Pre-Columbian Explorations and Contacts between Africa and the Americas

christopher-columbus-africa-america-400x223Increasing numbers of European and African scholars are questioning the received so-called “history” of the Italian navigator Columbus “discovering” America. As Garikai Chengu points out in his article on the Global Research website:

“One can only wonder how Columbus could have discovered American when people were watching him from America’s shores?” According to American historian and linguist Leo Weiner, in his 2014 book Africa and the Discovery of America, Columbus himself related that Native Americans had told him about “black-skinned people (who) had come from the south-east in boats, trading in gold-tipped spears.”

According to American historian and linguist Leo Weiner, in his 2014 book Africa and the Discovery of America, Columbus himself related that Native Americans had told him about “black-skinned people (who) had come from the south-east in boats, trading in gold-tipped spears.” European-trained academic historians have for centuries maintained that Africans did not have the navigational skills or ship-building capabilities to cross the Atlantic, although the Greek historian Herodotus wrote of the ancient Egyptians’ great sea-faring and navigational skills. As Chengu notes, historians are beginning to move beyond the racial-intellectual prejudice of accounts of the “European age of exploration.”

theycamebeforecolumbusIn his 1976 book, They Came Before Columbus, Gyanese historian Ian Van Sertima assembled an astounding array of evidence for ancient contacts and explorations from Africa to the Americans. Extensive westward African explorations occurred when Abu Bakari II was a Ruler of the Mali empire, which dominated West Africa from the 13th to the 15th centuries. In the 14th century the Arabic scholar Al Umari wrote about the reign of the Malian emperor Musa I and his historic pilgrimage to Mecca. While in Egypt, Musa explained that he had inherited the throne after the abdication of the previous ruler. He explained that in 1310, the emperor Abu Bakari financed the building of 200 vessels of men and another 200 of supplies to explore “the limits of the sea” that served as the empire’s western frontier.

The mission was inconclusive, and the only information available on its fate came from a single boat whose captain refused to follow the other ships once they reached a “river in the sea” and a whirlpool. According to Musa I, his predecessor was undeterred and launched another fleet with himself as head of the expedition. In 1311, Abu Bakari temporarily ceded power to Musa, then serving as vizier and departed with a thousand vessels of men and a like number of supplies. After the emperor failed to return, Musa I became emperor (information compiled from Wikipedia links).

Perhaps the most convincing evidence for an early African presence in the Americas are the colossal (20 ton) Olmec stone heads found in central Mexico, displaying unmistakably Negroid features, quite unlike any other Mesoamerican depictions of faces. The Olmec civilization is the oldest of the Meso-American cultures, and is believed to have flourished around 900 BC, plus or minus 200 years. Conventional academic historians and archaeologists, who do not recognize any pre-Columbian contacts between Africa and the Americas pass over the obvious Negroid features of these sculpted heads, without comment, although, judging from their monumental size and the decorative head-dress or helmets, they clearly represent rulers or semi-divine beings, as well as demonstrating highly advanced methods of moving and working with stone. A Russian-Israeli historian of ancient Near-Eastern cultures, Zachariah Sitchin, believes that “the African Olmecs accompanied Thoth (alias Quetzlacoatl = ‘The Winged Serpent’) when Ra chased him out of Egypt, circa 3100 B.C. The Olmecs faded out of the Mesoamerican scene with the rise of the Mayas, circa 500 B.C.”(The Earth Chronicles Handbook, p. 164).

Provocative additional evidence for ancient contacts between Egypt and the Americas has recently come to light – which has sent scholars into veritable paroxysms of denial. In 1992, Dr. Svetlana Balabanova, a respected pathologist associated with the University of Ulm in Germany, analyzed samples of hair, bone and soft tissue from Egyptian mummies in the museum. She tested the samples using radioimmunoassay and gas chromatography – found no traces of opium and or lotus – but significant traces of nicotine and cocaine. Since then, Balabanova and other researchers have found nicotine and cocaine in hundreds of mummies, ranging from 800 to 3000 years of age. Now, nicotine and cocaine are only found in the tobacco and coca plants, respectively, and these are both New World plants, generally considered unknown elsewhere until after Columbus. Some scholars have pointed out that there are no representations of coca leaf or tobacco use in Egyptian paintings, though beer and opium are depicted in tomb paintings of the desired after-life. The levels of nicotine and cocaine found in the Egyptian mummies matches well with the levels found in South American mummies ( Did scientists find nicotine and coca in Egyptian mummies?)

While these findings are totally in accord with the evidence of pre-Columbian trans-Atlantic trade and contacts dating to several centuries BC, current orthodox ancient history and Egyptology can’t “stomach it,” so to speak. The Yahoo expert, at the end of the article cited above, comments “Beyond the pathology results, there is little to support the idea of Egyptian trade with the New World. The Egyptians were, according to Teeter, ‘famously bad sailors’… They were incapable of crossing the Mediterranean, far less the Atlantic.” Dr. Balabanova, to her credit, does not indulge in this kind of unscientific prejudicial thinking… but simply describes her findings.

New Essay in Tyr – 4: The (Nine) Doors of Perception: Ralph Metzner on the Sixties, Psychedelic Shamanism and the Northern Tradition.

Tyr: 4New essay, in Tyr – 4: The (Nine) Doors of Perception: Ralph Metzner on the Sixties, Psychedelic Shamanism and the Northern Tradition.

You can order a copy of this volume, Tyr 4, with Ralph’s essay, signed, from Green Earth Foundation, for $25.

The annual monograph series Tyr contains the above 20-page essay interview with Ralph written by Carl Abrahamsson and Joshua Buckley in its vol 4.

Although Tyr presents itself as a kind of journal – it is actually a 430 page book, no. 4 of a series named after the mythic Norse deity Tyr, who was the upholder of the traditional ways of knowledge the in the Nordic pantheon. The monograph-journal describes itself as radical traditionalist, celebrating “the traditional myths, culture and social institutions of pre-Christian, pre-modern Europe. It means to reject the modern, materialist reign of quantity over quality, the absence spiritual values, environmental devastation and overspecialization of urban life and the imperialism of corporate monoculture.” The monograph series as a whole is edited by Joshua Buckley and Michael Moynihan and presents both European and American scholars and writers.

The interview-essay, which also contains a number of black and white photographs, is the first time I have returned to many of the themes discussed in my book, The Well of Remembrance, since its original publication in 1994. Topics we discuss include: the work of Marija Gimbutas, the worldview changes and political upheavals of the 1960s, the role of psychedelics, the meaning of the myths of Odin, C.G. Jung’s views and many others.

The Tyr volume also reprints an essay by my friend the German ethnologist Christian Rätsch on “The Mead of Inspiration” – and what specific plant and fungal preparations might have been involved in that mythic brew.

Other essays in this lavishly illustrated and handsomely produced volume Tyr 4, include: What is Religion? by Alain de Benoist; What is Odinism? by Collin Cleary; Traditional Time-Telling in Old England, and Modern by Nigel Pennick; Garden Dwarves and House Spirits by Claude Lecouteux; Germanic Art in the First Millenium by Stephen Pollington; Finding the Lost Voice of our Germanic Ancestors: An Interview with Benjamin Bagby; On Barbarian Suffering by Steve Harris, and others.

Kill the Messenger and CitizenFour: Two Powerful Historical-Political Films

Both of these films relate to historically important journalistic actions that pose radical challenges to the corruption of the existing political order. Both films came out this year, are currently in movie theaters and have been positively reviewed and received. The difference is that the events depicted in Kill the Messenger occurred in the 1990s and the film is a historical documentary of a story that is finished – whereas CitizenFour depicts actions that have occurred within this past year and a plot line that is currently continuing to unfold in real time, with as yet unknown, open-ended outcomes. Thus, I like to think that the production and release in theaters of these two films now represents a kind of concentration and sharpening of focus on political-historical realities – that portends positive developments. I recommend everyone sees them both.

killthemessengerKill the Messenger is an American drama thriller directed by Michael Cuesta and written by Peter Landesman. It is based on the book of the same name by Nicholas Schou and the book Dark Alliance by Gary Webb, who is the courageous and ultimately doomed hero of the film. (Nicholas Schou also wrote Orange Sunshine, a history of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love.) Webb was the reporter for the San Jose-Mercury News who wrote a series of articles in 1996 about CIA involvement in cocaine trafficking in the US. Webb uncovered that Nicaraguans linked to the CIA-backed Contras were smuggling cocaine into the US to raise money for the Contras. Their smuggled cocaine fueled the crack epidemic sweeping through many US cities in the late 1990s.

According to Webb’s research and articles, the CIA and Reagan administration knew of the shipments of drugs into the US and shielded drug dealers from prosecution in order to help fund the contras. Webb convinced his editors to run his story, which was explosive. Initially hailed as a hero, Webb soon met with overwhelming skepticism. The New York Times and The Washington Post start picking at aspects of the story, and then attacking Webb himself. The movie depicts a media culture so embedded in the establishment that it doesn’t even have to be coerced into serving the interests of the powerful. Webb was reduced to write dog stories and the newspaper retracted major aspects of the story. Though his family remained supportive, two years later he committed suicide. Ten years later the CIA publically admitted Gary Webb’s revelations had essential been correct – but by then few people remembered what it was all about.

citizenfour_posterCitizenFour is a documentary in real time about Edward Snowden and his explosive revelations of the mass surveillance by the NSA and other intelligence agencies on millions of US and other citizens. The film is directed by Laura Poitras, one of the two journalists first selected by Snowden to publish his findings and features Snowden himself, filmed at first in Hong Kong and then after his flight into exile in Moscow.

It also features Glenn Greenwald, the other journalist, working for The Guardian, who lives in Brazil and who continues to publish stories based on the vast trove of documents Snowden extracted from the NSA. Greenwald wrote his own account of events in a book, No Place to Hide. The film also features short appearances from other whistle-blowers, including Julian Assange, and other journalists, such as The Guardian’s Ewen MacAskill, who are publishing parts of the stories from the Snowden files.

Knowing that it was filmed in real time as the real events unfolded with uncertain outcomes makes watching the film an incredibly tense yet absorbing experience.  Nevertheless, listening to and watching Snowden calmly and sincerely expound to his journalistic allies on his reasons for doing what he did at enormous personal risk to his person – is an inspiring experience, giving one hope for the survival of the basic human instincts for respecting the liberties of one another.


Timothy Leary – Writings From The Harvard Years

Harvardcover-smTimothy Leary – The Harvard Years  Early Writings on LSD and Psilocybin with Richard Alpert, Huston Smith, Ralph Metzner, and others. Edited and Introduced by James Penner. Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 2014.

Click here to order a copy signed by Ralph Metzner from Green Earth Foundation ($25).

This book, by James Penner, who is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Puerto Rico, is a demonstration of the process  of how experimental and empirical studies in psychology and the social sciences can become, in time, the subject matter of studies in cultural history. Penner is not a psychologist or sociologist, using quantitative empirical methods – he is a professor of English, who previously wrote a book on “The Rhetoric of Masculinity in American Literary Culture.”

The book is a reprint collection of articles originally published in psychology and social science journals in the early 1960s, many of them hard if not impossible to find, with insightful introductions by Professor Penner.  From the back cover: “Presenting the first collection of Leary’s writings devoted entirely to the research phase of his career, 1960-1965, this book offers rare articles from Leary’s time as a professor at Harvard…including writings from the Harvard Psilocybin Project, the Concord Prison Project, and the Good Friday Experiment.”

These essays… explore the nature of creativity and the therapeutic, spiritual and religious aspects of psilocybin and LSD. Featuring Leary’s scientific  articles and a rare account of his therapeutic approach, “On Existential Transaction Theory,” the book also includes Leary’s final essay from his time at Harvard, “The Politics of Consciousness Expansion,” as well as controversial articles published shortly after his dismissal.

With an editor’s introduction examining the Harvard drug scandal and a critical preface to each essay, this book of seminal essays by Leary – appearing in unabridged form – shows why and how he quickly become an articulate spokesperson for consciousness expansion and an iconic figure for the generation that came of age in the 1960s.”