The fifth article in the Lost History of Ancient America book, edited by Frank Joseph, is Thomas Anderton’s article “Who Were the Oil Tycoons of Pre-Columbian Pennsylvania?”
If you answered the Seneca or Iroquois Indians, you would be wrong…according to Anderton. Anderton attempts to make the argument that the ancient oil pits of Pennsylvania were actually collected by Bronze age oil barons who were collecting the crude oil to fuel the bronze age back home in the Mediterranean and to create the supper weapon, Greek Fire. What evidence are we given to support this claim? Well, none actually.
This is not the first time Anderton has made this particular argument. He’s also published an article on Academia.edu titled Ancient Pennsylvania Oil Mines , that he opens thusly:
“The following article is based on the probability that Minoans from Crete were on the Upper Peninsula in Michigan mining float copper from 2450 B.C. to around 1200 B.C., removing between 500,000,000 and 1,500,000,000 pounds of copper and shipping it to their home island of Crete, fueling the Bronze Age in Europe and the Mediterranean.”
“These are exciting times for those of us who believe that Columbus was LAST in discovering America. Conventional archeology has been ignoring, attacking, hiding and destroying the evidence that he was last for the past 120 years. Since Barry Fell wrote his landmark book “America B.C.” In 1976, people all over America and the world have been gathering evidence that America was “discovered” and visited many times during the past 20,000 years. The following article presents one small piece of that evidence.”
So once again we are confronted with the straw-man arguments that archaeologists believe that Columbus as the only European to ever make it to the Americas, and that we are actively working to suppress any evidence to the contrary. This is patently false, as we have discussed before.
Anderton also makes a breathtaking leap of logic with no priori establishment to:
“Did Pennsylvania crude oil light the homes and streets of the ancient old world? If so, that would explain the more than 2000 Wells sunk by prehistoric oil-men in the Keystone State.” (Anderton 2017)
He does some quick math to claim that the pits produced 1,230,000 gallons per year (Anderton 2017). An odd number for sure, and with no actual evidence to support it, and one made from pure speculation. Also, if it was a correct estimation, why is it so hard to believe that the Native tribes could have used that amount of oil in their daily lives and as trade with other tribes, as has been documented (ORA N.d, EPC N.d).
But before we get to deep into Anderton’s article, let’s look a bit into the history of Native American oil harvesting in Pennsylvania.
It’s been well recorded that the tribes native to the Pennsylvania area were using oil long before the arrival of Europeans. The Iroquois and Seneca Indians were both recorded as digging trenches for oil skimming (ORA N.d, EPC N.d). Dates for the numerous oil pits around the area in question place them as far back as the 15th century. The Seneca Indians were seen using the oil as a medicinal ointment, insect repellent, skin coloring, for religious ceremonies, and even trade (ORA N.d, EPC N.d). Indeed, even the Drake Well Museum has information about the native use of oil before the invasion of European colonists
Granted this is not the best known bit of information about early Native Americans. However, it’s not a repressed secret either.
Anderton spends the bulk of his article going over the fairly well documented history of Pennsylvania’s Oil Creek Valley in Crawford County and Titusville and Oil City in Venango Counties. He cites heavily from several historic accounts pointing out that the French recorded the Seneca Indians skimming oil (Day 1843). He even mentions what appears to be a religious ceremony of some sort that Sherman Day (1843) recounted in his documentations, where the Seneca burned some amount of oil in some kind of ceremony. Day’s account is vague and not helpful in deciphering what was going on exactly.
From there, Anderton continues to quote historical research into the Native Americans in the area’s use of oil. Then he quotes a strange passage from J. E. Thomas (2001) claiming that there is no oral tradition of petroleum use according to Elizabeth Tooker, a well known ethnographer of the Iroquois and Lake Huron Indian tribes.
If this is indeed true, a claim I am skeptical of since we have already been shown that the Seneca Indians told the settlers of “black water” (ORA N.d, EPC N.d), this is where archaeology steps in to fill in blanks.
Anderton himself has provided us with ample evidence of active American Oil harvesting. He even echos the C14 dates that archaeologists have used to place the age of some of the oil pits as far back as 1415-1440 CE (Anderton 2017, Thomas 2001, Selsor et al 2000). He however does a very strange thing. Where Thomas and Selsor et al make clear that dates are in CE/AD, Anderton uses the concept of “Years Before Present” and then claims the data rage was 570 to 600 CE. This demonstrably not correct.
Selsor et al (2000) clearly outline their date in both B.P (Years Before Present) and AD.
“A suite of AMS-based 14C analyses on total amino acid extracts on nine duplicate samples from a homogenized decadal (10-year) sample of wood taken from a single stake removed from a pit feature at Drake Well Park, Titusville, Pennsylvania, has permitted the calibration of a mean 14C age of 480 ± 15 B.P. to a 2 sigma (95.4%) confidence interval of A.D. 1415-1440. An early fifteenth-century age for this feature supports the view that petroleum exploitation in this region occurred during Late Woodland times.” (Selsor et al. 2000)
Judith.E.Thomas, also cited by Anderton, and James M. Adovasio (2012) clearly puts the c14 date range in 1415-1440 AD.
“Accelerator mass spectrometry analysis of a timber from an alleges aboriginal oil collection pit at 36VE174, conducted as part of this study, yielded a combined calibrated radiocarbon age of A.D. 1415-1440.” (Thomas and Adovasio 2012).
Anderton appears to have confused the adjusted dates of 1415-1440 A.D. as the unadjusted B.P ranges and thereby used those to subtract backwards to his own date range of 570 to 600 CE. Even this date range is questionable for me, since if we assume a starting B.P date of 1950, the date commonly used for wood, and subtract from there we get a range of 510-535. This major error in maths effectually nullifies the rest of Anderton’s argument for Pennsylvanian oil being used to fuel the Mediterranean Bronze age and being used as an ingredient in the unknown Greek Fire.
Still we must address the rest of the article because of the shear lack of anything resembling evidece to support Anderton’s claims for Greek Fire.
To be clear, we do have historical accounts of ‘Greek Fire’ or it’s like being used. These accounts vary in description from a flame thrower like object to something like napalm. One thing accounts tend to share is it’s ability to burn on or under water. From this, Anderton makes the assumption it must be oil based. Historically, there is no recorded recipe for Greek Fire, but to think it might be made with oil based on descriptions isn’t that far out there. However, Anderton’s proposed location for oil extraction is.
There is no reason to think that Mediterranean solders would go as far as the Americas to find oil for their weapons. Anderton also makes no effort to present any evidence to support this claim. Beyond a half-hearted mention of a ‘bronze age ship’ petroglyph, nothing is offered. No sunk ships, no records from the time, no artifacts showing a mixing of cultures or trade, nadda.
Keeping in mind that Anderton is making the argument that the ancient oil pits of Pennsylvania were actually collected by Bronze age oil barons who were collecting the crude oil to fuel the bronze age back home in the Mediterranean and to create the supper weapon, Greek Fire.
As far as presenting evidence towards this argument this article failed spectacularly. Not only because no real attempt was made to show trade or travel to the Americas, but also because the date range Anderton needs to even tepidly support his claim is wrong.
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2017 Who Were the Oil Tycoons of Pre-Columbian Pennsylvania? The Lost History of Ancient America. Edited Volume By Frank Joseph. The Career Press. Wayne, NJ.
1943 Historical Collections of the State of Pennsylvania. pg 637. N.Y.
Eno Petroleum Corporation (EPC)
N.d Early Native American Oil Discoveries
Eno Petroleum Corporation Website. http://www.enopetroleum.com/oildiscoveries.html Retrieved 2/8/17
Oil Region Alliance. (ORA)
N.d. History of the Oil Region, Oil Region National Heritage Area, Oil Region Alliance Website. (ORA N.d) http://www.oilheritage.org/history/history.htm Retrieved 2/8/17
Selsor, K., Burky, R., Kirner, D., Thomas, J., Southon, J., & Taylor, R.
2000 Late Prehistoric Petroleum Collection in Pennsylvania: Radiocarbon Evidence. American Antiquity, 65(4), 749-755. doi:10.2307/2694426 https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/american-antiquity/article/div-classtitlelate-prehistoric-petroleum-collection-in-pennsylvania-radiocarbon-evidencediv/B14878CEAE971E843D4FBDD94C2DC9EA Retrieved 2/8/17
Thomas, Judith E. And James M. Adovasio
2012 Documentary and archaeological Evidence of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Petroleum In Pennsylvania. Abstract submitted to History of the Oil Industry Symposium. Published by the Drake Well Foundation. Petroleum History Institute.
http://archives.datapages.com/data/phi/2001_Symposium_History_10/07a.htm Retrieved 2/8/17