Part IV. Opportunity for Exchange: Concrete Demonstrations of Contacts
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IV Opportunity for Exchange Concrete Demonstrations of Contacts Opportunity makes a thief. —Sir Francis Bacon, 1598 In 1973, R. C. Padden wrote, “In spite of exhaustive research . . . there is still no proof, no hard evidence on which to predicate pre-­ Columbian contact and diffusion from the Old World to the new or vice versa.”1 We attempt now, in part IV of this book, to see whether Padden’s assertion holds up four and a half decades later, to discover whether there may in fact be true proofs of interhemispheric encounters. If the reality of such interaction is verified, then so is the existence of opportunities for ancient cultural transfers, which, in turn, very much increases the likelihood that such transfers really occurred. Although explanation of cultural commonalities is our ultimate aim, cultural phenomena have less probative value in signaling contact than do certain phenomena that are at least partially nonhuman—are, that is, human-­ made, human-­ altered, or at least human-­ transported materials or creations that involve unique and diagnostic natural physical, chemical, or bio­ logi­ cal characteristics coupled with limited natural geographic distribution. Thus, although these items are cultural products, at least in some degree, they are nonetheless composed of substances or include entities possessing properties that lend themselves to study and identification beyond, and, to a great degree independently of, their human-­ cultural aspects. ...