Wyoming County Petroglyphs
Three counties in West Virginia; Fayette, Boone and Wyoming contain the chiseled writing known as petroglyphs. The Wyoming County area has four known petroglyph sites. The Lynco site is by far the most popular and due to its location the most visited. The Cook Petroglyphs located within ten miles of the Lynco site are named after the owner of the land where they were discovered. The Dingess Petroglyphs located in the Huff Creek area and the Bedspring Petroglyphs located within 250 feet of the Dingess site.
The Lynco Petroglyphs have been a source of controversy since they were first brought to national and international attention by an article appearing in the state magazine Wonderful West Virginia several years ago. Some contend they are actually Ogam, a written language in use in Ireland and other areas of northwestern Europe prior to Columbus' discovery of America. Others contend they are of Native American origin while another theory maintains the carvings are relatively modern in origin and merely a tote board made by a peddler of farmer.
In the Wonderful West Virginia article, Dr. Barry Fell, a biologist who has studied various archaeological sites and ancient languages, contended that the Lynco Petroglyph was indeed written in Ogam. Dr. Fell began a translation from ogam into Old Irish, from Old Irish into modern Irish and then into English.
The message thus deciphered read:
"At the time of sunrise, a ray grazes the notch on the left side on Christmas Day, the first season of the year, the season of the blessed advent of the savior Lord Christ. Behold he is born of Mary, a woman."
His interpretation of the writing was seen by some to bolster the theory that Irish missionaries such as St. Brendan visited North American prior to the voyages of Christopher Columbus.
According to the translation the carving was a solar calendar bearing a Christmas message. To try and prove this theory a small group decided to verify the translation. Calculating the difference between the Julian calendar, used until the 16th Century, and today's Gregorian calendar, they met at the petroglyph just before sunrise on December 22, 1982. Quietly they waited as the sun climbed in the east, spilled over the mountains, and streamed its rays toward the cliff face before them. They watched in amazement as the first shaft of sunlight funneled like a flashlight beam through a 3-sided notch in the cliff overhang and struck the center of a sun symbol on the left side of the panel. As they watched in awe, the beam pushed the shadow from left to right, slowly bathing the entire message in sunlight like a prehistoric neon sign announcing yet another Christmas, as it has done for centuries. Before their eyes, they had received a message across the ages.
Subsequent visits showed that the phenomenon only occurred at the winter solstice; and at other times of the year the sun only partially lit the message. In 1985, the distinguished Celtic scholar, Professor Robert T. Meyer visited the site and responded to a question regarding its authenticity in these words: "Nobody could have faked this sort of thing unless they had a very deep knowledge of Celtic philosophy, for this is very archaic, and probably from the sixth or seventh centuries. This, for Celtic scholars, is probably at least as important as the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls . . . because it shows that Irish Monks, I suppose, came here, I would say, about 1500 years ago."
Since that time, other ogam carvings have been discovered in West Virginia at Bear's Fork in Fayette County and Horse Creek in Boone County; as well as at Red River Gorge in Kentucky; Shell Rock Canyon, Colorado, and Newfoundland.
During my 1997 visit to Oceana my daughter Callie Beth and I had a chance to visit the Lynco Petroglyphs site. Using directions contained in the book Wyoming County History by Mary Bowman and asking a Lynco resident the petroglyphs proved easy to find. Once at the site we noticed someone had outlined them in white chalk, which made them more visible. After spending some time studying and photographing the petroglyphs Callie decided it was time for research. Her first stop was the Oceana Public Library were she found a book titled Mysteries of the Ancient Americas by Readers Digest published in 1991. This book contained an interesting article and a photograph of the Lynco Petroglyphs. We also found the book All That Remains by Robert Pyle, which takes a more in-depth look at all the petroglyphs in Wyoming County.
After spending some time reading and studying the petroglyphs it was time for a return visit. During our July 2000 trip back to Oceana my wife, daughter Kris and myself once again hiked to the Lynco Petroglyphs. Not much had changed since my 1997 trip and the petroglyphs were still chalked for ease of viewing. We did notice just a little graffiti on the rocks nearby but overall the site is still in good condition. It almost looks as if someone tries to takes care of the site and if they do I thank them.
The Wyoming County petroglyphs remain for all to see and for you to visit and ponder. We may never know the identity of the person or persons who carved these messages, but the fact that they exist provides us with amazement. Was someone describing the view of the area or maybe leaving directions for others that may follow? Was a local farmer adding up his furs? Are they important proof of the old claim that Irish monks sailed to America to spread the gospel long before Columbus and the Vikings? An Irish monk named Brendan did write of this in the Sixth Century but no one believed him. We may never know the answer to these questions but one thing is for sure that Wyoming County was well worth a visit even 1500 years ago.
Directions to the Lynco Petroglyphs
To find the petroglyphs at Lynco, take Route 971 from Oceana towards Lynco. In Lynco you will come upon a roadside marker which sits on the right hand side of the road just before crossing a white bridge. Turn right at the marker and follow the road towards the mountain. There you will find a dirt road, which crosses the railroad tracks. As soon as you cross the railroad tracks park in the small field to your right. Walk down the tracks towards Clear Fork. About 100 yards or so down the tracks you'll see a small path on the right hand side that leads to a small cliff about 20 yards up the mountain. The petroglyphs are on this small cliff.
"Wyoming County History" by Mary Bowman
Independent Herald, Article published 27 Sep 1995
"All That Remains" by Robert Pyle
Ogam Ancient Celtic Writing; Web Site
Horse Creek Petroglyph of West VirginiaInformation on the Boone County site.
By James Cook