Book Review: Saga America

Saga America, by Barry Fell

This book was loaned to me by a friend of mine who shares my interest in precolumbian American history [1], and this book is definitely a revelation. Written as a sequel of sorts to the author’s work America BC, this book features a great deal of research that was found by other people who recorded the artifacts and what was drawn/written on them without knowing what it meant. As a result, this book is full of pictures, all kinds of pictures, most of them with explanatory statements in ancient Libyan or Arabic or Celtic or Norse texts of one kind or another. The sheer array of evidence of petroglyphs and other forms of writing as well as various artifacts is overwhelming over the course of the 400 or so pages this book contains, which include translations of Celtic-based languages in the Pacific Northwest. This book makes an extremely strong case for the longstanding involvement of a wide array of peoples in North America, including trade and colonization, and it points to the disruption of the Iriquois and similar peoples as coming from South America.

In terms of its contents, this book is thematically organized by region, looking at regions of the “Old World” where various travelers came from, regions in the New World where they settled, evidence ranging from ogham script in the Pacific Northwest to forgotten school lessons in the deserts of Nevada to Celtic boundary stones in Oklahoma and the evidence of a Norse church in New England. Some of the chapters are fairly short and some of them are long, but they show the author to be the sort of person who takes his archaeology seriously, traveling all over the world, and even traveling to Libya to meet up with various archaeologists and linguists there who view the thought of a precolumbian exchange with the sort of respect it deserves, and not the derision one gets from Americans. The book has a lot of inside jokes, including one about “Great Basin Curvilinear” that is repeated enough times that anyone who reads it is likely to smile every time they see an example of art from the area.

So, what is the point of a book like this? It is clearly marketed at people who have a serious interest in archaeology and languages, and who are open to unconventional ideas that come out of left field. I’m not sure how large of an audience this book is aimed at, but whatever audience it is, this is a book that takes no prisoners. Most authors would be content to write a book half this size with about a tenth of the pictures, but this is an author that wants to leave no doubt in anyone’s mind the extensive nature of the evidence that demonstrates beyond any reasonable or unreasonable doubt that the Americas were full of learning and culture, much of it drawn from the Old World, going back thousands of years. No one with a mind that is even slightly ajar to the author’s thesis of regular and sustained travel, trade, and colonization would leave this book unconvinced that there were major and deep contacts between the two hemispheres going back well into classical times on an extensive level. The most problematic aspects of the book were the way the author managed to speak so highly about the tolerance of Muslim societies, which makes one wonder if he’s inhabiting a slightly different planet than the one most people live on, at least in our contemporary era. Likewise, the author is rather agnostic when it comes to the question of the pagan Norse colonists in North America and their supposed rejection of Christianity. For all that the author does in showing the longstanding presence of Europeans and North Africans in North America, along with some Chinese and Japanese influence on the West Coast, the author is not writing to defend any sort of biblical faith, which makes his conclusions all the more intriguing, even if it makes some of his statements less enjoyable than they would otherwise be.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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6 Responses to Book Review: Saga America

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