Olmec and China

Kevin E. Smith (kesmith@FRANK.MTSU.EDU)
Tue, 29 Oct 1996 22:05:15 -0600

First, I'll admit I haven't really seen the details of the "discovery"...
Second, I'm not adamantly opposed to the notion of early transoceanic

However, I think we should always consider that any sustained contact
should carry with it "unintentional baggage" that should be considered as
well. Were there diseases in China during the period in question that
could/should have been transmitted by a group of "sailors?" Were there
rodents, insects, etc. indigenous to China that could/should have been
present on board an ocean-going vessel that could/should suddenly appear
in archaeological deposits relating to the Olmec? Are there specific
plants that could/should have been brought that could grow/thrive in the
Olmec environment? One example that comes to mind is the introduction of
various European rodent species from ships during the early colonial

I have no background in China for this period, so there may not be any of
these types of "accidental" or intentional baggage more knowledgable
scholars would expect to exist (alternatively, the archaeological record
may simply not record those that might exist). In the event of a "one
time" or limited contact, these types of items might not be introduced and
survive. Nonetheless, when assessing claims for contact like this, I
personally feel we should look at the "package" of items that should go
along with seafaring travellers -- not just a handful of nifty

And for those who asked about how the Olmec got to China, bravo also,
but -- ditto the above.

Finally to those with greater expertise in these issues, feel free to
flame me into an ashpile....

Best wishes,

Kevin E. Smith, Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Anthropology -- PO Box 10
Middle Tennessee State University
Murfreesboro, Tennessee, USA 37132