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No. 81: May-Jun 1992

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Biological Evidence For Two Very Early New World Contacts

Sketch reputed to be from the Bayeux Tapestry
Talking turkeys? Did the Vikings ship American turkeys back to Europe circa 1010 AD from their reputed colonial foothold in Massachusetts? Some radical archeologists think so, pointing to two old depictions of turkey-like birds from Precolumbian Europe. The upper figure was painted on a wall in Schleswig Cathedral about 1280. The lower sketch is reputed to be from the Bayeux Tapestry, which dates back to 1066-1077. (Anonymous; "Talking Turkey," Fortean Times, no. 61, p. 27, February-March 1992.)

Comment. The Bayeux Tapestry turkey, in particular, questionable. In fact, a careful search has not found it! See: SF#103.

An archeological hot potato! Mangaia is a small volcanic island in the Cook Island group. During the excavation of a rock shelter on this island, large fragments of sweet potato were discovered. These were subsequently carbondated at about 1000 AD.

"The prehistoric transferral of this South American domesticate into Polynesia obviously raises issues of cultural contact between the coast of South America and the Polynesian Islands. In our view, the most likely transferrors would have been the seafaring Polynesians, on a voyage of exploration to South America and return."

(Hather, Jon, and Kirch, P.V.; "Prehistoric Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas) from Mangaia Island, Central Polynesia," Antiquity, 65:887, 1991.)

Comment. What cultural imperatives would impel the Vikings and the Polynesians to reach out to the New World at almost the same time in history but from opposite sides of the world?

From Science Frontiers #81, MAY-JUN 1992. 1992-2000 William R. Corliss