Easter Island humbugs of Paul Bahn
   Author:   Yuri Kuchinsky
   Date: 1998/07/29
   Forums: sci.archaeology, sci.anthropology, rec.arts.books,
   soc.culture.native

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Paul Bahn and John Flenley, EASTER ISLAND, EARTH ISLAND,
Thames and Hudson, NY, 1992.

        ---

I don't know what it is with Dr. Bahn. It may be his ignorance, or it
may be just plain dishonesty... and I really don't care... But one
thing is perfectly clear. Paul Bahn came up with the most amazing
absurdities and misrepresentations in his and Flenley's volume.

So here I will document some of the games the archaeologists
play when they try to deny science in the service of their Eurocentric
dogma.

Who is Paul Bahn? He's no newcomer to archaeology, that's for
sure. Plenty of professional publications, including these very
recent weighty volumes:

Bahn, Paul G. Archaeology: a very short introduction. Oxford; New
York: Oxford University Press. 1996.

Bahn, Paul G. The Cambridge illustrated history of prehistoric art.
Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press. 1998.

The Cambridge illustrated history of archaeology, edited by Paul
G. Bahn; Cambridge [England]; New York: Cambridge University
Press. 1996.

John Flenley, on the other hand, is merely a specialist in
biogeography:

Biogeography, edited by J.R. Flenley, et al; New York: Harper &
Row. 1986.

So probably he should be for the most part absolved of the blame
for the blatant stupidities and falsehoods that I will itemise next.

So here we go. Next, we will see quite a collection of red herrings
and humbugs.

Bahn is setting out to disprove the theories of Thor Heyerdahl, but
he does this in the most inept, dishonest, and tendentious fashion.

     ...he has bolstered his claim with selective evidence of the
     folk memory, botany, material culture, linguistics and physical
     anthropology of the island, building up a complex picture of
     the island's history... (p. 42)

This is what Bahn says about Heyerdahl. Bahn should look in the
mirror. Because it is really he who is guilty of these sins he
ascribes so blithely to Heyerdahl.

Let's begin with this absurdity:

ITEM: What did Heyerdahl actually propose, and when?

Bahn writes:

     [Heyerdahl] had first seen Polynesia as having been
     colonized from the coasts of both South and Northwest
     America, but after Kon-Tiki he limited his theory to SA alone.
     (p. 39)

This is a clear falsehood and an obvious absurdity. How could he
come up with such a jewel? Heyerdahl certainly DID NOT limit his
theory to "SA alone" after Kon-Tiki. Heyerdahl in fact published his
AMERICAN INDIANS IN THE PACIFIC, his main work on the
subject, where he detailed his complete theory of Polynesian
history, _after_ Kon-Tiki.

Was Bahn merely ignorant in this case? Was he deliberately
deceptive? I don't care. Those interested may wish to try to read
his mind... Not me...


ITEM: EI Native traditional history.

For someone who claims to be respectful of Native Easter
Islanders, Bahn misrepresents things here terribly. Native Islanders
of course have traditional accounts stating that they originally
came from SA. Bahn acknowledges this, but he does this in a very
deceptive fashion. He attributes this account to... one individual
only, i.e. to Alexander Salmon, who gave his account in "late 19th
century" (p. 42). His story was recorded by Thomson in 1886 (p.
51). Next, Bahn says that Mrs. Routledge, who was on the island
for some time in 1914, "never encountered this story". Such
negative evidence for Bahn is determinative? The implication here,
the impression that Bahn wishes to create for the reader is that this
story is... dreamed up by Salmon? But this is just plain false.
Here's an item that Heyerdahl provides in his book, EASTER
ISLAND, 1989:

-    LEGENDS OF EASTER ISLANDERS

Dr. Walter Knoche arrived to the EI in 1911, and he tried his best
to collect the ancestral traditions of the Easter Islanders at that
time.

     He ... interviewed the two old men in the presence of sixty or
     seventy other islanders, all of whom took an interested part in
     the procedure. As a result, Knoche was able to obtain
     unanimous agreement from the crowd on a number of tribal
     memories... (p. 122)

These tradition obtained at that time, and at other times previously
indicate that,

     To put it plainly: the Easter Islanders had told us that the first
     people to settle their own island had come from what we call
     S. America. There was no other land to the east.

So this seems like clear misrepresentation of important evidence
on the part of the esteemed Dr. Bahn.


ITEM: native navigation in SA.

Bahn misrepresents terribly also in this area. For example, on p.
46 he says that "the Spanish introduced the use of sail" to Peru.
This is just so ridiculous! Native S. Americans sailed all along the
Pacific coast of South and Central America. From the most ancient
times, they had extensive trade links, linking places from Chile to
Panama, and even into California. To sail along this dangerous
coast, where strong winds and currents are abundant, was no
mean matter. So why does he misrepresent the facts? Isn't it very
obvious that he is very biased against Native Americans?

On ancient Native American navigation, see:

http://www.trends.ca/~yuku/tran/tnav.htm

And on p. 47 Bahn says that

     ...there's no indication that in the early centuries AD (or
     indeed later) South American Indians had the capacity to
     move themselves and their domesticates over such great
     distances.

This is just so ridiculous. Perhaps he's just ignorant, but ignorance
is no defence here where he pontificates about such an important
subject in the area of Native American history.

Further misrepresentation:

     Most South American sailing took place in the zone of very
     settled weather... (p. 48)

This is just plain absurd. Perhaps it's typical landlubbing ignorance
of a sheltered academic who has never ventured outside the
comfortable groves of the academe? Yes, this is how it seems to me.
So why does he pretend to discourse about these matters as if he
knew what's going on with this subject? Yes, dear reader, quite
plainly, Paul Bahn seems to be a fraud...

Another red herring:

     There is also the extreme isolation of EI, so remote that it is
     pretty unlikely that it could be found more than once with any
     degree of reliability. (p. 48)

Again, perhaps the nerdy Dr. Bahn has simply never heard that the
Incas gave the Spanish conquistadores exact sailing direction to
the EI? (Mendana expedition sailed out into the Pacific based on
these directions.) Obviously the Native Americans reached EI
more than once, then?


ITEM: the botanical evidence.

Next in his book, Bahn twists and misrepresents the very important
botanical evidence of EI -- SA contact, but this needs to be yet another
post, since this is a big subject in its own right.

So, let's go on to


ITEM: megalithic constructions on EI and in SA

This subject has been discussed in some detail recently in
sci.arch. The matter is quite simple. Exactly similar unique and
very special polygonal constructions are found in SA and on EI.
The chronology fits perfectly. So how can the deniers weasel out
of this one? To weasel they certainly try, and try again...

What they try to do is challenge the chronology, and this both on
EI and in SA. For one, they try to make such constructions late in
SA. And on EI they try to make such constructions both early and
late -- an absurdity, if ever there was one! Such tactics are
quite transparent, and quite hopeless.

It is plain misrepresentation to try to make SA megalithic
constructions late. Tiwanaku civilization that used such
constructions certainly goes back to before 800 ad. But Bahn
attempts to weasel here by trying to start his countdown in SA from
800 ad, from the Classic Tiwanaku (p. 56). This is just ridiculous
obfuscation. He assumes an arbitrary late starting date in SA and
hopes to get away with it?

Next, the obfuscation about the EI chronology. On the same p. 56, Bahn
claims that fitted stone megalithic constructions are both very early and
very late on EI. He claims that Vinapu 1 megalithic construction is very
late because it "incorporates" a block from a very different previous
Middle Period construction. No citation is given for this, a curious
oversight.

What can I say here? Bahn's claim is of course absurd on the
surface of it. It's like claiming, for example, that a very distinctive
architectural style from ancient Egypt that was forgotten and
unused for many centuries was somehow miraculously brought
back into fashion at a much later time? But this is simply
incredible...

We know that megalithic constructions were very early on EI. There's
absolutely no doubt about this any more. So it is Dr. Bahn who is making
an extraordinary claim here: that they are _also very late_. It is up to
him to provide some very good evidence for this weird theory. He presents
none. His claim about a late block being incorporated into Vinapu 1 is not
documented in any way in his book. Based on Dr. Bahn's track record so
far, I will give next to zero credence to such a claim of his until I see
some pretty good evidence. Case closed.

But Dr. Bahn doesn't stop here. His misrepresentations in this area
continue apace. He next claims that the megalithic constructions
on EI and in SA are not similar after all? Will the
misrepresentations never stop? This is what he says,

     As for stone walls, Andean specialists have pointed out that
     they cannot match the type exactly among classic Inca
     masonry. Moreover, unlike the solid blocks used in Peru, the
     EI "walls" are actually a facing of slabs that masks a rubble
     core, so any resemblance with Cyclopean blocks is equally
     superficial. (p. 56)

How weird can anyone get? What a tissue of deception here...

1. We are not talking about "Inca masonry". Red herring.
2. Which Andean specialists? No names? No citations?
3. Clear misrepresentation about "facing of slabs" being found on EI, but 
not in SA. This is quite false. In SA there can be found megalithic blocks
used exactly in the same way they're used on EI. And typical EI megalithic
blocks weigh on average about 7 tons. What kind of a "facing" is this?
4. So the resemblance is certainly not "superficial".

It is really quite a pain to try to disentangle truth from fiction in the
stories given by this obviously utterly incompetent and biased
"specialist". But the job must be done. This man seems to be the main
anti-Heyerdahl war-horse of current EI mainstream scholarship, and he's
cited approvingly by all his lesser followers, the junior weasels.

I have said it before, and will say it again. Mainstream historical
scholarship in this area is extremely corrupt, incompetent, and
often dishonest. Yes, some mistakes can be found also in
Heyerdahl, but most of them are honest mistakes, and he never
descends to such depths of absurd misrepresentation.

I will later present in detail Dr. Bahn's misrepresentations in the
area of the botanical evidence. This evidence indicates EI -- SA
links very clearly. His incompetence and deceptions here are
egregious.

Also, Dr. Bahn's weird confusion about the "chicken houses" on EI
will be presented. These are of course no chicken houses at all,
but ancient mausoleums that may have been used to house
chickens in later times. I will show this in detail.

Dr. Bahn is a big joke. None of his evidence should be taken
seriously without careful cross-checking. This is my conclusion
after perusing his pathetic absurdities about EI history.

Regards,

Yuri.

Yuri Kuchinsky -=O=- [20]http://www.globalserve.net/~yuku  UPDATED

"Contrariwise," continued Tweedledee, "if it was so, it might be, and
if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't.  That's logic!"
                -- Lewis Carroll, "Through the Looking Glass"
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