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Man Across the Sea

Man Across the Sea
Problems of Pre-Columbian Contacts

Originally delivered at a symposium held in May 1968 during the national meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, these essays offer differing points of view and considerable evidence on the pros and cons of pre-Columbian contact between the Old World and the New.

January 1971
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570 pages | 6 x 9 |

Whether humans crossed the seas between the Old World and the New in the times before Columbus is a tantalizing question that has long excited scholarly interest and tempted imaginations the world over. From the myths of Atlantis and Mu to the more credible, perhaps, but hardly less romantic tales of Viking ships and Buddhist missionaries, people have speculated upon what is, after all, not simply a question of contact, but of the nature and growth of civilization itself.


To the specialist, it is an important question indeed. If people in the Western Hemisphere and in the Eastern Hemisphere developed their cultures more or less independently from the end of the last Ice Age until the voyages of Columbus, the remarkable similarities between New World and Old World cultures reveal something important about the evolution of culture. If, on the other hand, there were widespread or sustained contacts between the hemispheres in pre-Columbian times, these contacts represent events of vast significance to the prehistory and history of humanity.



Originally delivered at a symposium held in May 1968, during the national meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, the papers presented here, by scholars eminent in the field, offer differing points of view and considerable evidence on the pros and cons of pre-Columbian contact between the Old World and the New. Various kinds of data—archaeological, botanical, geographical, and historical—are brought to bear on the problem, with provocative and original results. Introductory and concluding remarks by the editors pull together and evaluate the evidence and suggest ground rules for future studies of this sort.



Man across the Sea provides no final answers as to whether people from Asia, Africa, or Europe visited the American Indian before Columbus. It does, however, present new evidence, suggested lines of approach, and a fresh attempt to delineate the problems involved and to establish acceptable canons of evidence for the future.


  • Preface and Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Section I
    • 1. Diffusion versus Independent Development: The Bases of Controversy (Stephen C. Jett)
    • 2. Diffusion and Archaeological Evidence (Gordon F. Ekholm)
    • 3. Diffusion: Evidence and Process (David H. Kelley)
    • 4. Style and Culture Contact (Jon Muller)
    • 5. Pre-Columbian Contacts—The Dryland Approach: The Impact and Influence of Teotihuacán Culture on the Pre-Columbian Civilizations of Mesoamerica (Stephan F. Borhegyi)
    • 6. Commentary: Section I (Erik K. Reed)
  • Section II
    • 7. The Sailing Raft as a Great Tradition (Edwin Doran, Jr.)
    • 8. Cultural Patterning as Revealed by a Study of Pre-Columbian Ax and Adz Hafting in the Old and New Worlds (Daniel Randall Beirne)
    • 9. Pre-Columbian Chickens in America (George F. Carter)
    • 10. The Significance of an Apparent Relationship between the Ancient Near East and Mesoamerica (John L. Sorenson)
    • 11. Vinland and the Way Thither (Herbert C. Taylor, Jr.)
    • 12. Quetzalcoatl: European or Indigene? (B. C. Hedrick)
    • 13. A Transatlantic Stimulus Hypothesis for Mesoamerica and the Caribbean, circa 3500 to 2000 B.C. (Robert A. Kennedy)
    • 14. Small Boats upon the North Atlantic (Alice B. Kehoe)
    • 15. Commentary: Section II (Clinton R. Edwards)
  • Section III
    • 16. A Reevaluation of the Coconut as an Indicator of Human Dispersal (Jonathan D. Sauer)
    • 17. Endemism and Pre-Columbian Migration of the Bottle Gourd, Lagenaria siceraria (Mol.) Standl. (Thomas W. Whitaker)
    • 18. Construction of the Hypothesis for Distribution of the Sweet Potato (Douglas E. Yen)
    • 19. The Sweet Potato: An Exercise in Methodology (Donald D. Brand)
    • 20. Travels of Corn and Squash (Hugh C. Cutler and Leonard W. Blake)
    • 21. Pre-Columbian Maize in Asia (M. D. W. Jeffreys)
    • 22. Some Problems of Interpreting Transoceanic Dispersal of the New World Cottons (S. G. Stephens)
    • 23. Phaseolus: Diffusion and Centers of Origin (Lawrence Kaplan)
    • 24. Commentary: Section III (Herbert G. Baker)
  • Conclusions
  • Bibliography
  • List of Contributors
  • Index

Carroll L. Riley, J. Charles Kelley, Campbell W. Pennington, and Robert L. Rands are retired from the faculty of Southern Illinois University.