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Did Bronze Age Phoenicians visit Manhattan?

The stone head found near New York City is remarkably similar to stone heads made in Bronze Age Iberia.
The stone head found near New York City is remarkably similar to stone heads made in Bronze Age Iberia.
Kevin Thompson & Wikipedia

Richard, I took these photos at the Staten Island museum in January 2014. This stone head was found locally in Staten Island or a few miles away in New Jersey in the 1880s. Local experts wondered if it was Greek, Roman or Egyptian, but because they thought it looked Aztec or Mayan, it was therefore American Indian (Algonquian). You be the judge. - Kevin A. Thompson

During the past four decades, it became quite trendy for authors, with minimal professional credentials, to pump out books that ascribed various civilizations in the Americas to Egyptians, Celts, Libyans, Phoenicians, Scandinavians, Polynesians, Sub-Saharan Africans, Romans, the Lost Tribes of Israel, Chinese, Muslim Arabs, space aliens . . . well, anybody but the indigenous peoples of the Americas. The presumption that indigenous peoples were incapable of developing advanced cultures highly irritated Native Americans. These speculations fly in the face of the fact that approximately 70% of the vegetative foods, consumed by humans around the world today, are plants that were first selectively cultivated in the Americas.

What one consistently sees in these “Native Americans are dum-dums” books is the presumption that just because a culture in the New World and Old World shared an artistic symbol, the symbol HAD to come from the Old World. In particular, Native American art is convoluted into Egyptian, Chinese, Southeast Asian or Islamic art. What some researchers label Celtic Ogam Script in the Midwestern United States, may well just be a Native American numerical system, similar to Roman numerals, or may have been first used in North America. For much of my career I consistently laughed at these books, and figured if the professional archaeologists didn’t take them seriously, then professional architects shouldn’t either.

At the other end of the spectrum is the current situation within the archaeology profession in the United States, which has become bogged down with an intellectually stagnant body of knowledge concerning Native American history. Several years ago a nationally recognized “guru” of the archaeology profession, told the Society of Georgia Archaeology that his colleagues knew everything that there is to know about American Indians, so it was time to move on. In truth, the man didn’t know what he didn’t know.

Although presenting themselves to the public as scientists, American archaeologists, specializing in Native American cultures, are stymied by a hierarchal structure that primarily puts credibility in the hands of authority figures, not scientific evidence. Hypotheses in American anthropological papers are far too often “proven” by demonstrating that authority figures agree with the author. Members of the profession are quick to yell, “Quasi-archaeologist” when faced with information that conflicts with their world view, essentially their religious beliefs. What they are really saying is “You are a heretic to our religion!”

During the “Mayas in Georgia” controversy, the Georgia archaeologists described me in their official publication repeatedly as “a self-styled” scholar. They never called me an architect. The Florida and North Carolina publications stuck to the good ole “quasi-archaeologist” standby label. None of these archaeologists couldn’t bear to admit that I was a professional Architect and City Planner with seven years of university education; who had studied in Mexico and taught Mesoamerican architecture & urban planning classes at Georgia Tech.

Not one archeologist in Georgia had ever seen an Itza Maya terrace complex. Only one was familiar with the Track Rock Terrace Complex and he was a recent transplant from South Africa, who had never been in Mexico. Yet a major propaganda program ensued that viewed analysis by a professional far more knowledgeable on the subject than themselves, as a mortal threat to their belief system. That exemplifies the problem associated with discussing Mr. Thompson’s question, rationally and intelligently, within the current archaeology profession in the United States. He would have better success in Ireland, Mexico, France or the United Kingdom.

Visitor from afar in a Maya city

The conviction that visitors from the Old World did not found the advanced cultures of the Americas does not mean that these foreigners could not have possibly crossed the ocean before the Norse. My first exposure to this strong possibility occurred in the Yucatan Peninsula. I was on a fellowship in Mexico and had been assigned a site visit to a Maya city in Campeche State by my mentor, Dr. Roman Piña-Chan.

That very week, archaeologists from Tulane University had uncovered a stone stela, portraying a visitor to that city from a foreign land. He was tall and slim, with a Semitic nose. He wore a hat shaped like a dunce cap and was carrying a stone anchor, shaped like a lantern. At that time, the understanding of the Maya writing system was in its infancy, so the archaeologists could not tell if the visitor came in the past or immediately prior to the stela’s creation.

One or more of the Tulane archaeologists immediately recognized that they were looking at someone, who was a Semite from Phoenicia, Canaan, Carthage or an Iberian colony. The lantern shaped anchor was a “no-brainer.” Very heated arguments ensued in which the professors debated on whether or not the public should be told. They finally decided not to discuss the interpretation of the man’s image. He was merely labeled a visitor from outside the Maya cultural region in the subsequent press release.

Three years later, while working in southern Scandinavia, I visited the Bronze Age museum in our city. It contained exhibits of copper hatchets and copper “ox hide shaped” ingots identical to those that one would see in the Etowah Mounds Museum in Georgia or near the copper mines in Minnesota. I checked a book out from the local library then showed the pictures of the Native American copper artifacts to the staff archaeologist at the Bronze Age Museum. She could not believe her eyes and had no explanation.

Reinhardt petroglyphic boulder

In early 2011, an Irish anthropologist sent me photos of Bronze Age petroglyphic boulders in County Kerry, Ireland and on the southwest coast of Spain. She asked me if I had seen anything similar in the Southeastern United States. She presumed that I was somebody important and imagined that I had a vast staff of scientists at my disposal to work with her. Apparently, the poor lassie had no clue that I was essentially homeless and living at that time in the concrete block office of an abandoned chicken house in the Georgia Mountains.

The Dingle Peninsula, where most of the Irish petroglyphs are located, is the point in southwest Ireland where the Gulf Stream first flows into Europe. It would be the first land sighted by sailing ships traveling along the Gulf Stream from the Atlantic Coast of North America. There is also a path of prevailing winds that blows southwestward off of Ireland, which would take sailing ships back to the Southeastern United States. This windward route is why the early French and English colonial expeditions were founded first along the South Atlantic Coast.

I was immediately shocked that the glyphs in the photos were identical or almost identical to those on several boulders found in the Georgia Mountains. One boulder in County Kerry was the same shape and size as the Reinhardt Boulder in Georgia, plus displayed the same glyphs. (See links below.) The resemblance was phenomenal. A network of petroglyphic boulders have been found in the gold-and-copper bearing section of the Georgia Mountains that are on major Native American trade paths and spaced about 21-25 miles apart.

A few of the boulders in County Kerry and southwest Spain were obviously star maps. They strongly resembled one of the boulders at Track Rock Gap, which were a couple of miles from my humble abode. One day I drove over to Track Rock Gap to study that boulder. While looking for a stream for my herd dogs to cool off in, I stumbled upon the Track Rock Terrace Complex. The rest is history.

Staten Island stone face

Just like the bas relief portrayal of the visitor from afar in Campeche, the stone sculpture in the Staten Island museum portrays a man with non-indigenous facial features. This is what immediately caught my attention. The nose was Proto-Caucasian or Semitic. The manner of portraying the eyes was typical of the Early Bronze Age in the Mediterranean Basin.

A search for similar artistic portrayals immediate found sculptural art dating from the Bronze Age in the Iberian Peninsula (Spain & Portugal.) It was from the ruins of what was believed to a colony established by the Phoenicians in Iberia. The Phoenicians established a maritime trade that spread over much of Mediterranean Basin between around 1600 BC and 600 BC. Southern Iberia was a key center of the Phoenicians vast copper, tin and bronze trading network.

It may be coincidence or a result of ideal climatic conditions, but the Phoenicians were at their zenith at the exact same time period as the Olmec Civilization in Mexico and the Poverty Point Culture in Louisiana. Archaeologists have also dated copper mining operations on the Great Lakes to this period. The complex of shell rings on Sapelo Island, GA were abandoned during the early part of this period.

Again, as in the case of the stela and petroglyphs, there is ancient art from both the Old World and the New World that strongly resemble each other. At the same time in history, large ingots of copper are being removed from mines near the Great Lakes. The circumstantial evidence is piling up that says, “Yes, indeed, hybrid Phoenician-Iberian merchants did sail to North America to obtain copper, gold and perhaps precious stones.” This accumulated evidence does not represent a scientific fact, but it does suggest that much more archaeological research should be done in regions where the evidence appears.

At several locations in the Southeast and Midwest, what appears to be Iberian or Carthaginian Bronze Age writing has been found. Consistently, these stone inscriptions have been scoffed at and ignored by archaeologists. For decades, I assumed that since the archaeology profession stated that they should not be taken seriously, no one else should either. After the past few years of revelations, I now think that they should be studied seriously, and if possible, dated scientifically by a forensic geologist.

Could the Phoenician-Carthaginian-Iberian maritime trade network have extended to North America? Was there an Iberian trading post on Staten Island or Manhattan Island? The initial response might be that it was implausible that the relative small Phoenician sailing ships could have crossed the Atlantic over 3,000 years ago. However, the evidence is piling up that non-indigenous peoples were mining copper in Minnesota and gold in the Georgia Mountains during that era. The ancient copper mines were filmed in one show of "America Unearthed" on the History Channel. Stone images of men, who looked like Semites, have been found in the Yucatan Peninsula and in the New York City Metropolitan Area. Phoenician or Iberian writing has been found in several locations within North America. There just may be much more to learn about the ancient Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Iberians. However, it is not quite yet time to start a new religion called the “Phoenicians in America.”

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