Mystery Solved: Olmecs and Transoceanic Contact

olmec headThe Olmecs of Central America are easily one of the most recognizable indigenous tribes on the planet, even so, very little is actually known about them in mainstream circles. Scholarly study of the Olmecs is producing a lot of interesting information; however much of that information requires a fair amount of digging in scholarly journals and other places making it inaccessible to most. As a result, most of what we average folk know about the Olmecs is that they made large stone heads, the rest is likely pseudoscience and conjecture. Any attempt to uncover the truth on the internet will lead one into this never-ending gauntlet of dubious claims and half-truths. Maybe that’s what brought you here.

The general overview of the many claims about the Olmecs is that the they were subject to cultural diffusionism from the Old World, that is they got a lot – or all – of their culture from the eastern hemisphere. It’s also claimed that the Olmecs were a globally cosmopolitan society and the center of a global trade empire because of their position on the narrowest land in Central America.

These claims are put forth by people like Clyde Winters or Ivan Van Sertima who assert that the Olmecs had contact and trade with Africa, usually from Nubian Africans or Black Egyptians. This type of diffusionism is often called Afrocentrism.

The other type of diffusionism based on contact with Asia is put forth by people like Betty Meggers and others. This camp claims the Olmecs had trade with, or originated with the Shang Dynasty of China and received a number of cultural and other traditions and products from China and possibly Japan. Most notably, writing.

David Hatcher Childress takes what I call the “Spaghetti-Diffusionist” view, in that he throws everything above and more to the wall in the hopes that something will stick. Childress grasps at all of those straws – African and Asian, and even Mediterranean (because of depictions of beards) – in his book “Mystery of the Olmecs” where he posits that the Olmecs were the hub of a worldwide trade empire influenced by China and Africa and that the Olmecs may have been akin to or actually Atlantean sea-kings. Though the evidence for a historical Atlantis is wanting.

Since Childress’ Spaghetti-Diffusionism borrows and uses theories and evidence from just about any of the above alternative history claims about the Olmecs, this article is mostly a decent debunking of his book “Mystery of the Olmecs” and as a result, the people he draws upon. Because there are so many claims, and many of them are unsourced or vague, this article will focus on the main claim of contact with Africa and China, and a few of the more interesting claims. A few additional items are covered in this book review.

Because there are claims that ancient Africa, China or even Atlantis/Mu had contact with the Olmecs at a time in world history when oceans were barriers and not a highway, this theory lends itself to ideas of high technology in ancient times. With no evidence for conventional methods of transit from Africa to Mexico and to China, it becomes easier to accept the need for ancient high technology such as airplanes, UFOs, vimanas or other sophisticated conveyances. While there do not seem to be many claims of Olmec lasers, power tools or airplanes, it probably wouldn’t take much for someone to jump to that conclusion. (For example, I once thought the Olmecs might have hopped the Tolima “fighter jets” from Africa to their territory.) One more tangible example though would be David Childress’ stone balls in Costa Rica that “could only have been made with power tools,” giant stone balls that he implies may have been connected to the Olmecs. Giant stone balls that were previously claimed to be tied to Atlantis.

Despite all of the unusual claims about the Olmecs, reality is far less fantastic, though still quite interesting. Once you throw out the nonsense, and learn what real scholars are saying, there is still plenty of mystery about the Olmecs.

General Overview

It’s widely agreed that the Olmecs are the oldest recorded civilization in Central America. Prior to the accidental discovery of Olmec artifacts, it was believed that the Mayans were the most senior civilization in the Americas.

Archaeologists put the Olmecs at about 1200 BC and they lasted until about 400 BC and much of Childress’ basic information seems correct and is more or less corroborated here and here. They were known to have pioneered proto-basketball, religion, and of course construction and art. Colossal heads and pyramid/mounds are probably their most obvious and famous accomplishments. Many smaller Olmec artifacts may be viewed via search here. (You can search for “tool”, “hammer-stones”, “sandstone “saw” or grindstone” to find some of the items they used to make the giant heads) and a treasure trove of information can be found here. These resources will lead you to probably the most accurate information you’ll find about the Olmecs.

Contact with Africa

Based primarily on the appearance of the colossal heads (and the claims of others before him), David Childress, asserts in his book that the Olmecs were, or at least had contact with, black Africans. A theory much like that of Ivan Van Sertima and Clyde Winters. In fact, Van Sertima was pretty much the first to take this theory and run with it. Childress though, starts off his book attacking mainstream archaeologists (ad hominem) for not believing “obvious evidence” of African contact because it disagrees with their preconceptions. Childress doesn’t realize that in dismissing the findings of archaeologists, because mainstream archaeology doesn’t support his theories, he’s done the same thing – that is dismiss obvious evidence.

As mentioned before, the origin for most of Childress’ theories about contact with Africa is the late Ivan Van Sertima, who was most famous for his views claiming that Africans were the basis for all of the world’s civilizations and especially the view that the Olmecs had contact with them. In his view, Africans made a number of journeys to the Americas long before Columbus. To his credit, he was in charge of African Studies at Rutgers, however his views of Africans in Central America and such were never taken very seriously among actual Mesoamerican scholars. It seems that he was probably the pioneer of this theory and probably the loudest voice in the argument for African contact with the Olmecs.

The claims of Clyde Winters, as near as I can figure, seem to parrot Van Sertima’s quite a bit. He diverts somewhat by sometimes tying in Atlantis. Winters’ Atlantis was populated with dark skinned individuals instead of the Aryan whites of other New Age camps, other than that there isn’t much to say. Not surprisingly, some of his claims don’t mesh with claims of others. Like the claim that Mayan and Olmec writing originated in Africa, is contradicted by those who say the Olmec writing is Chinese in origin. Of course, if Africa civilized China as is probably claimed, that would probably make sense…somehow.

If these theories of African contact with the Olmecs are correct, if the Africans came to America as Van Sertima has tried to prove. If they were the center of a global trade empire as Childress suggests, we would hope to be able to find a large amount of proof. Artifacts would be hard to discount. The giant stone heads are an excellent and obvious place to start. But how about other pieces of evidence, such as plants, artwork/pottery, and perhaps language? Nothing says international trade more clearly than an artifact made by one culture for another, and so there are claims that some of these are present that will be examined shortly.

Genetic evidence would also be a great way to prove contact. We know that when Europeans came to the New World, they often intermarried/bred with the Native Americans. There is no reason to think that African Adventurers wouldn’t have. Even if they didn’t, it’s not terribly unlikely that some of the African visitors would have  had a mishap and died, generously leaving their remains to prove transoceanic contact.

Yet not a single one of these things has surfaced, and claimed artifacts are often dubious. This paper (a MUST read), states that:

“Authentic artifacts provide absolute proof of contact; however, no such artifact of African origin has ever been found in the New World.”

The closest credible claim of an Old World relic in the New World was presented in a paper titled:  “Were Spaniards Among the First Americans?” By Constance Holden (possibly available in Google scholar or any academic database.) Holden presents the “Solutrean Hypothesis” a case based on findings from the 30’s and 40’s that Solutreans (ancient Spaniards) made their way to America as long as 20,000 years ago. This claim is supported by spearheads found in New Mexico that match a technique used by ancient spear-makers in Europe. Holden also argues that some Native Americans possess a DNA marker originating in Europe. This theory is not unchallenged, and the wiki article quoted above links to sources that call the theory and evidence into question, making this claim unlikely. Casting even more doubt, is the fact that the workmanship of the spearheads are actually quite different and the Solutreans were not known to be capable of transoceanic travel. In the unlikely event that it did happen, the Solutrean theory requires smaller and calmer oceans provided by the ice age, something that the African diffusion theory did not have the benefit of.

Further supporting the isolation of the Olmecs from other people groups was a comparative study in “Tissue Antigens” 2000: 56:” of Mazatecans (Descendents of the Olmecs/Mayans), other Indians and other world populations. Titled “HLA genes in Mexican Mazatecans, the peopling of the Americas and the uniqueness of Amerindians,” and written by several authors including A. Arnaiz-Villena , the study conluded:

“Significant genetic input from outside is not noticed in Meso and South American Amerindians according to the phylogenetic analyses; while all world populations (including Africans, Europeans, Asians, Australians, Polynesians, North American Na-Dene Indians and Eskimos) are genetically related. Meso and South American Amerindians tend to remain isolated in the Neighbor-Joining.”

Further,

“Amerindians do not show relationships with Polynesians, Australians (almost discounting a massive Pacific colonization…),  Caucasoids or African blacks.” (Arnaiz-Villena; pg 413)

Within the article the genetic make up and similarity of a number of populations and a comparison of genetic “closeness” is conducted. In short, the Mazatecans (Olmecs) stand pretty much apart from all of the other surveyed ethnicities. Other conclusions are that the Olmecs are the likely progenitors of the Mayans, the peopling of the Americas was a lot more complicated than a simple emigration from Asia, and genetic evidence may suggest that people moved from South America, to North America, and into Asia. To make a long story short, the Olmecs did not originate in Africa, nor intermix with Africans at any point making it seem unlikely that the Africans visited the Olmecs.

But if the Olmecs didn’t have contact with Africa, why do the colossal heads have “Negroid” or other ethnic features?

The answer is quite simple. The colossal heads were modeled after the Olmecs – people native to the area. Below are some pictures reported to be of people who are descendents of the Olmecs. Not surprisingly, or surprisingly if you’re a diffusionist, they look quite similar to the colossal heads. “Negroid” features of full lips, large flat noses – and Asian features – are shared by the residents of this area. How’s that for “obvious evidence?” However, this is not enough to satisfy the average Afrocentrist, who will claim that the current residents are descended from Africans that intermarried with the natives and that is why modern natives resemble the stone heads. But if you consider the genetic evidence presented just above, that simply cannot be true.

Native Olmec compare 2

Native Olmec compare 6

Peru. Indian portrait 1.

Native Olmec compare 1

Native Olmec compare 3

Native Olmec compare 4

 Not to mention that Egyptians and Nubians – the claimed visitors – don’t look like the Olmecs or “Negroid” in the first place.

Why “Negroid” features (large lips, short, flat noses) are found in Central American and certain African populations is quite simple to explain due to environmental factors. These “Negroid features” and especially the nose is:

“particularly inappropriate as racial markers, because the shape of the nose is primarily a function of climactic factors such as…temperature and moisture content of the air…In areas where the air is very dry, such as deserts, a larger mucuous area is required to moisten inspire air, and this necessitates a longer and narrower nose…Both the Olmecs and the West African ancestors of African-Americans have short, flat noses because they lived in wet, tropical areas; Nubians and Egyptians have longer, thinner noses because they have lived in a desert.”

The article that this quote comes from (CA Forum on Anthropology in Public: Robbing Native American Cultures: Van Sertimas’s Afrocentricity and the Olmecs by Gabriel Haslip-Viera, et al) not only shreds Van Sertima’s and subsequently the whole Africa hypothesis, it also includes the following pictures. First are people from Benin in tropical west Africa, below a man of Nubian descent. The article has several other pictures of note, though one shall suffice.

westafr and nubian

Unfortunately for the diffusionist there is no way around it. The Olmecs modeled the heads on themselves, native Central Americans, not Nubians or Egyptians. There are zero definite artifacts and no genetic evidence to suggest that the land of Olman was visited by anyone from Africa, let alone Egypt or anywhere else.

Contact with Africa Bonus Round

Because Childress’ book is rife with claims that supposedly support contact with Africa, and possibly trade between the Olmecs and Africans, these must be addressed. Since the above information casts sufficient doubt on the contact claim, a smaller amount of space will be devoted to the claims and a link that easily refutes said claim. Also, some people have already debunked many of the claims and so there is no need to reinvent the wheel, especially since I don’t get paid by the word ;-).

Some of the incorrect claims of Childress are:

  • He repeatedly mentions that “Negroid” features on the colossal heads and other statues are evidence that Africans colonized Mexico. (Really, this is dealt with above, but I point it out because is a good example of the “argument by repetition” fallacy)
  • That there are Olmec depictions of old world “visitors” from Africa, China, Europe (because of bearded images), and “other strangers” which are never defined, again Africa was dealt with above, and contact with China and information on beards is coming up, so stay tuned!
  • African visitors to the land of Olman were Egyptian colonists, or Atlantean warriors, though there is no evidence Atlantis actually existed, also as pointed out earlier
  • Childress toys with the idea of Olmecs being African, or other ethnic types and sort of pays dues to Van Sertima, it’s also a decent summary of Childress’ book from the pro-contact point of view. The above section deals with this as well
  • A joint Egyptian-Hindu venture spread culture to the world, and the Biblical mention of Ophir is about a trans-oceanic voyage.
    • (sub-claim by Childress) King Solomon used the Egyptian trade routes to send Phoenician ships to get gold.
      • First, Hindu artifacts in the new world are debunked by Jason Colavito.
      • Second, relating to the Biblical mention of Ophir, no chapter and verse is given by Childress, which is not a surprise, it’s a moot point because Solomon did not send ships to America or anywhere else across the Atlantic) the general consensus is that Ophir was in southern Arabia which makes a lot more sense
    • Phoenicians never made it to America, as implied by Jason Colavito’s commentary on an old article
  • “Mystery of the Olmecs” cites Barry Fell, who is actually a competent biologist. Fell is quoted to prove that there were documented African voyages across the Atlantic, though Fell is debunked as not being a credible archaeologist or linguist, no matter how good he was in biology
  • Egyptians built their ships without nails, and there are ships found in Australia, also built without nails. No real evidence lof this is given, but it’s a very tenuous connection. It would be nice to see pictures of the two styles of boats for a comparison, sadly ‘twas not to be. in any case many other types of boats were made without nails (such as canoes) and those are in no way connected with Egypt. Without more information as to who found the boats, or pictures for comparison, not much to say about it
  • It is claimed that the Moai statues on Easter Island have Egyptian ankhs on the back of their necks. They absolutely do not. A picture is worth a thousand words, and you’ve read enough of those by this point
  • easter island ankhChildress claims that the Egyptians used boomerangs.
    • The photos that Childress includes in the book look nothing like the Australian boomerang, the few that do, are different enough to call this theory into question.
    • Childress mentions that it is likely the Olmecs also used boomerangs, but provides no evidence for this claim. Even if they did, this means nothing because…
    • In reality, the boomerang is not unique to the Aborigines of Australia! It is not even original to ancient Egypt. In actuality, just about every locale on earth has something similar to a boomerang in its distant past.
      • The origin of the boomerang, so far, seems to date to about 5000 BC in Europe, but that is not conclusive.
      • The origin and history of boomerangs is quite interesting, but sadly for diffusionists, trade between Egypt, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and Australia seem to have played no part in the boomerang’s tale
  • Egyptian coins were said to be found in Australia, as reported by ancient alienate pioneers Luis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier in “Eternal Man.” On a similar note, Elizabeth Gould Davis reported that an Egyptian amulet was found in Australia as well. Not much to be found on the Web at the moment on Egyptians in Australia. There are no credible sources or proof of artifacts, and the two listed above cannot be found in any source available to me. True to form, Childress provided no photos or sources so that’s a dead end. Again, Senor Colavito can aid us in some capacity until Childress and the diffusionists can provide us with more evidence. Which I doubt he will be able to.
  • The Torres Straits Islanders practiced mummification
    • Again, this means nothing. Though I’m loathe to source Wiki, it seems that mummification occurred throughout the world. Further, the mummification in the Torres Straits is a wholly different process than that of Egypt. Egypt used a variety of resins and linen wrappings, while the Islanders did not.
  • The practice of cradle boarding was done in Egypt and in South America, implying that they were connected and this is proof of a global society in ancient times and done to emulate a race of people with coneheads (a topic for another day perhaps). It is unclear who this race would be, though aliens or nephilim come up as candidates. Unfortunately remains of either seem difficult to track down.
    • Childress follows this up with a claim about trepanation, though there is no proof the Olmecs practiced this outside of what Childress calls trepanation portrayed as an artistic choice in some statues.
    • Cranial Disfiguration will hopefully be a future blog with an edited link here eventually. At this point, the practice of cradle boarding does not necessarily prove contact between societies.
  • Monument 13 is supposed to be depicting a Mediterranean, solely because it seems to depict a bearded man
    • Obsidian was used for razors (if Olmecs and Indians had no beards, why did they need razors?) In any case, Native Americans can absolutely grow beards, it is merely a myth that they cannot, more on this in a bit…
  • Olmecs were an outpost of Atlantis, or possibly connected to aliens.

Further, in a View From The Bunker radio interview with Derek Gilbert, Childress made several more claims.

  • That there were Egyptian and Hindu artifacts found in the grand canyon, this was debunked by Jason Colavito
  • Egyptian mummies had traces of nicotine from tobacco and/or traces cocaine. Outside of the initial article by Svetlana Balabanova though, no one else has corroborated this. Further, most of the available references to these mummies are paranormal/Fortean Websites.Childress claims that the sea levels were about 300 feet lower at some point in the distant past, while at the same time pooh-poohing the use of land bridges in his book, not a huge thing, but lower sea levels may provide additional land bridges and it seems illogical to embrace one while dismissing the other
    • There is a balanced look at the claims, and it is not impossible that there are Old World origins for the marijuana, nicotine and no cocaine
      • Hash-ish (THC/Marijuana) found on mummies isn’t really a problem as it is native to the Middle East
      • Nicotine can be found in non-tobacco plants in the Old World like belladonna, and Nicotiana Africana a wild form of tobacco native to Namibia, quite far from Egypt, but a lot easier to get to than Mexico
        • The article also indicates that tobacco sprays were used as an insecticide for mummies long ago
        • It also states that nicotine is found in a number of foods and human remains often contain nicotine from these sources
    • In regards to cocaine, scientists have “tested 18 mummies excavated from the Egyptian oasis of Dakhleh in the western Sahara for the presence of cocaine and nicotine. All samples were negative for cocaine, whilst 14 individuals tested positive for nicotine.”
      • The article also mentions that there are some plants related to cocaine found in the Old World
      • It also mentions that it would be unusual for a culture to use drugs (ie cocaine) and not reference them in religious or other texts
      • Wikipedia points to a few scholarly articles that look at this claim more closely and essentially no one has been able to reproduce the cocaine found in the Egyptian mummies from the study of the 1990’s, although nicotine has been found
        • Counsell, D. C., “Intoxicants in Ancient Egypt? Opium, nymphea, coca, and tobacco,” in David, Ann Rosalie, ed. Egyptian Mummies and Modern Science, Cambridge University Press, 2008, ISBN 978-0-521-86579-1 p.213
        • Buckland, P.C., Panagiotakopulu, E “Rameses II and the tobacco beetle” Antiquity 75: 549–56 2001
          • This paper examines the discovery of tobacco in the mummy of Rameses II, provides an alternative model for its origin, as a 19th-century insecticide used in conservation, and throws doubt upon the evidence for both cannabis and cocaine in ancient Egypt.”
  • The Smithsonian Institution claims the Olmecs were transoceanic (no such claim is found on their Website
  • Childress states as fact that Indians do not grow beards
    • In actuality, Iroquois Indians “carefully removed all facial and body hair.”
    •   An article about Indian stereotypes in movies makes a passing mention of beards “many Europeans think that male Native Americans never shave but still do not have beards”
    • A Website claiming to be Native American looks at some myths about Natives including that they do not grow beards
    • “Many of the Navajo leaders of the Long Walk era had mustaches. Although many, if not most, Native American cultural groups preferred to remain clean shaven, the Dominguez-Escalante Expedition encountered a tribal subdivision of the Paiutes in Utah who wore full beards.”
    • and lastly, a picture of a bearded Paiute Indian.

 bearded paiute

  • A tangential link between the stone spheres (only possible with Atlantean power tools!) and the Olmecs is made, though it’s not clear how this is relevant other than to imply that the Olmecs made the spheres, or had power tools, and were thus tied to Atlantis somehow. Still Childress never overtly makes the claims that the Olmecs used power tools, which is smart on his part, because there is no evidence for it
  • Modern day natives (who don’t appear black) that look like Olmec statues are the result of intermarriage between Olmecs and Africans (paraphrased from page 106 of his book) in the section above on African contact, there is no proof of African genetics in the Olmecs or their descendents.
  • Figures that look African, must be African (see above)

Because I’m not simply beating up David Hatcher Childress, here are a few of Van Sertima’s main claims about the Olmecs:

  • Nubian Africans and Phoenicians traversed the Atlantic and the Olmecs were so awed by them, the Olmecs adopted them as rulers, this has been debunked 
  • There are African skulls at Olmec sites, the above link indicates “No artifacts” from Africa have been found in the New World, this would suggest that skulls also have not been found.
  • Some Mesoamerican words and words from various African peoples are similar, thus proving a connectionVasco Nunez de Balboa found blacks in Central America in 1513 (need more information on this claim, even if he did find blacks, the Olmecs were shown above not to be related to Africans)
    • If this is true, this causes some problems for the claims in the next section that Olmec language is Chinese, especially since Clyde Winters claims Olmec writing was Mende script
    • Similar sounds in words from other languages do not mean they are connected, the word “salsa” is, well salsa; however a similar word in Korean (pronounced) “solso” means “diarrhea”…maybe there is a connection after all…there are probably many other words in other languages like this

As you can see, there are a great many claims about the Olmecs having ties to Africa. Whether it is language, appearance or any of a dozen other claims listed above, yet none of them have been proven conclusively and often to the contrary. The few claims above that do not have an elaborate answer do not have one because the claim is supported by such little evidence, making further investigation more difficult, though undoubtedly if the claim was expanded and clarified I’ve no doubt it would be easily debunked. It looks as though the Olmecs did not have contact with Africa, but what about the other big possibility, China?

Contact with China

It is a widely accepted theory that Native Americans originated in Asia (Mongolia, China and Siberia) and crossed over the Bering Land Bridge into the New World. Whether this is actually how it happened or not, is immaterial, there is at least evidence to support it. Since this is likely, similarities between Asians and Indians are to be expected to a certain extent.

However, some diffusionist scholars want to take this a step further and add China, specifically the Shang dynasty, to the origin of the Olmecs. Some offer this as an alternative to the Africa contact theory, while Spaghetti-diffusionists imply that either the Olmecs were refugees from China or that China was one of the groups along with Africa trading with the land of Olman.

The connection to China is a little harder to pin down, but several things are claimed to support contact between Olmecs and the Chinese. The best piece of evidence presented seems to be that Shang writing and Olmec writing were related. This is the position taken by Betty Meggers. This theory is further supported by Han Ping Chen (a supposed expert in ancient Chinese writing) and Mike Xu who have indicated that Chinese Oracle Bone script was identical with what is called Epi-Olmec script (primitive Olmec writing). Childress mentions this in his book “Mystery of the Olmecs” starting on page 209, however if Olmec writing was Chinese one wonders how Terrence Kaufman and John S. Justeson were able to decode the writing on page 201 of the same book when neither one of them are experts in Chinese language, ancient or otherwise.

(A quick aside about Meggers. She did work for the Smithsonian, and even made many contributions to archaeology. However, she did hold diffusionist views which are not necessarily endorsed by the Smithsonian and for the most part these views do not seem to be explored or referenced on the Smithsonian Webpage. Further, in his book, Childress quotes a Meggers article that mentions Atlantis and Mu, neither of which are addressed by the Smithsonian. It would seem the Smithsonian accepted Meggers’ good work, but did not endorse her speculation. Whatever the case, any of her claims about the Olmecs are not featured here on the Smithsonian’s Olmec page. This article while dealing with her claims of Japanese in Ecuador, applies just as well to her theory of Chinese Olmecs. It analyzes that the method whereby she arrived at her theories for transoceanic contact was by using a method intended to identify similar cultures in a closer environment. In essence, it debunks her diffusionist claims.)

If Olmec writing evolved from Shang Chinese and Chinese oracle bone script, it should be obvious. Yet, there does not seem to be any decent side by side comparison, or analysis of which characters are the ones that match. Without knowing exactly what specific scripts (or specific artifacts) were being compared, it’s difficult to say how, or if the two languages were connected. The best that can be done is to look at expert opinion and examples of other writings for similarities.

This site presumably by Jon McGee of Southwest Texas State U (anthropology) discusses the claims of the Olmec script and why it is not Chinese. McGee concluded:

“the graphs isolated by Chen are not Chinese.  They bear some graphic similarity to some archaic Chinese graphs or parts of graphs but as single graphs equal nothing and do not have the equivalents he assigned to them.  It is bogus.”

C. Cook, formerly Associate Professor of Chinese at Lehigh University replied to this discussion with this to say, among other things:

“obviously, the graphs/glyphs pulled out by Chen should be considered within the context of the entire “inscription.”   This is impossible as the rest of the marks bear none but a few isolated similarities.  In fact, the Olmec “script” may not represent language at all, but like the Naxi and other ur-scripts, be more a code for storytelling than an actual transcription of language.  The Shang oracle bone script, on the other hand, is very advanced and unquestionably qualifies as belonging to a writing system.”

In short, Xu and Chen are wrong in their assessment of Olmec writing, it is not Chinese at all. Below are a few examples of each style of writing for comparison:

 

Shang writing

 chinese 1

http://www.ancientscripts.com/chinese.html

 

 Shang-Orakelknochen_excerpt_adjusted_for_contrast

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/be/Shang-Orakelknochen_excerpt_adjusted_for_contrast.jpg

 

 oracle bone 2

 

http://media.web.britannica.com/eb-media/76/105276-004-843EA369.jpg

 

 Shang Writing rutgers pic 5

http://chem.rutgers.edu/~kyc/Images/Picture5.gif

 

 oracle bone 3

 

http://img.4plebs.org/boards/tg/image/1370/99/1370998023034.jpg

 

 

Epiolmec

 

 epiolmec1

http://www.ancientscripts.com/epiolmec.html

 

 

cascajal

 

http://www.ancientscripts.com/ma_ws.html

 

 280px-La_Mojarra_Inscription_and_Long_Count_date

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/ba/La_Mojarra_Inscription_and_Long_Count_date.jpg/280px-La_Mojarra_Inscription_and_Long_Count_date.jpg

While this is hardly an exhaustive linguistic analysis, experts in Chinese language and experts on the Olmecs conclude that the languages are wholly different. The few characters that have some similarity do not actually have any correlation with each other. Additionally, various artifacts and examples of writing from the two cultures do not appear to be related from casual investigation.

Moving on.

Further claims of transoceanic contact with China rely on several coincidental pieces of evidence. First, Wayne B Chandler, co author of “Ancient Future” with Van Sertima is essentially a New Ager and does not seem to be an academic. As a New Ager, Atlantis is probably on the table. Chandler’s main claim of Olmec/Chinese ties (according to Childress) are that mohawk hairstyles are tied to the pose called “quizuo” which supposedly originated in China’s Shang dynasty. Quizuo is essentially a kneeling position, and because statues from China were in this position and many other statues (including Olmec) from around the world are in a similar kneeling position, this proves a connected society…somehow. The problem is, though some of the statues from different cultures have a very similar kneeling posture, with hands on their knees some of the statues alleged to be in the same quizuo pose do not. Childress’ book shows a number of these pictures, and it is not all that convincing given the different art styles. If they were imitating each other, one would expect a consistent art style. Also, some statues have the hands in front of their chests, or in other positions. All this to say that statues of people kneeling even if they both have mohawk hairstyles and the same pose does not mean they had contact with each other.

Which brings us to mohawks. The mohawk was said to have originated with Shang China. No proof of this is given, and even if it were true, it’s hardly evidence of contact with Shang Chinese. Herodotus mentions the Macai sported this hairdo in his “Histories” hundreds of years after the Shang dynasty. Another example was a body from 200 BC found in an Irish bog that also had a mohawk, and it’s not very likely Ireland of 200 BC had contact with Shang China. If it was done in honor of the Shang and quizuo, or to continue the tradition, then a chain of documentation from Shang China to Ireland and the Macai should exist. Of course it does not.

Lastly, Olmec statues possibly portraying eunuchs is also presented as proof by Childress of contact with Shang China. It’s implied that the Shang invented this form of neutering, and thus anyone else doing had to have met the Shang eunuchs. Or at least been involved in their society and customs There are two problems with this. First, statues without genitalia (like Barbie and Ken for a modern example) do not necessarily portray eunuchs. Second, even if they did, eunuchs were believed to have originated in Sumeria in the 21st century BC hundreds of years before the Shang dynasty, according to an article referenced in The Book of Knowledge:

“Maekawa, Kazuya (1980). Animal and human castration in Sumer, Part II: Human castration in the Ur III period. Zinbun [Journal of the Research Institute for Humanistic Studies, Kyoto University], pp. 1–56”

Beyond these claims, there is even less of a connection to China than there was to Africa.

Conclusion

The Olmecs are absolutely a fascinating people to study, and there is still much that is not known about them, however, we do know enough to know that they did not come from Africa or Asia, and very likely did not have contact with either area. There are no artifacts in the land of Olman and the Isthmus of Tehuantepec from Egypt or China. There are no Olmec artifacts in the Old World either. Genetic evidence seems to prove that the Olmecs are not even closely related with anyone in the Old World. The only “evidence” there is, is circumstantial and easily disputed. While the Olmecs are mysterious and worth learning about, there is nothing to prove they got writing or culture from anyone outside of their domain. Since there does not appear to be contact between the Olmecs and anyone across the pond, advanced technology was not needed, nor were Atlantis, Mu or imaginary trade routes.

Further Reading

https://conspiracysleuths.wordpress.com/2011/12/25/ivan-van-sertima-they-came-before-columbus-not/

A series about the peopling of the Polynesian islands. This is interesting because it addresses how people did fare the seas to get to the Polynesian islands, and also presents evidence and the technology of the times.

http://www.pacificislandtravel.com/easter_island/about_destin/howandwhy.asp

http://www.pbs.org/wayfinders/polynesian.html

http://www.pbs.org/wayfinders/polynesian4.html

http://www.pbs.org/wayfinders/polynesian5.html

http://www.pbs.org/wayfinders/polynesian6.html

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/pioneers-of-easter-island.html

Some of the claims of Mormonism centering around ancient Israel exiles coming to America. Fascinating because some use diffusionist claims to support the historicity of the book of Morman.

http://www.mrm.org/

http://www.mrm.org/smithsonian