An excerpt from "Mysteries of Native American Myth and Religion" by Gary R. Varner.
The most commonly accepted theory concerning the origin of the Native Americans is that some ten to twenty thousand years ago several waves of Asian people crossed the Bering Strait and filtered down and across the North and South American continents.
However, the discovery of Del Mar (1) man in Southern California, dated with amino acid racemization to 48,000 years BP, may have meant that man actually crossed into North America as early as 70,000 years ago. (2)
Some people that an ancient human with a “pre-projectile” tool technology existed in North America as far back as 500,000 years BP. The most conclusive evidence of skeletal remains is still lacking however. This pre-projectile horizon culture consisted of crude tools which even trained archaeologist would be hard pressed to identify from naturally broken stone.
Peter Farb believed that the Native American actually developed into a separate racial group, separate from any possible Asiatic ancestors. The American Indian possesses a distinct blood group and physical characteristics such as finger prints patters, low incidence of red-green color blindness, etc that are found no where else in the world. (3)
Many Native American myths concerning their origin indicate that their ancestors came from a land in the east. Bancroft wrote, “The Quiche traditions speak of a country in the far east, to reach which immense tracts of land and water must be crossed. There, they say, they lived a quiet but civilized life, paying no tribute, and speaking a common language…They worshipped no graven images, but observed with respect the rising sun and poured forth their invocations to the morning star.” (4)
According to legend, the Quiche left their home in the east in an expedition of unknown purpose under the direction of “certain chiefs” and reached America after a long journey.
Bancroft noted that some scholars of his time believed that the ancestors of the Quiche made frequent trips to the northwest coast of North America and only decided to stay after the expedition mentioned above, eventually filtering down to Central America. (5)
Other tribes in the Yucatan area also speak of origins in the east. Among these are the Yucatecs who reportedly came from the east “passing through the sea, which God made dry” for their journey. Other tribes believed that their descendents were exiled from an island in the east and came to America, which at that time, according to legend, was much smaller.
The Chippewa migration myth is also supportive of an eastern or Asiatic origin. According to Bancroft, “they came from a distant land. Where a bad people lived, and had to cross a narrow lake, filled with islands, where the snow continuously existed.” (6)
This appears to refer to the original land bridge that is speculated to have allowed some of the original inhabitants of North America to cross from Asia.
Throughout these legends, a feeling for the necessity to migrate or to flee in exile is evident. Was America’s occupation the result of political or social upheaval or massive cataclysmic events? It is a possibility not to be overlooked. The Algonquin’s celebrated an annual thanksgiving to commemorate their safe arrival from their long sea migration.
Many Native American legends speak of crossing vast frozen areas that, to the Indians, looked like “shining sands.” Could these frozen areas also account for the Yucatec legend that God “dried” up the sea to enable them to pass? Perhaps not dried—simply frozen?
Spence wrote that mythology of the Lenape Indians of Peru stated that they “went over the water of the frozen sea to possess the land.”(7) The legend states, “it was wonderful when they all went over the smooth deep water of the frozen sea at the gap of the snake sea in the great ocean.” (8) This probably refers to the narrow corridor between eastern Russia and western Alaska.
The Chinese & Others in Ancient America
The most persuasive evidence of ancient Chinese visits to pre-Columbian America was written by Chinese historian Li Yan Tcheou who lived in the seventh century. Tcheou wrote about an expedition of Chinese adventurers to the “mysterious land” some 20,000 li (a “li” is 1/3 of a mile so this distance is approximately 7,000 miles) from what is now Kamchatka. He told in great detail of encounters with natives “who possess neither arms nor troops and…never age war…There is no iron, but copper is met with. Gold and silver are not valued. Commerce is free, and the people are not given to haggling about prices.
“In former times the religion of Buddha was unknown in this country, but in the fourth of the years ta ming, in the reign of Hi ao Wou Ti of the Soung dynasty (458 CE) five…missionaries from the country Ki Pin, went to Fusang (the name given to the “mysterious land”) and diffused Buddhist faith. They carried with them sacred books and images, they introduced the ritual, and inculcated monastic habits of life. By these means they changed the manners of the people.” (9)
Fusang may have been western Mexico or California although Gustaaf Schlegel wrote in 1892 that ancient mapmakers knew that Fusang was an island just off the northeast coast of Asia. This is another example of conflicting evidence, which makes it so difficult to determine the correct facts.
The evidence of pre-Columbian contact with Chinese sailors appears to be getting greater over time. Such theories are more acceptable to archaeologist today than they have been over the last few decades.
Farb wrote of unusual pottery with a Japanese connection found in Ecuador dating back some 5,000 years:
“The earliest pottery found anywhere in the New World dates from about five thousand years ago in the area around Valdivia on the Coast of Ecuador. It’s distinctive designs and decorations did not exist any place else in the world except in the Jomon culture on Kyushu, the southernmost island of Japan—and the dates for that kind of pottery in both places are approximately the same.” (10)
The pottery is so similar that, Farb notes, it is “impossible to tell the Valdivian (pottery) from the Jomon.”
Other researchers have reported that “Valdivian pottery is characterized by a diversity of shapes and decorative techniques—a style that has been called ‘incongruous.’
Suddenly, it would seem, a highly developed and varied body of ceramic work appears out of nowhere. Simpler ware, indicating a line of development, is not in evidence at the Valdivia site.
“…archaeologist…proposed that the art of pottery-making was introduced to Valdivian villagers by Japanese fishermen who made an unexpected landfall in Ecuador some 4,000 years before the Vikings reached the shores of North America.” (11)
Another rather odd piece of evidence for cultural diffusion comes in the form of the chicken. Anthropologist George F. Carter in a letter to Current Anthropology wrote, “I find that chickens in America, concerning whose pre-Columbian presence there has been some question, are, in fact, East Asiatic in origin. They are given, by the Arawak, (12) a Hindu name, which in India is applied specifically to black-skinned chickens, one of the varieties known among American Indians—also their fighting cocks have Asiatic spurs; Spanish do not use spurs.” (13)
Many other pieces of evidence, some which appear unimportant when looked at separately but quite revealing when put together, have been uncovered in recent years varying from identical instruments found in Arizona and China to rock art with origins that appear to be Viking or Celtic.
Chinese Anchors off California
The California coast has yielded perhaps the most conclusive physical evidence of pre-Columbian visitations from China. Since 1972, the deep waters around Santa Rosa Island have given up a dozen or so stone anchors weighing up to 120 to 300 or more pounds and approximately two to three feet in diameter.
The anchors, resting on the sea floor 3600 feet below the surface, were encrusted with three millimeters of a ferromanganese deposit, which, it is believed, forms no faster than one millimeter per thousand years. The anchors themselves are composed of a sandy limestone.
Soon after the recovery of these anchors and a partial analysis of one of them, Dr. James R. Moriarty III, a noted archaeologist from the University of San Diego, declared that was identical to ancient anchors of Chinese and Japanese origin. Dr. Moriarty said, “to prove diffusion you need real artifacts from one of the Asian cultures. We now may have such artifacts in the anchors.”
An additional 20 to 30 such stone anchors were recovered off the Los Angeles coast in 1975 in water 12 to 30 feet deep. These stone anchors weighed as much as half a ton and were obviously made by human hands into cylindrical and doughnut shapes with grooves or drilled holes. Moriarty at this time “was persuaded that an ancient Chinese vessel foundered at the site.” (14)
Not all researchers are fond of this theory however. Historian Frank J. Frost refutes the notion, writing in a 1982 issue of Archaeology that the stones are indeed legitimate Chinese anchors but of modern origin, “lost by local California fishermen of Chinese extraction.” (15)
Underwater photographs of the area where they were found, however, “show only American iron anchors on immigrant craft.” (16)
Moriarty believes that the anchors found date to shipwrecks from the 7th century and that other artifacts will some day be discovered on the seabed.
Dr. Ching Chang Woo of the famous Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute possessed one of the anchors found off the Santa Rosa Islands. He was going to try to match the limestone material with quarries in China but results have not been forthcoming.
Other diffusionists, such as John Rankin in the 19th century, believed that remnants of a destroyed Mongolian fleet landed on the shores of Peru in the 13th century to establish the Inca civilization.
However, there is no reference in Inca history to any recognizable Mongolian trait or “memory” of such a beginning. It would seem implausible for a people to loose a memory, even a folkloric one, of a former place of origin as well as customs in three scant centuries before the arrival and domination of the Spanish in Peru.
English archaeologists Channing Arnold and Frederick Frost at the turn of the 20th century believed that Buddhist travelers from Indonesia or Java might have settled in Yucatan around the eight century to influence the inhabitants in the construction of ancient cities and temples.
According to Arnold and Frost, the similarities between Buddhist and oriental lifestyles and those of the Mayan are much more than similarities. Those “cultural ties” of which Arnold and Frost thought to be indicative of cultural diffusion between the two peoples included:
• Monasteries and nunneries
• Similar days of fasting
• The practice of celibacy and meditation
• The belief in sacred foot prints
• Similar types of books
• Similar caste systems
• Stone head carvings identical between the Olmecs and Toltec’s and the Indo-Chinese
• Similar burial customs
• Similar architecture (17)
According to Arnold and Frost, it is possible that Chinese Buddhist arrived in the Americas because of persecution in their native lands:
“Taking Java as their starting point, we have shown how the currents cross the Pacific to the Caroline Islands. This group, lying directly in the course of a migrating people, would be certain to be a resting-place on their journey. They might…stay some weeks, perhaps months there, possibly leaving some trace of their culture, and that is exactly what we do find. There are architectural remains in the Carolinas… (and) there is evidence that they are just as we should expect of the men who were the tutors of the Mayans.” (18)
The authors believed that the Buddhists landed in ships near or at Yucatan and settled at what was to become Copan were they accomplished the remarkable carvings and architecture still present today. Noting that the carvings at Copan are strikingly oriental in nature and execution of style, Arnold and Frost believed that the Buddhist “probably were watched at their work by neighboring Indians who crowded in to see the new wonder and learn the art.” (19) As the Mayans gradually took control of the growing empire and the Chinese Buddhists, disappearing through intermarriage the art and architecture became more basic and lost its oriental flavor and delicacy.
Early Japanese arrivals also have been proposed with findings of Jomon pottery, previously discussed, as well as other unusual artistic artifacts such as a terracotta figure found in Mexico in a perfect representation of a Japanese Sumo wrestler. This artifact has been dated to 1400-1150 BCE. (20)
Some researchers believe that Japanese-Indian intermarriage actually produced the culture of the Northwest Indians. As an example how this could have occurred, between 1782 and 1886 forty-one Japanese junks floated a shore on the beaches of Northern California, Oregon and Washington. All but twelve of these boats were occupied and all of the Japanese sailors became permanent residents and mixed with the surrounding population of Native Americans. This event could have occurred throughout history. As an aside, several words in the Chinook language are identical in sound and meaning as words in the Japanese language.
In addition, there is some evidence to suggest that some early Native American people have the same origins as the early Japanese. The Japanese-Native American tie may be several millennia old. The La Jollan Indians of Southern California, a Paleo-Indian group that no longer exists, were remarkably similar to prehistoric Japanese. Dr. Spencer Rogers, a director of the San Diego Museum of Man, wrote, “there is an impressive similarity in many physical characteristics between the La Jollan’s and a prehistoric population of the island of Kyushu, Japan. It should be noted that the Jomon pottery originated on the island of Kyushu as well.
Rogers noted, “This suggests that the peopling of the coast of North America from Asia involved the movement of population groups which retained their ancestral hereditary structural characteristics for a considerable time after their arrival in the Southern California coastal regions.” (21)
In the ancient ruins of Mexico are found dozens of sculptures, engravings and painting depicting a wide variety of racial groups. Distinct Chinese faces and figures are found next to bearded, mustachioed faces of European character and the stoic look of Africans. Perhaps North America has been the melting pot of the world for eons.
The Norsemen in America
An early visit by the Norsemen is one pre-Columbian contact between Native Americans and European cultures that is not controversial. However, just how early did these Scandinavians arrive in the Americas?
Columbus, the Italian seaman and slave trader of which the eminent archaeologist C.W. Ceram wrote, “introduced slavery to America and syphilis to Europe,” (22) was preceded by at least four centuries by the stocky Scandinavian warriors in their fragile-looking long boats.
Evidence obtained from radiocarbon dating verifies the Norse sagas of Leif Erikson’s expedition and settlement in Newfoundland almost a thousand years ago. Later expeditions to “Vineland” did not fare as well. His brother, Towald, was killed in an attack by Indians braves the Vikings named “the Skraelings.” (23)
The Vikings and the Skraelings teetered precariously between cautious trade and open warfare. The last known Viking expedition ended abruptly in 1023 after a series of murders in the Norse settlement. The persistence adventurers may have traveled inland as far as Minnesota although substantial physical evidence is lacking. Various rock carvings with possible Norse engravings have been found throughout the east and Midwest but conclusive evidence tying these to the Norse expeditions has not been found.
In December, 1975 Dr. Jaime Maria de Mahieu, director if the Science Institute of Man in Buenos Aires, Argentina, announced that he had found the remains of a Viking “fortress” in the Aquidaban River valley approximately 300 miles north of the capital of Paraguay, Asuncion.
According to Dr. Mahieu, the Vikings reached Mexico and filtered down into Paraguay between the 8th and 9th centuries—a good two to three hundred years before the arrival of the Norsemen into North America so immortalized in the 11th century sagas.
Mahieu, citing the existence of a wild tribe of “white Indians” in Paraguay’s interior, believed that the traveling Scandinavians settled in the area and intermarried with the indigenous people. Reportedly, Dr. Mahieu found a shield; three feet square in size, covered in runic engravings, an engraved stone depicting the Norse god Odin, and, what he believed to be a complete Viking settlement resembling a “military camp.”
Dr. Mahieu also believed that that Vikings founded an empire in Bolivia at the same location that the Inca’s eventually established theirs.
However, there is a substantial lack of any cultural or physical evidence to support such a theory that a Scandinavian empire once existed in the region.
Evidence does appear to substantiate that until the Dark Ages, cultural, exploratory contacts between continents and people took place on regular intervals, and that commerce was much as it is today. There is no reason to perpetuate the mind set so prevalent in American archaeology that ancient cultures had to remain isolated from each other, remaining in cultural vacuums.
Many artifacts found in the mounds in the Eastern United States are strikingly similar to Mayan and Aztec design. The fact that an Indian civilization showing advanced gains in society was emerging in the St. Louis area, nearly reaching the greatness of Mesoamerica, indicates that cultural diffusion and cooperation were commonplace events.
The Case for Egyptian Influence
Are the pyramids found in various areas of the world of a common origin? An Egyptian origin? Bancroft and Garcia y Cubas believed that the pyramids in the Americas and those in Egypt were associated with each other. Cubas wrote:
“The site (for the pyramids) …is the same; the structures are oriented with slight variation; the line through the center of the pyramids is in the ‘astronomical meridian’; the construction in grades and steps is the same; in both cases the larger pyramids are dedicated to the sun; (Egypt) has a ‘valley of the dead’, as at Teotihuacan there is a ‘street of the dead’…the smaller mounds are of the same nature and for the same purpose; both pyramids have a small mound formed to one of their faces; the openings discovered in the Pyramid of the Moon are also found in some Egyptian pyramids; the interior arrangement of the pyramids is analogous.” (24)
Another similarity between the pyramids of America and Egypt was unknown at the time Bancroft and Cubas did their research. A burial chamber and sarcophagus were discovered at the Temple of the Inscriptions at Palenque—making the construction and use of the pyramids in Egypt and Yucatan almost identical.
Other structures of amazing design and of unknown origin are found in many places throughout Mesoamerica. Baldwin wrote of one great city that now lies in ruins:
“At one place, near Chavin de Huanta, there are remarkable ruins which are very old…From the interior of one of the great buildings there is a subterranean passage which, it is said, goes under the river to the opposite bank…the natives traditions said this city was built by bearded white men, who came there long before the time of the Incas, and established a settlement.” (25)
It may be difficult to equate “bearded white men” with the Egyptians but Egypt is only one of many possible places of origin for early colonists. Another may be the Phoenicians.
Joseph Gardner raises some perplexing questions concerning the Phoenician and their possible excursions into America:
“Were the Phoenicians, who practiced child sacrifice, responsible for teaching this fairly unusual, (26) as well as shocking, practice to the Gulf Coast Olmec? Does an Olmec relief carving depict an ancient Phoenician, since the figure is bearded and sports up-turned shoes worn in the eastern Mediterranean? Can the numerous monumental stone Olmec heads with Negroid lips and noses be taken as proof that the Phoenicians brought along their black slaves on the lengthy voyages to America?” (27)
Schoolcraft wrote in his monumental work “during the process of opening the great tumulus at Grave Creek, in western Virginia, in the year 1838…a small inscribed stone was discovered, in connection with the remains of a human skeleton and its accompanying mementoes, which appears to possess an alphabetical value. This curious relic…appears to reveal, in the unknown past, evidences of European intrusions into the continent (of America)…” (28)
The Grave Creek stone turned out to be engraved with Phoenician script. The Biblical land of Ophir, to which King Solomon sent expeditions manned by Phoenician sailors, is thought by some to be America.
Many ancient writers and historians, such as Homer, Plutarch, and Diodorus Siculus, wrote of large islands situated several thousands of miles west of the Pillars of Hercules. The early civilizations of the western world continuously mention a “great Saturian continent” which was said to be “larger than Asia, Europe and Libya” combined. This land was thought to be the legendary Atlantis; however, it could also have been a reference to North America.
The numerous accounts of “bearded white men” and their settlements may have been due to the reports of the Phoenicians and their colonization attempts. It is possible that these men found burgeoning civilizations in the Americas and inadvertently influenced their development.
Diodorus Siculus wrote of “the land beyond the Pillars of Hercules” in the years preceding the Christian era:
“Over against Africa lies a very great island, in the vast ocean, many days sail from Libya westward. The soil there is very fruitful, a great part whereof is mountainous…which is…watered by several navigable streams, and beautiful with many gardens of pleasure planted with…trees and an abundance of orchards. The towns are adorned with stately buildings…pleasantly situated in their gardens and orchards.” (29)
Is Diodorus Siculus’ accounting of pre-Columbian Mexico at a time when the “bearded white men”, possibly the Phoenicians, set foot on Yucatan’s shores?
Peter Tompkins records additional similarities between the cultures of the Olmecs and Mayans and that of the Phoenicians in his book, Mysteries of the Mexican Pyramids. In fact, Tompkins wrote, “So impressive is the evidence accumulated by scholars to the effect that the Phoenicians reached the shores of both North and South America, it is hard to understand why it continues to be shunned.” (30)
One of the most remarkable similarities between the two civilizations is that of mathematics. “In common with the Maya,” Tompkins wrote, “the Babylonians were the only known ancient civilization that had a place value in their mathematics, the concept of zero, and the ability to express large numbers…Like the Maya, and their possible predecessors the Olmecs, the Chaldeans had records of stars going back 370,000 years, while the Babylonians kept nativity horoscopes of all children born for thousands of years…Like the Maya, the Babylonians measured the year in 360 and 365 days; and the estimated the period of the moon’s return to within a matter of seconds.” (31)
Other interesting similarities include
• Clay figurines of dwarfs
• Representations of the rain god Tlaloc as a white man with handlebar mustache and long beard—similar to the Phoenician rain god
• Deforming the heads of newborn children
• Twisted rope borders on sarcophagi and seals
• Pyramidal temples
• Use of gnomons to measure the sun’s shadow and to determine latitude
Tompkins noted as well that a cache of Carthaginian coins was found near Cape Cod that was dated to the 3rd and 4th centuries BCE. He theorizes that after Carthage became a major Phoenician outpost colonist were sent out in the hopes of finding suitable locations for the burgeoning population to expand. “From that latitude,” he wrote “these Carthaginians, like their Phoenician predecessors, would well have sailed to the New World and made landfalls in Yucatan, Tabasco, or Chiapas, giving substance to the tale of Votan.” (32)
Evidence for other visitations by foreign explorers includes that of the ancient Hebrews.
Possible Judaic Expeditions to America
A stone tablet found in Brazil in 1872 was discovered to be covered in ancient Hebrew script. It reads:
“We are sons of Canaan from Sidor, from the city where a merchant (prince) has been made king. He dispatched us to this distant land, a land of mountains. We sacrificed a youth to the celestial gods and goddesses in the nineteenth year of Hiram, our king. Abra! We sailed from Ezion-gerber into the Red Sea and voyaged with ten ships. We were at sea together for two years around Africa. Then we got separated by the land of Baal and we were no longer with our companions. So we have come here, twelve men and three women, into one island, unpopulated because ten died. Abra!
“May the celestial gods and goddesses favor us!” (33)
This stone has been dated approximately to 530 BCE due to the ancient form of Hebrew used. In fact, at that time this was the language of both the Hebrews and the Phoenicians. Another stone with similar inscriptions was found at Bat Cave, Tennessee in 1887 and has been dated to 100 CE. The Bat Cave stone clearly has the words “for Judea” or “for the Judeans” carved on its surface.
Gordon offers another piece of curious evidence for Hebraic expedition to America:
“…On a stela from Campeche, Mexico, a man wearing a reedboat hat has an earplug with the Star of David. The Star of David first appears in Palestine at Megiddo in a Solomic context.” (34)
Gordon suggests that the reed-boat represents an important navigator. The Hebrew merchant-ships, while made up almost entirely of Phoenician crew members, undoubtedly were commanded by Hebrew officers.
Bancroft again notes an interesting discovery that ties the Hebrews with early American visitations:
“…in 1815, (John Merrick) was leveling some ground under and near an old wood-shed…situated on Indian Hill (near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania). …After the work was done…he discovered, near where the earth had been dug the deepest, a black strap, as it appeared, about 6 inches in length, and one and a half in breadth, and about the thickness of a leather trace to a harness. He perceived it had, at each end, a loop, of some hard substance, probably for the purpose of carrying it.
“After some time, he thought he would examine it; but in attempting to cut it, found it as hard as bone; he succeeded, however, in getting it open, and found it formed of two pieces of thick rawhide, sewed and made water tight with the sinews of some animal, and gummed over; and in the fold was contained four folded pieces of parchment. They were of a dark yellow hue, but contained some kind of writing. …Mr. Merrick…sent them to Cambridge, where they were examined, and discovered to have been written with a pen, in Hebrew, plain and legible. The writing on the…pieces of parchment, was quotations from the Old Testament.” (35)
The text was determined to be that of Deuteronomy 5:4, 9 and 11:13-21 and Exodus 8:11-16.
In 1840, another discovery was made near Newark, New Jersey:
“About eight miles south-east of Newark there was formerly a large mound composed of masses of free-stone…some fifteen years ago, the county surveyor…turned his attention to this particular pile…Before long he was rewarded by finding in the center and near the surface a bed of tough clay generally known as pipe-clay…Imbedded in the clay was a coffin, dug out of a burr-oak log, and in a pretty good state of preservation. In the coffin was a skeleton, with quite a number of stone ornaments and emblems, and some open brass rings, suitable for bracelets or anklets.” (36)
In a separate, smaller coffin, the surveyor and his party found a stone tablet, one and a half inches thick, eighteen inches long and twelve inches wide. Again, Bancroft:
“On the face of the slab was a figure of a man, apparently a priest, with a long flowing beard, and a robe reaching to his feet. Over his head was a curved line of characters, and upon the edges and back of the stone were closely and neatly carved letters.” (37)
According to Bancroft, the stone tablet was a rendition of the Ten Commandments in Hebrew.
Other writers, such as James Adair, offer the suggestion that the Hebrew were the original progenitors of the Native Americans…the “Lost Tribe of Israel.” This is preposterous.
However, there are some loose shreds of evidence to suggest that the ancient Hebrews did journey, either by accident or by design, to America, as did the Asians, Phoenicians, Norsemen and perhaps others.
Many of the accounts of bearded white men and prophets may be linked to these various explorers. As most of the legends about the prophet indicate that they arrived by ship from eastern waters and eventually returned to their homelands in the east, it is a fairly safe assumption that the Hebrews and Phoenicians were the “prophets” referred to in these legends. However, we can only conjecture.
St. Thomas in America?
As previously mentioned St. Thomas has been associated with Wixepecocha, one of the many prophets in Native American lore. There are some rather curious language links associated with this theory in the Quiche culture. Bancroft studied this theory in some detail and wrote “the hero-gods proper name Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl closely resembles in sound and significance that of Thomas, surnamed Didymus; for ‘to’ in the Mexican name, is an abbreviation of Thomas, to which ‘pilcin’ meaning ‘son’ or ‘disciple,’ is added; while the meaning of Quetzalcoatl is exactly the same as that of the Greek Didymus, ‘a twin,’ being compounded of quetzalli a plume of green feathers, metaphorically signifying anything precious, and coatl, a serpent, metaphorically meaning one of two twins.” (38)
Other artifacts supposedly supporting this theory include paintings found in Mexico by Boturini depicting a cross surrounded by five “white balls on an azure shield” which Boturini said “without doubt (are) emblems of the five precious wounds of our Savior.”
This connecting with St. Thomas would appear to be somewhat suspect however the saint did travel extensively during his life from the Holy Land through India, as far as Meliapour and, some suggest, even into Central America.
A Linguistic Conclusion
A linguistic study performed some years ago by Jack Cohane in England on the word similarities between the Old and New World appears to substantiate the theories of pre-Columbian contact across the ocean.
Cohane believed that there is a direct link between 20% of Aztec and Mayan vocabularies and Hebrew. He also believes that intra-continental contacts, through maritime means, were common occurrences from the Bronze Age onward. The bearded “white gods” are legends resulting from contacts between different cultures that contributed to the societies of both in a variety ways, but mostly to the Native Americans in North, Central and South America in their mythology and architecture.
Polynesian Contact in Ancient America
This chapter is primarily concerned with the discussion of possible cultural contact between Native American societies and travelers from other parts of the world. However, there is growing evidence for the spread of culture from America to other lands as well.
The existence of the South American sweet potato in Polynesia has long been known and debated. Researchers before 1970 believed that the sweet potato was spread by Spanish and Portuguese sailors in the 16th century, however it was then discovered that the sweet potato was being intentionally cultivated by the Polynesians at least 1,000 CE—six hundred years earlier than the Spanish and Portuguese arrived in the islands.
A recent article in the Journal of Archaeological Science suggests that a sailing vessel from South America blown off course could have landed in the Polynesian islands within 90 days resulting in some cultural contact between the two peoples. One of the researchers noted that the Quechua word for sweet potato was cumul, which is very similar to the Polynesian term for the tuber, kumala. Obviously, for language sharing to exist it would be necessary for the Quechua and the Polynesians to have had personal contact.
Patrick Kirch, an archaeologist with the University of California, Berkeley campus “thinks that more extensive and deliberate contact must have taken place. ‘In my view, the most probable mechanism of transport was Polynesians sailing to South America.’” (39)
There is considerable evidence for other pre-Columbian contacts between indigenous cultures of America and Polynesia as well. As noted previously, the Chumash Indians that inhabited Southern California coastal areas and the Santa Barbara Channel Islands may have obtained their knowledge of canoe construction from such contacts. The Chumash, and later the Gabrielino Indians, were the only North American Indians who built sewn-plank canoes, which were ideal for deep-sea fishing and for the hunting of marine mammals. These two tribes accumulated great wealth because of their ability to command the sea.
However, there were two other locations in the world where similar boats were in use—Chile and Polynesia.
Archeologist Blake Edgar asked an important question in regards to the Chumash development of the plank canoe, “What if the Chumash encountered the unchallenged masters of oceanic navigation, the Polynesians, and learned the idea from them? The suggestion provokes archaeologists because it implies that the tomol (the Chumash name for their canoes) did not stem from Chumash cultural evolution but rather from a chance landing of people who traveled from more than two thousand miles away. Could something as important as the development of the tomol have been an accident of history?” (40)
A more recent discovery that indicates Polynesians had visited the New World before the Spaniards comes from an unlikely source—the chicken. Bones from fifty chickens have been discovered at an archaeological site in the Arauco Peninsula of Chile. This site is important, as it is the first excavated settlement of the Mapuche— and Andean people who lived in the area between 1000 to 1500 CE. The chicken bones were given a DNA analysis, which indicated that the chickens were identical in their DNA sequence with chickens raised at the same time on the islands of Tonga and American Samoa. The bones have been dated between 1321 and 1407 CE, w hich is the time when Easter Island and other eastern islands of Polynesia were being colonized. (41)
When the Spanish did arrive in Peru in 1532, Francisco Pizzaro noted the chickens’ presence and the fact that they were utilized in Inca ritual—obviously, the chicken had arrived sometime prior to the Spanish conquest.
Perhaps the most important discovery in years that proves the case for cultural diffusion also involves the Inca. The Norway Post announced on June 27, 2007 that a skeleton of an Incan male was uncovered in Sarpsborg, Norway that had been buried in that city over a thousand years ago. While further research is being conducted, it would seem that the Vikings not only traveled to the east coast of North America but also possibly as far south as Peru, bringing one visitor at least back with them. (42)
Perhaps Dr. Mahieu’s theory of Viking visits to Central and South America were not so wrong after all.
1. Rogers, Spencer L. “An Ancient Human Skeleton Found at Del Mar, California”, San Diego Museum Papers #7, July 1974.
2. Minshall, Herbert L. The Broken Stone: The Case for Early Man in California. San Diego: Copley Books 1976, 125.
3. Farb, Peter. Man’s Rise to Civilization. New York: E.P. Dutton & Co. 1968, 228.
4. Bancroft, Hubert Howe. The Native Races: Primitive History, Vol. 5. San Francisco: The History Company 1886, 21.
5. Bancroft, Hubert Howe. The Native Races: Primitive History, Vol. 5. San Francisco: The History Company 1886, 21.
6. Ibid., 21-22.
7. Spence, Lewis. The Myths of Mexico and Peru. London: George G. Harrap & Company 1917, 234.
9. Bancroft, op cit. 34, 36.
10. Farb, op cit. 215.
11. Gardner, Joseph I. ed. Mysteries of the Ancient Americas. Pleasantville: Readers Digest Association, Inc. 1986, 24.
12. A large linguistic group of South American Indians.
13. Current Anthropology, December 1968, Pt. II, vol. 9 #5, 477. For further discussion concerning the chicken in pre-Columbian America see pages 189-190.
14. Gardner, op cit., 28.
15. Frost, Frank J. “The Palos Verdes Chinese Anchor Mystery” in Archaeology 35:23, January/February 1982.
16. Gardner, op cit.
17. Arnold, Channing and Frederick J. Frost. The American Egypt: A Record of Travel in Yucatan. New York: Doubleday, Page & Company 1909.
18. Ibid., 281.
19. Ibid., 285.
20. Gardner, op cit., 24.
21. Pourade, Richard F. Ancient Hunters of the Far West. San Diego: Union Tribune Publishing Company 1966, 8.
22. Ceram, C.W. The First Americans. New York: New American Library 1971, 39.
23. There are two similar words used by the Norwegians and the Icelanders. “Scaela” is a Norwegian word meaning “scream” and “scraelna” is Icelandic meaning “shrink”—indicating either their size or their terrifying war cries.
24. Bancroft, op cit. 55.
25. Baldwin, John D. Ancient America in Notes on American Archaeology. New York: Harper & Brothers 1905, 243.
26. Child sacrifice is not all that unusual. Not only were children sacrificed by the Phoenicians, Olmecs and Mayans, but also to some extent the Hebrews and Celts.
27. Gardner, op cit. 17.
28. Schoolcraft, Henry R. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States. New York: J.B. Lippincott & Co. 1857, 610.
29. Baldwin, op cit. 162.
30. Tompkins, Peter. Mysteries of the Mexican Pyramids. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers 1976, 348.
31. Ibid., 351.
32. Tompkins,op cit., 352.
33. Gordon, Cyrus. Riddles in History. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc. 1974, 76.
34. Ibid., 152,
35. Bancroft, op cit., 93.
36. Ibid., 94-95.
38. Ibid., 25.
39. Borrell, Brendan. “Drifters could explain sweet-potato travel” in News.nature.com 18 May 2007.
40. Edgar, Blake. “The Polynesian Connection: Did Ancient Hawaiians teach California Indians how to make ocean-going canoes?” in Archaeology Vol 58, Number 2, March/April 2005, 42-45.
41. Powell, Eric A. “Kon Tiki Fried Chicken?: Evidence emerges that Polynesians introduced the chicken to South America.” www.archaeology.org/online/features/chicken 6/4/2007
42. Solholm, Rolleiv. “Archaeological sensation in Oestfold” in The Norway Post. www.norwaypost.no June 27, 2007.