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        Cross-Culturality:

There have been several discoveries in the archaeological record that have promoted debate over the extent of prehistoric cross-cultural contact between peoples of the ancient world. Although there have been many past attempts to prove associations (such as between old-world and new-world cultures), similarity between discoveries is not, in itself enough to substantiate absolute proof of contact.

 

'A reluctance to pass beyond the evidence provided by the material remains alone, carries with it the danger of overlooking significant relationships possibly established between the things themselves'

 

 

   The Americas: A Case for Cross-cultural Exchange:

Old World - New World Contact:

The Americas have long been suspected of having contact with 'old world' cultures. There are several striking examples of cross-culturality between the peoples of two great land masses. The following examples speak for themselves:

  • In Pompeii, there is a painting of a pineapple plant (native to the Americas and officially unknown in Europe before the Renaissance) on one of the walls.

  • Click here for more about the La-Venta Stone Heads.When subjected to chemical analysis, many Egyptian mummies have been found to contain large amounts of plant materials, including tobacco and cocaine, both apparently unknown in Egypt at the time. The existence of both mummification and pyramids at several locations around the ancient world suggests a cultural connection. (More)

  • American sites have yielded considerable numbers of copper tablets shaped like the hide of an animal; named 'reels'. In 1896, in Cyprus, and subsequently in many Mediterranean excavations, corresponding 'Bronze Age' copper objects, recognised now as ingots have also been found, indicating evidence of a recognised international trading system and contact between the 'Old' world and the 'New' (3),(4).

  • Numerous large heads with 'African' features have been discovered in the south American jungles. (More)

 

The Multicultural Olmecs.

Collossal Stone Head.

At present, one of the most hotly debated subjects is that of the Olmecs. They appeared on the Yucatan Peninsula c. 2,500 BC, at the same time as the Caral-supe culture began in Peru, both began building pyramid complexes at around the same time, but the Olmecs were different in another way, as their art is the art of realism, and within it we can see the clear traces of a multi-cultural society.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the Olmecs is their lifelike portrayal of different racial types in their art. From the earliest discoveries of the huge carved-stone 'African' heads, to the extraordinary similarity to the Chinese Shang culture in art and text, the Olmecs appear to have been influenced by several racial types, making them possibly one of the earliest true multi-cultural societies in the Americas. There has been much debate over this issue, although the evidence is in favour of the probability of contact with old-world cultures from both the Pacific and the Atlantic, it is yet to be officially accepted by academia. It is perhaps no coincidence that the Gulf of Mexico is the narrowest continental separation between the two oceans.

Of great interest in relation to this subject, is the matter of the famous 'Long-Count' calendar system, the first record of which has been found in an Olmec setting near La Venta. The start date of the Long-count is 3114 BC, the exact same time that writing simultaneously began in the Old World in the Indus Valley, Sumerian and Egyptian and Chinese Cultures. It is also the period of exhaustive megalithic construction along western Europe, suggesting that there is more to be revealed about this era than is currently known.

(More about the Olmecs)

 

Construction Similarities between Old-World America and South East East Asia/ Polynesian Islands.

It has been observed that there are several similarities between the prominent temple structures of the Old World Americas, and those of the Asian/Pacific Islanders, as the following images demonstrate:

(Left) The Mother Temple of Besakih, or Pura Besakih, in Bali, Indonesia. (Right) The Mayan 'Ossuary' at Chichen Itza, Mexico.

 

  

(Left) The top of the Besakih temple, (Right) The Serpent Stairwell, Chichen, Mexico (shadow-play transforms them into two undulating serpents each 21st June)

 

(Left) Cambodia, (Right), Guatemala.

(South American Pyramids)

 

Jade Veneration.

Van Sertima mentions the use of green stones being placed in the mouths of the dead.  This particular ritual is seen as far back as far as the Aurignacian stage of Cro-Magnon in several locations around the world. He said of it:

'One other burial practice common to ancient Egypt and Mexico is worth mentioning, if only for the sake of showing how carefully we must apply our test in the study of cultural similarities. this burial ritual involved the placing of a green stone in the mouth of the corpse. Both the Egyptians and the Mexicans saw this green stone as a symbol of the heart and a prolonger of life. The Egyptians, among whom it took the form of a green scarab, addressed it thus: "My heart, my mother - my heart whereby i came into being". The Mexicans placed the Chalchuitl (green amulet) between the lips of the deceased, and they also associated it with life-restorative properties. In fact, they called it the "principle of life". The green stone in the mouth of the dead, however, is a very primitive ritual indeed - one may even say primordial. It precedes Egyptian civilisation by thousands of years . It was found between the teeth of the Cro-Magnon skeletons in the Grimaldi caves near Menton'.

(More about the Olmecs)

'The very ancient Chinese also placed green jade amulets in the mouth to preserve the body from decay. Pearls and shells, as mouth amulets of the dead, were substituted for jade; pearls for feudal lords, jade reserved for stuffing the mouths of dead emperors. Since we find such a custom in vogue even as far back as the Aurignacian stage of Cro-Magnon culture, it might well have travelled from Asia to America in the glacial epoch, when the very first Americans crossed over to this continent on the bridge of ice in their two major migrations, now calculated to be forty thousand years and twenty-five thousand years ago'. (6)

(Prehistoric China)

 

It can now be reasonably argued that the accumulative presence of so many specific old-world and new-world similarities between cultures, makes it more statistically probable that contact occurred rather than that it didn't.

 

(Evidence for Pre-Columbian Contact Between the Old-World and New-World Cultures)

 

 

   Universal Mythologies:

Several well known 'myths' (Such as Troy or the Cretan palace of knossos) have now been determined to have had a factual basis. Others however, have roots that extends deeper into our past and the substance of their origin is still questioned. These 'universal' myths share archetypal characters and sets of ideas which trace back to before the written word and are a vital source of prehistoric knowledge.

The Flood Myth. The most commonly known of these universal myths is that of the 'Great Flood', with over a hundred separate versions recorded around the ancient world. The tendency for people to colonise coastal areas makes the periods of sea-level change following the last great Ice-age the most probable candidate for this origin of this myth at around 10,500 - 5,000 BC.

The Day the Sun stood Still. Again, from unrelated cultures, there exists a myth of a time when the sun stood still in the sky. Incredibly, the same myth is reported from the other side of the world where the moon was said to have stood still. This apparently impossible set of myths has yet to be satisfactorily explained.

Precession of the Equinoxes. One of the most interesting aspects of mythology is the re-occurrence of specific numbers related to precession. It is suggested that these figures were placed into myths in order to preserve them (such as Manetho's Egyptian king-list, for example). There has been much excellent work on this subject in recent times. The book 'Hamlet's Mill' by Santillana and Von Dechend, is still by far the fore-runner in this field of study, concerning the 'Origins of human knowledge and its transmission through myth' (1). (Recommended Reading).

 

Cross-Cultural Icons:

Certain similar icons exists in the ruins of the world’s most ancient cultures. The Following is one that is now recognised to have extraordinary parallels around the ancient world suggesting the presence of a prehistoric culture with a world-wide presence.

With both arms outstretched in opposite directions (right and left) a single god or goddess holds “twin objects” in each hand, symmetrically.

(Read Full Article Here)

(More about Cross-cultural Mythologies)

 

 

Prehistoric Construction Techniques:

There are several very specific construction features that can be seen in ancient constructions around the globe. From the method of cutting stone to the means of joining it, to the design of the constructions themselves - there are just too many similarities to ignore the idea that there may have been contact between some of these previously considered 'unrelated' civilisations.

The following pictures illustrate that the same specific construction techniques were being used on both sides of the Atlantic before the 'official' discovery of the Americas occurred.

The fact that stone was split with the same technique throughout the ancient world, is not surprising as it is the most effective method and probably originates from long in the past. The use of metal 'ties' to hold stones together, however is a specialised technique which is also found in ancient structures on both sides of the Atlantic.

 

The 'protruberances' found on the stones of many south American structures (left) are also found in Egypt at Ghiza and Abydoss in Egypt, as is the art of 'folding' stones around corners (right).

(Prehistoric Construction Techniques)

 

 

  

   Evidence for Prehistoric 'International' Trade:

We know that a substantial amount of international trade operated, even in prehistoric times. Both metal and certain types of stone were valuable commodities which can be shown to have been mined and moved around the world, presumably in trade. The following examples only scratch the surface of a fascinating subject, worthy of extensive future research.

 

Prehistoric Mining:

Evidence of mining around the ancient world reveals the presence of an organised infrastructure including a specialised labour force supported by a supply of tools, food, clothes, housing etc and followed by a distribution system, most likely involving trade. The following examples not only show how long this activity has occurred but also how extensive it was.

Richard Ridgley makes note of the Castelmerle Valley in the Dordogne, which was the commercial heart of the region in Palaeolithic times. Archaeology has now uncovered what appears to be a large-scale bead making factory using woolly mammoth ivory from Czechoslavakia and soapstone from even further east existing at c. 35,000 BC. The tens of thousands of beads were processed and even woven into clothing, with separate areas showing specialised "factories" each doing just one part of the process. It is believed that the standard 6mm beads were produced by women. Similar beads have been found as far away as Russia. (10)

(More about Prehistoric Mining)

 

Egyptian Finds in Prehistoric Britain:

Faience is a glass-like material, made by heating a paste consisting of sand or crushed quartz, an alkali such as plant ash, and a glaze, until vitrification occurs. The result is an opaque, brittle material. The turquoise colour of British faience results from using a copper-based colourant for the glaze.

Faience technology was developed in Mesopotamia and Egypt during the 5th or early 4th millennium BC, and its use spread out far and wide over the course of the next two millennia. Thanks to a set of faience-associated radiocarbon dates, some recently obtained at Groningen University in the Netherlands from cremated human bone from Britain and Ireland, we can now confirm that it was being used in this country by the 19th century BC-much earlier than people used to think-and that it continued to be used until around 1500 BC. The know-how to make it did indeed come ultimately from the Near East, but certainly not via Egyptian or Mycenaean traders bringing bags of trinkets for the natives in the 14th century.

The picture that is now emerging is much more plausible, and more interesting, than this far-fetched hypothesis. It now seems that people in Britain found out about faience through links with central Europe in the early 2nd millennium BC. These links arose largely from the demand for tin from south-west England for the central European bronze industry, and it seems that the Wessex 'barrow boys' were able to control and benefit from this tin 'trade'.

Faience beads of segmented and other shapes were already being made in central and east-central Europe at this time. The technique had been learned from eastern Mediterranean faience makers, thanks to a network of contacts stretching across south-east Europe. It seems that the know-how for making faience was one of the exotic luxuries that arrived in Britain as a result of this extensive networking.

There is independent support for the idea that the appearance of faience in Britain and Ireland was indeed related to the tin trade. First, a composite necklace found in a bog at Exloo in the Netherlands contained beads made out of tin, together with others of faience and amber and one made of old, recycled tubular sheet bronze. Some of the tin beads are shaped like segmented faience beads. These echo the famous but lost segmented tin bead from Sutton Veny in Wiltshire that the antiquary Richard Colt Hoare illustrated in 1812.

http://www.britarch.ac.uk/BA/ba70/feat3.shtml

 

Article: ScienceDaily, (Dec. 15, 2008)

A  4,000-year-old amber necklace has been unearthed in England. The rare find was unearthed from a stone-lined grave – known as a Cist  - excavated by the team from The University of Manchester Field Archaeology Centre and Mellor Archaeological Trust.

 It is the first time a necklace of this kind from the early Bronze Age has been found in north west England.

“The fact that it has been found in the north west of England is pretty amazing and extremely rare.”

Dozens of different sized pierced amber beads  are linked together on a length of fibre to form the beautiful artefact. It was discovered by Vicky Nash from of the Mellor Archaeological Trust.

Peter Noble, who directed the dig added: “The necklace was made of amber – which is not found in this region. In fact, the nearest source is in the Baltic so we’re bound to ask, how did it get here and who brought it?”

(Ref: http://www.sciencedaily.com)

 

 

Copper 'Oxhide' Ingots : Mycenaean currency.

In 1896, in Cyprus, Crete and several other Mediterranean excavations, corresponding 'Mycenaean' copper objects, now realised as ingots have also been found, indicating evidence of a recognised international trading system. Complete or partial oxhide ingots have also been discovered in Sardinia, Crete, Cyprus, Cannatello in Sicily, Boğaközy in Turkey (ancient Hattusa, the Hittite capital), Qantir-Piramesse in Egypt, and Sozopol in Bulgaria. Archaeologists have recovered many oxhide ingots from two shipwrecks off the coast of Turkey (one off Uluburun and one in Cape Gelidonya).

Copper ingot from Crete (Left), and a British Museum Ingot from the 'Foundry Hoard' at Enkomi, Cyprus
c. 1225-1150 BC (Right).

From shipwrecks at Hishulay Carmel, Israel c.1300 BC (Left), and Uru-Burun, Turkey, (Right)

It has been suggested that the generic ox-hide shape of the ingots was transferred into syllabic form.

It is also claimed that several American sites have yielded considerable numbers of copper ingots also shaped like the hide of an animal; named 'Reels' (8), suggesting contact between the 'Old' world and the 'New' (3)(4).

Copper ingots of "ox-hide" shape have been found on both sides of the Atlantic, proving that around 200 B.C. there was a revival of the regular Atlantic trade between the Mediterranean and North America. This involved copper from Wisconsin, set down the Mississippi River and out to Europe. Bruce J. Trigger reveals that there were also Adena sites in Maryland -- suggesting traffic up the Potomac and Monongahela rivers from the Atlantic into the American interior (Handbook of North American Indians, p. 29).

(More about Mining in Prehistory)

 

 

European Passage-Mounds: Constructional similarities.

The development of several significant passage-mounds along the Western Atlantic coast of Europe in itself is nothing special, but there are several specific features of passage-mounds themselves which appear to show a common cultural 'fingerprint', for example:

The passage mounds of the Boyne Valley, Maes Howe, Gavr'inis, Bryn Celli Ddu (and possibly Zambujeiro in Portugal and the 'Temples' on Malta), are all contemporary with a 'shift' in thinking in prehistoric Europe c. 3,300 - 3,100 BC, at which time large, civil-scale constructions begin to appear across western Europe, and other older monuments are demolished and re-used, such as at Lochmariaquer, France.

The passage-mounds of Gavr'inis, Maes Howe and Newgrange are all orientated in the same direction - along the path of the mid-winter solstice sun. Other passage mounds are invariably orientated to either significant positions in the  solar or lunar cycles.

Sir N. Lockyer was the first to record the intrinsic similarities between the European megaliths and the Egyptian temples. Both of which share a preference for astronomical orientation, and both of which have passages in them to record significant moments of the calendar.

Light-boxes:

The Newgrange Light BoxA construction feature found only in European passage mounds, (Newgrange, Maes Howe, Carrowkeel, and Bryn Celli Ddu). At all of these passage mounds, the constructions included a means of 'catching' the light of the sun/moon at specific times of the year. They can be viewed as huge celestial chronometers. In the case of the Boyne Valley Complex, the three passage mounds of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth combine to record numerous significant solar and lunar events. At Newgrange, the light is restricted through the inclusion of the 'light-box' (right), an undulating corridor, and a raised internal chamber, resulting in the small dagger of light that slides along the corridor into the chamber at the winter solstice.

(More about Light-boxes)

 

Cruciform Chambers and 'Libation' Bowls:

Several of the largest passage mounds, as well as having a passage orientated towards an astronomically significant moment of the year, also have cruciform chambers and large, shallow stone-cut bowls.

Newgrange (left), with three Libation bowls, and the Tarxien, Malta (right).

 

Egyptian Cruciform Chambers.

The tomb of Ahmoset (left); 'Fanbearer on the King's Right Hand', 'Steward of the Estate of Akhetaten' and 'Royal Scribe' at Akhetaten' during the Amarna Period, was also cruciform in shape. It is interesting to note that here too a bowl was present.

'The shrine opening from the very back of the broad hall on the center axis of the tomb was undecorated, though a seated statue of the tomb owner was cared at is back. However, this is now badly mutilated. A libation basin was also cut into the floor in front of the statue'.

(Passage-Mounds Homepage)

(European Megalithic Complexes)

 

 

   Egyptian - Sumerian - Indus Valley Seals:

The earliest seals found were used in Iran at 5,000 B.C. Archaeologists can use both the trade in seals themselves, as well as the distances between seals and the corresponding sealings, to trace long-distance trade networks. One such set of seals were manufactured around 1,900 B.C. on two important island trading cities in the Persian Gulf -- Bahrein and Failaka. These seals were traded all over the Middle East, and have been found at diverse and distant locations such as Susa in Iran, Bactria in Afghanistan, Ur in Iraq, and Lothal on the west coast of India. By 1,750 B.C. Common Style seals are found in locations ranging from Spain, to Mycenaean Greece, to Marlik near the shores of the Caspian Sea. These seals were made from faience, a less expensive material, and used by smaller merchants. [2]

 

The first cylinder seals belonged to the now long dead civilization of the Sumerians, the inhabitants of Nippur, Lagash, and other cities on the Euphrates and Tigris rivers in what is now Iraq. They spoke a strange language -- neither Semitic nor Indo-European, the family of languages spoken by many later civilizations and the most current inhabitants of the Middle East. Sumerian was an tongue, bearing resemblance to such diverse languages as Turkish, Finnish, Japanese, and Dravidian. Indeed, it was probably some version of the latter tongue that was spoken by their neighbours, the early inhabitants of the Indus river valley. These Indus valley people developed, soon after the Sumerians, their own civilization and unique style of seals. Modern speakers of Dravidian languages are scattered all over the Indian subcontinent, including remnants in Afghanistan and a large number of Tamils in southern India.

 

'The discovery in Egypt of cylinder seals similar in shape to those used in Sumer attests to contact between the two areas toward the end of the fourth millennium B.C. Certain early Egyptian art motifs and architectural forms are also thought to be of Sumerian origin. And it is probable that the example of Sumerian writing stimulated the Egyptians to develop a script of their own' (7).

Seal impressions have been found in the ancient city of Harrapan, in the Indus River valley (modern Pakistan), that had been made by seals found in Lagash in Sumeria (modern Iraq). From 3,600 B.C. in Sumer, and a little later in the Indus Valley, we can find seals made out of a rare high-quality stone, lapis lazuli. These stones could only have originated from rather distant and inaccessible mines in Afghanistan.

The first objects unearthed from Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro were small stone seals inscribed with elegant depictions of animals, including unicorn-like figures, and marked with Indus script writing which still baffles scholars. These seals are dated back to 2,500 B. C. Source: North Park University, Chicago, Illinois.

 

This cylinder seal was found in an Olmec context. It is suggested to spell the name of a king or a date. (3, Ajaw)

(More about the Olmecs)

 

 

 The Gilgamesh Connection:

It was long suspected that there was a connection between the early dynastic Egyptians and the Sumerians. The Knife found at the Royal cemetery in Abydoss (right), with its depiction of Gilgamesh, is proof enough, but the following information suggests that the cultural link  may have been stronger than once thought.

The pre-dynastic Pharaohs of Egypt had close connections with Sumeria as established by the discovery of the Gebel Arak knife in one of the Abydoss pre-dynastic royal tombs. The figure on the knife is of the Sumerian Hero/King Gilgamesh, and it shows him in his typical stance between two lions (Right).

Egyptian hieroglyphs are a slightly modified conventional form of the Sumerian diagrammatic picture-writing which came into use during the rule of Menes and the 1st dynasty pharaohs; they have the same phonetic values as their parent picture-signs in the Sumerian[5].

Menes (Manj of Egyptian legend) (Manis of Mesopotamia) (Min or Minos of Greek legend) erected Egypt into an independent kingdom and preserved its independence within the Mesopotamian empire when he succeeded to the throne after his father's death; Menes was the prince of Sumeria and governor of the Sumerian Indus Valley. Menes annexed and civilized Crete and extended his rule to the Pillars of Hercules and Britain.

Menes was the son of Sargon (who had a Queen named Lady Ash), or "Sargon the Great"[5] of ancient Mesopotamia and Menes and his dynasty referred to themselves as "Gut" (Goth) (in Indus Valley seals) and "Bar" or "Par" (Pharaoh) (as referred to in Egyptian records).

Menes' Egyptian inscriptions were written in Sumerian script (not the later conventionalized hieroglyphs) and deciphered to match Menes' Mesopotamian and Elam records as well as his official seals in the Indus Valley (where he was a Sumerian governor there until he revolted against his father (Sargon) and annexed Egypt). Menes had a son named Narmar or Naram (Naram Enzu) whom he sent to the Indus colony of Edin as a viceroy.

These early references to Sumerian and Egyptian communication also supports the records of a mass immigration of people called the 'Shepherd Folk' into Egypt from the East at around the same time as the decline of the Sumerian Empire and the simultaneous rise of the Egyptian Dynasties.

(More on this subject)

 

The Gilgamesh Figure.

Of great interest is the appearance of the Gilgamesh figure in one of the Indus Valley seals (Below, left). The 'Gilgamesh' figure is an iconic Sumerian image, found in other prehistoric civilisations such as Early Dynastic Egypt and the Indus Valley. Curiously enough, the same figure, but with a woman between the felines is  found at other prehistoric locations such as Malta, Turkey and Mycenae.

From Left to Right (Mohenjo Daro, Indus Valley. Abydoss, Egypt and Sumeria).

(All dating from the 3rd Millennium BC).

If one travels further into Anatolian prehistory to Catal hoyuk (8,000 B.C) for example, we can also compare the figurine of a large female sitting upon a throne flanked by either Lions or leopards. The Prehistoric Earth Goddess or Cybele is also often depicted enthroned with lion/s as is the Minoan mountain goddess (centre).

It is perhaps interesting to note, in relation to the prehistoric images of an Earth-Mother-Goddess with Lions on either side, that the Egyptians used the symbol of two lions 'Aker' to represent the horizon. In this context, we can see through these earlier iconic images of a female Earth-Mother-Goddess flanked by felines, a depiction of the literal Earth itself.

The same symbols were later used as 'guardians' of important cities, temples etc.

(From left to right - Persepolis, Alaya Huyuk, Mycenae)

 

And Finally...

Old-World Images of Maize

Images of what appears to be 'Maize' or 'Corn' from ancient India.

Article: March, 2008: Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaobotany.

'Investigation of botanical remains from an ancient site, Tokwa in Uttar Pradesh, has brought to light the agriculture- based subsistence economy during the Neolithic culture (3rd-2nd millennium BC). An important find among the botanical remains is the seeds of South American custard apple, regarded to have been introduced by the Portuguese in the 16th century. The remains of custard apple as fruit coat and seeds have also been recorded from other sites in the Indian archaeological context, during the Kushana Period (AD 100-300) in Punjab and Early Iron Age (1300-700 BC). The factual remains of custard apple, along with other stray finds discussed in the text, favour a group of specialists, supporting with diverse arguments, the reasoning of Asian - American contacts, before the discovery of America by Columbus in 1498'.

(Link to Article)

 

Several are also found in Mesopotamian art.

 

(Old-world - New-world Contact)

(Cherchen Man - China)

(Prehistoric Mining)

(Mythology Homepage)

 

References:

1). Giorgio de Santillana & Hertha von Dechend. Hamlets Mill. 1983. D.R. Godine Publ.
2). Colon, Dominique, Near Eeastern Seals .
3). Ivan Van Sertima, African presence in Early America, 1992, Transaction Publishers.
4). Barry Fell. America BC. 1974. Demeter press.
5). L.A. Waddell, L.D. C.B, C.I.E. Egyptian Civilization Its Sumerian Origin And Real Chronology. 1930. Luzac & Company.
6). Ivan Van Sertima. They Came Before Columbus. 1976. Random House.
7). http://history-world.org/sumeria.htm
8). http://www.science-frontiers.com/sf090/sf090a01.htm
9). J. Huston McCulloch. The Bat Creek Stone. 2010. http://www.econ.ohio-state.edu/jhm/arch/batcrk.html
10). R. Ridgley. Lost Civilisations of the Ice Age. 2000. Touchstone Press.
11). Images where linked courtesy of Richard Cassaro

 

 

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