Re: A Shang-Olmec connection ?

Wade Tarzia (tarzia@UCONNVM.UCONN.EDU)
Tue, 29 Oct 1996 09:00:03 -0500

>...The article also states that Chen speculated that:
>"After the Shang army was routed and the emperor killed, ...some loyalists
>might have sailed down the Yellow River and taken to the ocean. There,
>perhaps, they drifted with a current which skirts Japan's coast, heads
>for California, then peters out near Ecuador." (Scott Holmes)

--- Such contacts by sea are always possible but nearly impossible to prove
or deny unless the colomnists have built a city or something! Some people
will take the 'possible' part of it and settle on it for the truth, or
nearly so. The question I always have in such cases is, would some chance
explorers coming to shore in another land have the cultural momentum and
genetic 'flowrate' to effect the indigneous culture? (note my choosing of
terms here -- "chance" as opposed to "sustained colonization effort"!).
The Chinese had a fine seafaring ability, but cultural influence ought to
be roundly documented in many kinds of ways, rather than pointing to just a
pottery design. When a small or even single complex of material data is
raised as evidence of trans-oceanic contact, I am reminded of other
diffusionist claims, as in ancient Celts in New England, ancient Egyptians
in South/Central America, Vikings in Minnesota, etc.

I hasten to add that Chonese influence across the ocean is not impossible,
and I even think it probable that a few sailors made it to the Americas --
but whether expatriates, explorers, or shipwrecks would have any lasting
effect on a native cultural (quite able to absorb chance influences over
the years), that I have some doubts about.

An array of both fringe and professional archaeologists will support the
idea, though, which will much confuse the issue.

But see a good article saying what I said much better (and I supply a
selective abstract of my own).

-- wade tarzia


Feder, Kenneth L. (1994). "The Spanish Entrada: A Model for Assessing
Claims of Pre-Columbian Contact Between the Old and New Worlds." _North
American Archaeologist_ 15/2. 147-166.

"The vast majority of evidence marshaled by those who support scenarios of
the pre-Columbus, pre-Viking discovery, exploration, and settlement of the
New World has been epigraphic. Virtually no archaeological evidence has
been presented in support of such claims. Here, the historically
documented, early sixteenth-century Spanish exploration of the American
Southeast is used as a model for the kind of archaeological evidence to be
expected for such exploration and culture contact. It is suggested that
unless and until similar evidence is forthcoming for an earlier presence of
Celts, Libyans, Chinese, or other visitors from the Old World, their visits
remain unproved." (147, the abstract). Basically, the Spanish explorations
didn't leave a lot of evidence, and their numbers were relatively high
compared to any chance boat-load of earlier Old World colonists, so the
lack of evidence for pre-Columbian colonization is quite suggestive that
there is none!

Other related sources:

Cole, John R. (1980). "Cult Archaeology and Unscientific Method and
Theory." Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory 3, 1-23.

--- and I am missing something later from Cole; John, are you safely in CA
now and back on line???

Godfrey, Laurie R., and John R. .i.Cole;. (1979). "Biological Analogy,
Diffusionism, and Archaeology." American Anthropologist 81/1: 37-45.