Monday, October 3, 2016

The Paraiba Inscriptions and the Two South America Islands of Antiquity, Part III

Continuing with the previous article about the shipwrecked Sidonian sailors that supposedly landed on an island along what is now the east coast of South America, and the list of the problems with such an idea. 
3. Keels were unknown on ships during the time of this sailing of the Sidonian sailors. For those not familiar, a keel is the main structural member and backbone of a ship, running longitudinally along the center of the bottom of the hull from bow to stern and serves as a basic foundation or spine of the structure, providing the major source of structural strength of the hull. It constitutes the principal member to which ribs (or timbers) were attached and to the strakes (from garboards upward to the sheer strakes) on each side and to which the stem and sternpost were also attached, giving the vessel substantial longitudinal strength with the strakes contributing a significant proportion of the structural strength of the vessel.  
    In any kind of damage to the ship, if the keel is broken or strained to the extent that it loses structural integrity, the ship is commonly said to have “broken its back.” Thus the entire structure of the ship has been compromised making any repair a virtual rebuilding of the ship from the ground (keel) up.
    The word "keel" comes from Old English cēol, Old Norse kjóll, which means “ship” or “keel.” It has the distinction of being regarded by some scholars as the very first word in the English language recorded in writing, having been recorded by Gildas in his 6th century Latin work de Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae, under the spelling cyulae, in which he was referring to the three ships in which the Saxons first arrived in the fifth century A.D. (The Ruin of Britain, 1899 pp4-252; G. W. Whittaker, Collected Essaysl, Ayer Publishing, 1970, p, p44).
    Sailing in deep ocean seas in a keel-less vessel would be like shooting the rapids in a paper enclosure.
Top: HMS Fly in 1851 near the island of Trinidad 8 miles off the east coast of Brazil, which is the (Bottom) eastern point of the currents that flow between the island and the coast from Tourus to Montevideo—an east flowing South Equatorial Counter Current with minimal force during boreal spring (April to early June) and flows west during July and August, with a second velocity core present around 130-feet depth, separated from the deeper velocity core by a westward flow (with significant westward velocity) the westward surface flow events usually occur in boreal winter (October-early March) above the subsurface counter current. While the SECC is primarily geostrophically driven, strong southeast trade winds can induce westward reversals of the SECC during this period of the year. The weak surface expression and strong seasonal variations in flow directions makes it difficult to detect the SECC in maps of average surface velocity—however, the point is that a westward movement occurs at this point (though in a very small window) of where the sailors would have landed
4. The only journey around Africa known to have taken place in B.C. times was the one Phoenician sailors took for Necho II, an Egyptian king of the 26th Dynasty (610-595 BC), which took three years and involved just one ship sailing from the Red Sea around Africa to the Mediterranean and to the mouth of the Nile, stopping at night and twice planting and harvesting crops;
    If Sidonian sailors did, indeed, reach the Brazilian coast as described in the Paraiba Inscription, it seems it would not have been something that would have been repeated. We know nothing of the other nine ships that sailed with this group, and very possibly they were all sunk in the storm that drove this group to Brazil.
    The stone was found by a man named Joaquim Alves de Costa, who claimed one of his slaves found the stone on his property at Pouso-Alto on the shores of the Parahyba. His son copied the characters on the stone and sent them with his letter (see last post), which in 1872 became an international sensation, drawing a lot of scrutiny.
    Baffled by the strange markings on the stone, Costa's son, who was a draftsman, made a copy of it and sent it to the Brazilian Emperor's Council of State. The stone came to the attention of Ladislau Netto, director of the national museum. When Alves de Costa could not be located (because of many Parahyba rivers and many places named Pouso Alto in Brazil), Ladisiau Netto, convinced of the inscription's authenticity and made a crude translation of it, claiming the inscription Phoenician and interpreted it about a group of Phoenicians who left Ezion-Geber in 500 B.C., and were separated from their mates and shipwrecked. Contemporary scholars scoffed. The very thought of Phoenicians reaching Brazil thousands of years before Columbus was viewed with disdain. Few scholars took the stone at all seriously.
    However, Netto was no expert, though a student of Phoenician archaeology and its culture who, at the time, was Director of the Museu Nacional do Rio de Janeiro, and evidently eager to promote investigations into Brazil’s mysterious past. By 1874, two epigraphists, S. Euting and K. Schlottmann, who studied inscriptions as writing, thought it was badly written and claimed the stone inscription a hoax. 
    Netto, under relentless criticism, admitted that he had believed the inscription was original due to the excellent navigation skills of the Phoenicians, and had become carried away by his enthusiasm, and recanted his claim. So the inscription remained ignored, classified as a forgery, until the 1960s, when it surfaced again.
    In 1966 Dr. Jules Piccus, professor of romance languages at the University of Massachusetts, bought an old scrapbook at a rummage sale containing a letter written by Netto in 1874, which contained his translations of the markings on the stone and a tracing of the original copy he had received from Costa's son.
Intrigued, Dr. Piccus brought the material to the attention of Cyrus H. Gordon (left). Dr. Gordon, the head of the Department of Mediterranean Studies at Brandeis and an expert in ancient Semitic languages, as well as author of some 13 books, was amazed. He compared the Paraiba inscription with the latest work on Phoenician writings. He discovered that it contained nuances and quirks of Phoenician style that could not have been known to a 19th century forger. The writings had to be genuine! He, too, received a lot of criticism from mainstream science.
    Whether or not the inscription is real evidently cannot be proven or disproven satisfactorily. It is interesting, however, that someone thought to write down that there were two very large islands in the Atlantic about where the South American continent lies, with oceans around them as the geological map suggests, and that someone wrote of the incident on a rock found in South America, or at least surfaced through letters and copied inscription in the 1800s, matching the story supposedly recorded some 2300 years earlier.

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