Barry Fell and His Big Idea: Wherein a Harvard Zoology Professor Tells the Tale Of All the Folks Who Got Here Before Columbus

"Oh, the problems with being famous!"

Mrs. Fell sighed in mock exasperation. She had just struggled through the ice and snow to bring in a load of groceries that morning, and now she had to brave the arctic-like weather again to cart off three more autographed copies of her husband's new book, America B.C.: Ancient Settlers in the New World.

And poor Mrs. Fell's husband. Appearances on television and radio talk shows, interviews with journalists, a deluge of fan mail since the recent article about his work in Reader's Digest--all were taking their toll. To make matters worse, the first edition of his book had already sold out. Now there was no way to satisfy the growing demand for copies until the second printing.

Howard Barraclough ("Barry") Fell, professor of Invertebrate Zoology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, brought the three books to his wife waiting at the door.

"This weather's likely to give one a cold," Fell said to me as we walked to the living room to resume the interview. "However, my wife and I find that taking a large dose of vitamin C at the first sign seems to work. You know," he said to me confidenially, "that fellow who discovered this about vitamin C?"

"Linus Pauling, you mean."

"Yes, him. Well, they said his idea was crazy, too."

If not crazy, Fell's ideas are no less than fantastic. In his book he argues that Columbus and Leif Erickson were merely the most recent in a long line of ancient adventurers to the New World that includes Celts, Basques, Phoenicians, Libyans, Carthaginians, and Egyptians. Since America B.C. was published Fell has added Arabs and Minoans to his list.

With a line-up like that, you'd think he was describing a meeting of some ancient United Nations. The only contingent that seems to be left out is a host of von Daniken's ancient astronauts.

However, Fell is no von Daniken, sensationalizing about beings from outer space. Fell says those South American inscriptions and artifacts, which von Daniken attributes to spacemen, are really the work of ancient voyagers from Libya.

Fell's evidence for his theories depends almost entirely on linguistics. He claims to have deciphered what he says are inscriptions left by ancient visitors in all parts of the North American continent. In addition, he says that some modern American Indian languages contain elements of, or are directly descended from, ancient European and North African tongues.

Fell says ancient Celts ruled over kingdoms in New England, where they inscribed their peculiar script, Ogam, on temples at supposedly ancient sites such as Mystery Hill in New Hampshire. According to Fell, Celtic names of certain rivers and mountains in New England have been preserved in Indian languages.

Fell maintains that Carthaginians were traveling companions of the Celts, and he says one inscription even records the annexation of a large chunk of Massachusetts by the Carthaginian prince Hanno.

Phoenician traders and Egyptian miners became part of the Wabanaki tribe in New England, Fell says, and the script used by an Algonquin tribe, the Micmacs, is derived directly from ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Fell says there is an inscription on Monhegan Island off the coast of Maine that reads (in Celtic Ogam) "Cargo platform for ships from Phoenecia."

Basque sailors supposedly came to Pennsylvania and left their names on grave markers.

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