Shang/Olmec doubtful

Tue, 29 Oct 1996 10:58:56 EST

Well this issue finally forces the lurker from the hole:

I just reviewed the web site of the US NEWS & World report and was
dissappointed to see no photograph of the "script" itself. This would
certainly solve the issue. I was able to confirm that the Chen, Hanping (last
names first in China) was in fact the Chen Hanping I had met on several
occasions at meetings on Shang society and of ancient Chinese paleography.
Although I do not wish to malign his skills in these fields, I second Prof.
Bagley's note of caution re: the motivation behind finding the Olmec/"Chinese"
connection (Bagley is quoted in the article re: ethnic imperialism [my
wording]). While I do not wish to condemn the US N & WR article as being
National Enquirer in style (it made an attempt to find experts in the field;
certainly Dr. Boltz & Dr. Keightley should be able to resolve this if given a
chance--they also are quoted. Keightley is a Shang scholar & reads
orcle bone script; Boltz is a linguist and specializes more in the late Zhou
early Han period script; Bageley, is an art historian of Shang art.), the
article does have a facile ring to it.
As people have noted this is not a new thread. The idea of transpacific
contacts is not of course impossible. It is too bad that so many of the
"studies" that have attempted to make these connections (I have read several
by Chinese scholars) tend to make fantastic leaps in time & place. All in all
there is much intriguing material. I was once asked to explore the
correspondence between certain sets of petroglyphs on the island of Hawaii
that someone felt were "Chinese." There were some random fun
correspondences. But essentially, the was no _linguistic_ connection. The
symbols did NOT represent the Chinese language at any stage (I include the
Shang and Zhou stages of archaic Chinese). I decided to survey petroglyphs
worldwide to better acquaint myself with their general and specific
characteristics. I decided it would be great fun to submit all petroglyphs to
a finger-print style computer analysis and see what "patterns" would emerge
(never done). Without the resources to do such work, my simple gut feeling
was that Jung aside there are certain symbols that coincidentally occur in
many different unrelated pre-writing contexts.
If someone has access to these "inscriptions" and Dr. Keightley does not
have time to look at them, I would be happy to. I was his student at Berkeley
and a specialist in archaic Chinese script.
C. A. Cook
Lehigh Univ.
MFL, Maginnes
9 W. Packer Ave.
Bethlehem, PA 18015
fax 610-758-6556
0ffice 610-758-3091