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Possible Parallels Between Africans And Native Americans As Explained In Ivan Van Sertima's They Came Before Columbus

894 words - 4 pages

Ivan Van Sertima was a professor of Africana Studies at Rutgers University when he published the book They Came Before Columbus in 1976. The premise of this book stemmed from Van Sertima’s belief that there was an African presence in the New World, before Christopher Columbus in 1492. He hypothesized that Africans travelled to South America centuries prior to European explorers. Van Sertima alleged that pre-Columbian civilizations were strongly influenced by African travelers. He thoroughly examined possible cultural parallels between Africans and Native Americans; the first-hand accounts of the European explorers; and the intercontinental transportation of goods. Van Sertima argued that ...view middle of the document...

Van Sertima also included another voyage supposedly made by the emperor of Mali recorded by Griots in 1300 C.E. In addition to “Negroid” traits in the Olmec stone heads, Van Sertima attempted to establish similarities between the Nile Valley Pyramids and the Olmec mound at La Venta, Mexico. The author correlated the astrological orientation and dual-purpose of the La Venta structures to the Mesopotamian ziggurats and introduced a number of innovative religious iconography and practices like mummification (131 -33).
Dr. Ivan Van Sertima argued that the trade of goods between these cultures introduced maize into Africa (240 -50) while Nubian-Egyptians introduced cotton to pre-Columbian civilizations. The author argued that cottonseeds would not have retained their viability long enough to cross the ocean, stating, "seeds of the African diploid cotton could not have drifted by themselves across the ocean. . . . African man, bearing cottons, made the drift journey to the Americas in the fourth millennium B.C.” (191).
Although Sertima affirms within his introduction that African voyagers were not the main catalyst for the rise of civilization in the Americas, his subtext alludes to the cultural ineptitude of highly advanced civilizations. The book, They Came Before Columbus proposed evidence that cultural diffusion between African and Mesoamerican pre-Columbian civilizations appeared to be solely dependent on the circumstantial archaeological evidence of the Olmec heads. The main pieces of evidence, the Olmec heads, are designated with Afrocentric stereotypical physiognomy (e.g. “flat-nosed”) that to this reader boarders on pseudoscience. The author agreed that artifacts are important to reconstruct the history of America and Africa accurately. Even so, Van Sertima...

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