by, John J White III
Originally published in MES.
The book World Trade and Biological Exchanges Before 1492 by John L. Sorenson and Carl L. Johanessen is now available. Collectively it represents a slam dunk victory for the historical interpretation of cultural diffusionism over the opposing interpretation of cultural isolationism. This is a major event for the study of ancient history. Lots of blood has been lost and careers bashed since Columbus landed in 1492 C.E. and the learned world began raising questions about the origins of the Native Americans and their cultures.
The key to successful systematic studies is to ask the right question, ie, one that can be answered by the prevailing scientific methods and one whose answer resolves a serious question. The best answer for proof of cultural diffusion is the study of biological exchanges. It is a branch of archaeology, the species involved are clearly identifiable, the role of man in the diffusion process can be understood, and the remains are datable.
Thus, the question asked is “What can the study of biological exchanges tell us about the travel (navigational) history of mankind?” The answer is that man was traveling on the oceans to and from the Americas since before 7320 B.P. and continuously since then. We are speaking of tropical America, not just the opportunities provided by land bridges and ice-age ocean conditions during exclusively Paleolithic times. The implication is that cultural exchanges have occurred since before 7320 B.P.!