In 1989, the remains of a human skeleton were discovered in a rock shelter at the Cook petroglyph site in Wyoming County, West Virginia during an archaeological Phase II investigation. Upon examination, archaeologist Robert Pyle speculated a connection between the ancient human remains and the Ogam petroglyphs about ten meters away.

This discovery would become the highlight of nineteen years of ongoing research on Ogam petroglyphs which was heralded by the March 1983 Wonderful West Virginia magazine. Photographs and stories in that issue connected southern West Virginia's mysterious petroglyphs—with their Christian message—to the legendary transatlantic voyages of St. Brendan of Ireland in the sixth century AD.

One of the arguments against this hypothesis has been that there was no physical scientific proof. So this discovery was believed to be significant. The Skull, that of an adult male, was sufficiently preserved to recognize a unique brachycephalic (round headed) feature indicating a possible European origin. Based on the archaeologist's experience, the condition of the remains indicated great age.

Dr. Thomas WE. Stafford Jr., Boulder, Co. examines markings on a bone needle found near the burial site.

But the only proof would come from future DNA and radiocarbon testing to determine the ethnicity and age of the remains, so the remains were carefully preserved for future analysis. Not until the year 2000 was funding made available from a private source to pay for DNA analysis and radiocarbon dating.

Mitochondrial DNA was extracted from the roots of the teeth and compared to previously cataloged DNA sequences from ethnic groups around the world. No association was found among North American groups. The closest DNA matches were European.

Radiocarbon dating (commonly called C14) established the age of the remains at 1,292 +/-40 years old (about the year 710 +/- 40 years AD).

These combined scientific data from DNA and C14 testing establish the presence of a person of European origin in southern West Virginia around the year 710 AD, the earliest date that a European has been positively identified on the North American continent through scientific data. There have been numerous theories and extensive controversy for the past two centuries about pre-Columbian visitors to this continent, but no suitable remains have been discovered and available for testing with any conclusive results until now.

Additional research and analysis are ongoing in this project. Further laboratory testing is contingent upon the availability of funds. Qualified researchers interested in contributing to this project are encouraged to contact the author.

Robert L. Pyle, Archaeologist

Resume and Qualifications


To learn more about the mysterious petroglyphs found in West Virginia and Kentucky and their connection to Europe, visit our Petroglyph People page.

Comprehensive information about the petroglyph studies appears in Robert L. Pyle's book "All That Remains: A West Virginia archaeologist's discoveries, 2nd edition." It can be ordered for $25 total (includes shipping) from Robert L. Pyle, 1964B Negley Avenue, Morgantown, W.Va. 26505.

We Need Your Help!
Our work has just begun and funding is needed for preservation, historical research, museum exhibits, and preparation of educational documentaries.

Donations can be sent to:
WV Petroglyph Trust
I964 B Negley Avenue Morgantown, WV 26505



Copyright 2002 by Robert L. Pyle.

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