The Zuni Enigma

Zuni Enigma Well, if last week was language week, I guess this week is anthropology week. There is quite a bit of controversy these days over the traditional Beringia theory of how the first humans came to the Americas. Many today offer alternative or additional explanations to the land bridge, including overseas voyages from the Far East, or even Europe. I might talk about some these controversies later in the week, but first a rather intriguing story of another early (though not pre-historic) sea voyage and the natives of the Americas. I came across this book a few years ago, and it's been on my 'to read' list for a while. Essentially, The Zuni Engima, examines whether ancient Japanese visited the Zuni people, native to present-day New Mexico, sometime in the 1300s. The author, Nancy Yaw Davis, makes no bones about the fact that this story is very hard to swallow. But what if it were true? She brings out considerable (albeit circumstancial or simply coincidental) evidence linking Zuni and Japanese language, culture, and physiology. For instance:

  • the Zuni language bears no resemblance to other North American native languages, but exhibits similarities to old Japanese
  • Zuni religion bears similarities to Shinto
  • both Zuni and Japanese share a high incidence of a rare kidney disease
  • skull remains show unusual dental features in common between Zuni and Japansese
The Zuni sacred rosette (top) and Japan's national symbol, a stylized chrysanthemum Finally, take a look at the Zuni sacred rosette (top) and Japan's national symbol, a stylized chrysanthemum (bellow) (source: Science Frontiers, reprinted from the Zuni Enigma).

I know it all sounds rather far-fetched, but it does make for a good mystery. Are you feeling cynical? Good, keep that thought for later in the week when we look at what some other scientists (and pseudo-scientists)are saying about the arrival of  first humans in the Americas.

See also: "New Mexico, or New Japan" (Chicago Sun-Times, June 9, 2000), a story about the book and its author. Received and Recommended: The Zuni Enigma (Ahadada Books)

Posted on July 12, 2005 and filed under Academic, Reading.