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The Old Stone Fort remained a mystery until the University of Tennessee conducted excavations within the structure in 1966. Throughout the 1800s and early 1900s, numerous theories were put forth regarding the identity of the structure's builders, ranging from the overly-simplistic to the exotic. In 1823, the Pioneer, a Jackson, Tennessee newspaper, argued that the Old Stone Fort was built by Buccaneers from Seville after one of their ships wrecked off the coast of Florida and forced them inland. In the mid-1900s, the discoveries at L'Anse aux Meadows and the supposed recovery of Viking artifacts in various parts of North America led many to believe the Vikings built numerous stone structures throughout the Eastern U.S., including the Old Stone Fort. In 1950, author Zella Armstrong hypothesized that the fort was built by "Welsh-Indian" descendants of Prince Madoc.