Re: amazing Amazonian pottery (cont.)

Jeffrey L Baker (
Fri, 23 Aug 1996 12:45:28 -0700

On 20 Aug 1996, Yuri Kuchinsky wrote:

> transmission of mythological motifs, or of artistic traits. This is
> why the evidence from botany can be extremely important in the
> matters of diffusion or non-diffusion.
> As regards the earliest Amazonian cultures, Lathrap proposed the
> idea of the diffusion from Africa into S. America. He bases much of
> his analysis on the case of the bottle gourd, the plant that was
> extremely important for earliest societies around the world.

It should be pointed out that Lathrap was an archaeologist, not a botanist.

> A glance at the map should be enough to convince one of
> this, and Schwerin (1970) has published an excellent
> discussion of the relevant winds and currents which
> facilitate a crossing at this point. (ibid, p. 726)

Given these currents and the bottle gourd's ability to withstand long
periods of immersion in salt water isn't it possible that bottle gourds
could have crossed the Atlantic on their own, without any human assistance?

> Now, to come back to the work of Anna Roosevelt on Amazonian
> pottery. One clear indication from her work is that the ceramic
> stage at the sites that she studied in the Amazon seems to appear on
> sterile levels.
> ... preceramic cultures have not yet been scientifically
> documented at these sites. (op. cit., p. 120)

The earliest pottery at the Taperinha shell mound is above culturally
sterile strata, but in the proximity of Taperinha is the cave site of
Pedra Pintada which does contain earlier cultural occupations.

> Having the earliest known American pottery in tropical
> lowlands at the eastern edge of South America fit
> neither the Japanese fishermen theory nor the Andean
> invasion theory but was consonant with independent
> invention or Lathrap's African origins hypothesis. (p.
> 116)
> There may have been many hearths (diffusion matrices) for pottery in
> S. America.
> The distinctive differences in pottery from region to
> region suggest that there must have been several
> hearths. (p. 128)
> This of course will be in parallel with the usual several hearths
> for pottery in other regions of the world. So, as we can see, many
> of the theories about the diffusion of Andean pottery may still be
> valid -- _if_ the ancient Amazonians did not interact with the
> Ecuadorians.

You believe that contact would have first come from Japan, rather than
the amazon? Ever hear of Occam's Razor?

> And Roosevelt does not make the claim of knowing if the early
> Amazonian pottery cultures have influenced the Andean Valdivian
> pottery.

Yet, with much less expertise than Roosevelt, will not hesitate to
argue that the amazonian pottery is from africa, while the valdivia
pottery is from Japan?

> ... Lathrap's idea that pottery-using horticultural
> people from Africa came into the Amazon at 13,000 years
> ago does not fit the fact that there is absolutely no
> pottery in the 11,200- to 9,800-year-old Paleoindian
> site. (p. 129)
> True. But this criticism does not really take into account what the
> diffusionists are really saying. What they are saying is that

Why would they bring agriculture on one trip, and wait thousands of
years to bring pottery?

If contact was so frequent, why is there not a single african artifact
in the precolumbian new world?

> influence on ancient American cultures. The influences from Asia
> (from various parts of Asia) were likely _continuous_ and _multiple_
> over the ages. These influences are especially apparent in the later
> pre-columbian periods.

Again, if contact with Asia was so frequent why is there not a single
asian artifact in precolumbian contexts in the New World?

Jeff Baker