Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Indigenous Africans In America - The Evidence

 In the last 10 years or so, it has become popular to claim that African people had been in America long before the arrival of Christopher Columbus. Some say that Africans traveled here by boat from Ancient Egypt/Kemet and Nubia, prior to 500 B.C.  Some say Africans had always been here and built civilizations in North, Central America and South America. And some say Africans had open, active trade routes crossing back and forth between West Africa and the Americas for centuries before 1492.  There is even a claim, growing in popularity, that the current black population in America was always here and that the Atlantic Slave Trade which saw the transport of millions of West Africans to America is a huge myth. The problem with all of these claims is that there is no clear, credible evidence for any of them. 

This article is also an explanation of the difference between history and pseudo-history. The word 'History' comes from the Greek 'historia' , meaning- a learning or knowing by 'inquiry.' It is designed to elicit the truth of the past by evaluating evidence. Pseudo-history seems a lot like history because it also discusses the past. However, you can always spot pseudo-history because it usually carries one or more of these elements. 

1) It begins with a strongly held belief or a conclusion, and only discusses 'evidence' meant to support that conclusion. 2) it is light on context and surrounding historical circumstances. 3) It doesn't consider other possible explanations for the information presented. And rarely discusses other studies or viewpoints which may contradict the claims being made. 4) It is not really an inquiry (because it already knows the conclusion). Thus, it  doesn't welcome honest probing questions from its intended audience. 5) It is heavy on rhetoric and speculation. Using rhetoric in this manner is a way of speaking for the evidence when the evidence fails to speak for itself. 

Here's an example of how pseudo history can arise from not considering other explanations for phenomena we see.  Let's say you buy a bag of Cheetos and the next day when you go to eat those Cheetos, you can't find them. You search all throughout the kitchen, then walk out in the living room and see your roommate asleep on the couch with orange cheese stains on his hands and around his mouth. Then you see the empty bag of Cheetos on the floor by the couch. So you wake him up and accuse him of stealing your Cheetos. He denies it, saying he didn't eat your Cheetos. For the pseudo-historian minded people the story may end right there. The roommate clearly stole your Cheetos. You take a picture and broadcast to everyone you know that he is a thief and a liar. 

But now, let's go a step further. Your roommate explains he remembers you saying the day before that you were going to get some Cheetos and that it sounded delicious, so the next morning he went to the store and bought his own bag and ate them, which explains the orange stains. Then he shows you the receipt for the bag he bought. Later that day you find your bag of Cheetos (which had fallen out of your grocery bag) in the back seat of your car. That's the real history. As opposed to drawing conclusions based on one image, history (by definition) requires a bit more digging and inquiry.

Before considering all of the claims and the evidence given to support them, let's get the rhetoric out of the way first. The rhetoric basically goes like this: 

White Europeans didn't tell us our true history. They tried to hide and bury our  amazing past. They lied to us about the true identity of the indigenous people of America!  Don't believe what they tell you, they just want you to think we weren't advanced enough to have sailed to North America before Columbus! The enemy (White Archeologists) hate and try to ignore what we say because they don't want black people to wake up! 

Now with all of that out of the way, keep in mind nothing here is saying that Africans didn't, or couldn't have come to America before Columbus. In fact, it would be a surprise if no ships ever made it over here from West, North or even East Africa, this article is only saying that there is no solid proof for it. Of course, Europeans lied about the past before, but the remedy for that certainly isn't to tell our people more lies. No. Now more than ever, the 21st Century has to be about truth, verifiable truth. With that said, let's look at the evidence. 

1. The Photographs  

In the last several years we have seen pictures of Native Americans with black or African features. Usually, they are presented as the true indigenous or 'aboriginal' people of America. Often, not much more information is given about the black people in these pictures or how this phenomenon came about. This obscures the very rich history of centuries long interaction between black people brought to these shores during the Atlantic slave trade and Native Americans. Since coming to America in the 16th century, Black people and Native Americans have interacted in many ways for many reasons. Black people intermarried and intermixed with numerous tribes from the Narragansett in the North to the Creek and Seminoles in the South and the Kiowa in West. They interacted as indentured servants on the same farms, as runaways seeking refuge from slavery, they interacted as freedmen, as mutual partners, and as slaves for some of the tribes such as the Cherokee and the Chickasaw in the South.  There have been numerous books written on the history of these relationships. For anyone interested in this forgotten history, I'd suggest "Black Indians: A Hidden Heritage" by William Loren Katz. For anyone interested, there's also a 2004 documentary on the subject.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlL94sw_C8Q

The whole idea of showing these black native Americans in photos is to assert or imply that these are what Native Americans looked like in pre-Columbian times. 

However, the earliest descriptions and illustrations of Native Americans generally show native Americans with long dark hair and the same features as the indigenous people we see today. 

2. The Olmecs 

What appears to be the most visual evidence for the claim that Africans crossed the Atlantic during pre-Columbian times are the Olmec heads. Most of us have seen these heads as sure proof that Africans are indigenous to America. This image is on the cover of Ivan Van Sertima's 1976 book, 'They Came Before Columbus.' In his book, Van Sertima argued that Nubians journeyed to America during Egypt's 25th Dynasty and influenced Early Olmec Civilization which was the first Advanced civilization in Mesoamerica. The idea was that the indigenous people honored these Nubians as kings and the Olmec heads were built to reflect their Nubian rulers. Van Sertima never explained why he picked this particular dynasty but the evidence seemed clear that the Olmec heads depicted Africans. 

The problem is, that it was never considered that the heads also look like the indigenous people of the region. As these illustrations show, one could easily conclude that these were indigenous native Americans as well.  So we're going to need more solid evidence that Nubians or Africans came to America during this period. Unfortunately, there isn't any. There are no settlement sites, no artifacts, no ship remains, nothing. On May 17, 1970, Norwegian ethnologist Thor Heyerdahl and a multinational crew set out from Morocco across the Atlantic Ocean in Ra II, a papyrus sailing craft modeled after ancient Egyptian sailing vessels. Heyerdahl proved that ships could have come from Egypt during this period. But the question now isn't whether ships could have come from Africa, the question is whether or not they did. 

If there was a significant presence of Africans amongst the Olmecs, or if the Olmecs were Africans as some now contend, it would show up in the DNA of the people in the region. However, there is no DNA evidence showing an African presence. 


All of the DNA studies in the Olmec region show indigenous Native American markers. 


In fact, a recent DNA study taken from two actual Olmec burial sites show that Olmec DNA matches the indigenous people of the region. 


Finally, more recent studies have shown the progression of indigenous culture through time toward the more advanced development of Olmec civilization. 


3. Anderzej Wiercinski 

Dr. Ivan Van Sertima's work on Olmec civilization has been widely criticized by Mesoamerican academics who describe his claims to be ill-founded and false. They noted that no "genuine African artifact had been found in a controlled archaeological excavation in the New World." 

In 1998, Van Sertima wrote a "Reply to My Critics", in which, to the point of lack of evidence, he cited the work of the Polish Craniologist Anderzej Wiercinski. Wiercinski claimed that some of the Olmecs were of African origin. He supported this claim with cranial evidence from two Mesoamerican sites: Tlatilco and Cerro de las Mesas. Keep in mind, however, that using osteology (the scientific study of bones) to determine the race of a subject is an outdated practice - once popular during the 19th and early 20th centuries. 


One of the problems with using this method to determine race is that the categories it creates are arbitrary and subjective. For example, Wiercinski sorted the cranial material he used into the categories of Mongoloid, Caucasoid or Africanoid. One of the problems with sorting evidence into these racial categories are the categories themselves. It's arbitrary. Why only three categories? Why not 5 or 9? What do the categories indicate or predict? Based on genetic, linguistic or ethnic similarities, we can break the human population down into as many as 300 genetic groups or races... or we can simply say there's only one race. This is because there is always plenty of overlap across the old traditional racial boundaries of Black, White or Asian. 

Likewise, with Wiercinski's cranial measures. He found considerable overlap between his Ugandan (black), Mongolian (yellow) and Polish  (white) populations. Wiercinski himself mentions that racial types are not necessarily equivalent to populational descent. This means that just because his classification identifies a skull as "black" it doesn't necessarily mean the person is from Africa. Many studies have demonstrated that there is more variability between members of the same race than there is between members of different races. 

To make things worse, the skulls used by Wiercinski were in poor condition. Many were lacking important cranial features. Cranial measures are *AT BEST* correct about 85% of the time, and that is when all of the cranium is available to be measured, and the measurements are made by an expert. Remove one or two key cranial features and the confidence interval of racial classification drops to 70%. Remove three or more cranial features from your measurements and you are about as accurate as simply guessing. 

Wiercinski's research methods and conclusions are not accepted by the vast majority of Mesoamerican scholars, in part because of his reliance on the Polish Comparative-Morphological methodology, as noted above, which limits the placement of skull types within a very narrow spectrum of Caucasoid, Negroid, and Mongoloid. Native Americans are thus made to fit within these groups which often yields false and contradictory assumptions as a result of sample bias.

At this point one may say, "well this is only one side of an argument;" or "well, this is just what racist haters of black history are saying!" But the truth is - there is no argument, as indicated in this journal article which proposed an African Olmec origin but had to be retracted, because it had no proof. The African Olmec claims may work on the Afrocentric lecture tour, but they don't hold up under actual scientific scrutiny.

4. Luzia  

In 1974, an 11,500 year old skeleton was found in a cave in Pedro Leopoldo Brazil by archaeologist Annette Laming-Emperaire in surprisingly good condition under 40 feet of mineral deposits. The fossilized cranium has now been identified by Brazilian scientists as the oldest human remains ever recovered in the Western Hemisphere. 
Anthropologists have variously described Luzia’s features as resembling those of Negroids, Indigenous Australians, Melanesians, and the Negritos of Southeast Asia. Walter Neves, an anthropologist at the University of São Paulo, suggests that Luzia’s features most strongly resemble those of Australian Aboriginal peoples. Richard Neave of Manchester University, who undertook a facial reconstruction of Luzia described it as negroid. Some archaeologists thought the young woman may have been part of a migratory wave of immigrants prior to the ancestors of today's Amerindians.
In 1999, the BBC published that the first Americans were Australian based on an elaborate theory by Walter Neves. 

Although they weren't directly from Africa, this was the most solid evidence that black people were the original Americans. 
Then, in 2018 a DNA study disproved Neves theory about the origin of Luzia's people. It was the largest and most comprehensive study ever conducted on the basis of fossil DNA extracted from ancient human remains found on the continent and has confirmed the existence of a single ancestral population for all Amerindian ethnic groups, past and present. 

The new face of South American people

Study by 72 researchers from eight countries concludes that the Lagoa Santa people are descendants of Clovis culture migrants from North America; distinctly African features attributed to Luzia were wrong.

Most of Neves' theories were based on cranial comparisons which, as mentioned above, are not entirely reliable. 
This also shows that as with most scientific theories there is no absolute final word. New data can always overturn previously held beliefs or confirm old ones. In the case of Luzia, the older consensus that Paleo-Americans all came from a single ancestral group was confirmed.

5. The Mound Builder Myth 

The next set of claims come from the idea that we were the original Mound builders of the Mississippian cultures in and around present day Missouri, Ohio and southern Illinois. Understanding the background of these claims will give some much needed historical context to the whole landscape of literature relating to Pre-Columbian contact in general. 

In the late 1700's, as European settlers in America began migrating West, they encountered large mounds, some as high as 10 stories tall. These well engineered ceremonial structures also included networks of villages. The extensive mound construction suggested that the Mississippians had a complex social structure. A strong leader would be necessary in order to carry out the planning and execution of building projects. 

This intrigued the white American settlers but it also presented a problem. Who were the people who developed this advanced civilization? They saw the mounds not as proof of the skills of their Native American builders but as proof instead that the Native Americans could not have built them. 

How could the “merciless Indian savages”, as the Declaration of Independence called them, have built such a complicated society?

The answer was the “mound builder myth”, which grew along with the United States’ territory. Here is the basic storyline: Before the red-skinned Indians, there was a wondrous and tragically vanished race;  "a race of people more enlightened than the present Indians." They built the great mounds and ancient cities. 

These Mound Builders were of noble stock, probably descending from Europe or Asia. But then the Indians came. The savages either overwhelmed the Mound Builders by force or, worse, caused this great civilization to decline and disappear thru inter-racial marriage. Some claimed Vikings must have constructed the earthworks, and then journeyed on to Mexico and Central America where they further perfected their art with even grander pyramids.

By 1830, white Americans were embroiled in a fervent debate over the fate of Native Americans. The Indian Removal Act passed by a slim margin and was signed into law by Andrew Jackson. The nation had consciously decided to ethnically cleanse most of the land east of the Mississippi. Jackson, in his State of the Union speech, described the mounds as “memorials of a once powerful race, which was exterminated, or has disappeared, to make room for the existing savage tribes.”

Three years later, in 1833, the myth took off in earnest with the publication of Josiah Priest’s best seller, American Antiquities. According to Priest, the Mound Builders were possibly Europeans, or maybe Egyptians, Israelites, Chinese, or Polynesians. By the mid-nineteenth century, the mound builder myth was dogma, widely accepted across all levels of white society and taught to children in schools. A high school textbook from 1857 dismissed the notion that Native Americans descended from the lost tribes of Israel, concluding, “It seems far more probable that the first settlers of America were from Egypt. Their taste and skill in building would indicate this…” 

The myth had a strong appeal to American settlers, for three main reasons. 1) It gave North America a romantic pre-history as rich as the Old World's and as Central and South America's. 2) It re-enforced the European's sense of racial superiority. 3) It cut the contemporary indigenous populations off from a connection to the earlier civilizations in North America which would have strengthened their claim of ownership to the lands that they were being driven out of. In fact, it made "savage Indians" look like the usurpers and villains that the heroic white settlers would justly vanquish. 

Not surprisingly, scores of ancient artifacts began to be discovered indicating other people had been here in America. Some examples are: the Grave Creek Stone (1838) with inscriptions in Greek, Gaelic, Old British and Hebrew; the Kensington Stone (1898) with inscriptions purported to be written in 14th Century Swedish and the Newark Ohio "Holy" Stones (1860) with lettering in Hebrew.  Also not surprisingly, time after time the vast majority of these artifacts and pieces of 'evidence' were found to be hoaxes (it turned out, for example, the Newark 'Holy' Stones were written in modern Hebrew which was  developed long after the inscriptions were supposed to have been made.) 

In the1890's, after Geronimo surrendered and nearly all Native Americans in the US were confined to reservations and after the massacre at Wounded Knee (often called the last battle of the Indian Wars), archeologists at the Smithsonian and Harvard’s Peabody Museum definitively put the Mound Builder myth to bed. They found cranial and other conclusive evidence that there was no physical difference between the people buried in the mounds and modern Native Americans. All archeological evidence suggested that the Mound Builders and Native Americans were one and the same. 

But Myths don't die easily. Throughout the 20th century new discoveries and theories of Old World Pre-Columbian contact were still coming up. Most of the alternative academics and amateur archaeologists who maintained these theories were associated with the idea of hyper-diffusionism. Hyper-diffusionism is the enticing theory that all civilization today has its root in a single, ancient or prehistoric civilization far more advanced and refined that the cultures that followed. The hyper-diffusionist insists that invention is unidirectional. They believe that if cultures share a particular element, one culture must have adapted it from the other. Early 20th century diffusionists like Grafton Elliot Smith thought that all culture originated from Egypt and that the Maya, for instance, were cut off from their Egyptian roots.

Hyperdiffusionism has also come to be known as a derogatory term for those who would seek to extrapolate a theory from a few odd pieces of fantastic archaeology or pseudo-archaeology in isolation from all other pieces of evidence and the received wisdom of the archaeological community. This is largely because the archaeological records have long since changed from this way of thinking and now understand and accept that technologies can be independently arrived at..Language, writing, pottery, clothing, and agriculture are among the many, many technological advances that were invented over and over again all over the world at different times and places. 

Yet these theories persisted on through the 20th century and were eventually picked up by many black or Afrocentric scholars who liked the idea that Egypt (which they viewed as 'black') influenced or expanded into the Americas. The other appeal may be psychological. Assumed knowledge of the mysterious, the Divine, hidden and suppressed truths, and the fantastic seems far more interesting than learning the slow steady advances made in the archeological record.  

Dr. Van Sertima picked up the literature from earlier hyperdiffusionists like Barry Fell, Leo Weiner and Alexander Von Wuthenau.  Then,  following in Van Sertima's footsteps are 'scholars' such as Dr. David Imhotep and Clyde Winters.  Winters wrote a whole book entitled the 'Black Mound Builders of America.' 

One main reason the pieces of evidence hyperdiffusionists present don't work or are unconvincing is because they usually come isolated from to any surrounding context or material culture. As noted by Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Museum Curator for the North Hertfordshire Museum: 

 "Archaeology is all about the material culture of human beings. We create a lot of stuff and we are generally quite careless about how we dispose of it. Even if we are careful, we still lose things accidentally. We litter the world with our creations. From potsherds to ocean-going ships, from butchered animal bones to weapons of slaughter, we make things and dispose of them...Forget texts: they are too easily forged. It’s rubbish that we need!" 



6.  Alexander Von Wunthenau

Another hyperdiffusionist or believer in Pre-Columbian contact is Alexander Von Wuthenau.  He is cited by Dr. Ivan Van Sertima and many others an authoritative source proving the presence of Africans in Pre-Columbian America. But this source is terribly outdated. According to Von Wuthenau, “[t]he startling fact is that in all parts of Mexico, from Campeche in the east to the southeast of Guerrero, and from Chiapas, next to the Guatemalan border, to the Panuco River in the Huasteca region (north of Veracruz) archeological pieces representing Negro or Negroid people have been found, especially in archaic or pre-classic sites. 

This also holds true for large sections of Mesoamerica and far into South America – Panama, Columbia, Ecuador, and Peru…”

 For years the Diego Rivera Museum of Mexico housed the Alexander Von Wuthenau Collection of remarkable figurines depicting Black priests, chiefs, dancers, wrestlers, drummers, and others across the social spectrum. An examination of this artwork, wrote Van Sertima,

“reveals the unmistakable combination of the kinky hair, broad nose, generous lips, frequency of prognathism (projecting jaws), occasional goatee beard, and sometimes distinctly African ear pendants, hairstyles, tattoo markings, and coloration.”

However,  There are critical problems with the 'evidence' Von Wuthenau's provides:

1) Most if not all figurines were purchased rather than obtained from carefully excavated archaeological sites.
2) The Terra Cotta figurines Von Wuthenau uses are not dated and provide no evidence as to their place of origin.

3) A number of Mexican Americanists have examined them and declared them to be fakes; this includes the director of the Institute for Archaeological Research for the National University of Mexico. 

* Von Wuthenau himself says some of the figurines may be fakes even though he says that number may be small. He also provides no information as to how he determined the number to be 'small.'
So, if you hear Von Wuthenau's name used as solid proof or evidence of an African presence and none of these issues are even mentioned, you know the presenter has either been misled or trying to mislead you.

More about Von Wuthenau's alleged findings can be found here. 

7.  The Piri Reis Map

Some claims are simply passed along that are outdated and have been either discredited or corrected as early as 50 or 60 years ago. Although the Piri Reis Map, written in 1513, is authentic it has been misinterpreted and misrepresented as proof that Ancient peoples of Egypt knew of North and South America (as well as Antartica) before Columbus sailed. 

The most common passage relating to this map is here, and comes from Charles Hapgood. " In his book Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings, Charles H. Hapgood tells of the Piri Re'is map of 1513 A.D. Studies of this map show that it correctly gives latitudes and longitudes along the coasts of Africa and Europe, indicating that the original mapmaker must have found the correct relative longitude across Africa and across the Atlantic to Brazil. This amazing map gives an accurate profile of the coast of South America to the Amazon, provides an amazing outline of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico (supposedly not yet discovered!), and -- incredibly enough -- shows a part of the coast of the Antarctic Continent which was not discovered, in modern times, until 1818!"

 What is not explained is that it's a composite map * meaning it used many sources; both Ancient and contemporary. It doesn't use latitude and longitude which was discovered later, and it actually notes that it used information from Columbus himself and other Portuguese Navigators. 

Here's a clear example of the Piri Reis map being grossly misrepresented @ 2:56 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZlqDYGdt6mE 

This is from "Hidden Colors 3." We will revisit more of the video later as we explore other popular claims among Afrocentric lecturers. 
Now take moment to compare what was said to a current, more comprehensive explanation of the map.

* The Waldseemüller Map is a composite map as well. 
 The map is drafted on a modification of Ptolemy's second projection, expanded to accommodate the Americas and the high latitudes. (The Americas were not included in the original Egyptian Ptolemaic version of the map as suggested in Hidden Colors, they were added when it was drafted in 1507.)

8. The Grand Canyon Artifacts of Ancient Egypt. 

Surprisingly, some 100 year old straight-up hoaxes such as the Grand canyon Egyptian artifacts hoax are still being referenced as 'evidence' of an African presence in America, See, @12:30 

The history of the hoax can be found below. 

9. The Murals of Bonampak

There is a claim that the people depicted on the walls of Bonampak are conclusive proof of an African presence or contact in South or Mesoamerica.  But it's only conclusive proof if you ignore the complexions of the Native peoples in that region, and if you ignore that the people traditionally painted themselves different colors including black. Also, the facial structures and dress indicate pictures of Native Americans painted by Native Americans. No DNA extracted from bones at burials or any cultural artifacts found at the site indicate any ties to Africa at all. The DNA studies are here. 

10.  The Voyage of Abu Bakr II

In 1324, Mansa Musa ruler of Mali, told to Abu al-Hasan Ali ibn Amir Hajib, who was the governor of the district of Cairo, Musa was staying in at the time of a voyage his predecessor took. He said his predecessor Abu Bakr II (or Mansa Muhammad Ibn Qu),  "got ready 2,000 ships, 1,000 for himself and the men whom he took with him and 1,000 for water and provisions. He left me to deputize for him and embarked on the Atlantic Ocean with his men. That was the last we saw of him and all those who were with him, and so I became king in my own right."

Al-Umari’s record of this conversation is the only account of this voyage. This shows the possibility that West Africans sailed to the Americas. However, there is no record of any of these ships or the presence of a Malian expedition in the Americas. It would be a great find if any evidence comes up but to date there is no record of his voyage in America.  

11. Frank Joseph and Burrows' Cave

Another inadequately investigated source used to make the claim of an African presence in America is Frank Joseph's book, "The Lost Treasure of King Juba: The Evidence of Africans in America before Columbus." Look how this book is presented in Hidden Colors 3 @1:28 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZlqDYGdt6mE 

He is described as just a white man who was "honest enough to record what he found." But let's take a look at some background on this book.

First, what Frank Joseph found were alleged artifacts he was able to view from Burrow's Cave.  According to the basic story, a man named Russell Burrows was walking through the countryside in Illinois one day in April 1982 when he either a) fell on a large rock that suddenly tilted sideways under his weight, nearly throwing him into a pit; or b) stumbled across the mouth of a cave where he noted the presence of numerous artifacts. Inside the cave he claimed to have found hundreds, perhaps thousands of carved stones bearing figures or letters in some unknown language. Others were said to contain depictions of deities, humans, ships, and so forth. 

Burrows is said to have taken some of these items away for analysis and later examination by a number of archaeologists and epigraphers. Many, including retired botanist and amateur epigrapher Barry Fell (who previously had proposed similarities between certain native American languages and Hebrew) pronounced the stones to be fakes, as did many members of the Epigraphic Society.  No archaeological digs were conducted under properly controlled conditions. So, what is the only tangible evidence that Burrows brought out with him and shared with the public? Stone tablets that were inscribed with an unintelligible mix of Egyptian, Etruscan, Iberian, Phoenician, and Greek writing. There was also one tablet in particular that had a drawing of a Phoenician-Libyan ship which drew particular attention from archaeologists who got the chance to study it due to its odd mix of cultures.

Due to Burrows’ refusal to share the location of the cave, there are no other solid pieces of evidence to prove the existence of the cave and Burrows has sold most or all of the stone tablets that he brought out to Burrows Cave enthusiasts. Archaeologists and scientists have little to go off of to excavate the site and have not been allowed to study the physical artifacts; pictures are all that they have been given.

1 comment:

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Thank you for great information

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