An Indelible Imprint of Literacy: The Olmec and African Presence in Pre-Columbian America

By Joseph H. Gaines.

Published by The Learner Collection

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This paper has been undertaken in order to demonstrate the historical and scientific weaknesses of traditional perspectives held by orthodox historians, archaeologists, linguists, and scholars, that contentiously maintain that it is an implausible idea to suggest that Africans could have journeyed across the vastness of the sea and made contact with the peoples of ancient America, prior to the European contact period. The idea is seen as being sacrosanct, thereby, negating any veracity for possible cultural contact that might have yielded any significant influence upon the philosophical, religious, scientific, or aesthetic sensibilities of the indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica (e.g. Olmec, Maya, Aztec, Inca). The notion essentially embodies a constricted conceptual framework from which to view a people’s capacity and potential, thus rendering the landscape of ancient American history as neither smooth nor easily traveled. Nonetheless, the study will validate by means of evidence gleaned as a consequence of a qualitative interdisciplinary approach, that there was exogenous cultural contact between the “Old World” and “New World” prior to Columbus' arrival in 1492. The data will also substantiate the feasibility for the use of: sea currents, world-wide winds, and celestial constellations, for antiqutous trans-continental and trans-pacific ocean travel, whether they be either intentional or otherwise, during the Pre-Columbian period (Hyerdahl, 1971; Savoy, 1974). Astonishingly, the research reveals, not only that there was an irrefutable African presence in Pre-Columbian America, moreover, the evidence suggests that there too was an ancient Asiatic and European presence (Chandler, 1992; Needham, 1959). This confirms what Dr. Ivan Van Sertima (1976) characterizes as the merging of the “three faces” (e.g. Negroid, Mongoloid, and Caucasoid), that constitute the most ancient Mexican civilization, the primordial Olmec, “La Cultura Madre” (Mother Culture), to which the broad name “Olmec” was derived, as well as “The People of the Jaguar”. They were the people who forged the template of world view and governance and built cities and monumental structures, for example at San Lorenzo and La Venta, upon the ancient Mexican soil. The study also presents the reader with the conceptualization of a more comprehensive perspective of the meaning of literacy. Hence, the data not only demonstrates that there was an African presence in ancient America, as early as 1500 B.C., but through that contact, inscriptive communication, by means of discursive symbolism and aesthetic expressive forms fashioned by means of presentational symbolism, yield an astoundingly rich and indelible narrative imprint of literacy, creatively expressed in the form of: hieroglyphic writing, terracotta figurines, iconography, architecture, and colossal sculptures, found in the Olmec, Maya and other Mesoamerican civilizations.

Keywords: Literacy, Epigraphy, Linguistics, American History, African History, Archaeology, Physical Anthropology, Aesthetics, Semiotics, Oceanography, Multicultural Education

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp.1-8. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 530.620KB).

Dr. Joseph H. Gaines

Chairperson, Education Department, Childhood Education Program, Manhattan Campus., Boricua College, New York, New York, USA

Dr. Gaines is a full Professor of Education and serves as chairperson in the Education Department of Boricua College, New York, Manhattan campus. Professor Gaines earned his undergraduate and master's degrees at Queens College, New York, while also attending the University of Madrid and Seville in Spain, in the Departamento de Filosofia y Letras. He earned his doctoral degree in 1989 from Teachers College, Columbia University in the Department of International Education with an interdisciplinary specialization in the areas of: Communication and Technology in Education, Bilingual/Bicultural Education, and Philosophy. Moreover, he also has been distinguished as a doctoral Fellow under the auspices of the Office of Bilingual Education, Washington D.C. Dr. Gaines has presented, written, and published nationally, and internationally numerous articles and papers in the fields of: Literacy, Multicultural Education, Urban Higher Education, Bilingual Education, and Ethnomusicology.


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