Subject:      Amerindian navigators and Eurocentrism in scholarship
From: (Yuri Kuchinsky 17784)
Date:         1997/09/07
Message-ID:   <5uvasm$n7p$>
Newsgroups:   sci.archaeology.mesoamerican,sci.archaeology,

Greetings, all,

I just wonder.

Why is it so difficult for a number of scholars in these
newsgroups to accept that the Native South Americans were skilful
navigators in precolumbian times? Why so much evidence presented
to this effect so far has fallen on such deaf ears?

I accept that this important chapter of Amerindian history has
remained until today almost completely unknown in our mainstream
historical scholarship. This is sad but true. Even somebody as
presumably so knowledgeable as Prof. Stephen Williams of Harvard,
the author of the bestselling book FANTASTIC ARCHAEOLOGY, has
demonstrated his complete lack of familiarity with these matters,
while condemning vitriolically some scholars who helped to
investigate this in detail. Recently Bernard Ortiz, one of our
contributors, has also shown his lack of familiarity with these
matters. And he has been extremely critical and totally dismissive
of Thor Heyerdahl who was the great pioneer in helping to discover
this nearly lost chapter in Native history. (Heyerdahl built and
sailed Kon Tiki, a ship modelled after S. American traditional
craft, _way back in 1947_. Our respected mainstream scholars are
still unable to factor in this information, it seems...)

These scholars may have fallen victim to the general near total
academic ignorance in this area. Somehow, and Eurocentrism has
certainly played a role in this area, the academic consensus was
formed that the South American Natives were "land-locked" (imagine
this!) and ignorant of the arts of shipbuilding and navigation.
Oh, well, never too late to learn new things...

But the "professional critics" in these ngs? They have been
literally bombarded with solid research and information posted by
a number of contributors, yours truly included. And after all this
they still refuse to accept the obvious? Why? What prevents them
from accepting what was posted, or, if they are still sceptical,
from actually lifting a couple of volumes referenced from the
library shelf and reading all this for themselves? I just wonder
about this... Could it be that old academic Eurocentrism making
its appearance here once again? Could it be that they simply
cannot accept that the Natives could be so advanced and
sophisticated in this area? Also, just think of all the abundant
possibilities here for making a few juvenile jokes... Playing up
to the gallery of ignorant fellow Eurocentrists, as it were... A
noted humourist, Prof. Paul Gans, a fairly respected contributor
here, from what I can understand, was known to regale us not so
long ago with the cute stories of how he will make a "Budweiser
raft", a boat made of empty beer cans, and how he will bravely
sail the oceans on it... You get the picture...

Anyway, let's come back to the native S. Americans and the Pacific
islands. Inca Tupac Yapanqui, the all-powerful ruler of the Incas,
went on a prolonged expedition across the sea. (Of course he
almost certainly must have known exactly where he was going, since
other good evidence indicates that contacts between S. America and
the Pacific islands were not uncommon long before him.) He brought
some Polynesians with him on his return. He told his peoples about
the two Pacific islands he visited, _Ava Chumbi_, and _Nina
Chumbi_. All this happened only three generations before the
Spanish arrived to Peru, so it's not like it was some sort of
ancient history at that point, or anything... The Spanish
certainly believed this story enough to actually send an
expedition to try to reach these islands in 1567. It was led by
Alvaro de Mendana, with the historian Sarmiento de Gamboa aboard.
They had almost exact sailing directions to the Easter Island,
received from the Amerindians. It later turned out that they did
not find Easter Island because Mendana, in spite of Sarmiento's
insistence, did not follow the directions given by the
Amerindians, and changed course after 25 days. They found some
other islands, and returned.

The brutal and arrogant Spanish colonialists believed what the
Natives told them, and acted on this, as it turned out, solid
information. Well, it looks like our today's enlightened sholars
of American prehistory are still to progress to such a level...

How sad...


Yuri Kuchinsky in Toronto -=O=- [22]

It is a far, far better thing to have a firm anchor in nonsense than
to put out on the troubled seas of thought -=O=- John K. Galbraith

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