Jim Cate wrote:
I have seen various discussions re the possibility of diffusion between North Africa or Mediterranean regions, mostly debunking the theories advanced by Thor Hyderdal(s) in connection with his second trip from North Africa to the caribean. I am trying to sort out what is known and what is not known about this "diffusionist vs. independent development" argument, and would appreciate any help from those on this board. One theory is that the great pyramids in central Mexico at Teotihuacan may evidence some influence from visitors from the Mediterranean or North African region, in that there does not seem to be very much construction of this type until around 100BC, and thereafter, it sort of flourishes in a rather advanced stage. -
I will just comment on a few of the points you raise.
1) Archaeologists and scholars who actually study Mesoamerica do not claim that the civilizations arose suddenly. Even the Olmecs 1200-400 B.C. have clear evidence of development *in situ* and influences from older cultures in the Pacific coast of Gustemala. It is only diffusionists who need a sudden impulse to attribute to the flavor-of-the-month outside influence. Covarrubias, whom you cite, is at least 50 years old and quite outdated.
2) On the question of the appearance of the Olmec heads, I urge you to read the following paper: G. Haslip-Viera, B. Ortiz de Montellano, and W. Barbour, "Robbing Native American Cultures: Van Sertima's Afrocentricity and the Olmecs," *Current Anthropology* 38(#3): 419-441 (1997). For a thorough discussion showing that these heads do in fact (with photographs) look like the natives and do *not* look like Egyptians or West Africans. We also discuss a number of other items including pyramids. Or do a DejaNews search for my previous postings on the topic.
3) You base much of your argument on the beginning of Teotihuacan's pyramid building ca. 100 B.C. and thus argue that it must have been Romans who brought over the idea of pyramids based on their seeing the ruins of Egyptian pyramids. a) Just a question of logic, why would they transmit the idea of pyramids about which they knew very little not ever having built one, instead of telling Mesoamericans about some of the great Roman engineering discoveries such as the true arch (Mesoamericans never had one), concrete, or aqueducts- to name a few? b) The oldest pyramids in all the world were built in Aspero, Peru and date to 3500 B.C . (quite a bit earlier than in Egypt). Making mummies was also developed a couple of thousand years earlier in Peru than in Egypt. Perhaps diffusionists should be writing about the sudden development of pyramids and mummies in Egypt due to the arrival of South Americans in totora reed boats ;-). What is most interesting about these pyramids is that they were built with the same general idea that we see later in Mesoamerica-- they were mostly built with bags of rubble and then covered with a layer of adobe brick later coverd with smooth plaster and used as a base for temples. In 1000 B. C. at Chavin Huantar large temple complexes were built with cut stone blocks. See F.S. Clancy, *Pyramids* Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994, pp. 30-32.
4)Pyramids in Mesoamerica were fundamentally different from Egyptian pyramids -- primarily in that they were built with steps up the side and used as the base for temples, whereas the pyramids at Giza were built with smooth sides, came to a point at the top and were designed as tombs. [DonÕt bring up stepped pyramids-- they had not been built in Egypt since 2700B.C, were not the base for temples, and were designed as tombs). the following chart shows a number of differences between Egyptian pyramids and Mesomerican ones.
J. Lepre, *The Egyptian Pyramids. A Comprehensive Illustrated Reference* (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland Co., 1990)
describes differences between Egyptian pyramids and New World
Temples and sacrificial altars True peaks, no temples or on top, tops were flat altars on top
Except Palenque, pyramids had Numerous passages and burial no passageways or chambers chambers in super and sub- within super or substructure structures.
Cores- poorly constructed loose (few exceptions) most built of rubble and debris solid stone throughout
Usually a staircase for priests True Egyptian pyramid, once finished, had to ascend to the top sheer sides impossible to ascend Stair cases decorated with no figures of this sort images and figures of gods
4) There are a number of sites in Mesoamerica that precede Teotihuacan and show massive constructions and impressive ceremonial centers. You might want to look at R. Sharer, *The Classic Maya* 5th ed. Stanford: Stanfrd University Press 1994. The site at Nakbe, Guatemala 600-400 B.C. had massive basal platforms and terraced structures (p. 82); In the late Pre-Classic (400 B.C. 100 B.C.) Lamanai had terraced platforms that look like the later Maya temple pyramids and were 100 ft high , Los Cerros had similar structures 68 ft high, and Tikal had a pyramid with 80 square meter base and 20 meters high (p. 109); El Mirador, from this period, had massive constructions and huge pyramids bigger than any later Maya pyramid (p. 110). Excavations at Huaxactun show the clear evolution over a period of time of the Classic period pyramids from the buried pre-classic precursors. There is no ÒsuddenÓ rise. Even the Olmec site of La Venta (1000-400 B.C.) has a massive structure that is 104 ft high and may represent a volcano because of a fluted cone appearance.
Bernard Ortiz de Montellano firstname.lastname@example.org (notice new address)