fell.
The reason why I cannot tell.
But this I know and know full well,
I do not believe you, Doctor Fell.

Honestly, nobody believes Barry Fell. He had a flash of publicity with America B.C. and let it go to his head. His own Epigraphic Society eventually repudiated him.

It’s too bad he died in 1994. Making up his own facts and definitions meant he would have fit in perfectly arguing on the Internet. There are people on the Dope now who may be reincarnations of him.

Fell does make one very good point-native American peoples did mine copper (there are remains of copper mines in upper Michigan that are dated to 5000 BC).
Considerable amounts of copper was extracted-but it was never used to make bronze (to replace stone tools).
What happened to all of the copper?
Also, is there any sopurce of tin in N. America?
The native Americans (even the highly developed Incas) never went beyond the stone age-why was this?

Not really true. There was much metal-working in the Americas. The Spaniards, after all, extracted gold in tribute from the Indians, starting with Columbus. They found plenty of worked gold and other metals in Mexico City, and Atahuallpa’s Incan ransom was paid with a room full of golden items. American Indian tribes also worked copper and silver, even far north of Mexico. I’ve also seen wooden implements repaired with lead, but I don’t know if they did this pre-Contact. Some of the Gold work from Central America was pretty sophisticated not only in style but in metalurgical technique, as well.
Nevertheless, most of the technology was “Stone Age” – they used implements of stone (and bone, shell, wood, and antler), but very few of metal. Furthermore, American Indians seem not to have developed the use of the wheel (outside of those few famous toys). The argument that they didn’t have good roads isn’t convincing to me – the Incans certainly had good roads. And some have claimed that the use of the Potter’s Wheel predates the use of a transportation wheel, yet the American Indians, despite a long and superb history of pottery, had no potter’s wheels, either. Another notable lack is the paucity of alcoholic beverages (aside from a very few and only ritually-used ones, like pulque), despite the existence of grapes and other fermentable fruit.

It’s not clear to me why higher technology didn’t develop in North America. It certainly wasn’t for lack of smarts. My suspicion is that there was no compelling need for metal when stone met all needed purposes, and that Indian physiology made intoxication a less-desired state than in the Old World. The lack of the wheel troubles me more than any of the other things.

I grew up in RI, and this tower was commonly cited to be an example of Viking construction. No real evidence as far as I know, but it was the popular belief.

Some people think that tower was the result of an Icelandic bishop building a church to meet his obligations to the Vikings. I’ve got a book that devotes a chapter to that idea.

They’ve excavated the Tower, and found evidence that it really does date back to the time of Governor Benedict Arnold (grandfather of the more famous Arnold, I believe). It’s unlikely that it is as ancient as its proponents believe.

This is off topic and probably deserves a thread of it’s own, but I don’t really know enough to do a decent job of starting one so I’ll plant the seed here.

I saw a documentary that made a good argument for the clovis spear point being of Solutrean origin. The idea was that at the end of the last ice age, the ice sheet over the Atlantic spread far enough south that people from Europe could have hunted and fished their way across the ocean and found themselves in America.

I think the most compelling argument for why native Americans didn’t use the wheel is that they didn’t have any suitable animals to pull carts. From what I understand, Llamas work as pack animals, but because of their anatomy, can’t pull loads. Bison, elk, deer and bears aren’t easily domesticatable, and horses hadn’t yet been re-introduced by Europeans. I guess mountain goats aren’t domesticatable either, and I think that does it for reasonable sized animals in the Americas (well, I assume the issue with sloths is obvious…).

I also think there’s not much tin in the Americas, which means, despite the widespread copper technology, nobody ever made bronze, which means nobody saw a reason to keep fooling around with metallurgy long enough to discover iron (which takes a high enough temperature that you’ll only find it if you’re looking, as opposed to copper and tin smelting which can happen accidentally with cooking fires). And the Americas are geographically isolated enough that they never learned about iron from anyone else. At least until 1500 or so, at which point things followed the typical historical pattern of an iron culture meeting a stone culture.

Doesn’t explain the lack of potter’s wheels, though. Unless the idea that potter’s wheels came first is completely wrong, and they’re a development based on the transportation wheel.

Well, how important really is a potter’s wheel? I mean, given a lump of clay I can still make a usable bowl or pitcher even without a wheel. It might look nicer with a wheel, but that seems about it, to my non-potter brain. If I’m missing something, fill me in, but it doesn’t seem like not using potter’s wheels is indicative of some major deficit in technology, but rather almost an esthetic choice.

As well, a potter’s wheel requires some moderately precise joinery, which might be too difficult to bother with using stone tools-- but help me out: are potter’s wheels found in pre-bronze cultures in Eurasia?

Hello just wondering, I’m a few miles of Westport MA. Do you know where the Dolmen is located? I can not seem to find the address anywhere.

A potter’s wheel enables a skilled potter to produce pottery much, much faster (and more uniformly) than without it, making it important if not indispensable in specialized, high-capacity pottery production.

Earliest known use of the potter’s wheel comes from Mesopotamia and neighboring regions, around 3500 BC. But there were large areas of Northern Eurasia where the potter’s wheel was not adopted until the Middle Ages, even if pottery had been in use locally since the Neolithic.

Also, iron was used in the Americas prehistorically: the Paleoeskimo and the later Inuit utilized meteor iron extensively as a tool material, although limited to cold hammering small pieces meant it couldn’t replace stone, bone and antler completely. Important, though, over a wide, if very thinly populated area.

Edit: I really must start to pay attention to the thread dates, zombie-WISE.

What tools did they make of it?

They made small chisels, knives, awls etc. It has been proposed that the adoption of meteor iron had a direct effect on the Arctic bone and ivory industry, since these hard materials were much easier to work on with iron tools. Unrefined meteor iron was surprisingly hard due to a high nickel content and therefore held an edge well.

Cool, thanks.

I can’t speak to their true purpose (some people think they’re actually colonial-age food storage structures) but there are photos of them in the book Weird New England.