New Journal Studies Ancient Transoceanic Travel
The inaugural issue of a new scholarly journal of interest to students of the Book of Mormon has recently become available. Volume 1 of Pre-Columbiana: A Journal of Long-Distance Contacts is a double issue (June and December 1998) of 160 pages. The journal is the product of two distinct streams of interest in the topic of ancient transoceanic travel. On one hand, the key contributors are senior academic scholars who have a long record of research and publication on this subject. Believing there is substantial evidence for such early voyages, these people have long contradicted the orthodox view that no significant contacts from the Old World reached the Americas to seed or affect New World cultures. On the other hand, the funding and sponsoring organization, Early Sites Research Society West, combines the efforts of groups of mainly amateur researchers who are anxious to see the same problem studied.
Editor Stephen C. Jett, of the University of California at Davis, says in a policy statement that "Pre-Columbiana is an international interdisciplinary journal of culture history dedicated to the study of questions of long-distance movements of people and culture before the time of Columbus's first voyage to the Western Hemisphere in 1492." This focus of study, long out of favor among conventional scholars, has needed a proper scholarly outlet whereby findings and discussion of this "intellectually and politically controversial question" can be published at a high standard of scholarship (all articles are reviewed by competent scholars before they are accepted for publication). Among the fields of science and scholarship represented in the first issue are geography, archaeology, anthropology, art history, intellectual history, linguistics, epigraphy, and nautical history.
Latter-day Saints are particularly interested in studies on this topic because the Book of Mormon reports three transoceanic journeysthose by the Jaredites, the Mulekites, and Lehi's party.
Jett, a widely published geographer, is supported by an editorial board of experts from the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia of Mexico and the universities of Calgary, California-Irvine, Marquette, Texas, Oregon, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Montreal, and BYU.
Some startling new material is included in the first issue. Jett reports on evidence for very early navigation in the Pacific. Carl L. Johannessen presents hitherto unpublished evidence for the presence of native American crop plants, peanuts, corn, the sunflower, a type of squash, chili pepper, amaranth, the yam bean, and possibly the lima bean in China and India (some of his research was funded by FARMS). Paul Shao of Iowa State University presents new information about the relationships between early Chinese art and American art styles. David H. Kelley shows that a South American word for "yam" was apparently borrowed into Polynesia, that a word for "watercraft" relates the same two geographical areas, and that other mythic and iconographic concepts also were likely shared. Linguist Mary LeCron Foster of the University of California at Berkeley uses new methods to identify 55 terms or concepts that are systematically related in Arabic, Egyptian, Quechuan (the Inca language), Hanunoo (Philippines), and Iban (Borneo); these relationships seem to owe to "overseas colonization by nautical explorers." Mary Richie Key of the University of California at Irvine musters new data to support her hypothesis that language similarities between Austronesian (Oceanic) and South American languages are due to ancient migrations.
In the book review section, Betty J. Meggers of the Smithsonian Institution considers John L. Sorenson and Martin Raish's massive Pre-Columbian Contact with the Americas across the Oceans (FARMS' Research Press, 1996) as providing "an unparalleled view of the theoretical issues and magnitude of evidence for and against pre-Columbian transoceanic contacts." In the bibliographic section that follows the reviews, Sorenson, the book review and bibliographic editor for the journal, publishes 43 new abstracts expanding on the material in the 1996 volume.
Various smaller items are also published in this inaugural issue by authors such as H. Mike Xu, Mario A. Pérez Campa, (the late) William R. McGlone, Phil Leonard, and others.
The first four issues of Pre-Columbiana are available at an introductory rate of $25.00 from ESRS West, P.O. Box 4175, Independence MO 64050.