Chronicles of America 

The Trade-Winds Impact on America

From latitude 30 degrees N. to 30 degrees S. the trade-winds prevail. As they blow from the east, they make it easy for boats to come from Africa to America. In comparatively recent times they brought the slave ships from the Guinea coast to our southern States. The African, like the Indian, has passed through a most unfavorable environment on his way from central Asia to America. For ages he was doomed to live in a climate where high temperature and humidity weed out the active type of human being.

By far the most important occurrence which can be laid at the door of the trade-winds is the bringing of the civilization of Europe and the Mediterranean to the New World. Twice this may have happened, but the first occurrence is doubtful and left only a slight impression. For thousands of years the people around the Mediterranean Sea have been bold sailors. Before 600 B.C. Pharaoh Necho, so Herodotus says, had sent Phoenician ships on a three-year cruise entirely around Africa. The Phoenicians also sailed by way of Gibraltar to England to bring tin from Cornwall, and by 500 B.C. the Carthaginians were well acquainted with the Atlantic coast of northern Africa.

At some time or other, long before the Christian era, a ship belonging to one of the peoples of the eastern Mediterranean was probably blown to the shores of America by the steady trade-winds. Of course, no one can say positively that such a voyage occurred. Yet certain curious similarities between the Old World and the New enable us to infer with a great deal of probability that it actually happened. The mere fact, for example, that the adobe houses of the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico are strikingly like the houses of northern Africa and Persia is no proof that the civilization of the Old World and the New are related. A similar physical environment might readily cause the same type of house to be evolved in both places. When we find striking similarities of other kinds, however, the case becomes quite different. The constellations of the zodiac, for instance, are typified by twelve living creatures, such as the twins, the bull, the lion, the virgin, the crab, and the goat. Only one of the constellations, the scorpion, presents any real resemblance to the animal for which it is named. Yet the signs of the zodiac in Mediterranean lands and in pre-Columbian America from Peru to southern Mexico are almost identical. (For more information see S. Hagar, "The Bearing of Astronomy on the Problems of the Unity or Plurality and the Probable Place of Origin of the American Aborigines, in American Anthropologist," vol. XIV (1912), pp. 43-48.)

Sign English Peruvian Mexican Maya
Aries Ram Llama Flayer ---
Taurus Bull (originally Stag) Stag Stag or Deer Stag
Gemini Twins Man and Woman Twins Two Generals
Cancer Crab Cuttlefish Cuttlefish Cuttlefish
Leo Lion Puma Ocelot Ocelot
Virgo Virgin (Mother Goddess of Cereals) Maize Mother Maize Mother Maize Mother
Libra Scales (originally part of Scorpio) Forks Scorpion Scorpion
Scorpio Scorpion Mummy Scorpion Scorpion
Sagittarius Bowman Arrows or Spears Hunter and War God Hunter and War God
Capricornus Sea Goat Beard Bearded God ----
Aquarius Water Pourer Water Water Water
Pisces Fishes (and Knot) Knot Twisted Reeds ---

Notice how closely these lists are alike. The ram does not appear in America because no such animal was known there. The nearest substitute was the llama. In the Old World the second constellation is now called the bull, but curiously enough in earlier days it was called the stag in Mesopotamia. The twins, instead of being Castor and Pollux, may equally well be a man and a woman or two generals. To landsmen not familiar with creatures of the deep, the crab and the cuttlefish would not seem greatly different. The lion is unknown in America, but the creature which most nearly takes his place is the puma or ocelot. So it goes with all the signs of the zodiac. There are little differences between the Old World and the New, but they only emphasize the resemblance. Mathematically there is not one chance in thousands or even millions that such a resemblance could grow up by accident. Other similarities between ceremonies or religious words in the Old World and the New might be pointed out, but the zodiac is illustration enough.

Such resemblances, however, do not indicate a permanent connection between Mediterranean civilization and that of Central America. They do not even indicate that any one ever returned from the Western Hemisphere to the Eastern previous to Columbus. Nor do they indicate that the civilization of the New World arose from that of the Old. They simply suggest that after the people of the Mediterranean regions had become well civilized and after those of America were also sufficiently civilized to assimilate new ideas, a stray ship or two was blown by the trade-winds across the Atlantic. That hypothetical voyage was the precursor of the great journey of Columbus. Without the trade-winds this historic discoverer never could have found the West Indies. Suppose that a strong west wind had blown him backward on his course when his men were mutinous. Suppose that he had been forced to beat against head winds week after week. Is there one chance in a thousand that even his indomitable spirit could have kept his craft headed steadily into the west? But because there were the trade-winds to bring him, the way was opened for the energetic people of Europe to possess the new continent. Thus the greatest stream of immigration commenced to flow, and the New World began to take on a European aspect.

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