Pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact

Pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact is the proposed interaction between indigenous peoples of the Americas who settled the Americas before 10,000 BCE, and peoples of other continents (Africa, Asia, Europe, or Oceania), which occurred before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean in 1492.

Many such contacts have been proposed, based on historical accounts, archaeological finds, and cultural comparisons. However, claims of such contacts are controversial and debated, due in part to much ambiguous or circumstantial evidence cited by proponents. Only one instance of pre-Columbian European contact – the Norse settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, Canada c. 1000 CE – is regarded by scholars as demonstrated.[1] The scientific responses to other pre-Columbian contact claims range from serious consideration in peer-reviewed publications to dismissal as fringe science or pseudoarcheology.


Confirmed Norse trans-oceanic contact

L'Anse aux Meadows

Norse, or Viking journeys to North America are supported by both historical and archaeological evidence. A Norse colony in Greenland was established in the late 10th century, and lasted until the mid 15th century. In 1961, archaeologists Helge and Anne Ingstad uncovered the remains of a Norse settlement at the L'Anse aux Meadows archaeological site on the northernmost tip of Newfoundland, Canada. A connection is frequently drawn between L'Anse aux Meadows and the Vinland sagas. These are written versions of older oral histories that recount the temporary settlement of an area to the west of Greenland, called Vinland, led by a Norse explorer, Leif Erikson. It is possible that Vinland may have been Newfoundland. Finds on Baffin Island suggest a Norse presence there after L'Anse aux Meadows was abandoned although it has also been suggested that these might be indigenous Dorset culture artifacts.[2]

Few sources describing contact between Native Americans and Norse settlers exist. Contact between the Thule people, ancestors of the modern Inuit, and Norse between the 12th or 13th centuries is known. The Norse Greenlanders called these incoming settlers "skrælingar". Conflict between the Greenlanders and the "skrælings" is recorded in the Icelandic Annals. The Vinland sagas, recorded hundreds of years later, describe trade and conflict with Native peoples, who were also termed skrælings, but may have been an entirely different people. Archaeological evidence for contact in Greenland is limited, but seems to indicate that the Norse did not substantially affect indigenous adaptations, technologies, or cultures.

Around 80 Icelanders today have a genetic marking of an Amerindian woman who may have settled in Iceland in the 11th century. It is hypothesized this may have been a woman taken back to Europe by early Norse explorers of the Americas.[3]

Possible Polynesian trans-oceanic contact

Between 300 and 1200 CE, Polynesians in canoes spread throughout the Polynesian Triangle going as far as Easter Island, New Zealand and Hawaii, and perhaps on to the Americas. The sweet potato, which is native to the Americas, was widespread in Polynesia when Europeans first reached the Pacific. Sweet potato has been radiocarbon-dated in the Cook Islands to 1000 CE, and current thinking is that it was brought to central Polynesia c. 700 CE and spread across Polynesia from there.[4] It has been suggested[5] that it was brought by Polynesians who had traveled to South America and back, or that South Americans brought it to the Pacific. It is unlikely that the plant could successfully float across the ocean by natural means.[6]

Chicken bones found at a the site El Arenal near the Arauco Peninsula in Chile support a pre-Colombian introduction of chicken to South America.[7] The bones found in Chile were radiocarbon-dated to between 1304 and 1424, before the arrival of the Spanish. DNA sequences taken were matched to those of chickens in American Samoa and Tonga, and dissimilar to European chicken.[8][9][10] However, a later report in the same journal looking at the same mtDNA concluded that the Chilean chicken specimen clusters with the same European/Indian subcontinental/Southeast Asian sequences, providing no support for a Polynesian introduction of chickens to South America.[11]

Geneticist Erik Thorsby and colleagues have published two studies in the peer-reviewed journal Tissue Antigens that evidence an Amerindian genetic contribution to the Eastern Island population, determining that it was probably introduced prior to European discovery of the island. [12][13]

Material evidence

A team of academics headed by the University of York's Mummy Research Group and BioArch,[14] while examining a Peruvian mummy at the Bolton Museum, found it had been embalmed using a tree resin. Before this it was thought that Peruvian mummies were naturally preserved. The resin, found to be that of an Araucaria conifer related to the 'monkey puzzle tree', was from a variety found only in Oceania and probably New Guinea. "Radiocarbon dating of both the resin and body by the University of Oxford's radiocarbon laboratory confirmed they were essentially contemporary, and date to around CE1200."[15]

In 1995, archaeobotanist Hakon Hjelmqvist published an article in Svensk Botanisk Tidskrift presenting evidence for the presence of chili peppers, a New World crop, in Europe in the pre-Columbian era.[16] According to Hjelmqvist, archaeologists at a dig in St Botulf in Lund found a Capsicum frutescens in a layer from the 13th century. Hjelmqvist thought it came from Asia. Hjelmqvist also claims that Capsicum was described by the Greek Theophrastus (370–286 BCE) in his Historia Plantarum, and in other sources. Around the first century CE, the Roman poet Martialis (Martial) mentioned "Piperve crudum" (raw pepper) in Liber XI, XVIII, allegedly describing them as long and containing seeds (a description which seems to fit chili peppers but could also fit long pepper, which was well known to ancient Romans), though this description is missing from at least some versions of the epigram.

Traces of coca and nicotine found in some Egyptian mummies have led some to speculate that Ancient Egyptians may have traveled to the New World. The initial discovery was made by a German toxicologist, Svetlana Balabanova, after examining the mummy of a female priestess called Henut Taui. Follow-up tests of the hair shaft, performed to rule out contamination, gave the same results.[17] The significance of these finds lies in the fact that both coca and tobacco plants are indigenous to the Americas and thought not to have existed in Africa until sometime after the voyages of Columbus.[18][19] Subsequent examination of numerous Sudanese mummies undertaken by Balabanova mirrored what was found in the mummy of Henut Taui.[20] Balabanova suggested that the tobacco may be accounted for since it may have also been known in China and Europe, as indicated by analysis run on human remains from those respective regions. Balabanova proposed that such plants native to the general area may have developed independently, but have since gone extinct.[20] Other explanations include fraud, though curator Alfred Grimm of the Egyptian Museum in Munich disputes this.[20] Skeptical of Balabanova's findings, Rosalie David Keeper of Egyptology at the Manchester Museum had similar tests performed on samples taken from the Manchester mummy collection and reported that two of the tissue samples and one hair sample did test positive for nicotine.[20] Sources of nicotine other than tobacco and sources of cocaine in the Old World are discussed by the British biologist Duncan Edlin.[21] Mainstream scholars remain skeptical, and do not see this as proof of ancient contact between Africa and the Americas, especially as there may be possible Old World sources.[22][23] Two attempts to replicate Balbanova finds of cocaine failed, suggesting "that either Balabanova and her associates are misinterpreting their results or that the samples of mummies tested by them have been mysteriously exposed to cocaine."[24]

A re-examination in the 1970s of the mummy of Ramesses II revealed the presence of fragments of tobacco leaves in its abdomen. This became a popular topic in fringe literature and the media and was seen as proof of contact between Ancient Egypt and the New World. The investigator, Maurice Bucaille, noted that when the mummy was unwrapped in 1886 the abdomen was left open and that "it was no longer possible to attach any importance to the presence inside the abdominal cavity of whatever material was found there, since the material could have come from the surrounding environment."[25] Following the renewed discussion of tobacco sparked by Balabnova's research and its mention in a 2000 publication by Rosalie David, a study in the journal Antiquity suggested that reports on both tobacco and cocaine in mummies "ignored their post-excavation histories" and pointed out that the mummy of Ramesses II had been moved five times between 1883 and 1975.[23]

Another discovery in the mummy of Ramesses II also led to suggestions of early contact. This was an adult Lasioderma serricorne, a beetle also known as the 'tobacco beetle'. It was first described in American dried plants in 1798 but not recorded as a species until 1886. It may be of tropical origin and has been found in Tutankhamun's tomb, Bronze Age Akrotiri and Amarna.[23]

Linguistic evidence

Two lexical items are shared by Polynesian languages and language of South America. One is the name of the sweet potato, which was domesticated in the New World. Easter Island kumara and Hawaiian ʻuala are cognate with Quechua and Aymara k’umar ~ k’umara. A possible second is the word for 'stone axe', Easter Island toki, Mapuche toki, and further afield, Yurimangui totoki 'axe'. The word for sweet potato, at least, "constitutes near proof of incidental contact between inhabitants of the Andean region and the South Pacific", though the word for axe is not as convincing. That is, there appears to have been trade between Polynesia and South America, but not a mass movement of peoples.[26]

Anthropological evidence

Originally discovered in 1959 near Mexico City, the near complete skeleton known as Peñon Woman III was re-examined and carbon dated in 2002 by British scientists from Liverpool's John Moore's University and Oxford's Research Laboratory of Archaeology and found to be approximately 13,000 years old, making it at the time the oldest skeleton found in the Americas. Part of a cache of 27 early humans stored in the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City that were previously undated by modern methods, the two oldest skulls, that of Peñon woman and another, were also realized to be clearly dolichocephalic, long and narrow-headed, both distinctly Caucasian-like in appearance. The younger ones were brachycephalic, short and broad, typical of prehistoric Native Americans and their Mongoloid ancestors from Asia.[27][28][29]

Team leader Silvia Gonzalez originally suggested Penon Woman III might be a descendant of the ancient Ainu people of Japan who may have made their way to the Americas by island hopping in boats.[29] She later suggested a relation to another possible candidate, the seafaring Pericu found as early as 3,000 years ago throughout the Baja California region, who are believed to have come from the same genetic line as modern Australian Aborigines.[28] Regarding the possibility of European origins, Gonzales said in 2002 "At the moment it points to that as being likely. They were definitely not Mongoloid in appearance. They were from somewhere else. As to whether they were European, at this point in time we cannot say 'no'"." Chris Stringer, who specializes in human origins at the London Natural History Museum, disagreed, saying "I personally haven't found it very convincing,;;Most humans in the world at that time were long headed and it doesn't surprise me that Peñon woman at 13,000 years old is also long headed." [30]

Andrés Reséndez and Brian M. Kemp reported in 2005 that they received a personal communication from Angélica González-Oliver who said she performed mtDNA analysis of Penon Woman III which she concluded belonged to Haplogroup A, which is common in Mesoamerica, but generally absent in groups of the American Southwest.[31]

Fringe theories

Several scenarios of pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact have been proposed without gaining acceptance in mainstream scholarship.


14 and 15th century Europe

Carvings in Rosslyn Chapel, Scotland which some claim depict Indian corn (maize).

Henry I Sinclair, Earl of Orkney and feudal baron of Roslin (c. 1345 – c. 1400) was a Scottish nobleman. He is best known today because of a modern legend that he took part in explorations of Greenland and North America almost 100 years before Christopher Columbus. William Thomson, in his History of Orkney, wrote: "It has been Earl Henry's singular fate to enjoy an ever-expanding posthumous reputation which has very little to do with anything he achieved in his lifetime."[32] Henry was the grandfather of William Sinclair, 1st Earl of Caithness, the builder of Rosslyn Chapel (near Edinburgh, Scotland). The authors Robert Lomas and Christopher Knight believe some carvings in the chapel to be ears of New World corn or maize in the chapel.[33] This crop was unknown in Europe at the time of the chapel's construction, and was not cultivated there until several hundred years later. Knight and Lomas view these carvings as evidence supporting the idea that Henry Sinclair, travelled to the Americas well before Columbus. Specialists in Mediaeval architecture interpret these carvings as stylised depictions of wheat, strawberries or lilies.[34][35] Sinclair's voyage is supposed to have taken more or less the same route as that of the Norse, i.e. across the North Atlantic, by Iceland and Greenland, and some conjecture that this is evidence that this route was never forgotten.

Some have conjectured that Columbus was able to persuade the Catholic Monarchs of Castile and Aragon to support his planned voyage only because they were aware of some recent earlier voyage across the Atlantic. Some suggest that Columbus himself visited Canada or Greenland before 1492, because according to Bartolomé de las Casas he wrote he had sailed 100 leagues past an island he called Thule in 1477. Whether he actually did this and what island he visited, if any, is uncertain. Columbus is thought to have visited Bristol in 1476.[36] Bristol was also the port from which John Cabot sailed in 1497, crewed mostly by Bristol sailors. In a letter of late 1497 or early 1498 the English merchant John Day wrote to Columbus about Cabot's discoveries, saying that land found by Cabot was "discovered in the past by the men from Bristol who found 'Brasil' as your lordship knows".[37] There may be records of expeditions from Bristol to find the "isle of Brazil" in 1480 and 1481.[38] Trade between Bristol and Iceland is well documented from the mid 15th century.

Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés records several such legends in his General y natural historia de las Indias of 1526, which includes biographical information on Columbus. He discusses the then-current story of a Spanish caravel that was swept off its course while on its way to England, and wound up in a foreign land populated by naked tribesmen. The crew gathered supplies and made its way back to Europe, but the trip took several months and the captain and most of the men died before reaching land. The ship's pilot, a man called Alonso Sánchez, supposed to be from somewhere in the Iberian peninsula (Oviedo says different versions have him as Portuguese, Basque, or Andalusian), and very few others finally made it to Portugal, but all were very ill. Columbus was a good friend of the pilot, and took him to be treated in his own house, and the pilot described the land they had seen and marked it on a map before dying. People in Oviedo's time knew this story in several versions, but Oviedo regarded it as myth.[39]

In 1925 Soren Larsen wrote a book claiming that a joint Danish-Portuguese expedition landed in Newfoundland or Labrador in 1473 and again in 1476. Larsen claimed that Didrik Pining and Hans Pothorst served as captains, while João Vaz Corte-Real and the possibly mythical John Scolvus served as navigators, accompanied by Alvaro Martins.[40] Nothing beyond circumstantial evidence has been found to support Larsen's claims.[41]


Early Chinese accounts of Muslim expeditions state that Muslim sailors reached a region called "Mu-Lan-Pi". "Mu-Lan-Pi" is normally identified as Spain, though some fringe theories hold that it is instead some part of the Americas.[42][43] The sources for this claim are Ling-wai tai-ta (1178) by Chou Ch'ii-fei and Chu-fan chihg (1225) by Chao Jukua, together referred to as the "Sung Document".

One supporter of the interpretation of "Mu-Lan-Pi" as part of the Americas was historian Hui-lin Li in 1961,[42][43] and while Joseph Needham is also open to the possibility, he doubts that Arabic ships at the time would have been able to withstand a return journey over such a long distance across the Atlantic Ocean and points out that a return journey would have been impossible without knowledge of prevailing winds and currents. Needham states that there is no evidence that these were known five centuries before the Portuguese used them.[44]

Irish and Welsh legend

The legend of Saint Brendan, an Irish monk, involves a fantastical journey into the Atlantic ocean in search of Paradise in the 6th century. Since the discovery of the New World, various authors have tried to link the Brendan myth with an early discovery of America. The voyage was recreated in recent times by Tim Severin.

According to British legend, Madoc was a prince from Wales who explored the Americas as early as 1170. While most scholars consider this legend to be untrue, it was used as justification for British claims to the Americas, based on the notion of a Briton arriving before other European nationalities.[45] A memorial tablet erected at Fort Morgan in Mobile Bay, Alabama reads: "In memory of Prince Madog, a Welsh explorer, who landed on the shores of Mobile Bay in 1170 and left behind, with the Indians, the Welsh language." One tribe which was said to be Welsh-speaking was the Mandan.

Barry Fell claims that Ogham writing has been found carved into stones in the Virginias,[46] but grave doubts about these claims have been raised[47] and none of these finds have ever been confirmed by credible linguists, epigraphers, or archaeologists.

Carthaginians and Romans

Evidence of contacts with the civilizations of Classical Antiquity – primarily with the Carthaginians and the Roman Empire, but sometimes also with other cultures of the age – have been based on isolated alleged archaeological finds in American sites that originated in the Old World.

Roman Presense in the Canary Islands

The established presence of Romans and probably Phoenicians in the Canary Islands has led some researchers to suggest that the islands may have been used as a stepping-off point for such journeys, as the islands lie along the same favorable sea route taken by Columbus on his first voyage to the Americas.[48]


Using gold obtained by expansion of the African coastal trade down the west African coast, Carthage minted gold staters in 350 BC bearing a pattern, in the reverse exergue of the coins, interpreted as a map of the Mediterranean with the Americas shown to the west across the Atlantic. [49] Reports of the discovery of putative Carthaginian coins in North America are based on modern replicas, that may have been buried at sites from Massachusetts to Nebraska in order to confuse and mislead archaeological investigation. [50]

Tecaxic-Calixtlahuaca head

A small terracotta Roman head, showing a beard and European-like features, was found in 1933 (in the Toluca Valley, 72 kilometres southwest of Mexico City) in a burial offering under three intact floors of a pre-colonial building dated between 1476 and 1510. The artifact has been studied by Roman art authority Bernard Andreae, director emeritus of the German Institute of Archaeology in Rome, Italy, and Austrian anthropologist Robert von Heine-Geldern, both of whom stated that the style of the artifact was compatible with small Roman sculptures of the 2nd century.[51]

The identification of the head as Roman work from the II-III century A.D. has been further confirmed by Bernard Andreae, a director emeritus of the German Institute of Archaeology in Rome, Italy. According to Andreae "[the head] is without any doubt Roman, and the lab analysis has confirmed that it is ancient. The stylistic examination tells us more precisely that it is a Roman work from around the II century A.D., and the hairstyle and the shape of the beard present the typical traits of the Severian emperors period [193-235 A.D.], exactly in the ‘fashion’ of the epoch." (Andreae cited in Domenici 2000: 29). On the other hand, an examination of the field notes of the archaeologist in charge of the excavation as well as the site itself have not revealed, in either case, signs of possible disturbances of the context (Hristov and Genovés 1999).[52]

In 1995 a thermoluminescence age test was performed at the Forschungsstelle Archäometrie in Heidelberg, Germany which set the age limits for the head at 1780 ± 400 B.P.. In 1999, anthropologists Romeo Hristov and Santiago Genovés re-examined the evidence and came to the conclusion "A review of the circumstances of this discovery did not demonstrate any sign of possible post-Columbian intrusion and permits the acceptance of the object as the first hard evidence from Mesoamerica to support pre-Hispanic transoceanic contacts between the Old and New Worlds." [53][54] If genuine and if not placed there after 1492 (the pottery found with it dates to between 1476 and 1510)[55] the find provides evidence for at least a one-time contact between the Old and New Worlds.[56]

According to Michael E. Smith [57] of Arizona State University, the late John Paddock, a leading Mesoamerican scholar, used to tell classes he taught the artifact was planted as a joke by Hugo Moedano, one of the students who originally worked on the site. Despite speaking with individuals who knew García Payón (the original discoverer) and Moedano, Smith says he has been unable to confirm or reject this claim. Though Smith remains skeptical, he concedes the possibility the head was a genuinely buried Postclassic offering at Calixtlahuaca cannot be ruled out at this time.[58]


In 1982, Brazilian newspapers reported that fragments of amphorae had been recovered by treasure hunter and underwater archaeologist Robert F. Marx, from the bottom of Guanabara Bay, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Elizabeth Lyding Will of the University of Massachusetts identified the finds as being Roman, manufactured at Kouass (Dehar Jedid) in Morocco, and dated them to the 3rd century. A bottom survey by Harold E. Edgerton, an MIT researcher, located what Marx thought to be remains of two disintegrating ships. These claims were disputed when Américo Santarelli, an Italian diver living in Rio de Janeiro, revealed in a book that he had 18 such amphorae made by a local potter, and had placed 16 of them himself at various places in the bay. He said that he intended to recover the encrusted amphorae later, to decorate his house at Angra dos Reis. Marx claimed that the Brazilian government prevented any additional research and that the Brazilian Navy dumped sand over the site in the bay to ensure that no further artifacts would ever be recovered, a charge the Navy denied. Marx was prohibited from working in Brazil after Brazilian officials accused him of selling contraband goods, and all permits for underwater exploration and digging were cancelled pending revised legislation.[59]


Claims of contact have often been based on occurrences of similar motifs in art and decoration, or on depictions in one World of species or objects that are thought to be characteristic of the other World. Famous examples include a Maya statuette claimed to depict a bearded man rowing, a cross in bas-relief at the Temple of the Cross in Palenque, or a claimed depiction of a pineapple in a mosaic on the wall of a house at Pompeii.[60] Nevertheless, most of these finds can be explained as the result of mis-interpretation. The Palenque "cross", for instance, is almost certainly a stylized maize plant; and the Pompeii "pineapple" has been identified as a pine cone from the Umbrella pine tree which is native to the Mediterranean area. [61]

The dubious Bat Creek inscription and Los Lunas Decalogue Stone have led some to suggest the possibility that Jewish seafarers may have come to America after fleeing the Roman Empire at the time of the Jewish Revolt.[62]

The Fuente Magna, also known as the Fuente Bowl, is a large stone vessel, resembling a libation bowl. It is asserted to have been found in the 1950s by a worker from the CHUA Hacienda near Tiwanaku, west of La Paz, Bolivia.[63] The inscription has been claimed to contain Sumerian writing, and is said to resemble that on the later found Pokotia Monolith.[64][65] It resides in a small museum in Calle Jaén, La Paz, Bolivia; Museo de metales preciosos "Museo de Oro".[66]


Several Olmec colossal heads have features that some diffusionists link to African contact.

Proposed claims for an African presence in Mesoamerica rest on attributes of the Olmec culture, the presence of an African plant species in the Americas, and interpretations of certain European and Arabic historical accounts.

The Olmec culture existed from roughly 1200 BCE to 400 BCE. The idea that the Olmecs are related to Africans was suggested by José Melgar, who discovered the first colossal head at Hueyapan (now Tres Zapotes) in 1862 and subsequently published two papers that attributed this head to a "Negro race".[67] Authors such as Ivan van Sertima propose that these statues depict settlers or explorers from Africa.[68]

North African sources describe what some consider to be visits to the New World by a Mali fleet in 1311.[69] According to these sources, 400 ships from the Mali Empire discovered a land across the ocean to the West after being swept off course by ocean currents. Only one ship returned, and the captain reported the discovery of a western current to Prince Abubakari II; the off-course Mali fleet of 400 ships is said to have conducted both trade and warfare with the peoples of the western lands. It is claimed that Abubakari II abdicated his throne and set off to explore these western lands. In 1324, the Mali king Mansa Musa is said to have told the Arabic historian, Al-Umari that "his predecessors had launched two expeditions from West Africa to discover the limits of the Atlantic Ocean."

In his book They Came Before Columbus African Studies professor Ivan van Sertima of Rutgers University assembled what he viewed as evidence in support of a pre-Columbian African presence in the Americas. His work has been criticised by anti-afrocentrists in a lengthy 1997 Journal of Current Anthropology article titled "Robbing Native American Cultures: Van Sertima's Afrocentricity and the Olmecs".[70]


Some researchers have argued that the Olmec civilization came into existence with the help of Chinese refugees, particularly at the end of the Shang dynasty.[71] In 1975, Betty Meggers of the Smithsonian Institution argued that the Olmec civilization originated due to Shang Chinese influences around 1200 BCE.[72] In a 1996 book, Mike Xu, with the aid of Chen Hanping, claimed that celts from La Venta bear Chinese characters.[73][74] These claims are unsupported by mainstream Mesoamerican researchers.[75]

Fresco of woman holding flower similar to Frangipani from Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, 5th century

A group of Chinese Buddhist missionaries led by Hui Shen before 500 CE claimed to have visited a location called Fusang. Although Chinese mapmakers placed this on the Asian coast, more recently some have argued, by selecting elements which are similar to some elements of the California coast, that this was America.[76]

In his book 1421: The Year China Discovered the World, the British author Gavin Menzies made the controversial claim that the fleet of Zheng He arrived in America in 1421.[77] Menzies' assertions have been found to be unconvincing by professional historians.[78][79][80][81] Menzies sees stylistic similarities between the decorative motifs of ancient China and those of the ancient Maya, and the high value that both placed on jade.[77]


An image in a temple in southern India depicts a goddess holding what is claimed by some to be maize,[82] a crop native to the Americas; the image is usually taken to be a native grass like sorghum or pearl millet, which bear some resemblance to maize, or a mythical fruit bearing pearls known in Sanskrit as "Muktaphala".[83]


In Peru, long-term mitochondrial DNA analysis of Moche remains from 1100 yA, taken from sacrifical victims and other mummies found in the Pómac Forest Historical Sanctuary, Peru, were compared with people living in Asian countries, and found to be related to peoples of Taiwan and Japan.[84]

Pottery associated with the Valdivia culture of coastal Ecuador dated to 3000–1500 BCE was said by Smithsonian archaeologist Betty Meggers to exhibit similarities to pottery produced during the Jomon period in Japan. Chronological and other problems have led most archaeologists to dismiss this.[85][86] The suggestion has been made that the resemblances (which are not complete) are simply due to the limited number of designs possible when incising clay.

Alaskan anthropologist Nancy Yaw Davis claims that the Zuni people of New Mexico exhibit linguistic and cultural similarities to the Japanese.[87] The Zuni language is a linguistic isolate, and Davis contends that the culture appears to differ from that of the surrounding natives in terms of blood type, endemic disease, and religion. Davis speculates that Buddhist priests or restless peasants from Japan may have crossed the Pacific in the 13th century, traveled to the American Southwest, and influenced Zuni society.[87]

Mormon archaeology

Izapa Stela 5

The Book of Mormon states that some ancient inhabitants of the New World are descendants of Semitic peoples, all of whom sailed from the Old World.

Mormon apologetics groups such as the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies attempt to vindicate these ideas.

Though discovered and documented first in the 1930s, Izapa Stela 5 is particularly noteworthy because of the controversy created by the proposition by Professor M. Wells Jakeman in 1953 that the stone was a record of the Book of Mormon tree of life vision,[88] which he considered of Old World origin.

Trans-oceanic travel from the New World

Túpac Inca Yupanqui, the tenth Inca emperor, is said to have led an expedition lasting between nine months to a year into the Pacific Ocean around 1480, which discovered two islands.[89] It has been suggested that the islands he visited are the Galápagos,[89] or possibly Polynesian islands (Easter Island).[citation needed] The story says that he brought back gold, brass, and the skin and jaw of a horse, none of which would have been found on islands in the south Pacific.

According to Bartolomé de las Casas, two dead bodies that looked like those of Indians were found on the Portuguese Flores Island in the Azores. He said he found that fact in Columbus' notes, and it was one reason why Columbus presumed that India was on the other side of the ocean.[90]

In Ferdinand Columbus' biography of his father Christopher, he says that in 1477 his father saw in Galway, Ireland two dead bodies which had washed ashore in their boat. The bodies and boat were of exotic appearance, and have been suggested to have been Inuit who had drifted off course.[91]


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  91. ^ Seaver (1995), p.208

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