Monday, May 4, 2015

A Japanese Connection with the Jaredites?

In 1956, Ecuadorian archaeologist Emilio Estrada was excavating in the Santa Elena Peninsula of Ecuador, where he discovered the Valdivia culture. What he found suggested this was one of the oldest cultures that had been found anywhere in the Americas, which he dated between 3500 to 1800 B.C. based on uncovered ceramics. 
   The pottery pieces discovered had been made for practicality and were therefore very rough, yet were unique to Valdivia. Their pottery was generally made from gray and red clay, but as the years went on, pottery became a more refined skill.
Ceramic works became art pieces with the attention to detail becoming more noticeable. Ceramic figurines, specifically the feminine figurine of Venus of Valdivia, became a trademark piece. Artisans also became more artistic, creating mortars and bowls, using animals as their inspiration for their designs.
    What disturbed everyone was there was no sign or record of the culture migrating, nor was a definite end to their existence found. Most archaeologists and scholars believe that dwindling numbers forced members of the communities to leave their coastal settlement and go in search of a more prosperous life elsewhere. It seems that the Valdivia set off to find a new start and became lost to history in doing so.
    Estrada thought to look for a connection in other artifacts to see if some link could be drawn to Valdivia. A mystery developed since the site displayed an early, sophisticated ceramic, sequence that appeared around 3000 B.C., apparently without local developmental antecedents. That is, an advanced ceramic capability appeared that had not been preceded in the area from a lesser ability forward. Such a thing is difficult for archaeologists to fathom, since they always believe there has to be a precedent for whatever stage is discovered—but none was found.
    Of course, the story of the Jaredites in the Land Northward, the Mulekites and Nephites in the Land Southward, would have been such cultures who, coming from the Middle East where advances had already been made by their progenitors, would have suddenly shown up in the Land of Promise at their level without indications of any precedents.
Then, in 1961, teamed with archaeologists Betty Meggers and her husband, Clifford Evans (left), Estrada was working on unraveling the mystery when he suddenly died. Meggers and Evans continued with the work. They compared the Valdivian ceramics with what they thought were similar artifacts found on Kyushu Island in Japan. Slowly, a theory emerged that there must have been some type of trade or contact between these two communities, however, the theory of trade was soon rejected—Japan was very close to two major and friendly trading partners, China and Korea, both wealthy nations at the time with numerous resources and extensive opportunities for trade.
    That left accidental contact.
    Meggers and Evans hit upon the probability that Japanese fishermen must have been somehow lost at sea, being caught up in the strong Kuroshio Current and swept around the northern Pacific and down the coast of the Americas to Ecuador, which became known as the "pre-Columbian transpacific-contact theory."
    A few years later, in 1968, Carl Hugh Jones, assistant museum director and curator of anthropology for the Nebraska State Historical Society, read a paper on the subject at the 18th Annual Symposium on the Archaeology of the Scriptures and Allied Fields at BYU in October of 1968.
    The purpose of the review was to give an “LDS view” of the contact as reported by Meggers and Evans, on that pre-Columbian transpacific-contact theory that was based on the belief that the Valdivian pottery was thought to be a transition of Early-Middle Jomon sites on the southern most island of Kyushu in Japan. The Jomon ceramics, from three sites (Izumi, Ataka and Sobata) were dated from 3000 to 2000 B.C., which seemed like a good match.
Top: Jomon (Japanese) ceramics 3000 B.C.; Bottom: Valdivian (Ecuador) ceramics 3000 B.C. Hard to see any type of similarity other than a common brown color
    It is interesting that to get Valdivia pottery-makers from the west side of the Pacific to the east side in Japan, Meggers and Evans suggested that one or more involuntary voyages were made by Jomon fishermen who, caught at sea by severe storms, were swept northeastward into the eastward flow of the Kurshio or Japanese current and then southward by wind and current 8000 miles to the coast of Ecuador. According to Meggerts and Evans, “to the land-bound, the success of such a voyage in any age seems impossible, yet to those who have lived on and by the sea for generations, it is conceivable.”
The upward swing of the Equatorial Counter-Current (white arrow) pushed any drift movement south in the California Current back out to sea and into the southern arm of the North Equatorial Current, sending a vessel westward and back toward Japan
    However, the Kyoshio Current, which eventually turns into the clockwise North Pacific Gyre and flows down into the California Current, swings back to the west in the bottom arm of the North Pacific Gyre and heads back toward the west and across the Pacific toward Japan. This curve is enforced by the Equatorial Counter-Current which is turned northward around Central America (see map above), forcing any southerly moving drift vessel back into the North Equatorial Gyre. As can be seen, there is simply no way that a current-driven fishing vessel adrift at sea in B.C. times would have reached South America, or actually even Meso- or Central America.
    The other issue at hand is that archaeologists are quick to make comparisons between ceramics they find, which do not violate their already preconceived viewpoints and dogmas, i.e., they might look for some weird possibility of connecting pottery styles to cultures thousands of miles apart (across the Pacific Ocean), but ignore even greater similarities of groups within a few miles of each other such as we find all over Andean South Americas recently shown in several posts.
    Even another issue is that all records of Chinese or Japanese vessels lost in the Kuroshio Current and crossed the Pacific show that they were washed ashore along North America from Sitka, Alaska, south to British Columbia, particularly around Pachena Bay along the coast of Vancouver Island, or the archipelago on the North Coast of British Colombia.
Most were little more than wreckage, though on rare occasions, entire ships would arrive, like the derelict Hokkaido-based squid-fishing boat that reached Haida Gwaii (Graham Island), off the coast of British Columbia, or the vessel Hyojun Maru after drifting for 14 months and washing up in 1834 on Cape Flattery headlands (along the Canadian border between Vancouver Island and the state of Washington). However, nothing is known of anything coming this way prior to the European contact era, and very rarely was there any life remaining on board of such derelicts or wrecks. And other than Betty Meggers, no one has ever suggested Japanese or Chinese sailors washing up on shore any further south than Washington State.
Top: Typical Japanese B.C. fishing vessel; Bottom Left: 15th Century Japanese fishing vessel; Bottom Right: 13th Century Chinese Sampan. Would be very difficult for one of these vessels to have made it across the Pacific during many months of drifting
    Lastly, whether or not a Japanese fisherman, who maybe never in his life made a ceramic, got blown off course and driven thousands of miles away, landed on a foreign land, mingled with another culture, and either made or showed them how to make pottery designs from his homeland, seems a far reach. Why would a simple fisherman know anything about ceramics, and why would he think to show another people thousands of miles from home about his knowledge of other designs, and why would another culture adopt a foreign design, again, a huge stretch. One would think he would be more inclined toward survival (learning how to fish in a foreign land where fish patterns might be different, currents and fish habitats different, and where techniques of nets, hooks, and lines might be different).
    To believe that a simple fishing boat’s misfortune of weather and conditions brought ceramic samples of pottery some seven thousand miles across the ocean seems beyond reality—had it been a sample of netting, fishing pole, hook, etc., one might consider the possibility, but ceramics?
    However, Jones made a valuable point when he concluded with: “Even though it is now necessary to seek more carefully the landing places of the Book of Mormon peoples, we do have a tested tool to help us prove this or any other point...a validity test which may be briefly defined as having three parts: first, the trait or complex or traits must be as old or older in the donor culture as the recipient culture; second, there should be antecedents in the donor culture and none in the recipient; third, the physical form of the trait should not be restricted by the limitations of the material from which it is made or the use to which it is put.
Stated differently, these three points should show appropriate dates, i.e., Peru is older than Mesoamerica by radiocarbon dated sites and artifacts; antecedents in the older culture, but not in the newer one, i.e., the Jaredites, Mulekites and Nephites came from a land (Jerusalem) where antecedents should be found, but none in the Land of Promise; and lastly, physical traits should not be restricted, i.e., there should be allowances for differences in available materials between the earlier and the latter (“save it were not built of so many precious things; for they were not to be found upon the land”). It would do well for all who write about the Land of Promise to keep these three points (tools) in mind.

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