Old World, New World Parallels


Devices for printing on fabrics, figurines, pyramids, wheeled toys, and dentures are a few of the objects found in both the Old World and the New World with such “striking resemblances” that it is difficult not to think that there is a connection. This was the message—illustrated with slides—presented by Dr. Norman Totten of Boston’s Bentley College at Brigham Young University. His presentation was of special interest to Latter-day Saints: it supports the idea of repeated ocean voyages from the Old World to the New—before Columbus.

Drawings of ships of the same style—and dramatically different from the European ships in which Columbus “discovered” America—have been found in both Crete and Texas. The principle of the screw has appeared on both sides of the ocean. Statues showing remarkably similar women wearing similar headcoverings, nose rings, and coin necklaces have been found both in the San Blas Islands of Panama and in Nepal. The “Los Lunas” inscription south of Albuquerque, New Mexico can be read in either Hebrew or Phoenician script.

Dr. Totten also reported work done by Dr. Barry Fell indicating traces of Mediterranean languages that appear in the language of American Indian tribes,—a 50-percent correlation between the Libyan and Zuni languages, for instance. Punic and Iberian characters have appeared on stones in Vermont. Oggam, a script characteristic of Ireland, has been found in Vermont as well. Dr. Totten has traced a distinctive grid pattern back through the earliest writings of Chinese and Egyptian; it appears in Portugal and Arkansas as well, and always means the same thing: “an agricultural field.”

Numismatic (monetary) evidence also reinforces pre-Columbian ocean travel. Greek coins stamped with Athena’s head, even to the detail of the monster Scylla on her helm, have been found in two places in Arkansas. Shekels of the Jewish First Revolt, dated at about A.D. 65, have been found in Tennessee, and shekels of the Second Revolt (about A.D. 135) have been found at four different locations in Kentucky.

Why, then, with so much evidence available of oceanic travel in the ancient world, have we been taught that American history began with Columbus? Dr. Totten pointed out that much navigational and cultural information was lost when the great libraries at Alexandria and Carthage—among others—were burned by the soldiers of Julius Caesar. The Phoenicians and other ocean-going mariners then had a vested economic interest in keeping the trade winds and currents a secret.

“But we don’t know how much Columbus knew,” he said. “We’re pretty sure now that most educated people knew that the earth was round. We don’t know what else they knew.”