One of the least known, and most often overlooked chapters in North American prehistory, is the near certain association with the Culdee Monks who arrived on the New England shoreline over a thousand years ago. The Culdee Monks, who adopted their method of constructing "beehive" huts from their Celtic ancestors, took this construction practice along with them when they crossed the "stepping stones" in the Atlantic on their journey to New England around 800 CE. The stepping stones were the landfalls encountered by sailors as they crossed the northern corridor of the Atlantic Ocean. From Ireland and the British Isles, the first stepping stone was the Orkney Islands, then the Hebrides, to the Shetland Islands, to Iceland, Greenland, and then to the Labrador coast of North America. But this far northern region of what is today Canada had little to offer as far as natural resources, so the stepping stones continued from Labrador to Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, until finally arriving on the shores of what we today call New England. The evidence of their inhabitation are the over 200 beehive stone chambers which still exist in a half dozen states.
But the Culdee story extends even farther back, and much farther away than the British Isles or Ireland. Evidence now traces the story all the way to the heights of Ethiopia, via Ireland and Scotland, to the shores of New England! The Culdee monks of the Scottish Hebrides were recorded as following the traces of Columkille, also known as Saint Columba the elder from Iona. A musicologist who lives on the Isle of Skye named John Purser discovered similarities in traditional psalm singing found exclusively on Lewis Island to psalm singing in the Ethiopian-Coptic church of today. These are free melodies, pentatonic with five notes per octave, which are never ending. Along with the near identical psalms of Lewis Island, there is other compelling evidence that Coptic monks came to Ireland in the time before 300 CE. Seven Egyptian monks are evoked in the martyrlog of Oengus. A martyrlog is a sort of church calendar with a monthly list to whom they have to remember with prayer who died as martyrs. This means they must have been killed very early when Christianity in Ireland had not yet become common. Oengus himself was an Irish monk who lived in the latter years of the 8th century and the beginning of 9th century on Clonenagh Ireland. He is the author of a famous book called The Martyrlog of Oengus, where he writes down the history of the monastery and the list of the martyrs in the order in which they were executed. On the list are the seven monks of Egypt who died in Dysert Uiligh.
Another interesting connection is the Tau Cross, which has relations to Egypt, but is also a sign dedicated to Antonius the Great, who is one of the desert fathers. The Tau Cross is worn by the Franciscan monks and, on top of this, by the Jesuit order too! The cross of the Coptics has very much changed from the beginning, when they used the ankh hieroglyph of the Egyptian pharaohs first. After that they added a cross into the bow of the ankh. A Tau Cross arises when you cut off the upper bow of the ankh, and add four bows to the four arms of the cross. This sign some of the Coptic communities used in very early times, until this modern age, is the one they invented and is the familiar one we see today, which is known as the Coptic-Orthodox cross. It is identifiable by the quadratic portions of the cross, and is heavily decorated at the four ends. Another fascinating connection is on Tory Island off the coast of northern Ireland, where an old Coptic stone cross can be found. The cross on Tory Island is named Coptic because it is known that Saint Columba founded his first of many monasteries on this rock, with several beehive huts around. So Irish historians call it Coptic because the Franciscan order and the Jesuit order didn't exist at that time.
When Saint Patrick came to Ireland it seemed to him that the Irish had already accepted Christianity "by themselves," because he ran across small monasteries already in existence. It would appear that the psalm singing came with Coptic monks to the Irish shores, and was then taken to Scotland when they moved north along the stepping stones. These regions were known as the Kingdom of Dalriada. At the end the singing reached the Hebrides and has been conserved on Lewis until this day. The monasticism of the early Irish church is very similar to the one of the early church in Egypt where monks lived solitary lives in the desert within small caves or beehive-huts. Similar huts can be found on Skellig Michael, a small Island off the southwestern Irish coast which are still very well preserved. When the Culdee Monks learned to built beehive huts, they adopted the practice from their Irish Christian ancestors. Also a yearning for the reclusiveness and most distant locations which is typical for these monks, they could have adopted from the desert experienced Middle Eastern Coptics. To escape persecution, especially from the marauding Vikings in the Middle Ages, they escaped along the stepping stones until they arrived at their new home in New England.
Special thanks to documentary filmmaker Christian Fuchs for much of the research in this article, as well as excerpts from the DVD "The Prehistoric Stone Chambers of New England" and the books "Sacred Places North America" and "Sacred Places Europe" -- all released by CCC Publishing.