Re: Amerindian navigators and Eurocentrism in scholarship

From (Yuri Kuchinsky)
Date 14 Sep 1997 16:26:50 GMT
Followup-To sci.archaeology.mesoamerican,sci.archaeology,sci.anthropology,
Newsgroups sci.archaeology.mesoamerican, sci.archaeology, sci.anthropology,
References <5uvasm$n7p$ > <5v2kfb$gde$ > < > <5v90tb$b83$ > <5vflne$12m$ >

Dear Ron,

Thanks for your thoughtful post.

Ron Hopkins-Lutz ( wrote:

: I've been follwing this thread for sometime now, and so I've decided to
throw : in my own semi-informed opinon. (This last is so that those who
seem to sink : to name calling have a good start for calling me a name.) 

: 1. There is no doubt that both historically and currently there have
been both : arhaeologists and anthropologist who have indulged in
"Eurocentrism". Whether : it applies here is one of those multiple point
of view arguments I am unable : to resolve in my mind. I'm really more
concerned with what the preponderance : of good evidence says about the
actuality of any voyages. So resolution of : these issues is for those who
have a lot more brain power and a differnt set : of priorities than I do. 

: 2. Certainly it appears established that at least at the time of the :
Conquistadores some cultures on the Pacific coast of South America had the
: physical capability to make sojurns into the South Pacific via large sea
going : rafts. At least if they wished, they could. Heyerdahl proved that,
and : provided a heck of a great adventure tale beside. 

Yes, he proved that this could have happened by building and sailing Kon
Tiki. But he also proved that this _did happen_ by the results of the
excavations he organized on Easter island. He was the archaeological
pioneer there in recent times. 

: 3. It is not clear to me whether they had the navigational ability to do

They did have it.

: By that I do not mean the required astronomical knowledge, but the
required : _applied_ navigational knowledge. I am not asserting they did
not, merely that : I have seen no substantial evidence they did.

The evidence is in the Easter Island. It is abundant. Please read EASTER
ISLAND (1989) by Heyerdahl.

: Naviagting out of sight of land : for coastal trading is easy off the
coast of South America. If you get lost, : you just head east and you hit
land. However even Heuerdahl depended on modern : ephemerus, sextant, and
chronometer to hit a dot in the Pacifc, called an : island.

: 4. If they had the ability to do this navigation, there still remains
the : evidence they actually did.

See above.

: While I have seen some mention of shells
in Adena : mounds mentioned, the Adena people were part of a trading
network that also : had contact with the Northwest Pacific coast of North
America as well as : Southern North America. We know that there was a
trading network up the North : Pacific and Central Pacific coast of Asia
to North America. I have not seen : any assertion of evidence that the
shells mentioned did not come through this : established Northern trading
network instead.

You may be right here. These shells may have come through the Northern
trading network.

: In other words if there is any : evidence that such
shells travelled that network, or even if there isn't, if : there is no
evidence that shows they came through a proposed southern network : rather
than an existing network, then they are not really evidence of that :
southern network, only that they got there somehow.

Easter Island has the best evidence to indicate the contacts with S.

: This is particularly :
significant if other items from the same area of pacific waters have
already : been shown to come via the existing northern route. Is there
such evdence of : South Pacific good coming through the northern network? 

: 5. Some thought may need to be given here as to why they would have made
the : voyages. Look at this way, the Spanish and Portuguese voyages of
discovery : were motivated by the economic motive of the spice trade, then
dominated by : the Venetians and other Italian cities. The voyages were
tremendous risk, both : physically and economically, so they were
justified by the potentially great : profits to those who succeeded. (Look
here at the domination of the silk trade : by the Portuguese with Japan.)
This question as to why is important. The : return route home to the
Americas through more northern eastbound currents : from the westbound
Humboldt does not make accidental voyages and returns very : easy since
hitting land is not a given when going west as it is when going : east. 

: 6. As a matter of speculation, some consideration of point five above
makes it : more likely that the Polynesians would have established any
network to the : Americas to start with.

You may be right here. There was not pressing need for S. Americans to
trade with Polynesia. OTOH, Polynesians could have derived considerable
benefits from trading with S. Americans.

: We know the Polynesians were
established long distance : navigators and sailors in the Pacific. Which
then would be more likely: 

: a) that Polynesians followed or were carried East on the more northerly 
: current and hit a target 9,000 miles long, blocking the entire East;
: b) or South Americans going West and hitting dots of land and then finding 
: your way back?

Your a) seems more likely.

: The first seems more likely but either could have happened. (Of course
who : discovered who is a silly thing to worry about.) Even if they never
followed : it West, the South American sailors would know of the westerly
Humboldt : current if only to avoid being carried away by it, and could
convey that : knowledge to Polynesian sailors. This does not mean that the
South Americans : would not immediately jump on the knowedge that there
was land to the West to : trade with and a way home to the North. It is
just more _likely_ the South : Americans would be discovered by the
Polynesians rather than vice versa. This : speculation in no way changes
whether such a Southern trading network actually : existed. 

I never actually said that a Southern trading network existed. It's a
different thing if the S. Americans had some contact with some of the
Pacific islands. This is a sure thing, as far as I'm concerned. 

: I see no reason to beleive such a southerly network couldn't have
existed, : just little evidence it did. Whether it did also reflects in no
way on the : South Amercans as sailors. Frankly anyone who goes out into
the Pacific on a : balsa raft, even _in_ sight of land, is a hell of a
sailor as far as I'm : concerned. I'd never do it, even though I know I'd
probably live to tell the : tale before I set sail. 

Best regards,

            =O=    Yuri Kuchinsky in Toronto    =O=
        --- my webpage is at ---

Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, 
it is time to reform  -=O=-  Mark Twain

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