Part V. Conclusions
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V Conclusions What we know is little. What we are ignorant of is immense. —last words of Pierre-­ Simon Laplace, 1825 In the course of our explorations of the human past in this volume, we have challenged the standard notion that the peoples of the New World were hermetically sealed off from those of the Old World until Christopher Columbus planted his sovereigns’ flag on a Bahamian island, or at least until Leif Eiríksson and associates set up camp in Newfoundland a few centuries earlier. In the process, we have come to recognize that this notion (although also influenced by nonevidentiary factors not delved into here) rests, to a considerable extent, upon overly simple, insufficiently tested suppositions and incompletely thought-­ through conclusions concerning both physical geography and human capabilities. It manifests as a lack of awareness of vari­ ous facts and concepts criti­ cal to making fully informed judgments regarding what really happened in earlier times. This lack of awareness reflects the relative recency of many of the relevant findings as well as the challenging range of academic disciplines in which these findings have been reported. However, it also follows from the fact that the great majority of scholars simply accept that significant pre-­ Columbian, pre-­ Norse transoceanic interactions not only remain unattested but were, in fact, impossible , rendering any full-­ fledged effort to investigate the matter an unproductive allocation of valuable time. I believe that this book has shown, however, that such a perception now cries out for very serious revision. The last chapter provides a concluding overview of what we have learned about this issue and where we need next to go. ...