Pre-Columbus Contacts beween Old and New Worlds

As early as the 1960s scholars were suggesting significant contacts between the Old and New Worlds well before Columbus “discovered” America. A symposium at Santa Fe in 1968 canvassed possible trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic contacts, using evidence such as plant dispersal around the world. John L. Sorenson, anthropologist, presented his findings after fifteen years examining the literature about such connections. He found a large number of important parallels between cultural features of the ancient Near East and Mesoamerica. They included: temple and temple platforms; swastika; astronomy, calendar and writing; astrological almanacs; burial tombs; incense use in rituals;  paradise and underworld concepts; serpent and snake symbolism; dragon motif; double-headed eagle; winged sun disk; stele as cult objects; human and animal figurines; sacrifice complex ( including blood offering, human and child sacrifice); libation vessels; dualism; kingship complex; purple dye; turban; weapons, armour and trepanation.

While some of these may have been independent inventions, Sorenson thought it beyond belief that all were. He said that, even if the style of Mesoamerica was distinctive, “some rather basic ideas seem to have been shared in the two areas [Old and New World”], Scholars should look more closely for cultural diffusion by trans-oceanic voyaging.

Although Sorenson was blissfully unaware of it, many of the features he discussed had been previously raised by Grafton Elliot Smith [see my book on ES, Egyptology and the Diffusion of Culture].

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