When the feasibility of African crossings of the Atlantic was not proven and the archaeological evidence undated and unknown, we could in all innocence ignore the most startling of coincidences. This is no longer possible. The case for African contacts with pre-Columbian America, in spite of a number of understandable gaps and a few minor elements of contestable data, is no longer based on the fanciful conjecture and speculation of romantics. It is grounded now upon an overwhelming and growing body of reliable witnesses. In truth, Africans began coming to the Americas thousands of years before Columbus; and the evidence of their presence, though systematically ignored by mainstream scholars, is overwhelming and undeniable. As Columbus Day October 12 approaches and as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the publication of They Came Before Columbus by the late Rutgers University professor, Ivan Van Sertima, we must reveal to the world the grandeur of Africa by highlighting the achievements of some of its great navigators and rulers.
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Sometimes the conversation will somehow, turn into a history lesson about China. I may hear about anything from the cultural revolution, to ancient Chinese dynasties, to Genghis Kan. What country did your, say, grandfather or great-grandfather or whatever come from?
They are familiar with American history, right? When I thought about it more, I realized that in high school and probably prior I had learned about American History, Western European History, the dynasties of China and Egypt, but what about where my people were likely from? What did I know or was taught? The story of Hannibal of Carthage always stuck with me since high school, though his story was told probably because of its relation to European history.
Technically, Carthage was a part of Northern Africa too. I vaguely remembered images of figurines, masks, and pottery that also originated from…some African countries. Evidence indicates that humans originated in Africa. This was all that I could recall being formally taught. Did we learn anything in there that I had simply forgotten? Any other significant information about the history of my people tended to start with, we were slaves.
We were taken from Africa, but who were we before slavery? What did we do? What did we believe in? Since my earlier days of schooling, I have informally encountered bits and pieces of information such as the story of Mansa Musa , the richest man in history , but not much else.
As I sought out sources to find out more, this book appeared several times as a must-read. Ivan Van Sertima. In this book, the author presents evidence and arguments for the existence of black Africans in America before the arrival of Columbus and the beginning of the Atlantic Slave Trade in Van Sertima uses written, archaeological, and cultural evidence to support his thesis. In doing so, he also attempts to combat the perceived inferiority of black Africans due to their perceived lack of technological or cultural advancements prior to colonialism in Africa.
Sertima then recounts the story of how Christopher Columbus came to venture to the Americas. Sailing, especially such great distances, was not an achievement that was typically attributed to Africans of that time, but it would have been necessary to reach the Americas.
Van Sertima tells of the emergence of the Mali kingdom and its seafaring ventures, thus providing evidence for sailing capabilities of West Africans. Also, some other West African countries had been known to both fish by boat and sail. In addition, there are stories of Egyptian mariners. Ocean currents such as the Guinea and Canary currents were likely to have aided Africans sailing to America as well.
Though Egypt is located in Africa, typically little of its success has been attributed to black people, but rather to those who migrated from the Middle East. Van Sertima asserts that this idea is false and explains how this belief developed. At the time that the dominant narrative of the origins of ancient Egyptian civilization emerged, the use of African slaves was well into effect.
To assuage the Christian conscience for the enslavement of a people, one could not believe that black people were intelligent enough and capable of such feats as the ancient Egyptians. Thus, historians of the time removed, ignored, or minimized any evidence of black contributions to ancient Egyptian civilization. Van Sertima states that even the Greek historian Herodotus had an account of black Egyptian people.
Despite this, there were however, agreed upon black kings of the 25th dynasty such as Taharqa. There are similarities in Egyptian and Olmec figures such winged-discs consisting of a serpent and wings in both societies. These discs were placed above entrances of inner chambers of temples in Egypt and above temple door lintels in pre-Columbian America.
There are Egyptian-like pyramids in the Americas and mummified persons similar to those in Egypt. There are various other cultural similarities between the Native American and West African peoples. There are similarities between the Mandingo god the Dasiri of the Bambara and the god Quetzalcoatl of the Olmecs. The sickle cell trait, an adaptation to ward off malaria found mostly in people from West Africa, was also discovered in the secluded Mayan tribe, the Lancodon Indians by Dr. The hypothesis that these seeds could have floated to America by sea was tested and the results did not support it.
It was also concluded that it was not likely that these seeds were carried by birds. The word for tobacco also has African roots as well as the refinement of the practice of oral pipe smoking. Maize has African origins. Also according to Polish craniologist Wiercinsky Conclusion This book provides numerous arguments for the existence of black Africans in America before the start of the Atlantic Slave Trade.
This book is dense with presented evidence and deserves serious study. If each piece of evidence and argument was listed, the list would be as long as the index. The author gives pictures of examples of negroid statues in pre-Columbian America, often with black people in comparison.
Though these features may be common among black people of African Ancestry, one cannot exclude that these features also exist to some degree in Native Americans. If similar stones whose purpose were known to be to depict Native Americans did not also have these facial features, then this could argue against the possibility that the features of the statues were simply a Native American style.
The accounts of people such as Christopher Columbus himself, Spanish travelers, and Herodotus, though, are harder to debate. How can these accounts be explained away? Upon casual reading, it does at least make one take its thesis seriously. Sidenote: I enjoyed the story of Mali in Chapter 3. Narration I found an audio version of this book on YouTube. It sounds like someone chose to record himself reading the book and decided to upload the files to YouTube.
Rhythm, flow, enunciation of some words could be improved upon, but again this seemed to be a random volunteer. So again, thanks.
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They Came Before Columbus: Early Evidence of African Presence in the Americas
The historian claims that Africans had been to the New World centuries before Columbus arrived there in Citing among other things—the huge Negroid-looking Olmec heads of Central Mexico and the similarities between the Aztec and Egyptian calendars and pyramid structures, Van Sertima pieces together a hidden history of pre-Columbian contact between Africans and Native Americans. He also puts forth the possibility that Columbus may have already known about a route to the Americas from his years in Africa as a trader in Guinea. The ideas in this book have been debated and discussed since its first publication in ; and even though some refuse to accept his findings, this book offers some compelling information that would be interesting to anyone who loves black history. The book Amazon : They Came Before Columbus reveals a compelling, dramatic, and superbly detailed documentation of the presence and legacy of Africans in ancient America. Examining navigation and shipbuilding; cultural analogies between Native Americans and Africans; the transportation of plants, animals, and textiles between the continents; and the diaries, journals, and oral accounts of the explorers themselves, Ivan Van Sertima builds a pyramid of evidence to support his claim of an African presence in the New World centuries before Columbus. In They Came Before Columbus, we see clearly the unmistakable face and handprint of black Africans in pre-Columbian America, and their overwhelming impact on the civilizations they encountered.
THE BLACK PRESENCE IN AMERICA BEFORE COLUMBUS
Van Sertima Summary A celebrated classic, They Came Before Columbus, deals with a number of contacts — both planned and accidental, between Africans and Americans in different historical periods. Van Sertima reveals to us a compelling, dramatic and superbly detailed documentation of the presence and legacy of black Africans in ancient America. With his considerable scholarship, Van Sertima examines the facts of navigation and shipbuilding, the sources of latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates, the scores of cultural analogies found nowhere else except in America and Africa, African languages and the transportation of plants, cloth and animals from Africa to the Americas. And from the diaries, letters and journals of the explorers themselves; from Carbon dated sculptures found in the Americas; from the Arabic documents, charts, maps from the recorded tales of the griots to the Kings of Mali; from dated skeletons found as recently as , the author builds his pyramid of evidence.