Before Columbus Sailed The Ocean Blue

Mighty_Emperor

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Zheng He discovered America?

More on that in a PBS documentary:

1421: The Year China Discovered America?


1421: THE YEAR CHINA DISCOVERED AMERICA?, airing on PBS Wednesday, July 21, investigates a theory that could turn the conventional view of world history on its head: the startling possibility that a daring Chinese admiral, commanding the largest wooden armada ever built, reached America 71 years before Columbus.

The documentary examines the mystery surrounding China's legendary Zheng He and the spectacular Ming fleet of treasure junks he commanded in the early 15th century. The special provides a history of the known journeys of Zheng He's fleet and an account of new information uncovered by Gavin Menzies, a former British submarine commander who has spent nine years trying to prove that Zheng He reached America decades before Columbus. Menzies, author of the best-selling book 1421: The Year China Discovered the World, has assembled evidence that he believes substantiates his theory.

The first part of the documentary presents 15th-century China as an emerging super-nation with an armada of treasure junks that dominated the Indian Ocean. At the behest of Chinese emperor Zhu Di, Zheng He sailed this fleet to far-flung outposts throughout the eastern hemisphere, established major ports and extended the commercial reach of "the Middle Kingdom" far beyond its previous bounds. The first segment recounts this story through re-enactments, extensive location filming and innovative computer graphics imaging models of the fleet itself.

1421: THE YEAR CHINA DISCOVERED AMERICA? then investigates the major historical mystery that arises from Menzies' theory: Could this incredible and intrepid fleet have shown the European explorers the way to the west - reaching America's shores decades before Columbus? Menzies seeks to prove his extraordinary theory by retracing the steps he believes the Chinese took from Africa to Europe to the Caribbean and along the eastern coast of the United States. The program examines the evidence behind his theory, then puts it to the test, drawing together historical accounts, archaeology and information from consultations with contemporary historians, archaeologists and scientists. The results are often dramatic and - like Menzies' theory itself - highly controversial.
http://www.pbs.org/previews/1421/
 

Mighty_Emperor

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Oceanic odyssey remains a treasure

http://www.chinaview.cn 2004-07-08 11:01:32


BEIJING, July 8 (Xinhuanet) -- Question for the ages: Who circumnavigated the globe 87 years before Italian explorer Cristopher Columbus (1451-1506) and 114 years before Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521)?

Answer: Zheng He (1371-1433) of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

The ancient Chinese mariner travelled to the West seven times from 1405 to 1433, sailing more than 50,000 kilometres and visiting 37 countries and regions.

Historical studies suggest his expeditions were unsurpassable among his contemporaries in terms of the size of the fleets, the navigation technology, the duration and organization.

That tells why Zheng He is still remembered today as one of the world's greatest navigators and a source of pride for the whole Chinese nation.

To prepare to mark the 600th anniversary of Zheng's first voyage next year, the country has set up a directorate headed by Minister of Communications Zhang Chunxian to stage a massive celebration.

On July 11, 1405, Zheng set sail on his first oceanic odyssey with a fleet of 208 ships and 27,800 sailors.

Xu Zuyuan, vice-minister of communications, told a news conference organized by the State Council Information Office that colourful commemorative activities have been planned for the anniversary.

They include a commemoration conference to be held in Beijing next July, an exhibition and a TV feature programme on Zheng's extraordinary navigational feats.

Meanwhile, Shanghai will hold an international maritime expo between July 8 and July 15, 2005 and a series of national contests, seminars and international symposiums will be organized around the country between now and 2005.

Xu said the festivities are will "carry forward the fine Chinese tradition of loving peace and fostering good-neighbourly relations to promote world peace and social development.

"During his seven voyages to the West, Zheng He treated other countries with friendship and respect instead of occupying a single piece of land, establishing a fortress or seizing any treasure," Xu noted.

The official extended invitations to all interested parties from across the globe to participate in the commemoration and to share their research on the royal eunuch daring expeditions.

During his 28-year naval career, Zheng sailed from China to places in the South Pacific, Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Africa, according to historical documents.

The flagship of his fleet, named the "Treasure Ship," was a four-storey, nine-masted vessel measuring 440 feet, nearly 1.5 times the length of a football fields and five times that of Columbus's ship.

Zheng He's journeys also stimulated a number of important maritime inventions, including central rudders, watertight compartments and various new types of sails.

In fact, Zheng He is so renowned in the world's marine navigation history that some researchers have argued it was Zheng rather than Columbus who discovered America first.

Gavin Menzies, a retired British Royal Naval Submarine Commanding Officer, put forward the theory in his book, "1421: The Year China Discovered the World."

In the book published in 2002, Menzies cited overwhelming evidence to support his concept that Chinese ships under the command of Zheng reached America 70 years before Columbus, who sailed across the Atlantic to reach America in 1492.

Asked to comment on the engrossing concept, vice-minister Xu said, Menzies' idea "is still under academic research and an uniformed conclusion has yet to be reached on it."

Xu, however, expressed his sincere admiration and appreciation about Menzies' extensive research on Zheng navigational pursuits.
http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2004-07/08/content_1583224.htm
 

Mal_Adjusted

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found this on the davistown museum website

you'll have to go there to get the full bibliography.
i could have cut and pasted it but it's rather long.

richard @


Pre-Columbian Visitors to North America
http://www.davistownmuseum.org/bibPreColumb.htm
A miscellany of publications on Viking, Celtic, etc.; explorations, mythologies and opinions

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Most all professional archaeologists and historians consider the topic of Pre-Columbian visitors to be a preposterous and, in fact, ridiculous subject of study of far less serious consideration than alchemy, Ouija boards, flying saucers and moon cheese. It is nonetheless interesting, hilarious, fun and still a topic dear to the hearts of many amateur New England historians.

Dean Snow makes this observation on the subject: "New England has been producing both serious and silly studies of prehistory for over a century, longer than most regions of North America. ... New England's myths of prehistory come in three basic guises. First, there are the pseudolinguistic studies. ... The second guise of New England's myths comes in the form of ethnographic
comparisons. ...The third class of myths is composed of notions based mainly on archaeological evidence that is either fabricated or misinterpreted. ... It is probably true for most regions that the problem will go away if simply ignored.

However, the roots of archaeological mythology are deep in New England and the myths are numerous." (Snow, 1980, pg. 20-23). Given the numerous references to Vitromanoland (Celtic settlements in the St. Lawrence River area in the first
millennium) in Norwegian essays, we are not ready to dismiss the possibility of earlier visitors to New England. The topic is too interesting to be excluded from the Davistown Museum bibliographies.

<cut>
 

KeyserXSoze

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The Oz Factor

http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=scienceNews&storyID=6159251
Did the First Americans Come From, Er, Australia?
Mon Sep 6, 2004 09:24 AM ET

EXETER, England (Reuters) - Anthropologists stepped into a hornets' nest on Monday, revealing research that suggests the original inhabitants of America may in fact have come from what is now known as Australia.
The claim will be extremely unwelcome to today's native Americans who came overland from Siberia and say they were there first.

But Silvia Gonzalez from John Moores University in Liverpool said skeletal evidence pointed strongly to this unpalatable truth and hinted that recovered DNA would corroborate it.

"This is very contentious," Gonzalez, a Mexican, said with a smile at the annual meeting of the British association for the Advancement of Science. "They (native Americans) cannot claim to have been the first people there."

She said there was very strong evidence that the first migration came from Australia via Japan and Polynesia and down the Pacific Coast of America.

Skulls of a people with distinctively long and narrow heads discovered in Mexico and California predated by several thousand years the more rounded features of the skulls of native Americans.

One particularly well preserved skull of a long-face woman had been carbon dated to 12,700 years ago, whereas the oldest accurately dated native American skull was only about 9,000 years old.

"We have extracted her DNA. It is going to be a bomb," she said, declining to give details but adding that the tests carried out so far were being replicated to make sure they were accurate.

She said there were tales from Spanish missionaries of an isolated coastal community of long-face people in Baja California of a completely different race and rituals from other communities in America at the time.

These last survivors were wiped out by diseases imported by the Spanish conquerors, Gonzalez said.

The research is one of 11 different projects in America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East being funded over a four-year period by Britain's Natural Environment Research Council.

The projects, focusing on diet, dating and dispersal of people down the millennia in the face of climate change, aim to rewrite anthropology.

"We want to make headlines from heads," said Professor Clive Gamble of Southampton university. "DNA will give us a completely new map of the world and how we peopled it."
 
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Sunday, October 10, 2004

— Time: 4:02:44 PM EST


Written in stone

By KEN CRITES, Staff Writer [email protected]

People for many years have been trying to figure out the meaning of rock carvings found not only here in North Dakota, but around the region and even around the world.
Who carved them? For what reason? When were they carved? What do they say? Some have been deciphered and some have not. But, who is the final authority about the carvings?

Some theories expressed include that the sites where the rocks are found were sacred places to those who carved them. Another theory is that the rocks marked out territories claimed by a certain tribe or group of ancient people. But nobody knows for sure.

In our area, the Writing Rocks Historic Site near Grenora is probably the best-known example. In the region, there are the Kensington Runestones, a purported _ and incidentally disputed _ Viking site, around Detroit Lakes, Minn., and there are other rock carvings in surrounding states and Canadian provinces.

But, there are only a few sites in the state that are open to the public where such rock carvings are available to see. Other ancient artifacts are located on private land or have been plowed under and otherwise lost.

According to the N.D. Historical Society, the Writing Rocks near Grenora are two large granite boulders inscribed with thunderbird figures and a variety of other so-called pictographs. A researcher of old files of The Minot Daily News finds that the mystery has been going on for many years.

Retired Harvard professor Barry Fell, for example, told the Associated Press in 1978 that the rocks at Grenora are "... a monument to an Ojibway Indian chief ... that's all that's on there."

Fell wrote back to a Williston teacher who had sent in photos of the rocks to him: "I judge your stones date back from about the time of Jesus Christ."

By using Libyan and Arabic vocabularies, "from which a part of the Ojibway language descends," Fell deciphered one stone as a monument to a chief named "Thunderbird."

He said the word "his stone" recurs three times on the rock. One of the rocks also contains astronomical signs and other symbols.

The late Bob Cory, a historian and columnist for The Minot Daily News for many years, wrote several columns about the Grenora rocks among his works.

In his column "Tumbling Around These Prairies," Cory wrote in June 17, 1978: "Writing Rock in Divide County is something to look at and ponder. It is rare evidence of an early presence in this region of primitive men concerning whom the later tribes of native Americans retained no memory."

Cory described the designs and wrote, "What there is of design is, for the most part as inscrutable as some pieces of modern art.

"A work of this kind holds fascination which is timeless. It is evidently manmade. Yet nobody knows when or why, and most of the signs are unintelligible today."

A North Dakota Historical Society publication in 1938 said the Writing Rocks at Grenora were regarded as sacred by Indians who were said to have made pilgrimages there. Several Indian graves have been found nearby as well as arrowheads, beads and other artifacts, the clipping said.

On the move

The smaller of the boulders, said to weigh about a ton, was moved to the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks in 1929 where it underwent intense study by scholars there, apparently without significant revelations.

"It was hoped that specialists in petroglyphs might be able to decipher markings and symbols engraved on it by primitive people of the past," a clipping said. It remained there until June 1965, on display on the ground floor of Merrifield Hall. The larger boulder has never been moved.

Back home

Moving the smaller rock back to its original hill was a project supervised and carried out by Edward A. Milligan, Bottineau, then president of the State Historical Society.

The historical society, in a booklet describing many of the 50-plus historical sites around the state called a "traveler's companion" said, "The designs on the rocks are clearly American Indian, despite unfounded speculation attributing the origins of the 'mysterious carvings' to Vikings, the Chinese and others."

Similar rock art sites are found in Saskatchewan, Alberta, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota and several other sites in the Upper Midwest.

The society booklet says the thunderbird is central to stories told by many Plains Indians. Most of the artifacts on the Northern Plains date from 1000-1700 A.D. But some scholars say they might have been crafted even earlier.

Where to find them

Rick Collin, a public relations spokesman for the Historical Society, said the Writing Rocks are located about 12 miles northeast of Grenora in Divide County. The boulders are protected by a grille of iron bars, erected to keep vandals away from them.

The larger of the boulders measures 4 1/2 feet high and is 4 feet wide. The smaller rock is 3 1/2 feet long, 2 feet wide and 1 1/2 feet high.

The area has also been developed somewhat with a picnic shelter, slides, swings and other attractions for those who come to see the rocks. The site is about as far northwest as you can get in the state.

The boulders were discovered by Gen. Alfred Sully, a famous frontier general, in 1864.

They are not alone

The Writing Rocks, while an important discovery, are not the only carved rocks in the area. A large rock has come to light in the Rugby area. Actually, it's been in plain view all along since the early 1970s.

The rock bearing hand prints, a bear paw print and other symbols is quite an attraction to see. The rock is located at the Cornerstone Cafe in Rugby, not far from the stone cairn that marks the geographic center of North America.

Bill Paterson of Rugby said his grandfather, William Paterson, a stone mason, found the rock with its markings on a hillside. He said he didn't know where. Anyway, he transported it to Rugby and had it in his front yard for many years. It was later relocated by Bill Paterson to a spot just across U.S. Highway 2 from the cafe where it is today for all to see and wonder about.

Bill Paterson said that the rock has been on display since about 1973. Highway construction work necessitated that it be moved from one side of the highway to where it is located now. Paterson said, "We moved it with a forklift and set it down in concrete near the cafe." He added, "We didn't want anybody tipping it over."

Paterson said he didn't know what the symbols mean. "But, there are people who know those things," he said.

Paterson said both his grandfather and father were stone masons. He said his father laid the stonework for several buildings in the area, including a half dozen Catholic churches.

More, the merrier

Other so-called "writing rocks" are reported to be around the area, at Kenmare, Fort Ransom and near the Sisseton Hills.

Beside carvings, there are also what the Historical Society calls mosaics, pictures of creatures laid out flat on the ground.

One mosaic is located in Grant County and is a representation of a giant turtle made from rocks. The turtle, like the thunderbird, is a popular animal that apparently figured prominently in the lives of the ancient people. The mosaic is in a remote area and is not open to the public.

Undoubtedly there are other writing rocks around the state, including a mysterious one. A 1955 clipping in the files by Jack Bailey, a Missouri Basin Times correspondent, tells about the so-called "Mandan Stone." It is reputed to be a huge granite boulder bearing mysterious inscriptions. The stone supposedly lies in the channel of the Missouri River somewhere in the Stanton area.

According to Bailey's story, the stone has a habit of becoming visible during periods of low flow in the river. The story actually dates back to 1894 when "Old Mandan" came out of the river again, according to accounts.

There were also reports of the stone being visible in 1904 and again in 1934, during times of drought. There was a suggestion that the inscriptions carved into the rock were made by Viking explorers.

There was a reference in field notes of Lewis and Clark's journals to a rock in the river which the Mandan Indians used to augment their supernatural medicine.

Nowhere else in the clippings file is there a reference to the Mandan Rock, however.

According to the old newspaper files there is another boulder in the Butte area that has figures inscribed on it. It is located on the Dogden Butte. It's not known if that rock is on private property or not.

On the Internet

The Internet has a ton information about rock carvings, but most of the sites listed are in the Southwest. The eBay Web site has photos of the pictographs that appear on the rocks there and says on its site it has more than 5 million images for sale.

There is also a company on the Internet that will supply ancient symbols taken from writing rocks and carved into stone and bone by modern means.

While the Internet is a modern marvel and presents a lot of information about writing rocks, it doesn't offer what all the symbols mean.

Wondering about the carved stones is a fun exercise and according to the old clippings in the archives, a lot of people have been doing just that for a long time. The only surprise is that so far, at least, the writing rocks haven't been attributed to the work of aliens from outer space as some other ancient artifacts have.

On the Web: http://www.state.nd.us/hist/org.htm
http://www.minotdailynews.com/news/story/1010202004_new10news1.asp

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Leif Ericson was never here, but we’ve still got a parade

ULRIKA G. GERTH

Staff Writer

Time and time again archeologist Emerson Baker has to burst people’s bubbles.

Sorry, the Vikings did not live in your backyard. Sorry, those marks are not runic inscriptions. Are you sure your grandson did not borrow the hammer?

"People who find it are really convinced it’s unique and it’s hard to break the news to them," said Baker, chair of the History Department at Salem State College in Salem, Mass.

For decades, archeologists in New England have been busy debunking theories of the Vikings’ whereabouts, leaving fans of Leif Ericson with a single sliver of hope, a Norse coin found in Brooklin, Maine.

But what science cannot prove, creative minds can.

The chief archeologist at the Maine State Museum, Bruce Bourque, even talks of subcultures of "romantic dreamers who don’t understand science and archeology."

He places the Viking fan clubs into the same category as those who are convinced ancient Romans colonized Arizona.

"I spend 5 to 10 percent of my time dealing with these people. Often they are people who otherwise are completely rational."

Everybody does, however, agree the Vikings made it to North America 500 years before Christopher Columbus in 1492. And few question the fur-clad Ericson and his crew of explorers dropped anchor from their open plank boats off the beach near what is now L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, Canada, the site that would become the only authenticated Viking settlement in North America.

But what did the Arnold Schwarzeneggers of the 10th century do next?

According to popular belief, quite a lot.

A stone tower in Newport, RI., and rocks with strange markings all along the East Coast send to some people one jubilant message: Leif was here!

One rock now sits encased in a concrete well beneath a row of iron bars at Hampton’s Tuck Museum. It was rescued after mobs of tourists in the 1950s began to chip off pieces for souvenirs and a particularly fanatic fan from Massachusetts tried to take off with the rock on his truck.

The cryptic inscription on the rock, they believed, was a tribute to Leif Ericson’s brother Thorvald who Viking sagas say was shot with an arrow in the armpit during a battle with Indians.

In the mind of Hampton District Court Judge Charles Lamprey, the fight raged at no other place than Boar’s Head, not far from Hampton Beach. Runic expert, Olaf Strandwold, confirmed there indeed was a message on the rock in Lamprey’s yard.

But where Strandwold saw runes in 1948, scholars now see hogwash. The gouges in the rock may be manmade, but not by Leif and his gang. Locals also added a few runes of their own when they in the mid-1930s decided to do a little amateur excavation.

"It’s neat to look at a rock and think the markings must be a foreign language. It’s not fun to believe it’s the marks of a steam shovel," said J. Dennis Robinson, editor of Seacoastnh.com, who has investigated the rock and called it a hoax.

Over the years, one find after another has faced the test of science.

Bubbles have been burst, dreams crushed.

Mysterious rock formations have turned out to be the work of natural erosion, the Newport Tower the work of colonials, strange runes the work of modern steel chisels, and the famous Vinland Map of Viking exploration a first-class forgery.

"People have been looking hard for hundreds of years and there is no archeological evidence in this part — it’s certainly possible, the Vikings were incredible boat handlers — but there is no evidence," said Jeff Bolster, professor of history at the University of New Hampshire.

Here, Roslyn Strong must disagree. She is a member the New England Antiquities Research Association that for more than 30 years has fought with academia over the authenticity of the Spirit Pond rune stones in Maine.

On the nonprofit organization’s 40th anniversary, Oct 29., as many as 120 members will descend on the Maine State Museum to prove their case once and for all: The rune stones are as real as they come.

"We say enough already. We’re going to make a case the stones are not fakes. There is a lot of evidence," said Strong.

Used to being accused as disillusioned romantics, Strong emphasized NEARA tries to distance itself "from the lunatic fringe that says Vikings were here and Vikings were there."

"The established academia don’t look at anything so we have to show them. We’ll have several archeologists speaking," she said.

Someday, sooner or later, Strong believes more Viking remnants will be found in New England. Until then, a Norse coin unearthed with thousands of other artifacts during an excavation of the former trading center in Brooklin is considered the only legitimate evidence of Nordic warriors in the United States, but to the grave disappointment of some, it still does not necessarily mean they ever set foot in the country.

The Vikings, Bourque said, traded with natives who might have got their hands on the coin up north.

"If Newfoundland was your first introduction to the world, would you want to see more? Baker joked.

After some initial confusion about the significance of the tiny piece of metal, the Keeper of the Coin Collection in Oslo, Norway, confirmed it as — hallelujah — a Norse penny dating back to 1065- 1080.

One side of the coin shows a double cross while the other has triggered the imagination of many. The original design of a horse, a chariot and a man, has come apart, setting the stage for people to see something far more exotic, a dragon.

Robinson interprets the tireless search for a Viking past as a "chauvinistic, racial drive, tied into pseudo-archeology."

"In the 1930s it had a coolness to it. People were titillated by the idea of a powerful white race, an ancient tribe coming in on small boats," he said.

"Northeners are always looking for ways to talk about how the north was settled by Europeans first."

Today, the Vikings only reemerge for the annual Leif Ericson parade in Durham on Columbus Day weekend.

As usual, Mrs. Nobel K. Peterson is in charge and true to history she promptly asks all participants to remove the horns off their helmets.

The medieval warriors did not adorn their headgear with such props. Rather the horns are an invention of the German opera that wanted to make the bellowing Vikings appear frightening on stage.

The Vikings left Newfoundland only a few years after they spotted the rugged coastline for the first time, Bolster said. Some may have headed to Greenland, others may have succumbed to the forces of nature and, although the possibility remains, historians doubt there are any living descendents of the North American Vikings in New England.

Mrs. Nobel K. Peterson, for example, is three-quarters English and one-quarter Irish, Scotch, Dutch and French.

"My mom said ‘Oh, why don’t you have any Scandinavian blood’ and I said ‘The way those Vikings got around, who knows?’"
http://www.fosters.com/October_2004/10.10.04/news/su_1010e.asp
 
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Time to Discover a new October holiday In light of recent assertions that others landed in America before Columbus, a change of name for the day may be due

Sunday, October 10, 2004
David Hedges

IN MY OPINION David Hedges

Today, class, we'll address the burning question, "Who discovered America?"

Before you commit to Christopher Columbus, consider the alternatives. Excavations in New England confirm the advent of Vikings long before the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria set sail. British author Gavin Menzies constructs an open-and-shut case in "1421: The Year China Discovered America."

Ancient Chinese archives uncovered by 18th century French scholar Joseph de Guignes reveal that five Chinese monks cruised the West Coast in the 5th century and spent time among Oregon's Indians. Phoenicians, Egyptians and sub-Saharan Africans get the nod from Ivan Van Sertima, whose book, "They Came Before Columbus: The African Presence in Ancient America," lays out a wealth of compelling evidence.

The mysterious Mound Builders appeared along the Mississippi River in 1500 B.C., superimposed their monumental vision on the locals, and vanished around 700 A.D. In Cahokia (just north of East St. Louis, Ill.), largest of their many settlements, population 50,000, they built Monks Mound, bigger at its base than the Great Pyramid of Cheops.

And the Ainu look-alike whose 9,300-year-old bones popped from the Columbia River at Kennewick may give Japan or Polynesia a leg up on Scandinavia, China and sub-Saharan Africa in the discovery sweepstakes.

Face it, people have been discovering America for more years than we know, coming from all directions, by land and by sea. Northeast Asians, recognized as the First Americans, crossed the ice-free Bering Straits land bridge from Siberia some 14,000 years ago, though tests at several South American sites reveal the presence of earlier people.

Things get really interesting when Native American lineages are thrown into the mix. According to recent studies, New England's Algonquin-speaking tribes added Europeans to their four Asian lines of descent 30,000 years ago. Blackfoot, Iroquois, and other tribes of Minnesota, Michigan, Ontario and Massachusetts are linked to the ancient Jomon of Japan.

The first people of Mexico, Peru and the southern United States lacked any Asian ancestry, meaning their forebears arrived a very long time ago, or from somewhere other than Asia.

The better question is, "Who didn't discover America?"

No one denies that newcomers, in sufficient numbers, change everything. The official First Americans are blamed with killing off most large Pleistocene mammals -- including the horse, which originated in Oregon, among other places, 50 million years ago, and is thought to have reached Asia by way of the Bering Straits land bridge.

I've often wondered why the tribes and bands of Northwest Oregon spoke so many languages and dialects in random pockets. Was this patchwork the result of some aboriginal version of the Oklahoma Land Rush, where each band grabbed off what it could?

We know that people dislodged by calamities invade space claimed by others, where and when they can. Perhaps the 9.0 earthquake of some 300 years ago caused Oregon's coastal inhabitants to rush inland, bumping others from traditional sites. Perhaps floods, droughts, volcanic eruptions or pressures of population and consumption (which may have displaced the Mississippian Mound Builders) sent people scrambling into somebody else's back yard.

Or it may be nothing more then itchy feet, the wanderlust and curiosity that separate our species from sensible creatures. Displacement's been a given since our progenitors first left their footprints in wet sand and mud. Assimilation's been hit-or-miss.

But this makes one wonder: Does truth outweigh time-honored tradition? Are we stuck with pictures of Washington chopping down a cherry tree? Nero fiddling while Rome bums? Columbus discovering America?

Why not opt for truth? Drop Columbus Day. Adopt Discovery Day.

Think about it -- celebrating the myriad discoveries of America on a national holiday set aside by Congress. The 12th of October. 10/12. Discovery Day.
http://www.oregonlive.com/commentary/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/editorial/1097323269152040.xml
 

PeniG

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Argh. In my opinion, David Hedges ought to cite a few sources. It would be very nice indeed to know who has demonstrated that "The first people of Mexico, Peru and the southern United States lacked any Asian ancestry." And Mr. Crites, who wrote about the writing rocks, would do well to look into actual scholarly journals and speak to the people who do the work, rather than relying on newspaper clippings and tourist brochures.

I admit Barry Fell does work, but getting a second opinion on the descent of the Ojibway language from "Libyan and Arabic" would have been prudent.

Oh, well, at least Ms. Gerth was evenhanded and talked to a bunch of people. One out of three is pretty bad but it's better than nothing.

Thanks, Emps. We'd miss so much if you weren't keeping on top of the news for us.
 

FraterLibre

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Catastrophe Day?

I'm sure the folks where were here when the white European killers came would call it Catastrophe Day.

We could call it Conquistadore Day or how about Smallpox Day?
 

madmath

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What's annoying about all this is, no matter who was "first", Columbus was the one who opened the way between the Americas and Europe so that it never closed again. After the First Americans and before CC, there may have been a bunch of visitors, but they never stayed very long.

"Discovered" is the wrong word in any case. I propose "Visited" would work for most of the pre-CC claims, "Colonised" for the Vikings, since they stayed for decades, and "Opened" for CC.
 

Kondoru

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a very valid point.

like Australian history before 1788. a lot of people visited the place but they didnt stay.

I wont offend our southern readers by quoting any reasons...
 

FraterLibre

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True

JoeP makes good points. Columbus opened up contact between Old and New World and it never let up since. He deserves a day of infamy, or fame, depending on who one's ancestors may have been.
 

rossba1

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everyone seems obsessed with atlantic crossings. Apart from menzies there is not much focus on Pacific crossings.
The polynesians have had sweet potato for thousands of years (at least 1kyr since they took it to new zealand with them). Potatoes are a new world family so how they got it is a good question. as far as i know there is no oral tradition of visiting america in polynesia. And they dont seem to have left a genetic legacy in the americas either as native americans have clearly asian/siberian DNA. (excluding hawaii, which is not american, except politically).
 
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Chinese cartography

China beat Columbus to it, perhaps
Jan 12th 2006
From The Economist print edition

An ancient map that strongly suggests Chinese seamen were first round the world


THE brave seamen whose great voyages of exploration opened up the world are iconic figures in European history. Columbus found the New World in 1492; Dias discovered the Cape of Good Hope in 1488; and Magellan set off to circumnavigate the world in 1519. However, there is one difficulty with this confident assertion of European mastery: it may not be true.

It seems more likely that the world and all its continents were discovered by a Chinese admiral named Zheng He, whose fleets roamed the oceans between 1405 and 1435. His exploits, which are well documented in Chinese historical records, were written about in a book which appeared in China around 1418 called “The Marvellous Visions of the Star Raft”.

Next week, in Beijing and London, fresh and dramatic evidence is to be revealed to bolster Zheng He's case. It is a copy, made in 1763, of a map, dated 1418, which contains notes that substantially match the descriptions in the book. “It will revolutionise our thinking about 15th-century world history,” says Gunnar Thompson, a student of ancient maps and early explorers.

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The map (shown above) will be unveiled in Beijing on January 16th and at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich a day later. Six Chinese characters in the upper right-hand corner of the map say this is a “general chart of the integrated world”. In the lower left-hand corner is a note that says the chart was drawn by Mo Yi Tong, imitating a world chart made in 1418 which showed the barbarians paying tribute to the Ming emperor, Zhu Di. The copyist distinguishes what he took from the original from what he added himself.

The map was bought for about $500 from a small Shanghai dealer in 2001 by Liu Gang, one of the most eminent commercial lawyers in China, who collects maps and paintings. Mr Liu says he knew it was significant, but thought it might be a modern fake. He showed his acquisition to five experienced collectors, who agreed that the traces of vermin on the bamboo paper it is written on, and the de-pigmentation of ink and colours, indicated that the map was more than 100 years old.

Mr Liu was unsure of its meaning, and asked specialists in ancient Chinese history for their advice, but none, he says, was forthcoming. Then, last autumn, he read “1421: The Year China Discovered the World”, a book written in 2003 by Gavin Menzies, in which the author makes the controversial claim that Zheng He circumnavigated the world, discovering America on the way. Mr Menzies, who is a former submariner in the Royal Navy and a merchant banker, is an amateur historian and his theory met with little approval from professionals. But it struck a chord: his book became a bestseller and his 1421 website is very popular. In any event, his arguments convinced Mr Liu that his map was a relic of Zheng He's earlier voyages.

The detail on the copy of the map is remarkable. The outlines of Africa, Europe and the Americas are instantly recognisable. It shows the Nile with two sources. The north-west passage appears to be free of ice. But the inaccuracies, also, are glaring. California is shown as an island; the British Isles do not appear at all. The distance from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean is ten times greater than it ought to be. Australia is in the wrong place (though cartographers no longer doubt that Australia and New Zealand were discovered by Chinese seamen centuries before Captain Cook arrived on the scene).

The commentary on the map, which seems to have been drawn from the original, is written in clear Chinese characters which can still be easily read. Of the west coast of America, the map says: “The skin of the race in this area is black-red, and feathers are wrapped around their heads and waists.” Of the Australians, it reports: “The skin of the aborigine is also black. All of them are naked and wearing bone articles around their waists.”

But this remarkable precision, rather than the errors, is what critics of the Menzies theory are likely to use to question the authenticity of the 1418 map. Mr Menzies and his followers are naturally extremely keen to establish that the 1763 copy is not a forgery and that it faithfully represents the 1418 original. This would lend weighty support to their thesis: that China had indeed discovered America by (if not actually in) 1421. Mass spectrography analysis to date the copied map is under way at Waikato University in New Zealand, and the results will be announced in February. But even if affirmative, this analysis is of limited importance since it can do no more than date the copyist's paper and inks.

Five academic experts on ancient charts note that the 1418 map puts together information that was available piecemeal in China from earlier nautical maps, going back to the 13th century and Kublai Khan, who was no mean explorer himself. They believe it is authentic.

The map makes good estimates of the latitude and longitude of much of the world, and recognises that the earth is round. “The Chinese were almost certainly aware of longitude before Zheng He set sail,” says Robert Cribbs of California State University. They certainly assumed the world was round. “The format of the map is totally consistent with the level of knowledge that we should expect of royal Chinese geographers following the voyages of Zheng He,” says Mr Thompson.

Moreover, some of the errors in the 1418 map soon turned up in European maps, the most striking being California drawn as an island. The Portuguese are aware of a world map drawn before 1420 by a cartographer named Albertin di Virga, which showed Africa and the Americas. Since no Portuguese seamen had yet discovered those places, the most obvious source for the information seems to be European copies of Chinese maps.

But this is certainly not a unanimous view among the experts, with many of the fiercest critics in China itself. Wang Tai-Peng, a scholarly journalist in Vancouver who does not doubt that the Chinese explored the world early in the 15th century (he has written about a visit by Chinese ambassadors to Florence in 1433), doubts whether Zheng He's ships landed in North America. Mr Wang also claims that Zheng He's navigation maps were drawn in a totally different Chinese map-making tradition. “Until the 1418 map is scientifically authenticated, we still have to take it with a grain of salt,” he says.

Most forgeries are driven by a commercial imperative, especially when the market for ancient maps is booming, as it is now. The Library of Congress recently paid $10m for a copy of a 1507 world map by Martin Waldseemuller, a German cartographer. But Mr Liu says he is not a seller: “The map is part of my life,” he claims.

The consequences of the discovery of this map could be considerable. If it does indeed prove to be the first map of the world, “the history of New World discovery will have to be rewritten,” claims Mr Menzies. How much does this matter? Showing that the world was first explored by Chinese rather than European seamen would be a major piece of historical revisionism. But there is more to history than that. It is no less interesting that the Chinese, having discovered the extent of the world, did not exploit it, politically or commercially. After all, Columbus's discovery of America led to exploitation and then development by Europeans which, 500 years later, made the United States more powerful than China had ever been.

http://www.economist.com/books/displays ... id=5381851
 

OneWingedBird

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Interestingly, this Chinese map shows the 'erroneous' North West passage around the top of North America - or perhaps there are climatic reasons why this route might have been open at some point in history.
 

OneWingedBird

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Mmmmn, also, east of what I think is Japan, there's a pincer shaped feature that looks like a large bay with two lobes - I've no idea where it's supposed to relate to geographically as it doesn't sit well with a modern map of asia - but it is quite similar, in shape and location, to the orange 'molar' shaped feature on the Hereford Cathedral Mappa Mundi - supposedly cira 1290.

Anyone have any ideas what/where this is meant to be?
 
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And then there is the Vikings:

Tooth marks link Vikings, Indians

study: 1,000-year-old skeletons: Decorative groove technique likely learned in America



Randy Boswell, CanWest News Service
Published: Friday, January 13, 2006

A scientist who found deep grooves chiselled into the teeth of dozens of 1,000-year-old Viking skeletons unearthed in Sweden believes the strange custom might have been learned from aboriginal tribes during ancient Norse voyages to North America -- a finding that would represent an unprecedented case of transatlantic, cross-cultural exchange during the age of Leif Ericsson.

The marks are believed to be decorations meant to enhance a man's appearance, or badges of honour for a group of great warriors or successful tradesmen. They are the first historical examples of ceremonial dental modification ever found in Europe, and although similar customs were practised in Asia and Africa over the centuries, the Swedish anthropologist who studied the Viking teeth is exploring the possibility that trips to Newfoundland and other parts of the New World a millennium ago introduced the Norsemen to tooth-carving styles being carried out at that time in the Americas.

"The cases from the North American continent are from the time period," Caroline Arcini, a researcher with the National Heritage Board in Lund, Sweden, told CanWest News Service. "So it is within the same timespace as the Swedish ones that are dated from 800-1050 A.D."

In a paper published by the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Ms. Arcini details the horizontal etchings across the front teeth of about 25 young men whose remains were found at several Viking Age burial sites in Sweden and Denmark. The "furrows" -- some teeth have several parallel grooves -- "are so well made that it is most likely they were filed by a person of great skill," Ms. Arcini writes.

But "the reason for, and importance of, the furrows are obscure. The affected individuals may have belonged to a certain occupational group, or the furrows could have been pure decoration."

Examples of tooth modification have been found at archeological sites around the world -- with the exception, until now, of Europe.

The study notes a similarity in style between the Scandinavian specimens and dental markings common about 1,000 years ago in parts of North America, including Mexico and the present-day United States as far north as Illinois.

Tales of Viking visits to North America held a largely mythical status among scholars until the 1960s, when archeologists discovered and excavated the remains of a 1,000-year-old Norse encampment at the northern tip of Newfoundland. Today, the Viking settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows is a UNESCO World Heritage Site commemorating voyages by Norse explorers from Greenland and Iceland some 500 years before Christopher Columbus reached the New World.

Led by Ericsson, the Newfoundland colonizers are believed to have made several southern voyages -- it's not known exactly how far -- before repeated clashes with natives, whom the Vikings called "skraelings," forced the newcomers to abandon their settlement.

But researchers at the Canadian Museum of Civilization have also found artifacts that suggest a centuries-long trading relationship between Norse seafarers and native people in the Arctic until about the 14th century.

Patricia Sutherland, a CMC archeologist whose findings at ancient Baffin Island native settlements point to a prolonged period of contact with Norse traders, says she's skeptical that Viking travellers ever reached more southerly tribes that practiced the kind of dental modification found in the Swedish skeletons.

------------------
© National Post 2006
Source
 
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Chinese map likely phony

A recently unveiled map purporting to show a Chinese explorer discovered America in 1418 has been met with skepticism from cartographers and historians.

An inscription identifies the map as a copy made in 1763 of an original drawn in 1418.

Antiquities collector Liu Gang, who unveiled the map in Beijing last week, says it proves Chinese seafarer Zheng He discovered America more than 70 years before Christopher Columbus set foot in the New World. He said he purchased the map in 2001 from a Shanghai dealer for $5,000.

But experts have dismissed the map as a fake, saying it resembles a French 17th-century world map with its depiction of California as an island, National Geographic News reported Tuesday. That China is not shown in the center also suggests the Chinese did not make the map, one expert said.

"If this is a 1418 map, it's a whole style very much different than any 1418 map that I've seen," John Hebert, chief of the Geography and Map Division at the Library of Congress, told National Geographic News.

New Zealand scientists are radiocarbon-dating a scrap of the map's bamboo paper to determine its age.

http://www.physorg.com/printnews.php?newsid=10210
 
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Phoenician Inscription Rock: History or hoax?


By Joseph Maes The New Mexican |
January 26, 2006



RIO PUERCO — Concealed within a small valley at Hidden Mountain is a 15-square-foot piece of basalt. The surface is carved with 216 characters that resemble Phoenician or old Hebrew. Translations have postulated buried treasure, a battle description and a exiled Greek named Zakyneros from 500 B.C.

“I believe someone decided to write down the Ten Commandments , but the question is who and when,” said Richard Melzer, a professor at The University of New Mexico-Valencia branch.

Many people of Jewish ancestry have traveled through the Southwest over the past 400 years, Melzer said.

In 1949, Professor Robert Pheiffer, of the Harvard Semitic Museum, translated the writing on the stone and concluded that the text is Paleo-Hebrew and is based on Exodus 20:2-17 .

Line one of the stone reads: “I am Yahweh thy God who brought thee out of the land ... ”

Line two contains text that seems to have been added to the original passage: “There shall not be unto them other gods before me.”

In lines three through eight, the well-known text continues: “... of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shall not make unto thee a graven image.

“Thou shall not take the name of Yahweh in vain.

“Remember the day of the Sabbath to sanctify it.

“Honor thy father and mother that thy days be long on the soil which Yahweh thy God (hath) given thee. “Thou shalt not kill. “Thou shalt not commit adultery . “Thou shalt not testify falsely against thy neighbor. “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s wife.” Like Melzer, UNM history professor Ferenc Szasz believes this to be the correct translation, he also has a theory on who the mysterious author might be. “I think it’s old, but not pre-Columbian , more likely from the 18th century,” Szasz said Near the large rock are the initials A.M. the same initials are also present at Inscription Rock at El Morro near Grants. The initials are attributed to Andres Muñiz , chief interpreter of the 1776 Dominguez-Escalante Expedition.

Silvestre Velez de Escalante, a Franciscan priest, and his superior Francisco Domínguez , were looking for a northern route to Monterey, in California, from Santa Fe.

Known to be versed in a number of language skills, Muñiz also might have had knowledge of ancient written languages.

Domínguez treats Muñiz and his brother harshly in his diary. “They manifested their little or entire lack of faith and their total unfitness for such an enterprise,” Domínguez wrote.

Domínguez ordered that the sole mission of the expedition was “to strengthen the people of this nation in their good intention of becoming Christians.”

Szasz contended that Muñiz may have retaliated against the priest by inscribing text from the Old Testament at a sacred American Indian site covered with hundreds of petroglyphs

It is believed that Muñiz and his brother might have been conversos, Spanish Jews who converted to the Catholic faith.

Szasz said that he has heard that the Phoenician Inscription Rock is a hoax, but to date he doesn’t know of anyone who has claimed responsibility for it.

One theory goes that, in the 1930s, a group of students chiseled the ancient lettering into the stone as a prank.

“What is needed is a microscopic analysis of the tools or chisel used,” Szasz said. “For now, (the story of the rock) remains a mystery”

The Phoenician Inscription Rock is under the care of the state of New Mexico and is located on state-trust land just off N.M. 6.

Maps refer to it as Phoenician Inscription Rock, but it also has been called the Mystery Stone, the Ten Commandments Rock and the Decalogue Stone.

There is a $25 fee for viewing the area. The pass can be purchased by contacting the State Land Office at (505) 827-5724 .
www.freenewmexican.com/news/38502.html
 

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Before Columbus - any contact from west to east?

I was recently reading the Brendan Voyage by Tim Severin about his convincing recreation of the route & methods that St Brendan supposedly used to get to North America.

What was niggling me was the fact that throughout the book, he says that the voyage back from America is a lot easier than the voyage there, St Brendan himself covers his homeward journey in only a few lines.

So my query is, if the West to East journey is "easier" due to prevailing winds and currents, are there any records/myths/legends of journeys by Native Americans to Europe or Africa? or did they just not have the technology or the inclination to make such a journey?

It seems strange that all the debate on pre-columbian contact is dominated by which of the people on the eastern side of the Atlantic crossed the ocean first, especially if the reverse journey is a bit "easier".

The only thing i can find about the subject is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pre-Columbian_trans-oceanic_contact#Reverse_contacts at the ever reliable(!) wikipedia.
 

rynner2

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Could a rusty coin re-write Chinese-African history?
By Peter Greste, BBC East Africa correspondent, Mambrui, Kenya

It is not much to look at - a small pitted brass coin with a square hole in the centre - but this relatively innocuous piece of metal is revolutionising our understanding of early East African history, and recasting China's more contemporary role in the region.

A joint team of Kenyan and Chinese archaeologists found the 15th Century Chinese coin in Mambrui - a tiny, nondescript village just north of Malindi on Kenya's north coast.

In barely distinguishable relief, the team leader Professor Qin Dashu from Peking University's archaeology department, read out the inscription: "Yongle Tongbao" - the name of the reign that minted the coin some time between 1403 and 1424.

"These coins were carried only by envoys of the emperor, Chengzu," Prof Qin said.
"We know that smugglers would often take them and melt them down to make other brass implements, but it is more likely that this came here with someone who gave it as a gift from the emperor."

And that poses the question that has excited both historians and politicians: How did a coin from the early 1400s get to East Africa, almost 100 years before the first Europeans reached the region?

The answer seems to be with Zheng He, also known as Cheng Ho - a legendary Chinese admiral who, the stories say, led a vast fleet of between 200 and 300 ships across the Indian Ocean in 1418.

Until recently, there have only been folk tales and insubstantial hints at how far Zheng He might have sailed.

Then, a few years ago, fishermen off the northern Kenyan port town of Lamu hauled up 15th Century Chinese vases in their nets, and the Chinese authorities ran DNA tests on a number of villagers who claimed Chinese ancestry.

The tests seemed to confirm what the villagers have always believed - that a ship from Zheng He's fleet sank in a storm and the surviving crew married locals, meaning some people in the area still have subtly Chinese features.

It was then that Peking University organized its expedition to try to find conclusive evidence. The university is spending $3 million (£2 million) on the three-year project.

Prof Qin's team chose to dig in Mambrui for two reasons.

First, ancient texts told of Zheng He's visit to the Sultan of Malindi - the most powerful coastal ruler of the time. But they also mentioned that Malindi was by a river mouth; something that the present town of Malindi doesn't have, but that Mambrui does.

The old cemetery in Mambrui also has a famous circular tomb-stone embedded with 400-year-old Chinese porcelain bowls hinting at the region's long-standing relationship with the East.

In the broad L-shaped trench that the team dug on the edge of the cemetery, they began finding what they were looking for.

First, they uncovered the remains of an iron smelter and iron slag.

Then, Mohamed Mchuria, a coastal archaeologist from the National Museums of Kenya, unearthed a stunning fragment of porcelain that Prof Qin believes came from a famous kiln called Long Quan that made porcelain exclusively for the royal family in the early Ming Dynasty.

The jade-green shard appears to be from the base of a much larger bowl, with two small fish in relief, swimming just below the surface of the glaze.

"This is a wonderful and very important piece, and that is why we believe it could have come with an imperial envoy like Zheng He," Prof Qin said.

While the evidence is still not conclusive, it undermines Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama's claim to have been the first international trader to open up East Africa.

He arrived in 1499 on an expedition to find a sea route to Asia, and launched more than 450 years of colonial domination by European maritime powers.

"We're discovering that the Chinese had a very different approach from the Europeans to East Africa," said Herman Kiriama, the lead archaeologist from the National Museums of Kenya.

"Because they came with gifts from the emperor, it shows they saw us as equals. It shows that Kenya was already a dynamic trading power with strong links to the outside world long before the Portuguese arrived," he said.

And that is profoundly influencing the way Kenya is thinking about its current ties to the East.

It implies that China has a much older trade relationship with the region than Europe, and that Beijing's very modern drive to open up trade with Africa may in fact be part of a far deeper tradition than anyone suspected.

In 2008 China's trade with the continent was worth $107bn (£67bn) - more even than the United States, and 10 times what it was in 2000.

"A long time ago, the East African coast looked East and not West," said Mr Kiriama.

"And maybe that's why it also gives politicians a reason to say: 'Let's look East' because we've been looking that way throughout the ages."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-11531398

Fascinating stuff!
 

Kondoru

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Yes, Chinese accounts of Africa are much more appealing than european ones.

Who gave that famous quote about visiting other cultures being no more troubling than touching the horns of a snail?
 

Zilch5

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Oh great, more evidence for one of my pet theories that travel in ancient times was far more common than we used to think! :D
 

rynner2

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First Americans 'reached Europe five centuries before Columbus voyages'
The first Americans reached Europe five centuries before Christopher Columbus "discovered" the New World, according to claims made by a Spanish university team.
By Fiona Govan in Madrid 11:03PM GMT 16 Nov 2010

Scientists tracing the genetic origins of an Icelandic family believe the first American arrived in Europe around the 10th century, a full five hundred years before Columbus set off on his first voyage of discovery in 1492.

Norse sagas suggest the Vikings discovered the Americas centuries before Columbus and the latest data seems to support the hypothesis that they may have brought American Indians back with them to northern Europe.

Research indicates that a woman from the North American continent probably arrived in Iceland some time around 1000AD leaving behind genes that are reflected in about 80 Icelanders today.

Investigators discovered the genes could be traced to common ancestors in the south of Iceland, near the Vatnaj Kull glacier in around 1710 ruling out initial theories that they may have arrived via Asia.

"As the island was practically isolated from the 10th century onwards, the most probable hypothesis is that these genes correspond to an Amerindian woman who was taken from America by the Vikings some time around the year 1000," Carles Lalueza-Fox, of the Pompeu Fabra university in Spain, said.

A Viking settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows, in the eastern Canadian region of Terranova, is thought to date to the 11th century.

Researchers said they would keep trying to determine when the Amerindian genes first arrived in Iceland and would seek to link them to burial remains in the Americas.

The genetic research, made public by Spain's Centre for Scientific Research, was due to be published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/scie ... yages.html
 

rynner2

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Kon-Tiki explorer was partly right – Polynesians had South American roots
It is probably the most epic journey ever under taken just to prove a point.
By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent
2:31PM BST 17 Jun 2011

Thor Heyerdahl clung to Kon-Tiki, his balsa wood raft, for 4,300 miles to show that Polynesia could have been colonised from South America rather than Asia as commonly thought.
But despite achieving his goal – sustaining his 101 day voyage with sharks caught with his bare hands – the Norwegian failed to sway the scientific community.

Now – 64 years later- new research has finally proved the adventurer was at least partly right after all.
A team of scientists have tested the genetic make up of descendants of the original islanders and found it includes DNA that could have only come from native Americans.
That means that some time before the remote islands – including Easter Island – were colonised by Europeans the locals had interbred with people from South America.

The Polynesian islands are some of the most remote in the world – lying thousands of miles west of South America and thousands of miles east of Asia.
The established theory has always been that Polynesia was colonised via Asia around 5,500 years ago.
This has been backed up by archaeology, linguistics and some genetic studies.

But in 1947, Heyerdahl controversially claimed that Easter Island's famous statues were similar to those at Lake Titicaca in Bolivia, and sailed a raft from Peru to French Polynesia to prove it could have been colonised from America.

Now Professor Erik Thorsby of the University of Oslo in Norway has found clear evidence to support elements of Heyerdahl's hypothesis.
In 1971 and 2008 he collected blood samples from Easter Islanders whose ancestors had not interbred with Europeans and other visitors to the island.

Prof Thorsby looked at the genes, which vary greatly from person to person.
Most of the islanders' genes were Polynesian, but a few of them also carried genes only previously found in indigenous American populations.

Prof Thorsby found that in some cases the Polynesian and American genes were shuffled together, the result of a process known "recombination".
This means the American genes would need to be around for a certain amount of time for it to happen.

Prof Thorsby can't put a precise date on it, but says it is likely that Americans reached Easter Island before it was "discovered" by Europeans in 1722.
Prof Thorsby believes there may have been a Kon-Tiki-style voyage from South America to Polynesia.
Alternatively, Polynesians may have travelled east to South America, and then returned.

However, Prof Thorsby said that his new evidence does not confirm Heyerdahl's theory that the islanders were originally all from South America.
The first settlers to Polynesia came from Asia, and they made the biggest contribution to the population, he said.
"Heyerdahl was wrong but not completely," he said.

The work was presented at a Royal Society talk in London and reported in the New Scientist.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/scie ... roots.html
 
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'Black drink': Scientists find evidence of ritual use of caffeinated brew at Cahokia
August 6th, 2012 in Other Sciences / Archaeology & Fossils

Residents of Cahokia, a massive pre-Columbian settlement near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, consumed "Black Drink" from special pottery vessels like this one. Credit: L. Brian Stauffer

People living 700 to 900 years ago in Cahokia, a massive settlement near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, ritually used a caffeinated brew made from the leaves of a holly tree that grew hundreds of miles away, researchers report.

The discovery – made by analyzing plant residues in pottery beakers from Cahokia and its surroundings – is the earliest known use of this "black drink" in North America. It pushes back the date by at least 500 years, and adds to the evidence that a broad cultural and trade network thrived in the Midwest and southeastern U.S. as early as A.D. 1050.

The new findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, highlight the cultural importance of Greater Cahokia, a city with as many as 50,000 residents in its heyday, the largest prehistoric North American settlement north of Mexico.

"This finding brings to us a whole wide spectrum of religious and symbolic behavior at Cahokia that we could only speculate about in the past," said Thomas Emerson, the director of the Illinois State Archaeological Survey and a collaborator on the study with researchers at the University of Illinois, the University of New Mexico, Millsaps College in Mississippi and Hershey Technical Center in Pennsylvania. The Archaeological Survey is part of the Prairie Research Institute at the U. of I.

University of New Mexico anthropology professor Patricia Crown and Hershey Technical Center chemist Jeffrey Hurst conducted the chemical analyses of plant residues on the Cahokian beakers, a project inspired in part by a similar analysis they led that found that people living in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, in A.D. 1100-1125 consumed liquid chocolate in special ceramic vessels found there.

Despite decades of research, archaeologists are at a loss to explain the sudden emergence of Greater Cahokia (which included settlements in present-day St. Louis, East St. Louis and the surrounding five counties) at about A.D. 1100 – and its rapid decline some 200 years later. A collection of ceremonial mounds, some of them immense, quickly rose from the floodplain more or less simultaneously on both sides of the Mississippi. The Cahokian mound builders spawned other short-lived settlements as far away as Wisconsin, Emerson said.

Greater Cahokia appears to have been a crossroads of people and cultural influences. The presence of the black drink there – made from a plant that grows hundreds of miles away, primarily on the Gulf coast – is evidence of a substantial trade network with the southeast.

"I would argue that it was the first pan-Indian city in North America, because there are both widespread contacts and emigrants," Emerson said. "The evidence from artifacts indicates that people from a broad region (what is now the Midwest and southeast U.S.) were in contact with Cahokia. This is a level of population density, a level of political organization that has not been seen before in North America."

How this early experiment in urban living held together for as long as it did has remained a mystery.

The pre-Columbian settlement at Cahokia was the largest city in North America north of Mexico, with as many as 50,000 people living there at its peak. Credit: Painting by Lloyd K. Townsend. Image courtesy of the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, Illinois.

"People have said, well, how would you integrate this?" Emerson said. "One of the obvious ways is through religion."

Europeans were the first to record the use of what they called "the black drink" by Native American men in the southeast. This drink, a dark tea made from the roasted leaves of the Yaupon holly (ilex vomitoria) contains caffeine.

Different groups used the black drink for different purposes, but for many it was a key component of a purification ritual before battle or other important events. Its high caffeine content – as much as six times that of strong coffee, by some estimates – induced sweating. Rapid consumption of large quantities of the hot drink allowed men to vomit, an important part of the purification ritual.

At the same time the black drink was in use at Cahokia, a series of sophisticated figurines representing agricultural fertility, the underworld and life-renewal were carved from local pipestone. Most of these figures were associated with temple sites.

"We postulate that this new pattern of agricultural religious symbolism is tied to the rise of Cahokia – and now we have black drink to wash it down with," Emerson said.

The beakers, too, appear to be a Cahokia invention. They look like single-serving, cylindrical pots with a handle on one side and a tiny lip on the other. Many are carved with symbols representing water and the underworld and are reminiscent of the whelk shells used in black drink ceremonies (recorded hundreds of years later) in the southeast, where the Yaupon holly grows.

The researchers chose to look for evidence of black drink in the beakers because the pots were distinctive and fairly rare, Emerson said. The team found key biochemical markers of the drink – theobromine, caffeine and ursolic acid – in the right proportions to each other in each of the eight beakers they tested. The beakers date from A.D. 1050 to 1250 and were collected at ritual sites in and around Cahokia.

Cahokia was ultimately a failed experiment. The carving of figurines and the mound building there came to an abrupt end, and the population dwindled to zero. But its influence carried on. Cahokian influences in art, religion and architecture are seen as far away as Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Wisconsin, Emerson said.

More information: "Ritual Black Drink Consumption at Cahokia," PNAS, 2012.

Provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

"'Black drink': Scientists find evidence of ritual use of caffeinated brew at Cahokia." August 6th, 2012.
http://phys.org/news/2012-08-black-scie ... nated.html
 

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Evidence of Viking Outpost Found in Canada

While digging in the ruins of a centuries-old building on Baffin Island (map), far above the Arctic Circle, a team led by Sutherland, adjunct professor of archaeology at Memorial University in Newfoundland and a research fellow at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, found some very intriguing whetstones. Wear grooves in the blade-sharpening tools bear traces of copper alloys such as bronze—materials known to have been made by Viking metalsmiths but unknown among the Arctic's native inhabitants.

Taken together with her earlier discoveries, Sutherland's new findings further strengthen the case for a Viking camp on Baffin Island. "While her evidence was compelling before, I find it convincing now," said James Tuck, professor emeritus of archaeology, also at Memorial University.
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news ... utherland/
 
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