The Mesoamerican-Polynesian Connection . . . many questions
The People of One Fire is continuing its articles on the early cultures of Mesoamerica and their relationship to the indigenous peoples of the Southeastern United States. We are uncovering more questions than answers . . . particularly in regard to the origins of the Teotihuacan and Olmec Civilizations. The orthodox Gringo version of Polynesian history is that the Polynesians spread eastward across the Pacific from Taiwan, reaching Tahiti between 300 AD and 800 AD, Hawaii by 1200 AD and New Zealand by 1300 AD. This orthodoxy is primarily based on genetics and assumes that hypothetical “American Indian” DNA profile defines all indigenous peoples in the Americas.
You see there is a problem. There were Polynesians and distinct Polynesian cultural traditions in the Channel Islands of California, Mexico and Chile, thousands of years before they arrived in Tahiti, the Hawaiian Islands and New Zealand. Uchee and Creek descendants from the Savannah River Basin of Georgia and South Carolina carry substantial Polynesian DNA. The most recent DNA tests of my mother’s family specifically label that Polynesian DNA . . . Maori. Now you figure that one out!
Swift Creek style pottery was first made by the Conibo People of Peru then first appeared in the Mandeville Site on the Chattahoochee River around 100 AD. HOWEVER, Swift Creek motifs are quite similar to the stamped pottery made by the Lapita Culture Polynesians around 1000 BC to 500 BC! Several common Lapita motifs can be seen on Swift Creek pottery found in Georgia! It is believed that stamped pottery originated when carved wooden paddles, used for making Polynesian tattoos were applied to wet clay.
When I was in college, my anthropology textbooks by Gordon R. Willey, An Introduction to American Archaeology (North and Middle America, South America) stated that no evidence of human sacrifice had been found in Teotihuacan. I was told the same thing while in Mexico. It was a fib and the archaeologists knew it. Apparently, government officials, who were their bosses, decided that a squeaky clean image for the people of Teotihuacan, was important for the international image of modern Mexico. The truth was that in 1906, archaeologist Leopoldo Batres uncovered burials of sacrificed babies and children at the four corners of the Pyramid of the Sun. In the years since then, archaeologists have found newborn skeletons associated with altars, leading some to suspect “deliberate death by infant sacrifice”. The skeletons of many sacrificial victims have been found in the vicinity of the pyramids of the Sun, Moon and Feathered Serpent. Most recently, a mass burial containing thousands of sacrificial victims had been found under and around the Plaza of the Columns.
HOWEVER, when I was in Mexico on the fellowship, the archaeologists matter-of-factly stated that the first humans in Mexico were Polynesians. Polynesians were still living in Baja California, when the Spanish conquered Mexico. However, these people lacked the population density to withstand the onslaught of European diseases and therefore were pretty much extinct by the late 1700s. Recent DNA studies of Baja California skeletons have confirmed that these people, were indeed, most Polynesia . . . with some individuals having partial American Indian ancestry.
When I read about the burials at the four corners of the pyramids, Polynesian temples came to mind. It was standard operating procedure for the Polynesians to sacrifice humans and place them on the four corners of their temple foundations. There was very little difference between Polynesian temples and those built in Central Mexico during the Formative Period ( 500 BC-100 AD). In both regions, they were constructed with stacked volcanic rock veneers. There is some sort of cultural connection, but the problem is that the oldest evidence of a Polynesian presence is in Mexico, not Tahiti, Hawaii or New Zealand. Obviously, we don’t fully understand what happened in the past.
This article is a prequel to a much more detailed article on the origins of Teotihuacan and the shared cultural ancestry of Teotihuacan and the Muskogean Peoples . . . in particular, the Upper Creeks. It is a complex subject with many unanswered questions. The shared cultural traits with Polynesia is just one of those mysteries.
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