As early as the 1950s, it was noticed that the Diego blood factor, an East and Southeast Asian type, also occurred among American groups but was absent in the North. Other blood factors are showing comparable patterns. These include the Rhesus and Kell factors, plus transferrins, GM immunoglobins, and human lymphocyte antigens or HLAs. In addition, there are the glucose-6-phosphodehydrogenase deficiency and mitochondrial DNA. I cannot cover the details here, but suffice it to say that a variety of “foreign” genes, especially from Afro-Asiatic and southern Asian parts of the world, occur again in the Western Hemisphere, not randomly, but with definite concentrations, especially in Mesoamerica and in the Central to Southern Andean region. This seems impossible to assign to mere happenstance, and Mediterranean/ Middle Eastern and greater Southeast Asian/ Oceanian inputs appear to be the only believable explanation.
Finally, there is the phenomenon of forensic pathologists’ identification, during the 1990s, of residues of nicotine and coc aine in ancient Egyptian mummies. Tobacco is, of course, an American and Southwest Pacific genus, and coca is native to the eastern slope of the Andes, none of these places being anywhere near Egypt. Conventional scholars, disbelieving the possibility of transoceanic transfers, have done mental contortions to try to dismiss this evidence. But, as I think I demonstrate in yet another article in the next Pre-Columbiana, none of the objections holds up very well (Jett 2001).
The beauty of this kind of evidence is that cultivated plants are genetic entities and can be domesticated only where the appropriate wild ancestors occur; that is usually strictly limited geographically. Further, very few such plants can cross oceans or establish and maintain themselves without human help. Thus, along with the indications of human genetics described above, cultivated plants comprise the “smoking guns” of transoceanic evidence. Only a few prominent examples can be described here. One is the seedless South American sweet potato, discovered archaeologically in Polynesia shortly before the ABC Conference (Hather and Kirch 1991), and for which there is good nonarchaeological indication of presence in pre-Columbian Asia. Another is the amazing archaeological presence of the South American peanut in Neolithic China at about 2000 B.C., first reported in the 1960s and verified by Carl Johannessen (1998:22 25) with Wang in the 1990s. Readers of the NEARA Journal and Across before Columbus are aware of Johannessen’s work (1998) on the thousands of carvings of ears of maize on temples in India, especially of Karnataka in the south. As far as I am concerned, this ends any controversy as to that plant’s pre-Columbian presence in Asia. Since that time, Carl has also found temple sculptures that appear to show other American crop plants, including sunflowers and annonas (Johannessen with Wang 1998).
Two issues long debated among Pacific and American prehistorians are (i) whether there was a pre-Columbian introduction of chicken (Gallus gallus) to the Americas and (ii) whether Polynesian contact with South America might be identified archaeologically, through the recovery of remains of unquestionable Polynesian origin. We present a radiocarbon date and an ancient DNA sequence from a single chicken bone recovered from the archaeological site of El Arenal-1, on the Arauco Peninsula, Chile. These results not only provide firm evidence for the pre-Columbian introduction of chickens to the Americas, but strongly suggest that it was a Polynesian introduction.