Why Didn't They Tell You?


that Africans came to the Americas before Columbus? – Part III – The Mayas

that Africans came to the Americas before Columbus? – Part III – The Mayas

In an extraordinary documentary called Unearthed: Lost City of the Maya, the narrator shows scenes from a mural from Central Mexico of soldiers marching from Teotihuacan (about 30 miles northwest of Mexico City) to the Mayan City of Tikal, Guatemala (a 600 mile trek from the west) who overthrow the Mayan King Jaguar Paw and replace him with the Mexican King Spear Thrower Owl. All of the Maya king’s attendants are killed and Jaguar Paw’s head is cut off. This happened in the year 378 A.D. The dates and events are known because they are recorded in the Mayan calendar and hieroglyphic writing. As the narrator points out, this date is associated with the meteoric rise of Tikal and is the most celebrated date in Mayan history. The city’s population would grow to 100,000 at its peak. Along with the growth in population would be tremendous economic growth, including building of massive monuments and temples.

The narrator goes into some detail in describing the overthrow of Jaguar Paw and his replacement with Spear Thrower Owl, but he never comments on the thing about the mural that grabs the eye immediately. The deposed Maya king and his guards are pale white with blond hair but the king that replaces him is black. (See the camera snapshots of the murals below). The Mexican soldiers are brown, not red, but their King Spear Thrower Owl is darker than they are; he is black. It would seem that this stark contrast in the appearance of the conquered and the conqueror would have elicited some comment but there is none. It is not just the blackness of Spear Thrower Owl that should have elicited comment or explanation but also the paleness of the Maya king. Clearly the typical Guatemalan of today is not as pale as Jaguar Paw and his guards and the typical Mexican from Central Mexico is not as dark as Spear Thrower Owl. The commentator chose to just let the sleeping dog lie; he did not want to open that can of worms. Von Wuthenau informed us that Caucasoid types found their way to the Americas on numerous occasions many centuries before Columbus arrived. But let us examine the dark Mexicans from Teotihuacan.

These dark warriors with their black king come from Central Mexico, Teotihuacan, center of the Olmec civilization, the mother of Mesoamerican civilization, going back some 3,000 years, and of the medieval Aztec civilization. When the soldiers of Spear Thrower Owl march on Tikal, Classic Olmec civilization has been over for about 700 years. Recall that the colossal African heads appear at the beginning of Classic Olmec period, some 3,000 years ago. But that was not the end of African appearance in Mexico and the Americas. Indeed, Van Sertima reminds us that, “Africans move through all their major periods, from the time of the Olmec culture around 800 B.C., when they rise in massive stone sculptures, through the medieval Mexico of the Mayas.”1 The fact that these appearances are in Central Mexico, not far from the Mexican state of Vera Cruz, which sits on the Gulf of Mexico to the east, is not accidental, though their landing there may have been an accident. It’s the ocean winds and currents.

There are winds and currents between Africa and America that can take hold of an ocean vessel leaving   Africa, be it West Africa or northeast Africa, and cause it to drift into American lands. Alphonse de Quatrefages has noted, “We only see these black men in America in those places washed by the Kouro-Sivo [a Pacific current known as the black stream] and the Equatorial of the Atlantic or its divisions.”2 (See map below). One of the Atlantic currents can take a ship or a boat right to Central Mexico to the part that borders on the Gulf of Mexico. Van Sertima makes the case that Africans have been making seaworthy vessels for several millennia. Using paintings and reliefs in Egyptian burial chambers as models, Thor Heyerdahl hired boat builders living near Lake Chad in central Africa to build his reed boat the Ra which was used to demonstrate that such a boat could make the Atlantic crossing to America from North Africa. A few days before reaching the New World, the crew of the Ra ran into trouble because they had left off a rope running down the middle of the boat in Egyptian painting. They found out that the rope was essential to the boat staying together, made the correction, and successfully made the journey in Ra II.3

Most Americanists (those who specialize in Ancient American studies) still will not acknowledge that any Africans came to America before Columbus, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It is important to keep in mind why the traditional Americanist scholar will not accept the evidence. It is because they have been inculcated with a point of view that denies that African are capable of the things that are attributed to them, even if the crossing was accidental. Also some may stick to the dogma that all Native Americans are descended from the Mongols who crossed the Bering Strait into America 40,000 years ago. They disregard the testimonies of Columbus and early Portuguese and Spanish who found Africans here when they arrived.

There is evidence in Spanish and Portuguese records that the Portuguese received reports from African mariners on the Guinea Coast that if one went due west from the Guinea Coast, one would arrive at a new land. Columbus had visited the Guinea Coast before he set sail for America. Furthermore, there is also evidence that there was trade going on between West Africa and the Americas.4   

Van Sertima relates the following account of a meeting between King Don Juan of Portugal and Christopher Columbus (after his first voyage to America):

“It became clear that Don Juan’s real concern was not with the chain of islands Columbus claimed to have discovered in the Gulf of the Ganges. Beyond them, beyond the mainland of Asia [Columbus thought he had found a new route to Asia], to the south and southeast, lay another world. The king was certain of this. Africans, he said, had traveled to that world. It could be found just below the equinoctial line, roughly on the same parallel as the latitudes of his domain in Guinea. In fact, “boats had been found which started out from Guinea and navigated to the west with merchandise.” He was a fool not to have sent an expeditionary fleet into these waters in spite of persistent rumors and reports.”5

Whether you buy the arguments I have presented or are skeptical, I suggest that you examine the evidence for yourself by going beyond these vignettes I have provided. Someone can tell you there is evidence and even describe it for you but you may not be completely convinced until you investigate and see the evidence for yourself, such as Alexander von Wuthenau’s volumes of pre-Columbian art depicting black Africans, Negroid types. I urge you to do that.

Notes and References

  1. Van Sertima, Ivan (1976). They came before Columbus: the African presence in Ancient America. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, p. 27.
  2. de Quatrefages Alphonse (1905). The human species. Appleton: New York, p. 200. Quoted in Van Sertima, They came before Columbus, p. 25.
  3. Van Sertima, p. 59.
  4. Van Sertima, pp. 12-15
  5. Van Sertima, pp. 7-8


Map is taken from They Came Before Columbus, p. 132

The five scenes are phone snapshots from Unearthed: Lost City of the Maya

Scene 1: Spear Thrower Owl’s Soldiers marching to Tikal
Scene 2: Jaguar Paw sitting on throne before arrival of soldiers from Teotihuacan

Scene 3: Killing of Jaguar Paw’s guards
Scene 4: Decapitation of Jaguar Paw
Scene 5: Spear Thrower Owl sitting on Jaguar Paw’s throne

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