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Christopher Columbus claimed to have discovered America as early as 1492. However, dozens of cultures have their respective tales on who made it to America earlier before Columbus. Archeological sites have been analyzed, ships rebuilt, routes traced and artifacts tested to reaffirm on who were the first persons to discover America (Who Really Discovered America?). This essay analyzes the use of chicken (Gallus gallus), fishhooks, canoes, and sweet potatoes to prove that Polynesians arrived in America before the great Christopher Columbus.
Most of the American and Pacific prehistorians debate on the introduction of chicken to South America by the Polynesians. Scientific use of DNA sequencing and radiocarbon dating on chicken bones has been used to prove that the Polynesians brought chicken into South America during the pre-Columbian period. A research spearheaded by Alice Storey, an anthropologist in the Department of Anthropology in Auckland University, compared the bones of chicken found in Chile’s El Arenal One to those found in the islands of Tonga, Easter Island, and American Samoa (10335). The bones found in El Arenal One, an archeological site, have the same sequence of mitochondrial DNA in comparison to DNA found in Polynesian chickens that existed during the prehistoric periods in places like Hawaii, Tonga, Samoa, and Easter Island. The use of calibrated radiocarbon dating also shows that chicken was introduced a century before any person of European origin arrived in the South American Continent. Storey and her team went on to attest that the Ancient Inca people of South America used chicken in the religious rites (10337). The carbon dating of chicken shows that chicken were present in Chile as early as 600 years before present (B.P.). These could be approximated to the period when the Chile Islands were affiliated to the Polynesians. This scientific evidence is a proof that Polynesians sailed to South America earlier than Christopher Columbus. The island of Tonga, Easter, and American Samoa lie almost 6,000 kilometers east of Chile. The Polynesian made voyages to and from Chile, and introduced chickens, pigs, and dogs to the areas where they settled.
The other evidence of early Polynesian voyages was the use of fishhooks and canoes. According to Kathyrn Klar and Terry Jones, there was a possible contact between the Polynesian seafarers and the Garielino, or Chumash cultures of North America (460). This contact is estimated to have occurred as early as 400 AD. Canoes that were sewn out of planks, and fishhooks made up of two bones were the main characteristics of Polynesians. The Chumash were the earliest settlers of places like Santa Rosa, and San Clemente’s Eel Point. As the Spanish people arrived in the islands in the 16th century, the Chumash tribes were using canoes sewn out of planks famously known as tomolos to carry passengers, food, and fish across the islands. The canoes were sealed with asphaltum to make the vessel waterproof. The canoes were approximately 20 feet long and could carry a maximum of 12 persons. Archeological evidence suggests that the tomolo canoe could have been in use, in 700AD. The Polynesian colonization is associated with the use of plank construction, and the sewing method to make canoes. However, the Polynesian canoes were almost twice the size of the Chumash tomolos and were characterized by single or double hulls. At about 7000 years B.P., the Chumash cultures used extended fishhooks made out of shells and bones. However, their contact with Polynesians saw them use twin-pointed fishhooks as from the start of 700 AD. These compound hooks were made of two pieces of bones that were stuck together using asphaltum. On the same line, Polynesians used their bi-pointed fishhooks as from the beginning of 300 AD. Klar and Jones posit that the Chumash cultures learnt of the Polynesian canoes and the compound fishhooks after getting into contact with the Polynesians (Hirst).
Patrick Kirch, an archeologist at the University of California noted the presence of the sweet potato (Ipomea batatas) at Polynesian archeological sites (Storey 10339). These potatoes had their origin in South America. These potatoes are estimated to be almost 1,000 years old. Some of the archeological sites where the potatoes have been found include Cook Islands and Mangaia. According to archeologists, the sweet potato and the bottle guard appeared in South America as early as 1200AD.
Direct carbon dating of bones of chicken from El Arenal One is found to be between 700-900 years B.P. At this time, the Polynesian Islands like Easter Island and Rapa were thought to be under colonization. The presences of canoes that resemble those of the Polynesians suggest that there was physical contact between the North American cultures and the Polynesian people. In addition to that, the change of Chumash’s extended bone fishhook into a compound fishhook shows that this culture must have had a new observation that influenced their adaptation. It is important to note that, the people of the Polynesian, North, and South American islands had a way of seafaring long before the Europeans arrived at their occupations. The presence of chicken bones whose DNA resembles suggest that there was contact, seafaring and introduction of new animals to the places where the cultures inhabited. Experimental sailings, the presence of the sweet potato and the Polynesian bottle guard in Mangaia show that there was contact between the South American Tribes and the Polynesian. All these evidence suggests that there were earlier civilizations and people who had contact with the North and South Americans long before the Europeans knew that the places existed (Mann 18).
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