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26 May 2013
Did Japanese fishermen reach America 5000 years ago?

Differences and similarities in pottery decorations can offer clues about cultural relationships over space and through time. Residues on pots reveal important clues to how people used their pottery.
     An international team of scientists last month reported chemical analyses of the charred gunk on the surfaces of pottery shards from Jomon period sites in Japan was composed mostly of the oily residue from cooking ocean fish.
     Meanwhile, the largest ever genetic study of native South Americans recently identified a sub-population in Ecuador with an unexpected link to eastern Asia, concluding that Asian genes had been introduced to South America sometime after 6000 years ago - the same time the Jomon culture was flourishing in Japan.
     Curiously, back in the 1960s renowned Smithsonian archaeologist Betty Meggers argued that similarities between the pottery of the contemporaneous Valdivia culture in Ecuador and Japan's Jomon culture indicated that Japanese fishermen had "discovered" America about 5000 years ago.
     Writing in 1980, Meggers expressed frustration that transoceanic contact as an explanation for cultural similarities was dismissed by dogmatic colleagues as "cult archaeology," and she complained that "no amount of evidence" could convince them.
     This latest discovery of an apparent genetic link between eastern Asians and Ecuadoran natives provides intriguing independent support for Meggers' hypothesis.

Edited from Ohio Archaeology Blog (19 May 2013), The Colombus Dispatch (23 May 2013)

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