In this week’s Commentary, James Randi gives us the report of a man whose little sister, a fourth-grader in Savannah, Georgia, is learning in class:
The man goes on to report that he and his family obtained some of the literature being used, or to be used, for this lesson. It suggests, as I understand it, that among other visits:
at some point before European discovery of South America. There’s also reference to the Treaty of Tordesillas, which allegedly includes information gleaned from African mariners about South America, and which dates back to 1494.
I am … skeptical. Randi posts this story to invite commentary and information from his readers, and certainly if you have any facts to support or contradict this theory I’m sure he’d love to hear from you.
But so would I. I place this in GD assuming that this is a somewhat controversial theory as opposed to a question with an easy factual answer.
Well there might have been african mariners… but in order to determine pyramid building in the americas they would have to be crossing from Egypt to Mexico… pretty darn long voyage.
Then to state "17 africans..." that is way to precise.
I once ventured a bit on the idea of why there are pyramids in both places... and its not that hard. Pyramids are the best way to get higher buildings with low tech. Give kids some building blocks. As soon as they figure straight up means tumbling buildings they will set up wider bases.... no magic there.
The Egyptian pyramids were built thousands of years before the South American civilizations built theirs’. After a time, they stopped building pyramids inh Egypt, & many of the construction techniques were lost.
By the time South America started to build pyramids, Egyptians & the Old World cultures were both marveling and deeply puzzled as to how Egypt’s pyramids had been built.
No chance of a connection at all. Major BS factor.
Pile up a bunch of rocks haphazardly. You have a pyramid. As Randi stated, the pyramid is a very easy shape to make. It takes no special genius to invent it. If the American pyramids came from Egypt, where are the obelisks? Where are the stelae?
This is nothing but a recycle of 19th-century Atlantean crap, with “Africa” substituted for “Atlantis”. Oh, and this time around the crapvendors can whine “racism” when their lies are exposed.
Well, here’s the text of the Treaty of Tordesillas. You can see there’s really no specialized information in there about South America, and the only mention of Africa in it is to say that the King of Portugal owns part of it.
The Africans shipwrecked in Ecuador is presumably a reference to the claim that Afro-Ecuadorians are descended from slaves who survived a shipwreck in 1553. If so, it has nothing whatsoever to do with pre-Columbian African contact with the Americas.
Van Sertima’s other claims have also been thoroughly debunked.
Do we need to keep on-topic to the Randi article or can we explore other areas of false Afro-centrism in history classes?
Because there’s one that’s been bothering me for almost a decade.
In a classroom at the Job Corps center I attended, there was a poster, showing the rulers of Egypt throughout its history. And in this poster, Cleopatra was distinctly African. Black African.
Cleopatra was a Ptolemy. Cleopatra was Greek. Yes, her family had been living in Egypt for 250 years, but her family was royalty. They did not intermarry with the native Egyptians. Cleopatra was quite likely, barring a decent tan (which was unlikely in itself for a wealthy royal woman in an era when great pride was taken in the fairness of one’s skin as an indicator of the non-necessity of work), olive-skinned at best.
Yeah, it’s irrelevant, really. Just something that seemed slightly on-topic and I needed to get off my chest.
Larry Gonick goes into this in the recently-released third volume of his Cartoon History of the Universe. He has someoine asking Cleopatra how she felt about people thinking that she was African, when she was clearly of Macedonian ancestry.
I remember seeing something on the History or Discovery channel where they were speculating that there might have been some African influence in the Olmec civilization based on some of the artifacts found and some of the carved statues which resembled Africans. They talked about how it was possible that some Africans in boats could have wound up in central America, etc. However, it was pure speculation, and certainly not fit to be taught in High School as ‘fact’. More in the realm of a graduate student putting forth a thesis I’d say, and from what I remember, it was pretty damn thin on actual proof.
As to the pyramids, it is to laugh. The uses of the pyramids were completely different (Egyptian pyramids were tombs, pyramids in south and central America were temples, etc), they were architecually different in design (save for in the broadest terms…i.e. they were both made of stone and roughly pyramid in shape :)). Also, as has been pointed out, where are the other aspects? Where is there a sphinx? Stella? Writing? For that matter, why no metal working (as in bronze, copper, iron)?
Hell, just that alone would have been a technological revolution, as they HAD no bronze, copper, or iron working in South America I’m aware of. Why a pyramid and not that?? The Egyptians even in the time of the earliest pyramids were using copper after all. Seems to me, if I were an african who was familiar with egypt enough to design and build a pyramid (we are talking fairly late in the game here folks…whats the date on the central/south american pyramids?) I’d be able to at least reverse engineer some swords and armor (or at least metal tools)…which would be a bit more vital, wouldn’t it be? Hell, if I were somehow teleported back in space and time, even I could reverse engineer metal working…I know it CAN be done after all, and I know what the benifits are over stone tools and glass knives and spears.
There have been a few instances of Africans visiting the new world in legend.
I know I read a meandering and myth-sounding account of Malian mariners ending up in Brazil at one point during my college days (it would have been in Latin America I or II).
And I saw with my own eyes a wall carving in Egypt (from one of the earlier not-so-grandiose pyramids) of what looked like an armadillo on board a barge. The guy doing the took hinted strongly that this indicated that the ancient eqyptians had either been to the new world or had commerce with peoples which had done so.
It was a pretty good carving, I gotta admit.
And, I suppose, with the numerous legends of different people making it to the new world (an Irish monk, the chinese, Leif Ericsson, etc) I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if one of the western African empires made it to Brazil at some point.
JC: The Viking landing in North America is a well documented historical fact. Lumping that in with the Irish Monks and the Chinese voyages, which are at best legends, is misleading.
Probably the best evience for contact between ancient Egypt and the New World is the existence of nicotine in some Egyptian mummies. No one can explain that, since tobacco is indigenous to the Americas and does not occur naturally anywhere else. Doesn’t prove anything, but certainly makes it a valid question to ask.
Woo! CalMeacham reads the Cartoon History of the Universe, too!
It sure sounds pretty ridiculous to me. As was mentioned before, the time difference alone between the Egyptian pyramids and the American pyramids precludes connection. And while I don’t know much about the American pyramids, I strongly suspect that there are some pyramids out there that were clearly in-the-works (as there are in Egypt).
And I swear Cecil did a column on the Chinese guys having contact with the Americas, although I can’t currently find it.
Is there any evidence of recipricol trade goods from Egypt/Africa in tomb or such in central/south America? After all, if the Egyptians got cocaine and tabaco (Cecil dealt with the btw, and pretty much smacked it down as I recall…I’ll try and find his story on it) what did the Central/South Americans get out of the deals? Have any metal artifacts ever been found at all? I’d say that such artifacts would be highly sought after by a people still using stone and obsidian, and that they would be considered grave goods by the powerful and elite. Or am I wrong about this, and they did have metal working of copper, bronze or Iron? My pre-columbian history of the America’s is pretty shakey to be honest…its all a decade or more out of date (I had a couple of courses in college and those brain cells probably got destroyed since then :)). However, if such items were never found, or any other item that could be classified as unique to Egypt/Africa, I’d say this is a serious blow to the ‘theory’.
I can agree that its possible, maybe even probable that at some point in the past, there was SOME contact between Africa and Central/South America, but I doubt there was any cultural or trade exchange…more like a chance encounter. I think that things like the pyramids developed independantly, as the only reasonable shape for a very large structure, and given the technology that existed then.
One grandmother, eh? I know people with one “black” grandmother who are no darker-skinned than a Scotsman, red-haired, freckled, and all. You are smart to give the “black grandmother” theory little credence.
I call that theory a seriously sad sort of reaching, indulged in by people with no self-esteem and some severe ego problems. It’s just sad when claims like that have to be made. It’s a very sad reflection when real African leaders are forgotten and ignored by so-called “Afrocentric” sorts while they work so very hard to “paint themselves white” by claiming Cleopatra.