Contrary to what many people believe, America might have been discovered by Polynesians long before Christopher Columbus made his voyages to the continent. Researchers have been working hard to establish some factual information to back up the theory. As a result, the topic on discovery of America has turned out controversial in the two main areas. First, researchers wanted to find out whether there was a pre-Columbian introduction of chicken to the continent, and also whether the relationship between the Polynesians and South Americans can be established archeologically. This paper seeks to shed light on this issue by finding out who really discovered America.
Archeologists discovered chicken bones in Chile and applied carbon dating as well as DNA methods of analysis to discover their origins (Hirst, 2011, para. 1). Surprisingly, their findings matched the available ancient information on Polynesian chicken from Hawaii, Tonga and the surrounding areas. This information implied that chickens had been introduced to America a century before Europeans made their visit to the continent. It also also cast some doubt on the widely accepted belief that the birds were introduced into the continent by European voyagers.
There are various theories that try to explain the presence of chickens in America in the pre-Columbian period (Hirst, 2011, para. 1). For instance, most scholars believe that they were introduced by Spanish or Portuguese, and then they spread through natural dispersal method. Nevertheless, most of these theories have major flaws which make them unreliable. The assumption that chickens were introduced from Polynesia is supported by both carbon dating and DNA test methods. As a result, it is highly possible that this theory holds true.
Another strong argument that supports the fact that Polynesians were the first people to discover America is based on the use of canoes and fish hooks. The Chumash people made plank canoes using hand-hewn planks joined and cemented with asphaltum adhesive (Edgar, 2011 para. 2). Their length was 25 feet and they were used for fishing and trading purposes. The Chumash formed one of the largest tribes in California. They are believed to have learnt how to make the plank canoes from Polynesians where the practice was widespread (Edgar, 2005 p. 3).
Polynesian canoes were longer, ranging between 36 to 60 feet in length. They sailed in huge double hauled canoes. Use of carbon dating shows the dates of these canoes to range from 800 to 1200 AD, which falls under the pre-Columbian period (Davidson, 2005, para. 2). Therefore, the Chumash people must have learnt the practice from Polynesians. Also, the use of fish hooks by the Chumash people is believed to have been borrowed from the Polynesians after their contact. The hooks were dated to around 900 AD, which was many centuries before the arrival of Christopher Columbus (Hirst, 2011, para. 5). There were a lot of similarities, especially in the way both cultures referred to the tool by the same name. The tool had also similar design and many other mysterious resemblances indicating a possible link between the two prehistoric communities.
Furthermore, there were evaluations of linguistic evidence that confirmed a belief in pre-historic Polynesian-American contact. There is some consonantal connection between Polynesian and South American languages which further affirms this belief (Klar, 2005 p. 394). Similarities in some consonantal sounds certainly prove that the Polynesians must have visited the continent so that the terminologies could have been adopted by the Chumashan culture. The Chumashan name for a plank canoe was ‘tomolo’, which is believed to have been borrowed from the Polynesian source. According to linguistics and other researchers, every syllable of the Chumashan relates to another syllable in the Proto-Central Eastern Polynesian based lexical term (Klar, 2005 p. 394). However, this does not imply that the two languages have a general and genetic relationship, but instead there is some resemblance in the usage of various words.
Besides the use of ‘tomolo’, there are other words, such as ‘kumara’ (sweet potato), which is a proof of an earlier contact between Polynesians and Americans. Sweet potatoes were mainly grown by the Polynesians. After their samples in Polynesia were investigated, it was discovered that they had quite a lot of similarities with those grown in Ecuador (Ladefoged, 2005 para. 2). The word ‘kumara’ means sweet potato in both Polynesian and South American cultures. It is, therefore, believed that domestication of the crop was a common practice between people in South America and Polynesia (Ladefoged, 2005 para. 2). Therefore, linguistic evidence provides a sure proof of a direct contact between Polynesians and Americans long before Europeans made their visit to the continent (Klar, 2005 p. 394).
The paper has established that besides the voyages made by Christopher Columbus in his exploration of the American continent, there were other pre-Columbian visits made by Polynesians. All the above discussed assumptions point to one major theory: Polynesians discovered America before Europeans made their first voyage to the continent. Some of these theories are still being processed and therefore, there is still more research to be done in the future to ascertain these claims.