Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Solheim on Nusantao Voyages to the Americas

Archaeologist Wilhelm Solheim has proposed lately that Jomon-like Valdivia pottery of Ecuador and other pottery resembling the Sa-Huynh-Kalanay tradition has its ultimate origin in Southeast Asia.

Solheim quotes the seminal work of the late James Ford, A Comparison of Formative Cultures in the Americas: Diffusion or the Psychic Unity of Man:

At about 3000 BC after a long sea voyage from the southwestern Japanese Islands, a group of fisherman landed on the coast of Ecuador. Meggers, Evans, and Estrada (1965), who have presented the evidence in support of this happening, so novel in terms of currently accepted theory about New World cultural development, have modestly suggested that perhaps this was a single boatload of fishermen, lost at sea in a storm, who were unwillingly brought to the shores of America by the North Pacific ocean current.

There is reason to suspect, however, that this might have been more in the nature of an exploring and colonizing expedition involving a number of individuals of both sexes and varied skills. Subsequent events in the Americas suggest that these people had a seafaring, exploring and colonizing tradition, similar to that fo the later Polynesians and Vikings. Solheim (1964[a]:360, 376—84) has offered statistical evidence to show that one of three sources of Malayan and Polynesian ceramic traditions was influenced from the Japanese Islands at an estimated date of 1000 to 500 BC. The extensive spread of this 'Sa-Hunh-Kalanay' tradition in the southwestern Pacific certainly implies a seafaring tradition. Most of the ceramic shapes, decorative elements, and design motifs are similar to those postulated to have spread to the Americas between 3000 and 1000 B.C.

The remarkable variety of the Valdivia ceramics suggests that more than one or two individuals, or lineages, founded and maintained this tradition. The highly selective fashion in which certain elements of the complex were spread to other parts of the Americas, also argues that specialization in this craft had already developed. Furthermore, as varied as it is the Valdivia ceramic complex does not represent the entire range of pottery manufactured at 3000 B.C. in southwestern Japan. As with the early English settlement at Jamestown in Virgina, the products manufactured corresponded to the experience and training of the craftsmen brought from the mother country (Ford 1969: 183-184).

Solheim believes based on the similarities of the Valdivia and other assemblages in decoration and form with the Sa-Huynh-Kalanay complex that Nusantao voyagers from were making infrequent visits to the west coast of the Americas starting around 3000 BCE using the Kuroshio (Japan) Current.

Some examples given by Wilhelm Solheim of pottery decoration showing relationship with Sa-Huynh-Kalanay designs.

Top row: The third from the left is from Puerto Hormiga, Columbia with the rest from Valdivia, Ecuador.

Second row: The third from the left is from Barlovento, Columbia with the rest from Valdivia, Ecuador.

Third row: Valdivia; Machalilla, Ecuador; Veracruz, Mexico.

Bottom: Veracruz, Mexico.

Redrawn by Ric de Guzman in John N. Miksic, Earthenware in Southeast Asia: Proceedings of the Singapore Symposium.

Paul Kekai Manansala


Ford, J. A. A Comparison of Formative Cultures in the Americas: Diffusion or the Psychic Unity of Man, Smithsonian Contributions to Anthropology Vol. 11, Washington D.C., Smithsonian Institution Press, 1969.

Miksic, John N. Earthenware in Southeast Asia: Proceedings of the Singapore Symposium, National University of Singapore Press, 2003, 20-21.

Solheim II, Wilhelm G.
Archaeology and Culture in Southeast Asia: Unraveling the Nusantao, University of the Philippines Press, 2006.


siripoo said...

Just surfing and came across this. Dr. Solheim is my dad. It's nice to see people using his books as a reference.
Siri Solheim