Subject:      Re: "America B.C." -- anything to this?
From: (Yuri Kuchinsky)
Date:         1997/11/18
Message-ID:   <64r8v5$amp$>
Newsgroups:   sci.archaeology,sci.anthropology,sci.lang

Ross Clark <[22]> wrote on Mon, 17 Nov 1997 17:48:47
> Yuri Kuchinsky wrote:

> > : The Carolines script is real enough. Fell didn't discover it. There's
> > : also good evidence that it is not much more than 100 years old.
> >
> > I see. Good evidence... How good?
> The basic reference on this writing system is Saul H.Riesenberg & Shigeru
> Kaneshiro, "A Caroline Islands Script", Smithsonian Institution Bureau of
> American Ethnology, Anthropological Papers No.60 (1960). The most obvious
> indications of its non-antiquity are that there are no ancient
> inscriptions,

Hi, Ross,

The fact that there are no ancient inscriptions _as far as we know_ is not
decisive in itself. The same applied to the rongorongo until it was
"discovered" rather late, in 1868, and almost by accident. European
visitors were visiting EI for centuries without being aware of any native
script on the island.

> and the earliest known reference to its existence dates
> from 1909. Riesenberg & Kaneshiro are able to fix its origins fairly
> precisely. To summarize:
>         - The Roman alphabet was introduced to the Truk area from 1878 by
> missionaries
>         - In 1905 a missionary named Snelling and some Trukese companions
> were lost at sea, and after a long drift voyage ended up at Woleai. These
> people, during their short stay, taught the Woleaians the alphabet, which
> the latter reinterpreted as a syllabary.
>         - A much more extensive syllabary was invented on Faraulep around
> 1907, using some of the Woleai syllabics, some rebus-principle, and
> apparently with some input from a Japanese trader resident on the island.
> These events were just within living memory when Riesenberg & Kaneshiro
> did their field research in the 1950s. The names of the inventors of the
> Faraulep script were remembered, and at least one of them was still
> alive.
> This seems to me about as well documented as one could wish. However,
> given that Barry Fell managed to ignore the equally well documented
> origins of the Cree and Cherokee scripts,

Well, this assumes that I agree with you about these other scripts. Not
valid. You cannot explain one unknown by the means of another unknown -- a
logical fallacy.

Ever since I've been researching the Micmac script, which to my mind is
undoubtedly precolumbian, I've always been very sceptical of stories of
Christian missionaries running around and inventing scripts for the
natives. Especially, as is the case with the Micmacs, if you really look
into what missionaries themselves said, it turns out that they didn't
actually claim that they invented it...

In any case, on p. 89 of ESOP 18, (1989), Fell reproduces a detailed map
of the Carolines that was drawn by the islanders themselves in 1697, while
visiting the Philippines, before any Europeans ever got to the Carolines
themselves. On the border of this map, as it is preserved in the
collection of William Van Nostrand, there are some decorations as well as
an inscription in the native Carolines script.

This seems to me like this refutes the analysis of Riesenberg & Kaneshiro.

Fell was aware of Riesenberg & Kaneshiro's views since he footnotes them
in this article. He did not find their research persuasive.


> > Wait a minute, Ross. Since there seem to be some intriguing similarities
> > _in shapes_, the sounds need not even concern us here as yet.
> That depends. One might make a case on purely formal resemblance _if_ the
>  shapes in question were quite complex and there were a substantial
> number of them. But if they are simple, the possiblities of chance
> resemblance are very substantial,

Fell deals with similarities in shapes between rongorongo and the
Carolines script on p. 196 in the same issue of ESOP. There are 15 symbols
that he found quite similar.

> and here the sounds are very important.

Fell believed that the sound values of rongorongo characters as given by
the seemingly knowledgeable EI informant Metoro, and as published by
Jaussen in 1893, were valid. This is still the best evidence about sound
values that we possess. The sound values for those 15 characters as given
by Metoro correspond fairly closely with the accepted sound values for the
Carolines script.

> If someone notes that writing systems A and B both include a circle and a
> pair of crossed lines, I would not even cross the street to find out
> more. These are elementary geometric forms which occur again and again.
> But if they say that the circle has the phonetic value [o] in both
> scripts, and the crossed lines [t], I would say "Aha, now maybe you're
> onto something."

And this just happens to be the case if one accepts Metoro's readings.

> Someone who has a copy of Fell's paper handy can correct
> me on this, but my recollection is that there were maybe a dozen

15 actually.

> resemblances from among 70-odd Caroline syllabics and a couple of hundred
> rongorongo symbols. This doesn't seem overwhelming.

> The fact
> > that Fell was the first to point out these simililarities is very
> > significant.
> He wasn't. Imbelloni in 1951 tried to connect the two, and threw in the
> Indus Valley script as well.

I should find out more about this. Can you give the cite?



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

The goal proposed by Cynic philosophy is apathy, which is
equivalent to becoming God -=O=- Julian

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