Subject:      evidence: manioc on Easter Island
From: (Yuri Kuchinsky)
Date:         1997/09/30
Message-ID:   <60rn54$cd0$>
Newsgroups:   sci.archaeology,sci.anthropology,,alt.native


Abundant evidence exists for the hypothesis that there were contacts
between the Easter Island and the South American mainland in earliest
times. This evidence is so plentiful that it is hard to believe that this
hypothesis will not be accepted by now by our academic mainstream. And yet
it is not. We can only speculate why this may be so.

Not only this, but there's also very good evidence that the earliest
settlers on Easter Island came from S. America. As archaeological evidence
demonstrates, the culture of the earliest Easter Island peoples shows so
much affinity with the pre-Inca Tiahuanaco civilization that this matter
should have been settled by now. Also, the oral narratives of the native
Easter Islanders just happen to be _saying the very same thing_. Detailed
traditional narratives exist telling us that the first Easter Islanders
came from the East, i.e. from S. America.

So what is the problem? Why are our scholars so reluctant to accept all
this? Who can tell...

In any case, let's look at the case of the manioc (Manihot), also known as
cassava, a very useful crop plant native to S. America. It is a tropical
tuber propagated by stem cuttings, and it was domesticated by Amerindians
in ancient times.

First, a little about history. As far as we know, Easter Island was first
visited by the Europeans on Easter Day 1722, by the Dutch. It seems that
the native society was flourishing at that time. The population was large,
seemingly multiracial, and peaceful. Although the Dutch only spent one day
on the island, they managed to get into some sort of trouble and shoot a
few natives before they left.

The next visit came by the Spanish nearly 50 years later, in 1770. The
viceroy of Peru, Don Manuel de Amat, sent out an expedition of two ships
under the command of Felipe Gonzalez y Haedo to look for the mysterious
island reported by the Dutch. Gonzalez claimed the island for Spain. His
expedition spent 6 days on the island, and they left detailed records of
what they found there.

Earliest European visitors noticed that the fishing in the area was very
poor. The islanders were not fishermen, and their sustenance came for the
most part from agriculture, in which they were very skillful. Among a
number of other food crops, Gonzalez told us, the islanders cultivated
_yuka_. The word yuka is the term for manioc in various indigenous
languages of Peru and other Central and South American countries, and this
plant was surely known to Gonzalez very well.

This is what Thor Heyerdahl writes in his EASTER ISLAND: THE MYSTERY
SOLVED, 1989:

"When the documents of the Gonzalez expedition were translated into
English and published by the prominent British scholar Bolton G. Corney in
1908, he was so dumbfounded at finding a reference to S. American yuca on
Easter Island prior to European influence, that he concealed or obfuscated
the evidence of manioc. In one instance he rendered the word yuca
erroneously as "taro"; in three others he left it untranslated, adding
erroneous footnotes confusing the readers. Not until 1986 did a Spanish
scholar Francisco Mellen Blanco revise and bring together all the
documents from the Gonzalez expedition, and in 1988 Robert Langdon of the
Australian National University caused a sensation in the scientific world
by publishing in THE GEOGRAPHIC JOURNAL a paper entitled MANIOC: A
3(Nov. 1988), pp. 324-336, London]. According to Langdon, Corney in his
translation acted as he did because, in the climate of his times, he
simply could not believe that manioc could have reached Easter Island
prior to European influence. Langdon's conclusion was that the fact that
manioc was clearly reported as cultivated on that Polynesian island in
1770 'greatly strengthens the case for prehistoric American Indian
influence on Easter Island and other islands of eastern Polynesia'". (p.

To me, this seems like undeniable historical evidence. Who would like to
deny it, and why?

And furthermore, manioc certainly doesn't stand alone in this case. Other
cultivated plants described by first European visitors, such as the sweet
potato, the main crop on Easter Island from ancient times, add to the near
certainty that Easter island was visited, and probably first settled, by
ancient South Americans.

Best regards,


Yuri Kuchinsky in Toronto -=O=- [23]

Comparative studies of primitive art have probably been
jeopardized by the zeal of investigators of cultural contacts and
borrowings. But let us state in no uncertain terms that these
studies have been jeopardized even more by intellectual pharisees
who prefer to deny obvious relationships because science does not
yet provide an adequate method for their interpretation
   -=-   Claude Levi-Strauss, ANTHROPOLOGIE STRUCTURALE, 1958

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