If Columbus was the first man on America, where did Native American comes from? That question has been answered by many theories, all of which are extremely interesting. Ranging from the Mormons to the Japanese, the origins of Native Americans have been theorized to be from all over. Read of the 10 most fascinating of these theories below.
1. The Mormon Story
There are several somewhat varied versions of the story of the Book of Mormon, its origins, and it authenticity. The essential story is that Joseph Smith, Jr discovered a set of copper plates inscribed with the story of a group of Israelites that fled Israel and ended up in Central America, and the story the book tells is the general history of these Israelites, and includes a visit from the Messiah at the time of, and shortly after His death and resurrection. In the 1930s, there was quite a stir with the discovery and documentation of what was know as the “Izapa Stela 5”, because one particular scholar said it was, in his opinion, “a record of the Book of Mormon tree of life vision.” He was convinced the Stela had Old World ties, but this theory is essentially ignored by non-Mormons.
2. The Japanese
There has been pottery discovered, associated with the Valdivian Culture (3000-1500 BCE) in modern day Equador that some claim resemble pottery made in Japan during the same approximate period. Though there are some general similarities, most scholars say that this is just happenstance. After all, how many ways can you decorate a bowl? However, there is evidence that the Zuni peoples of New Mexico may have indeed descended from the Japanese. The Zuni people exhibit many Japanese traits including, language similarities, cultural similarities, blood type ratios, susceptibility to certain diseases, and religious similarities. This theory dates the Japanese migration to date back to the 13th Century CE. Though this theory is very strong, it only purports to explain a relatively small portion of the Pre-Columbian American population. So it would certainly not explain the origins of a vast percentage of these peoples, and certainly none of those that were here prior to the 13th Century CE.
3. Henry Sinclair, Earl of Orkney
Henry Sinclair, a Scottish nobleman is said to have traveled to the Americas, using the old Norse route, Iceland to Greenland to Newfoundland and beyond. The claim is based solely on some carvings in a chapel built by his grandson, William Sinclair, which resemble ears of corn, a crop unknown in the old world at the time of the chapel construction. Some even suggest that the reason Christopher Columbus was able to persuade the King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to fund the expedition was because he and they knew of Henry’s voyage. However, one of the Biographers of dear, old Henry states rather bluntly: “It has been Earl Henry’s singular fate to enjoy and ever-expanding posthumous reputation which has very little to do with anything he achieved in his lifetime.”
4. The Irish Monk
The legend of Saint Brendan, an Irish monk, is a particularly favorite one of English-speaking peoples of Britain and the United States. In this particularly romantic legend, Brendan sailed, with Prince Madoc, the Welsh Prince at the time, to America in 1170 C.E., landing in what is today Mobile Bay, Alabama. What makes this theory specifically interesting is that, later, during colonial times, England used this legend to claim what is today the eastern sea-board of the United States, and it was accepted by many other nations, including the Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese. Some argue, however, that this claim was accepted under the threat of war with England, and therefore is invalid as evidence. There have also been tails that there were tribes of American Natives that spoke Welsh at the beginning of colonial times, and that there are monuments that have been found bearing Welsh inscriptions, however none of these stories have ever been confirmed by any credible linguist, epigrapher or archeologist.
5. The African Theory
This theory essentially states that Early Americans, particularly those of the Eastern portion of South America, came there from Africa. The primary source for this theory is the discovery of Cocaine and Nicotine in some mummies in Africa, primarily in Ancient Egypt and Sudan. Though many debunk this theory on the grounds there is evidence that the tobacco plant, the only source of natural nicotine, was a wild and uncultivated plant, in parts of Europe and Asia. This would explain the presence of nicotine in the mummies. However, this still does not explain the presence of cocaine, a plant native to the western portion of South America until late into the 19th century. There is also some DNA research that reportedly indicates that much of the population of South America east of the Andes to be closely related to certain African tribes and peoples. The most romantic of these African theories suggest that the African tribes and South American peoples that seem to be closely related are all descendants of the survivors of the Lost Continent of Atlantis.
6. The land of Mu-Lan-Pi
This theory is related to the African theory in that it involves Muslims from Africa. It is based primarily on what is known as the “Sung Document”, a Chinese document dating from the 12th and 13th Century C.E. The particular portion of the document that points to the fact that it must be the Americas being referred to is the sailing time from T’o-pan-ti to Mu-lan-pi, 100 days, the approximate sailing time from west Africa to the Americas.Though the exact location of T’o-pan-ti is unknown causing many to identify Mu-Lan-Pi to be Spain, the one hundred days sailing time is far too long to indicate a Trans-Mediterranean voyage. The largest hole in this theory is the specific mention of pomegranates, which where first introduced to the Central America area by the Spanish in the 18th century. There is no evidence to indicate an earlier existence of this plant in the Americas.A second concern by many is that, until recently, the Muslims took with them their particular style of clothing wherever they settled; including China, yet, this style of dress was not prevalent in the Americas at or after the time of Columbus.
7. Zheng He
There is also a variety of Chinese claims to the title of Discoverer of America. Some would say that, contrary to the Mali connection mentioned above, the Olmec civilization was actually started by a group of Chinese refugees that had fled China for their lives. Others tell of Buddhist missionaries arriving in Southern California sometime in the 5th Century CE. But the most credible theory seems to be that the ancient Chinese Naval Commander, Zheng He, arrived in the Americas in the 1421, some 71 years before Columbus. There is certainly an account of a long and arduous journey by Zheng He in this year, and of a certainty it was to the east of China, but whether he actually reached any part of the Americas is highly debatable. There are indications that he reached east as far as Tahiti and other Polynesian islands, but there seems to be missing any mention of a vast land the size of a continent.
8. The Empire of Mali
Another of the ever-popular African theories, this one is based on two attributes, the Olmec culture, and the presence of a native African plant species found in the Americas. According to some, the Olmec civilization lived in the tropical lowlands of today’s south-central Mexico, from around 1200 BCE to 400 BCE. The primary evidence that suggests this people came from Africa is the artifacts that have been found which have a remarkable resemblance to the “Negro race.” Since this race was not present in the Americas until they were transported here as slaves, this resemblance is a rather convincing argument. As far as the plant that is native to Africa, there are many theories as to how it got here, the one with the most credibility would seem to be that it was already part of the horticulture of the area before Africa and South America separated into two continents.
9. The Polynesians
The Polynesian civilization spread by canoe throughout the Pacific Ocean in what is sometimes referred to as the Polynesian Triangle defined by the three points of Easter Island, the Hawaiian Islands and New Zealand. There are many that believe that this spread also included South America, primarily because the sweet potato, a native American food plant, appeared to “back spread” through the triangle during this same time frame (300 to 1200 CE). This seems to be a likely theory, though, as with the Japanese above, it only explains a minor percentage of the Pre-Columbian Americans, and leaves a lot of unanswered questions about other, more ancient peoples.
10. The Roman Connection
The discovery in 1933 of a small terracotta head in the Roman style has caused quite a stir among some experts, since it suggests that the Romans knew about the Americas beginning in the 2nd Century CE. The head was located under a pre-colonial structure (dating back to between 1476 and 1510 CE) and has been identified as an authentic Roman artifact from the late 2nd to early 3rd century. In 1999, the head was dated to the Severian Emperors period (193-235 CE), and is said to be “exactly in the fashion of the epoch.” However, there are two major concerns with this theory. The first is that the Romans kept nearly impeccable records, and a discovery as significant as this one would certainly show up in their records. (It has been proposed that the explorers which found the Americas never made it back, so there was nothing to indicate they had found anything – a viable point.) The second problem is that there have been a number of hoaxes in which authenticated Roman artifacts were “found” in the new world, only to be discovered later that they were planted, and some of them not even authentic.