My Beautiful Wickedness

Kon Tiki/Ra II Redux
July 12, 2007, 7:56 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Didn’t Thor Heyrdahl already do this? Ra II?

The “reed boat” folks are at it again — now sailing from Central America to Spain. Recent archaeology has broadened our understanding of the process by which human life entered the Americas — historians are now going with multiple points of entry, land bridge crossing plus (best guess) Pacific coastal contacts by boat in places like Tierra del Fuego — so I’m open to the “they came by boat” thesis. And we know that one can cross the Atlantic with the available tech…now.

Here’s what I mean by that. These little “tests” are bogus in a way. They assume a static earth, which as we know has never been the case — and it’s awfully hard to project, with confidence, things like historic wind speed and wave amplitude. Rainfall? Ok, you can look at tree rings. Other more ephemeral happenings? It becomes a guessing game. (Does anybody know a historical climatologist? I might be too skeptical of their methodologies.) Even if one can cross now, using what is assumed to have been available technology, you have to ask — why would an ancient American have wanted to embark out into a vast oceanic world with no apparent destination in mind laden with trade goods in case he happened to run into somebody? It’s not like the Gulfstream reversed and he was sucked ineluctably from Central America to the mouth of the Mediterranean. I have a soft spot for experimental archaeology, as it is something that gets the public interested in what are pretty remote times and peoples, but I have to wonder about its utility as a means of really getting at what happened.

However, what’s really intriguing to me is the mention of cocaine and nicotine in the stomach of Ramses II. Historical botany has always been one of the things I wish I knew more about. Both coca and ‘baccer were, at the time of Columbian contact, American plants. To me, it seems like we’re left with a couple of hypotheses that I would have tested before getting into a bulrush boat and heading for Spain. Were the lab tests done correctly? Were maybe coca and tobacco cultivated in Africa or Asia and as the climate changed, they died out? Egypt had a far-flung trade network.

History — it’s not just about what’s written down any more.


3 Comments so far
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I was wondering if I could induce to read my new book. It’s called Voyage of the Manteño, and it is the true story of how my colleagues and I built and sailed a series of balsa rafts very similar to Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki. We made many important discoveries about the ancient culture who invented these rafts and along the way we lived and survived many harrowing adventures. People have really enjoyed reading it, and I have recieved quite a warm outpouring of praise; nevertheless, I could sure use some online reviews from interested Bloggers. If you’d like, I can send you a sample chapter (and some beautiful photos.)

Best wishes,

John Haslett

Comment by John Haslett

I’d be happy to read a chapter-length excerpt and review it here. Send it to my e-mail addy at historyprof0 at yahoo dot com and I’ll send a return mail letting you know that I received it.

Comment by bridgett

I read that they unearthed ancient Japanese pottery with ancient Mesoamericans (pre-pre-Incas).

Comment by Nick Dupree

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