I read They Came Before Columbus: The African Presence in Ancient America by Ivan Van Sertima. I wasn’t halfway through this book and I was thoroughly offended, but I finished it just to hear their point of view.
I don’t buy it.
The belief that Africans were in the Americas before the Europeans were makes sense to me. There is plenty of proof of intercontinental contact world wide. Even evolution depends on intercontinental travel, I don’t see why it would just stop once the lands were populated. However, the offense lies in the implication that the indigenous people of the Americas were empty-headed morons just waiting, with open arms, for someone to come and guide them to civilization. As much as Van Sertima states that he is not seeking to imply this, his claims that the advances in agriculture, textiles, architecture, ancient academics and most all things upon which civilization is based upon is thanks to the African guidance. He even correlates the Africans arrival at the same time the Olmec civilization was booming!
One of the points Van Sertima makes, that I found intriguing for a minute was the megalithic Olmec heads. These huge carved heads have thick lips and flat noses and he places these images side by side with pictures of West African people who have similar features. He goes as far as to suggest that these carved images were possibly made to glorify these black leaders who have taught them so much! (argh!) What I found confusing was that although his comparison was of West African features, these black leaders that were supposed to have been canonized by a grateful indigenous population supposedly came from East Africa. The physical features of East African people are very different from those of West Africa, and nothing like the Olmec heads.
And apparently Van Sertima never considered that Mongolian features include thick lips and flat noses, too.
From a Native perspective, this book is the same garbage that the Europeans have been dishing out since they got here. Not once does the author consider the possibility that maybe the indigenous folks from over here went to Africa to school them, instead. I mean, considering the world’s oldest mummy is Chinchorro, from Chile, and the mummification processes are similar- including the removal of the internal organs and the placing of a mask over the face- the thought that this technology came from Egypt to the Americas doesn’t make sense. The oldest known Egyptian mummy was dated around 3500 B.C. while the Chinchorro mummy was dated at 6000 B.C. Do the math!
It is also interesting to note that although the Mayan pyramids are younger than those in Egypt, there have been pyramids found under Japanese waters that date 5000 years (at least) earlier than the oldest Egyptian pyramid, the Saqqara. This makes one wonder about who went where, especially since genetics are now showing that the Native American came from Asia to the American continent- maybe some just continued the journey all the way to Africa and taught them how to make pyramids also. And what of the megalithic Bolivian structures of Pumapunku and Teotihuacan, that are estimated to be 17,000 years old, yet their design makes the Saqqara look like child’s play! These ruins baffle scientists not only because the blocks used to build it weighed in at over 100 tons a piece; the cuts and fittings between them are so precise that their very creation is a mystery. And the materials the blocks are made of, dolomite, can only be cut by diamond tipped cutting tools!
The fact that there are pyramids all over the world is used by afrocentrists to prove that the technology was introduced by Black people. Yet this “evidence” is also used by those who say that extraterrestrials were the creators of these pyramids, because human beings- particularly ancient, indigenous human beings, could not have figured out how to make these huge structures all on their own. Especially when modern architects say they can’t make them with the tools available at that time themselves!
Just as it’s not cool to say that Africans were not intelligent enough to build the pyramids, it’s not cool to attempt to elevate your ethnic group by disparaging another. There is no need to deny the advances that belong to Black people; I can drive my automatic transmission car, in air conditioning while eating a peanut butter sandwich thanks to the inventions of Black people! But there is also no need to take away from the advances of the Native American Indian people to pad Black history. It’s just as debasing as the Eurocentric view is, and just as sadly desperate.