I read in the Herald today that archaeologists and anthropologists have discovered chicken bones in South America, in territory occupied by the Mapuche people, which predate Columbus by at least 70 years. The chicken bones are important historically, because obviously, chickens aren’t native to the Americas. DNA evidence places the ancestry of these chickens in the South-East Pacific and carbon-dating places them between 1304 and 1424. In short, the chickens were imported by the Polynesian seafarers.

How brilliant! For hundreds of years, Italians had as a source of national and ethnic pride that one of their own ‘discovered’ the New World. This shows that some of the world’s indigenous populations were also excellent seafarers and were able to navigate across the treacherous south-Pacific using nothing but traditional technology.

A while back there was a historian, I think, who professed that the Americas were first visited (after being initially colonised, of course, and not including the Vikings who decided that Scotland, Iceland and Scandinavia were much nicer) by the Chinese in traditional junks. It turned out that there was very little good evidence for his theory and, although he steadfastly holds to it, it has since been conclusively debunked.

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Why do I care about 15th Century Polynesians reaching South America?

Well, about 6 months ago I wrote about Microsoft using the Mapudungun language in their latest Word release without the consent of the Mapuche indigenous people who claim ownership of the language. As a result of that post, I have at least two ‘orphan’ tags, ‘Mapudungun’ and ‘Mapuche’, in my list of ‘categories’. This irks me.

I can now write another post, publish it under ‘Mapuche’ and successfully give an otherwise lone tag another instantiation. Ironically though, in doing so, I have added new tags, such as ‘Archaeology’ and ‘Historical Osteology’ (okay, the last one was made up). I have also set a precedent whereby I must start finding posts to fill other orphan tags.

Anyone know a good story about Highland Scottish Gaelic?