Reviews of AmericanDiscovery
“Amazing!” Laura Lee, KVI Radio, Seattle
“Monumental! Overwhelming!” W.R. Anderson, Vikingship, Chicago
“A wonderful book!” Molefi Asante, African Studies —Temple University
“A Paradigm Shift of utmost importance!” Russel Maeth, Editor, Estudios de Asia y Africa
“Electrifying! Highly Recommended!”
A.V. Schaerffenberg, Ancient American Magazine
“If you read only one book on pre-Columbian America, this is the one you need.”
Bob Rickard, Fortean Times, London
“Extremely well-documented—a testament!”
Book Worm, Ecology Magazine, New Delhi
“Marco Polo beat Columbus to the New World!”
Nicole Gagnon, Bremerton Sun
“A historical Time Machine!”
Ross Anderson, Seattle Times
“If you have room for only one book in your library …this is the one you want.”
Niven Sinclair, Historian–Clan Sinclair
Reviews & Endorsements: the Details
Kon-Tiki Museum, Oslo, Norway
Dear Dr. Thompson—
Thank you for producing a thought provoking book (Nu Sun) about voyages along routes that are fully feasible.
Best wishes for 1990, Thor Heyerdahl
Author’s note: Nu Sun is presently “out of print.” However, it is available in most major city and university libraries or from the inter-library loan service. A newly updated edition is scheduled for the print-on-demand service at Lulu.com in 2014.
Postcard print of Ra II—courtesy of Thor Heyerdahl
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From the Desk of Betty Meggers, Research Associate:
I was pleased to receive the copy of Nu Sun. I also appreciate your returning my check, although your artwork alone makes the book worth the price.
I have only looked at the illustrations, but I am impressed with the amount of similarities you have compiled. The fact that they are symbols, which can take any form, makes the repetition more significant in my view, although others appear not to take this position.
I was also pleased that you have focused on several elements that have impressed me, among them the elephants on the stela from Copan (which the Mayanists claim to be “macaws”) and details of architectural ornamentation.
Hopefully, the “younger generation” you represent will take a more objective view of the evidence.
We will never understand cultural evolution if we refuse to examine evidence of this kind. Several weeks spent on Ponape years ago convinced me that the ocean is a highway rather than a barrier for those depending on its resources. We may never know whether voyages were intentional–or how numerous they were, but as James Ford implied in his work on the inter-American Formative Phase, the choice is between diffusion and “psychic unity.” I doubt many of the opponents care for the latter explanation.
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From the Desk of Philip Phillips, Ph.D., Honorary Curator
Many thanks for sending me your beautiful book. Since it was not accompanied by any message to the contrary, I assume you want me to keep it as a gift. Please let me know if such was not the intent.
I found some of your ideas extremely interesting; but I am not equipped to deal with them in a critical sense. What I liked especially was your awareness of the immense difficulties of making iconographic judgments in the case of figural art for which there is next to nothing in the way of ethnographic documentation. In respect to the Southern Cult, the people who have tried this (I am thinking of Waring and Howard, the only writers who have made a serious effort) have failed to realize the importance of establishing continuity between the art in question and the ethnography that is used to explain it. In this connection I would recommend a little book recently published, The Iconography of Middle American Sculpture, edited by Dudley T. Easby, in which Gordon Willey and George Kubler engage in a spirited dialogue on this very point.
Another thing that pleased me immensely is that you recognize the Fairfield Gorget as Hopewellian. You may be the first who has done so, in print at least. I would put it pretty close to the end of the time span you have suggested for the Hopewellian Style, about the time of Issaquena perhaps.
I am just now writing the iconographic sections of a forthcoming monograph on engraved shells at Spiro. The printer will run out of question marks when he comes to set it up. If you make any further discoveries in this area, I would be glad to hear about them.
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The Friar’s Map of Ancient America 1360 AD, Publishers: Radio Bookstore & Misty Isles Press, is presently “out of print.” It is available in major city and university libraries or by inter-library loan. An updated version is expected at Lulu.com in 2014 or 2015 under the title:
Medieval Maps & Mariners.
24 April 1998
From Andrew Sinclair, author of The Sword & the Grail:
I am a profound admirer of your book, The Friar’s Map of Ancient America. I find it a pioneering and illuminating work.
London Department of History
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From the Desk of Vine Deloria, Jr.:
I am enclosing a copy of THE FRIAR’S MAP of ANCIENT AMERICA 1360 AD by Gunnar Thompson.
He is a scholar whose work I admire very much. I think he is making a major contribution to pre-Columbian American studies. I have had a colleague in the department, a very good medieval scholar, read the book and check some of the footnotes for me. He was very impressed with the scholarship. Thompson has several other books which I also find impressive. He is making a major contribution to our knowledge–even though many of your stuffy colleagues refuse to read some of his books. That is, as you know, very un-scientific and unscholarly.
But as you know, most academics read only their colleagues and former grad students’ books. They then lecture using the notes they gathered when they were grad students themselves. So Thompson’s books are upsetting to them primarily because the majority of them haven’t thought a new thought in their lives.
Thompson’s book, to me, provides an exceedingly good argument which can link up what you have been doing with some of the writings done outside academia. One of· the problems with academia is that there are too many narrow-minded specialists in the field. There are not enough people who cross disciplinary lines. You do cross those lines, so my thought is that you would appreciate what Thompson is doing. He concentrates on the early European maps; and he offers a decent theory for understanding them.
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From the Desk of Thor Heyerdahl:
Only on my recent return from South and Central America did I find in the pile of mail today your letter of June 20th with your manuscript on America’s Oldest Map (“the Friar’s Map of Ancient America 1360 AD”).
Only by reading your letter and skimming through the map illustrations do I see that you have produced an extremely-important piece of work. Thank you and congratulations!
I am barely home to catch up with incoming faxes and letters; and then I am off for a two-week reconnaissance trip to Morocco, tomorrow; so this dictated letter will be typed and signed in my absence.
I trust you keep in good contact with Per Lilliestrom. He will be exceedingly interested in learning about this forthcoming book. He is involved in research on Columbus and the North Pole himself, so you may have much information to exchange. I shall try to reach him on telephone before I leave and let him see my copy unless you have sent another to him.
There has been quite a newspaper stir in several continents over the fact that a Norwegian newspaper brought up the evidence that Columbus reached the area of the magnetic North Pole in 1476. There should thus be an explosion if you get the right launching of your coming book.
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Endorsements & Reviews regarding American Discovery (1992, 1994, 2013)
Book Worm—Ecology Magazine, New Delhi, India, September 1996
American Discovery is not just a book. It is a testament.
Today, when fundamentalist forces everywhere are gaining strength, the search for authentic, multicultural, roots is not just a literary task, it is a politically significant project. Gunnar Thompson suffered academic censure when he questioned the myth that Columbus was the first to discover America. To his credit, the book shows no anger on this account. American Discovery is an extremely well documented history of the connections– cultural and ecological–between the Far East and the Far West–between Africa and Alaska.
One of the important arguments in the book is that transoceanic voyages brought Old World crops such as wheat, barley, millet, rice, beans, gourds, cotton, dates, amaranth, and henna to the New World thousands of years before Columbus reached America. The reverse transfer of crops (for instance, cotton, peanuts, tobacco, maize, peppers, amaranth, sweet potato and hibiscus) from America to Asia and to Africa also took place. Evidence of this plant exchange nullifies the belief that crops like cassava and diploid cotton came to America only in the wake of Spanish colonization.
The most interesting part of this scholarly treatise is the one on the diffusion of plants and animals across the world. However, many questions do not have answers. For instance, the Asian foxtail millet (Satira chaetochloa) was grown in North America during the 10th century, but its origin is not clearly known. The exchange of technologies, and in some cases institutions, enabled many native civilizations to grow rapidly. Many of the Mayan myths, religious and astronomical beliefs, are supposed to be the branches of Asian cultures. One piece of conclusive evidence of pre-Columbian exchange of plant materials is provided by Columbus himself. In 1493, Columbus brought rhubarb from the Caribbean as evidence that he had reached Asia. This plant is described in a Chinese herbal from Peking dating back to 2700 B. C.
The central message of the book is that many cultures contributed to the rise (and fall) of different civilizations in America. If the Columbus Myth still persists in textbooks around the world, what can the reason be?
The scars of ethnic-cleansing perpetrated by the 16th century Europeans in the New World are still raw. This is the reason why when “the 500th Anniversary of the Columbus Discovery of America” was celebrated a few years ago, Native Americans in North and South America “celebrated” 500 years of domination and discrimination.
As a first step in restoring the rights of indigenous people, it is important that distortions of history be set right. The Columbian Myth, the author argues, “was a part of the belief that the European civilization vastly superior to all others.” It also legitimized the neglect of ideas, institutions and images that were borrowed from other cultures.
Perhaps a search for multicultural roots will bring the world together more effectively than any institution can. This book is an important contribution toward this goa1.
Ancient American Magazine Book Reviews —by A.V. Schaerffenberg, 1994
Five years ago, the world of history was electrified with the publication of Nu Sun: Asian-American Voyages 500 B.C. For the first time, a vast collection of evidence establishing the arrival of Chinese visitors in prehistoric America was collected into a single volume by a man of impeccable academic credentials. Today, he is a professor at the University of Hawaii (Manoa).
Gunnar Thompson graduated Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa, from the University of Illinois (Urbana) in 1968 with a Degree in Anthropology. He earned a Ph.D. in Psychology at the University of Wisconsin (Madison). His archaeological fieldwork included Cahokia Mounds, Illinois, and Colorado’s Yellow Jacket site near Mesa Verde. Relying on his extensive training and experience, he concluded that Asian impact on ancient America was irrefutable and decisive.
Thompson is one of the very few university researchers with the courage to make his findings public. Therefore, he must be regarded as a true pioneer in the popularization of arguments on behalf of prehistoric diffusion. His latest book should go even further toward that popularization, because it is the only available comprehensive over-view of the major transatlantic and. transpacific contacts in ancient America;. Here, the reader will learn the most salient facts about Egyptian explorers, Minoan and Phoenician sailors, Greco-Roman traders, Welsh and Irish sea-rovers, Hindu seafarers, Arab merchantmen and many other adventurers who landed on our shores long before Columbus belatedly set sail from Spain.
American Discovery–the Real Story, is written in a lively, economical style that the seasoned expert and curious newcomer will find equally accessible. Each concise chapter is chock-full of often surprising details, as evidenced in the excerpts reproduced below. And, each is profusely illustrated with revealing line-drawings comparing contemporary artifacts no one else has presented until now. Thompson’s deeply-researched book is a perfect introduction for persons new to the Diffusion Question, while even readers familiar with much of his material are sure to find new nuggets of information they never suspected. As such, we cannot recommend American Discovery–the Real Story, highly enough.
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African-American Studies Dept. From the Desk of Molefi Asante:
You have written a wonderful book which I will share with my colleagues and students. Indeed I am certain that it will be used in many classes here at Temple. Thanks for sharing it with me.
Your ideas about discovery should get wider circulation and I intend to see to it that your name is heard in the circles that I travel. Thanks also for the commentary on my talk at South Florida. I accept your suggestions and modifications in the spirit of brotherhood. Human beings are all incredible and have done amazing things. Keep pushing for justice and peace.
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AIAR—American Institute for Archaeological Research Institute Newsletter: Reviews by Dorothy Hayden, Editor
This elegant tour de force is the sort of book you dream about!
Deeply-researched, beautifully-organized, impeccably-documented and embellished with the products of Gunnar’s artistic hands and eyes; they just don’t come any better than this!
The prose text is straight-forward, crystal-clear, and, in the jargon of today’s “user-friendly” technologies, it is as comprehensible and interesting to a school child as to a professor.
The myriad of superb illustrations is both awe-inspiring and overwhelming. The format is professional in every way: it is a researcher’s “dream come true.” The book contains more than 400 pages of information, maps and comparative illustrations. These are backed up by complete sections on References, Sources, Bibliography, and an Index.
In this INSTITUTE NEWSLETTER, in addition to the announcement of Gunnar’s very latest discovery of ancient maps which clearly record Viking settlements in America, we are tempting you with just a small sample of the illustrations from his Viking chapter. But don’t for a moment think that AMERICAN DISCOVERY is limited to Vikings. It is delightfully organized into sections so that you can dip and choose, although if you can put the book down after turning the first page … “then you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!”
The Chapter headings read like a “Who’s Who” of the Ancient World. They’re all there: Japanese, Egyptians, Ancient Mariners, Africans, Chinese, Minoans, Phoenicians, Greco-Romans, Welsh, Irish, Hindu, Pacific Islanders, etc. But fittingly enough, Gunnar begins with the Native American discoverers who came long, long before the rest; and they allowed some of the others to establish a small foothold in this new land.
Gunnar has brought together into one volume an incredible number of little-known, hard to find and obscure bits of research, artifact discoveries, C-14 dating, etc. Gunnar has drawn on the work of all the giants who have gone before him — Arlington Mallery, Alexander van Wuthenau, Barry Fell, Henriette Mertz, Joseph Campbell, and Cyrus Gordon (just to name a few). He has added his own spectacular research and tied it all together in a most attractive package. It’s the sort of reference book you will come back to time after time.
Superb renderings of ancient ships from all cultures and facts about the magnitude and development of ancient shipping underline the probability of both Atlantic and Pacific voyages. The delineations and explanations of ancient maps add to the feasibility of such voyages. Facts about spectacularly rising sea-levels offer lucid explanations for the virtual disappearance of many cultures from the archaeological record. Gunnar’s penetrating comments on the real motivation of Columbus and those who followed him should stimulate your thinking.
Examples from both the Old and New World of symbols, artifacts, scripts, tools, weapons, food crops, clothing, facial types, etc. are set side-by-side for YOUR comparison. YOU be the judge. How many of these manifestations can be “just coincidence” or “parallel development?”
How telling is all this evidence for centuries-long contact between pre-Columbian America and the many and varied Old World cultures? Have you heard a more reasonable explanation for all the canals found in Mesoamerican jungles? Heard about the curly-haired Chinese horses in the Old Northwest? Or the Irish “Chickasaw” horses in Tennessee and the Carolinas? Heard about Chinese and Peruvian quipus (or rope counting)?
If you can only afford to buy one book, this is the one you want.
From the Desk of Bob Rickard, Fortean Times, London
AMERICAN DISCOVERY by Gunnar Thompson.
Well, we can look back on the “Columbus Year” and breathe a sigh of relief — but what will we remember of the history fest hoopla, with its endless rehashes, beautiful photographs, brave re-enactments and pedantic documentation?
Gunnar Thompson’s American Discovery arrived at Fortean Towers rather late in the day, but it knocks an the other books of the “who got there first” tribe into a cocked hat.
Thompson was born in Seattle of Norwegian and Native Indian stock; and grew up outside mainstream WASP traditions. He remembers that during an exam at the age of 12, when asked “Who discovered America?”—he was the ‘dumb Norwegian’ who wrote down: “The Indians.” Later, he was confused and angered to find that it was more fashionable to offer the honour to Leif Erickson instead of Columbus. There and then: “I decided to become a detective of American history.”
In the years that followed, Thompson gained degrees in anthropology and psychology; but because his enquiries often brought him into conflict with hide-bound academics, he hiked the byways of any subject that might illuminate the origins of human culture in North America — mythology, archeology, anthropology, history, linguistics, and so on. His starting point was simple: if the Native Indians were here to greet the Western explorers, where did they come from?
He believes that, from the time their ancestors crossed the great land bridge between Alaska and Siberia, around 300,000 BC, up to the coming of the Europeans in the 16th century, America was “the world’s most-cosmopolitan society”– attracting traders, refugees, and wanderers from countless other cultures.
This, then, is the story of America from the point of view of the multiethnic society of Native Peoples — many we know about (the Phoenicians, Celts, Jews, Greeks, Irish, Romans, Hindus, Chinese, Japanese, Africans, Indo-Sumerians, Polynesians, Scots, Egyptians, Arabs, etc — and many more that we don’t know about. The picture Thompson paints is one of a highly mobile world, not in the least daunted technologically or psychologically by long ocean voyages. As just one of many examples discussed, I was astonished to learn that there is evidence the Kwakiutl Indians from the coast of Northern Canada settled in Hawaii.
To call the book encyclopedic is to be mealy-mouthed. It is 20-years’ worth of looting squillions of half-forgotten books in countless libraries, and myriads of objects, artifacts and remains from digs and museums beyond number — all stuffed into one handsome, hefty book. We are treated to perfectly concise presentations on tents, ship building, navigation, hunting, skinning, weaving, agriculture, pottery, flint knapping, writing, games, mining and metallurgy, head gear, and so on, as well as competent re-evaluations of all the enigmatic remains of people, their dwellings, and achievements.
Thompson fires off in more directions than a blazing fireworks factory. There is much here about the plants — like chili peppers and the hibiscus — which reached Asia Minor via China; and the pineapple and maize which reached Europe via Atlantic traders; and many more plants and animals of American origin found in Europe and Asia before the time of Columbus. He has a sure grasp of his material, and, important for an exposition of such diversity, he writes clearly. An excellent draughtsman, he has filled the book with maps, vignettes and stand-alone pages which compare people, symbols, artifacts or objects from both the Old World and the New. It is the well-thought-out work of a craftsman who can communicate his enthusiasm.
This is Thompson’s third book. His Spirit Sign (1974) was about Mexican symbols of spiritual power; followed by Nu Sun (1989), a treatise on contacts between America and China around 500 B.C.; and the migration of the Yin-Yang symbol (that power-sign) to American Peoples. Gunnar Thompson represents a vital new force in New World anthropology; and I think we’ll hear a lot more from him.
If you read only one book on pre-Columbian America, this is the one you need.
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Senator Patty Murray, Washington State April 26, 1993
Thank you for sharing your proposal to establish “Discovery Day.” I appreciate hearing from you, and apologize for the delay in responding.
Your book, American Discovery, sounds fascinating. When people of my generation and my parents’ generation were in school, Indians were portrayed as primitive, war-like inhabitants of the land, and all major historical milestones were attributed to the white man. Although history lessons have changed significantly since when I was in school, I am concerned that the American education system continues to’, fall far short in promoting cultural literacy to our nation’s children. As I read your letter, it really hit home that the impact of historical misconceptions extends far beyond the classroom, forming the fabric of divisive issues our society grapples with every day: prejudice, religion, race, and politics.
As you noted, the holiday deemed “Columbus Day” adds salt to wounds incurred by Native Americans over two centuries. I also believe that a more-inclusive name and focus could make this a meaningful holiday for all Americans. I plan to share this proposal with the Judiciary Committee which handles commemorative resolutions.
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The Portolan—Reviews: Brigitta Wallace on Viking America
Viking America spans 325 size A4 pages. The book claims that transatlantic voyages began millennia ago and that there were large colonies of Minoans, Phoenicians, Romans, Welsh and Norse in the Americas, all involved in thriving commercial ventures. The author argues that, in the 12th century, B.C., the Phoenicians discovered a large and fertile land west of Libya. This, according to the author, must have been the Americas. The author goes on to argue that the Minoans and the Romans imported vital supplies from these lands; Jewish immigrants settled in what is now Mexico; the Celtic king, Arthur, established the Albion Colony in northern America, in the 530s; and Leif Eriksson’s Vinland Colony grew to enormous proportions. The author argues that the European population grew to a quarter million by the 13th Century, in part by virtue of the favorable weather in the Medieval Warming Period. The author concludes that, about 1350, two-thirds of these people died of the Bubonic Plague, and the survivors merged with native groups. It is clear that a great deal of work has gone into this book. The author has consulted a wide range of maps and works pertaining to the Middle Ages. However, an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence argues against the author’s theses.
Note: Viking America (Lulu.com, 2013) tells the story of King Haakon IV’s commercial empire along the Eastern Seaboard from 1261 to about 1300 when the transatlantic trades were taken over by the Hanseatic League. Between 1330 and 1360, English Franciscans mapped the Nordic Trade Zone in the Far West. It was called “North Norway,” because it was thought to be situated at the Magnetic North Pole. In 1398, Queen Margaret of the Kalmar Union sent Prince Henry Sinclair to roust out the western pirates in Nova Scotia. After exterminating the pirates, Henry supervised construction of the Old Stone Tower at Newport, Rhode Island.