Cover

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Half Title, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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Preface

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pp. xi-xvi

In 1955, when I was entering my senior year in high school, unbeknownst to me the American Museum of Natural History archaeologist Gordon F. Ekholm wrote the following: “For many years it has been tacitly accepted as one of the basic tenets of Americanist [archaeological] studies that everything above the level of the simpler cultures such as could have existed at an early time in the subarctic regions of Siberia and Alaska ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xvii-xviii

The first acknowledgment must go to the late George F. Carter (1912–2004), whose influences were formative and fundamental, and whose early enthusiasm about this book project was gratifying. In addition to inspiring me with his publications, the late Thor Heyerdahl also made one or two observations on my early work. ...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-12

On the morning of October 12, 1492—some half a century after Johannes Gutenberg had published the first book printed with moveable type, and thirty-nine years after the Turks had taken Constantinople and thus ended the last political vestige of the Roman Empire, and the same number of years after the Battle of Castillon at which the cannons of the French had decisively ended ...

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Part I. Intellectual Obstacles to the Notion of Early Transoceanic Contacts

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pp. 13-14

In 2010, the maverick archaeologist Alice Beck Kehoe wrote, frustratedly, “For mainstream archaeologists, pre-Columbian contacts have been a dead issue. Primitive people couldn’t cross oceans, that settles it.” As a more conventional archaeologist expressed this attitude: “I find it more difficult to accept claims of diffusion when the alleged recipient culture ...

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1. The Myth of the Oceans as Uncrossable Barriers

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pp. 15-26

It is not surprising that many have questioned whether it is reasonable to suppose that pre-Columbian humans, voluntarily or by accident, crossed up to 12,500 miles of uncharted, storm-wracked open ocean, in numbers sufficient to have had demographic, cultural, or historical impacts of any importance. Most scholars would reply with a resounding “No way.” ...

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2. Before Columbus, the Earth was “Flat”? Flat Wrong

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pp. 27-31

Most of us were told in school that it was a flash of insight by Christopher Columbus that taught humanity that the world was round, not flat. However, that notion is entirely erroneous. Any reasonably sophisticated pragmatic observer who notes that the higher one’s viewpoint, the farther one can see, or who observes a ship pass over the horizon or the land “sink” into the sea ...

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3. Conveyor Belts of the Seas: The Prevailing Winds and Currents

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pp. 32-42

A fundamental matter to keep in mind is that measured distance is not the ultimate issue with respect to ocean crossings; rather, sailing time (along with ease) is, and in these terms effective ocean width is not the same in opposing directions, in every part, or at every season. ...

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4. Staying Alive While Crossing the Deep

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pp. 43-47

It is a long, long way across the span of the Pacific Ocean, and even the width of the Atlantic is far from negligible. How could voyagers traveling in boats of limited size and cargo capacity possibly have carried with them sufficient fresh water and food to sustain them during the prolonged time needed to traverse the deep? That is the question that must next be addressed. ...

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5. Getting the Drift: Accidental Voyages and Discoveries

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pp. 48-56

Humans in ancient times unquestionably crossed wide waters both by design and by accident. In fact, fortuitous discovery may have played a fundamental role in expanding sailors’ horizons and leading eventually to purposive crossings on a regular or episodic basis. This chapter looks at unintentional drifts impelled by maritime winds and currents. ...

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6. No Plague in the Land? The Alleged American Absence of Old World Communicable Diseases

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pp. 57-70

As mentioned in the introduction, the lethal effects of Old World diseases introduced post-1492 to the immunity-lacking native populations of the Americas were devastating.1 Beyond human demography, however, apparent presences and absences of certain specific infectious diseases in the two hemispheres raise relevant issues. Readers routinely encounter statements to the effect ...

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7. Why Most Domesticated Animals and Plants Stayed Home

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pp. 71-79

When something important is missing it is said to be “conspicuous by its absence.” A matter that has puzzled many when considering the possibility of early transoceanic influences is the question of why, despite numerous cultural commonalities, the pre-Columbian New World nevertheless lacked many important domesticated animals, crop plants, and technologies present in the Old. ...

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8. Low Tech: The Absences of Many Old World Inventions in the New World

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pp. 80-94

From at least the time of the famed Columbia University anthropologist Franz Boas (1858–1942), the absence of a number of key (as well as less notable) Old World culture traits in the New World has been seen as telling. In 1961, George Kubler summed up the dominant point of view of his time (and to a great extent of today) when he wrote, ...

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9. More on the Whys of Technological Absences

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pp. 95-102

As the previous two chapters have highlighted, those skeptical of diffusion tend to make much of cultural absences, especially those involving useful organisms and technologies. For example, the British archaeologists Paul Bahn and John Flenley wrote, “The total absence and ignorance of woven textiles on Easter Island is damning evidence against any link with Peru ...

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10. The Mystery of the Missing Artifacts

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pp. 103-119

The wakes of watercraft are ephemeral and do not endure to give witness to their makers’ passages. Thus other indications of voyaging and contacts must be sought. In this quest, we turn first to archaeology—keeping in mind, though, that, as the archaeologist Betty Meggers put it, “only a minute fraction of the archaeological residue of any culture has ever been collected, ....

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11. The Supposed Silence of the Historical Record

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pp. 120-129

While archaeologists require physical remains as evidence, for historians the written record is the evidence. It is through study of documents that standard history is written. Owing to a dearth of such records, many historians give up on pre-Columbian America, ignoring oral traditions, archaeology, and geographic distributions as avenues for reconstructing the past. ...

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12. The “Silent” Historical Record Speaks: Documents Possibly Describing Pre-Columbian Crossings

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pp. 130-142

All of the aforementioned forces leading to loss and destruction of records notwithstanding, it may still be asked whether at least some recorded hint of overseas knowledge should not be expected to have survived, had such knowledge existed. Surely, some may say, absolute historical silence about something so important is completely implausible. ...

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Part II. Means: The Types and Availabilities of Watercraft and Navigation

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pp. 143-144

In part II, we turn to the means that would have been required to effect ancient ocean crossings: watercraft and navigation. In his 1994 A History of Working Watercraft of the Western World, Thomas Gillmer contended that, with a very few exceptions, “archaeologists, by the very nature of their discipline, are confined to the activity of land-based inhabitants. ...

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13. Some Nautical Myths and Issues

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pp. 145-151

Conventionally, archaeologists and historians view ships and sailing as having commenced on the Nile River, expanded to the Red Sea and Indian Ocean, passed to the Phoenicians and their Carthaginian successors and to the Minoans and Greeks, with know-how accumulated over the millennia in the Mediterranean eventually culminating in the caravels of Portugal and Spain that finally allowed humans to embark upon the open ocean. ...

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14. The Myth of the Inadequacy of Pre-Columbian Watercraft

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pp. 152-166

Another major maritime myth is that the larger the body of water crossed, the larger the vessel must be to cross it. This myth includes the contention that the watercraft available to pre-Columbian peoples were too tiny to permit long-distance voyaging, were too weak and unstable to survive ocean waves, and lacked the kinds and numbers of sails and the appropriate rigging needed for sufficiently expeditious crossings. ...

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15. It’s Earlier Than You Think: The Antiquity of Seagoing Watercraft

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pp. 167-172

Humans are terrestrial creatures, physically structured to allow pedal land travel. True, people also possess the structural requirements for swimming, but swimmable distance is strictly limited (to about 40 continuous miles for a very fit person lacking professional training and special equipment) and many, perhaps most, people around the world, even a good percentage of sailors, ...

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16. Have Sail, Will Travel: The Origins, Types, and Capabilities of Sails and Rigs

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pp. 173-181

The invention of the sail was one of humankind’s most significant accomplishments, rivaling if not outweighing in importance the invention of the vehicular wheel. The Australian Polynesianist archaeologist Atholl Anderson considered its emergence to have been “no less significant than Neolithicization and urbanization.”1 ...

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17. Products of the Paleolithic: Rafts

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pp. 182-191

Much of what we know about folk watercraft we owe to that indefatigable marine biologist James Hornell, whose Water Transport (1946) is the classic source, and to his collaborator, the Cambridge anthropologist A. C. Haddon. Also most worthy of mention is the nineteenth-century French Admiral Pierre Pâris’s 1843 Essai sur la construction navale des peuples extra-européens 1 ...

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18. Out of the Ice Age: Skin Boats of the North

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pp. 192-195

Although rafts were effective in many ways, their very nature provided little potential for further evolution. Later in time than rafts but still very anciently, displacement-hulled craft came into existence, ultimately ramifying into a variety of kinds of vessels, including those that led up to modern wooden ships. ...

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19. Mesolithic and Neolithic Legacies: Dugouts and Lashed-Plank Watercraft

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pp. 196-205

Later in time than rafts and skin boats but still very anciently, wooden displacement-hulled craft, an entirely distinct tradition, came into existence. Unlike rafts and hide craft, early wooden-hulled boats possessed the potential of much further development and ultimately diversified into a variety of kinds of vessels, including those that led up to contemporary ships. ...

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20. Hulled Wooden Ships East and West: The Junk and the Nao

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pp. 206-216

Like rafts, the smaller sailing-canoes are essentially “wet” craft on which the travelers are subject to being soaked by wave, spray, and leakage. This is acceptable in the warm tropics. However, farther poleward “dry” craft are distinctly preferable, and outrigger canoes are generally absent to the north of Vietnam’s Annam, although they once were present in Taiwan. ...

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21. Modern Experimental Voyages: The Empirical Approach

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pp. 217-232

As pointed out in chapters 1 and 14, scholars doubting transoceanic contacts long contended—and many still do—that early watercraft were incapable of traversing the great seas, at least under any circumstance other than a rare fluke. If the oceans could not be crossed, they argued, then cultural similarities on the two sides of said seas had, at least for the most part, ...

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22. Asea without a Compass: Celestial Way-Finding

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pp. 233-245

As has been observed in previous chapters, many scholars—ignoring the feats of the Polynesians and others—have alleged that mariners could not have found their way around the vast open oceans without charts and without the compass and other instruments of relatively modern navigation. Even as early as the seventeenth century, the poet Abraham Cowley could versify, ...

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23. A Matter of Course: Seamarks and Haven-Finding

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pp. 246-256

The terms “way-finding” and “haven-finding” refer to the art of traveling toward and locating the specific destinations that one is seeking and include the celestial navigation discussed in chapter 22. In the present chapter, the emphasis is on what is known as adventitious or secondary aids—noncelestial, noninstrumental methods of ascertaining one’s general location and direction ..

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Part III. Motives for Ocean Crossings

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pp. 257-258

As we have seen, accidental transoceanic drift voyages almost certainly took place and almost certainly left their marks on pre-Columbian New World cultures. However, most diffusionists propose much more than this: major cultural influences, as a consequence of intentional, likely often round-trip voyaging. ...

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24. Repellants

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pp. 259-265

Historically, human movement has often been motivated by negative phenomena, forces presenting incentives to leave a locale. These expulsive factors made life elsewhere—almost anywhere, perhaps—more attractive than remaining at home, at least for some members of the population. Fear and suffering were the basic emotions—of or from death, hurt, hardship, obligation, ..

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25. Attractants

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pp. 266-282

As mentioned in the previous chapter, “pull” factors are often the other side of the “push” coin: positive expectations of attaining freedom, security, power, or position to replace depression or oppression. Pull factors are attractants that draw migrants from home—for example, the “God, gold, and glory” of early modern European imperialism. ...

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Part IV. Opportunity for Exchange: Concrete Demonstrations of Contacts

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pp. 283-284

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, ...

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26. Shared Physical Materials, Domesticated Animals, and Diseases

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pp. 285-297

Distantly transported natural items and substances compose one category of noncultural phenomena. A professional skeptic concerning diffusionism, the archaeologist Kenneth L. Feder, acknowledged that “a nonnative raw material found in firm archaeological context anywhere in the New World in an undisturbed stratigraphic layer dated to before Columbus’s voyages ...

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27. Shared Cultigens: From New into Old (World)

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pp. 298-313

In the previous chapter, we saw that there are cases—open and shut, in the instance of the chicken—to be made for the pre-Columbian presence of certain domesticated animal species in the “wrong” hemisphere, and that, being genetic entities, not man-made inventions, demonstration of any such presence suggests, more than strongly, human carriage. ...

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28. Cultivated Plants: Old World Cropping Up in the New

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pp. 314-319

As seen in the previous chapter, an impressive number of New World species of cultivated plants were taken to the Old World before the Great Age of Discovery. We now look at the evidence for such exchange in the reciprocal direction and shall find, perhaps surprisingly, that fewer species are involved. ...

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29. Tobacco, Coca, and Cannabis: The Mummies Speak, but the Scientists Stand Mute

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pp. 320-328

In the previous two chapters, we surveyed cultivated plant species whose pre-Columbian presences in both hemispheres evidence transoceanic contacts. This chapter examines the particularly intriguing cases of three psychoactive drug plants. These are tobacco, coca, and cannabis.1 ...

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30. Old World Faces in New World Places

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pp. 329-339

Genes carry the chemical codes that control an organism’s basic nature, development, and functioning. Human beings, as biological entities, carry their genes with them as they migrate, and they introduce those genes when they mate with humans of the groups they encounter (studies of genetics have shown that males have done much more migrating than have females). ...

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31. Incongruous Genes in America

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pp. 340-356

As suggested in the previous chapter, the study of human genetics, including biochemical and, especially, molecular genetics, is technical and fast developing and seems to offer critical evidence relevant to transoceanic investigations. According to the American anthropologist Kenneth Tankersley, “genome variation is rapidly becoming a powerful tool that is leading toward a quantum leap ...

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Part V. Conclusions

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pp. 357-358

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. ...

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32. Mission Possible: Crossings Occurred

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pp. 359-362

In 1993, the American historian Jerry H. Bentley wrote, “The lack of solid, substantial information will make it impossible, probably forever, to develop definitive proofs either for or against theories of intercontinental diffusion.”1 However, the sum of the evidence discussed in chapters 26 through 31 seems definitive in demonstrating the reality of important transoceanic interactions, and, therefore, opportunity for diffusion of culture. ...

Notes

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pp. 363-398

Works Cited

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pp. 399-460

Index

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pp. 461-508