Early Transoceanic Voyages to America

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_Kishkumen
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Early Transoceanic Voyages to America

Post by _Kishkumen »

Prof. John Robertson claims that opposition to Stubbs’ groundbreaking linguistic argument is largely due to one unscientific dogma:

It is academic dogma that any prehistoric migration from the Middle East to the Americas never happened, nor could it ever have happened. Any scholar’s work would be anathema if it made such a claim. Some say Stubbs’s work is anathema — but only at the expense of ignoring the breadth and depth of the actual data. There is actually existing evidence that favors such a migration — not an archeological artifact, nor a recorded manuscript — but evidence in the form of factual, predictive, lawful linguistic data found in Stubbs 2015. Such evidence of borrowing exists in abundance, available for proper review and criticism.


Those first two sentences constitute a bold and perhaps even unfair claim. First of all, it is no longer the case that no one is willing to entertain seriously the possibility of a pre-Nordic voyage from the Old World to the New. To cite one example, Dr. Dennis Stanford of the Smithsonian Institute has argued for Neolithic travelers reaching the Americas by boat. Although this hypothesis has not been universally embraced, it has also not been universally rejected.

See https://www.theguardian.com/science/1999/nov/28/archaeology.uknews

Robertson constructs this straw man because he wants his LDS reader to believe that non-LDS scholars are being unscientific, unfair, and even irrational. Surely, so his rhetoric suggests, if these scholars weren’t beholden to an irrational bias, they would give Stubbs a fair reading and embrace his positive findings as evidence of pre-Nordic contact between the Middle East and America.

But might one not say the same thing of Barry Fell’s work on ogham script in New England? Why do scholars not recognize the evidence of early migrations of Celts to the New World? Is it because of the same dogma that Robertson describes? Of course, we would have to tweak the dogma to include Celts from places other than the Middle East. We might also have to admit that maybe bias against miracles and new religions is not at the root of the problem, since no angels were involved in the discovery of the purported Celtic site of “America’s Stonehenge.”

And, as it so happens, a few archaeologists have, in fact, recognized some of the epigraphy Fell studied as genuine ogham script.

Could it be that what scholars want to see is sufficient evidence to demonstrate the probability of such a voyage, and that, until enough evidence emerges, then the majority of scholars and scientists will continue to be doubtful? Could it be that tenuous/dubious linguistic evidence does not carry the same weight as other forms of evidence (archaeological, textual)?

What, after all, would it really mean for Fell and Stubbs to be right? Would that mean that the Book of Mormon is true? Could we expect the coming forth of a Gospel of the American Druids?

No. Any scholar worth his salt knows that the antiquity of the Book of Mormon does not hinge on Stubbs’ thesis being correct. That being the case, Stubbs thesis is also not a threat to non-Mormons of the kind apologists want us to believe it is. Stubbs is rightly suspected of being motivated and influenced by his desire to support his religion’s beliefs. That said, if Stubbs came forward with ample evidence in a work that was methodologically above reproach and adequately scrutinized by his peers, it would be taken seriously, regardless of his religious motives.

The problem here is not, as Robertson claims, the obstinacy of a recalcitrant and irrational scholarly community. The problem here is a desperate-acting, thin-skinned Mormon scholarly element that takes any pushback against its novel theories, unorthodox vetting processes, and unusual methodologies as evidence of anti-religious bigotry and persecution.

There may well have been Old World travelers to America before the Norse. Personally I am inclined to believe there were. But any claim that a specific group came at a specific time must be supported by adequate evidence such that a consensus in favor of it begins to emerge. Resistance up to that time, and even after, cannot be dismissed as mere bias or bigotry.
Last edited by Guest on Sun Nov 03, 2019 6:22 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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_Maksutov
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Re: Early Transoceanic Voyages to America

Post by _Maksutov »

Very interesting, Reverend.
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_Kishkumen
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Re: Early Transoceanic Voyages to America

Post by _Kishkumen »

Maksutov wrote:Very interesting, Reverend.

Thanks, Mak.
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_Simon Southerton
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Re: Early Transoceanic Voyages to America

Post by _Simon Southerton »

Kishkumen wrote:Prof. John Robertson claims that opposition to Stubbs’ groundbreaking linguistic argument is largely due to one unscientific dogma:


It is academic dogma that any prehistoric migration from the Middle East to the Americas never happened, nor could it ever have happened. Any scholar’s work would be anathema if it made such a claim.


This is an easy and lazy claim to make. Since there is no reliable evidence of a Middle Eastern migration it must be because scientists are involved in a huge cover up. The truth is there is absolutely no reliable evidence so scientists don't have much to talk or theorise about.

There is abundant evidence that scientists are looking for evidence of ANY pre-Columbian migrations to the Americas (from the Old World or elsewhere). Recent whole genome studies are an excellent example of this. Here are three examples:

1. They recently found evidence of an ancient infusion of Australasian DNA in Amazonian Indians. This DNA probably came in with the First Americans. Why did they not detect ancient Middle Eastern DNA?

2. They have identified very low levels of Denisovan DNA in numerous Native Americans. Why did they not detect ancient Middle Eastern DNA?

3. They recently screened 6,500 Latin Americans and found low levels of Jewish DNA (about 2%) in thousands of people scattered across South America. It was always more common in countries with high levels of Spanish ancestry. By looking closely at the chromosomal arrangement of the Spanish and Jewish DNA they were able to estimate when it arrived in the Americas. The Spanish and Jewish DNA arrived at exactly the same time, about 10 generations ago.
Why did they not detect ancient Middle Eastern DNA?

They haven't detected ancient Jewish DNA because there is none there.

Kishkumen wrote:First of all, it is no longer the case that no one is willing to entertain seriously the possibility of a pre-Nordic voyage from the Old World to the New. To cite one example, Dr. Dennis Stanford of the Smithsonian Institute has argued for Neolithic travelers reaching the Americas by boat. Although this hypothesis has not been universally embraced, it has also not been universally rejected.

See https://www.theguardian.com/science/1999/nov/28/archaeology.uknews

Robertson constructs this straw man because he wants his LDS reader to believe that non-LDS scholars are being unscientific, unfair, and even irrational.


Stanford received far more notice and publicity for his hypothesis then he deserved. His theory has been almost totally rejected by the scientific community. If it has been of any use it has been to draw attention to the mountains of evidence for an Asian origin of Native Americans. The DNA case against his theory is just as devastating as it is for the Book of Mormon.

Kishkumen wrote:There may well have been Old World travelers to America before the Norse. Personally I am inclined to believe there were. But any claim that a specific group came at a specific time must be supported by adequate evidence such that a consensus in favor of it begins to emerge. Resistance up to that time, and even after, cannot be dismissed as mere bias or bigotry.


I agree. Science has never closed the door on pre-Norse or pre-Columbian migrations across the oceans. These is evidence for small contacts but these never resulted in major movement of cultural ideas or technology. A couple of examples:

1. There is archaeological evidence the Polynesians reached the coast of California. They have found evidence that Polynesian fish hook and boat technology arrived around 800 years ago. The local Native Americans also use a few Polynesian words.

2. They have detected Native American DNA in Easter Islanders. They are now convinced that it arrived a few hundred years before the arrival of Europeans in the Pacific. My guess is Polynesians (who were amazing sailors) reached the Americas and brought home a few Native Americans.

3. Apologists have used the sweet potato, which occurs in South America and the Pacific, as evidence of migration into Polynesia. It turns out South American and Polynesian sweet potato have been separated for about 100,000 years. This means the sweet potato almost certainly arrived in the Pacific many years before humans.

A really good illustration of how linguistics can reveal ancient routes of migration is the discovery of solid linguistic ties between Polynesian languages and languages spoken by indigenous tribes in parts of the Philippines and Taiwan. These ties could be found because the migration took place within the last 3-4,000 years.
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_Kishkumen
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Re: Early Transoceanic Voyages to America

Post by _Kishkumen »

Thank you for the wonderful, informative post, Simon.
"Petition wasn’t meant to start a witch hunt as I’ve said 6000 times." ~ Hanna Seariac, LDS apologist
_Amore
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Re: Early Transoceanic Voyages to America

Post by _Amore »

Yeah, thanks, Simon. I shared some with my husband, who’s TBM but loves anthropology etc., and was fascinated by some of your points.
_Dr Moore
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Re: Early Transoceanic Voyages to America

Post by _Dr Moore »

Unfortunately, greater energy by critics to discuss, disassemble, debate or deconstruct Stubbs’ and Robertsons’ arguments is proof positive that those arguments must be meritorious. Why else would those critics be moved to such an uproar?!
_Kishkumen
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Re: Early Transoceanic Voyages to America

Post by _Kishkumen »

Dr Moore wrote:Unfortunately, greater energy by critics to discuss, disassemble, debate or deconstruct Stubbs’ and Robertsons’ arguments is proof positive that those arguments must be meritorious. Why else would those critics be moved to such an uproar?!


Good question, Dr. Moore. For me it is the meta-issues that arouse interest more than the linguistics. Honestly, I would love it if we could establish the existence of an ancient migration from the Middle East to the Americas. I would love to find that the waters of the Mediterranean were the bosom of many an ancient journey to the Western Hemisphere.

Still, I don’t expect that the Book of Mormon will ever be shown to be ancient. My mind is open to many possibilities. As evidence against a particular claim mounts, however, it would be foolish to be intractable in the face of the evidence. The Book of Mormon fits perfectly in a 19th century context, and I do not consider that a problem.

Moreover, Symmachus’ arguments are very well reasoned and persuasive. If he is correct, then Stubbs cannot be, and I have many reasons to suspect he is not. That skepticism is not born of a prejudice or dogma. It comes from following the arguments and evidence.
"Petition wasn’t meant to start a witch hunt as I’ve said 6000 times." ~ Hanna Seariac, LDS apologist
_Symmachus
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Re: Early Transoceanic Voyages to America

Post by _Symmachus »

Dr Moore wrote:Unfortunately, greater energy by critics to discuss, disassemble, debate or deconstruct Stubbs’ and Robertsons’ arguments is proof positive that those arguments must be meritorious. Why else would those critics be moved to such an uproar?!


As if we needed further evidence of your brilliance, you illuminate us with this this spark of insight.

And speaking of insight, Simon Southerton has added much needed depth to the discussion.

I think both underline the importance of this post from the noble Reverend, a post as eloquent in its argument as it is salutary in its effect. Kish is right. The fact is, establishing a link between Egypt and the Near East doesn't imply a direct line to Mormonism. There is both an arrogance and ignorance at work, or at least a forgetting.

The arrogance is in the assumption that any interest in pre-Norse New World connections with Old inevitably will lead to the obviously wonderful Wonder Bread experience of a religion that is Mormonism. Why should that be? It's not as if no else but Mormons thought of it. And here we come to the ignorance: there have been all kinds of attempts to make this link linguistically since about 1492. Hebrew was an obvious candidate, but so too was Welsh, in one famous case. Attempting to link up distant languages has never been an unusual phenomenon among the bookishly curious and the culturally chauvinist at any time or in any place. Hindu nationalists think everything came from Sanskrit; you can find Basques who insists theirs is the root of all languages; there have been attempts to connect Irish to Hebrew. The ideological reasons for this are obvious, but even in linguistics, there have been scholars who have staked careers on trying to prove a long distance relationship between languages. The ancient historian Cyrus Gordon spent considerable scholarly energy on connecting the ancient Near East to the New World—but, while he certainly knew about Mormonism, there is no indication he saw any logical bridge between Mormonism and his academic interest. Only certain kinds of Mormons think that. And here we come to another facet of their ignorance, which is really a forgetting: these sorts of Mormons seem not to be aware that they aren't entirely original in their claims. Indeed, those claims arise out of a long tradition, as Kish has pointed out on one of the other threads on Stubbs, and they are perhaps its last remnant—or holdout, if you prefer.

There are two related reasons (or two variations of the same reason) why Stubbs' work gets the kind of skepticism and push-back that it does, and they have nothing to do with an unconscious fear that we must become Mormons nor a dislike of Mormonism (which has its own grounds) nor a slavish and unthinking obeisance to academic orthodoxy:

1) there is a lot of intellectual clutter and junk that makes similar kinds of claims to his. Stubbs' may be a serious scholar, but he has to establish that this particular area of his research is substantially better than any of that clutter. His presentation is certainly better, which excites the intellect of the genuinely curious, but for that reason it is all the more disappointing.

2) It is not substantially better because he is making an extraordinarily claim, which means that he needs extraordinarily good evidence that he doesn't have, which he covers over by asking for extraordinary leeway for both evidence and argument on practically every page. Like all of the apologetic theories out there, his work requires nothing less than a total rewrite of a substantial part of linguistic history, as well as archaeology and a few other disciplines. This quote from Stubbs' posted on Lindsay's blog contains a revealing sentence:

Brian Stubbs wrote:Stan Spencer pleasantly asked a fair question about Swadesh word lists, mentioning Tiberian Hebrew and Nahua, which deserves more explanation. Mulekite Semitic-kw would better correspond to Hebrew, but Mulek vocabulary is less prominent in UA than Lehite Semitic-p. UA pronouns are more from Lehite Aramaic and Egyptian, and you Sg is from you pl, just as English ‘you’ (originally pl) replaced ‘thou’ (related to German du, Latin tu, etc). So explainable changes make the Swadesh vocabulary lists problematic. E.g., the Hebrew word ‘ish ‘man’ is minimally found in UA, but the common UA word for man is from Aramaic dakar ‘male’ > UA / Nahua taka ‘man’, etc. The books explain things quite well, but plowing through such books is not everyone’s priority, though the smaller, lay-reader friendly Changes in Languages from Nephi to Now explains, in ways, more than the larger. Thank you Stan and all for your congenial discourse.


A Swadesh list is a set of words that consists of the core vocabulary of a given language that is universal (hand, foot, eye, moon, sun, etc.). The usefulness for historical linguistics in such a list is that it contains terms that are not culturally specific. Swadesh lists are used all over the place in all kinds of studies. But even if you don't think they are useful (can't imagine why not, but let's experiment), notice that for Stubbs, his work calls into question the Swadesh list: his "explainable sound changes" make them "problematic." However, he does not think his example is problematic, but nothing could be more emblematic of the special pleading that is his method: because the Hebrew wouldn't manifest a cognate in the Swadesh list of a Uto-Aztecan language that would register in meaningful way (thus suggesting relatedness), he posits an Aramaic word. But while the Hebrew word means "man" and the UA word means "man," the Aramaic word doesn't mean that. It means "male," which is an adjective. A human male is a man, but a bovine male is a bull, not a man, nor is a male goat, which is a ram (incidentally, see Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon for the meaning of "penis" with this word, which is relevant in light of some comments I made on another thread). So he fudges the semantics. Not only that, but he fudges the chronology. The Aramaic word at the time when there would have been any Lehites or Mulekites would not have been d?kar (the form he meant by dakar, I assume, though his book similarly transliterates wrongly) but dh?kar, because it had not yet undergone a certain sound change, as we can tell from inscriptions.

So, yes, there may be a widely acceptable method available that can weigh in on his claims, but if we say yes to all of his special pleading, then his rules for sound change will show that that method shouldn't be so widely accepted in the first place, and therefore not useful in evaluating his claims.

Why should we have to reinvent the wheel to fit the square-shaped tires that he claims work so much better than the round ones we already have?
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_Kishkumen
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Re: Early Transoceanic Voyages to America

Post by _Kishkumen »

A Swadesh list is a set of words that consists of the core vocabulary of a given language that is universal (hand, foot, eye, moon, sun, etc.). The usefulness for historical linguistics in such a list is that it contains terms that are not culturally specific. Swadesh lists are used all over the place in all kinds of studies. But even if you don't think they are useful (can't imagine why not, but let's experiment), notice that for Stubbs, his work calls into question the Swadesh list: his "explainable sound changes" make them "problematic." However, he does not think his example is problematic, but nothing could be more emblematic of the special pleading that is his method: because the Hebrew wouldn't manifest a cognate in the Swadesh list of a Uto-Aztecan language that would register in meaningful way (thus suggesting relatedness), he posits an Aramaic word. But while the Hebrew word means "man" and the UA word means "man," the Aramaic word doesn't mean that. It means "male," which is an adjective.


Holy crap, Batman! Talk about the tail wagging the dog!
"Petition wasn’t meant to start a witch hunt as I’ve said 6000 times." ~ Hanna Seariac, LDS apologist
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