I’m not sure what to make of a claim circulating this week of a Chinese connection to the prehistoric lands of what is now the U.S. state of Georgia. According to an article published on Ancient Origins, written by Jon R. Haskill of the Indigenous Peoples Research Association, a nonprofit organization dedicated to exploring Old World contact with pre-Columbian North America, a Chinese votive sword was discovered in Georgia last year. The object, measuring about 30 cm (12 inches) in length, was allegedly uncovered in a creek bed, and it is now being promoted by Siu-Leung Lee, the Chinese man who appeared on America Unearthed to argue for a Chinese presence in prehistoric North America based on another Chinese artifact allegedly found in America under mysterious circumstances, as well as a misreading of an old map. Lee now claims that he knows of several Chinese objects from Georgia, which he is keeping secret until he can publish the details, though he does not say where.
Haskill is the author of a book “documenting” a connection between the North America and the Chinese based on the appearance of dragon motifs in art.
According to the IPRA, the object was examined by the University of Georgia and determined to be made of lizardite, and IPRA claims that the object has Chinese characteristics:
A claims that the object has Chinese characteristics:
I’ll be honest: I don’t really know what I’m looking at here. My first impression when I saw the object is that it had Mississippian or Mesoamerican stylistic traits, but the poor quality of the carving compared to the typical work of those cultures suggests to me that the piece might well be a fake. Something about it just looks wrong, like the way art critics realized that the Getty kouros was fake based on its appearance. The low quality of the carving, of course, can’t exclude the possibility that someone was incompetent at some point in the past. Frankly, it looks more like a Burrows Cave artifact than a genuine piece of Chinese art. I’m not familiar with anything similar in North American art, but since there is no claim of a date except on stylistic grounds, it could have been made at any time, including 2014, the nineteenth century, etc.
The shape of the dagger’s blade is also a bit unusual, though it is similar to a Chinese dagger that appeared in the video game Far Cry 3 at the end of 2012. Unfortunately, I don’t know enough about ancient Chinese art to have a more developed opinion of it.
Haskill goes far beyond even this meager evidence and suggests that Chinese and Olmec art are so similar as to have a connection, and claims that the Chinese gave the Olmec their culture and their social system—including social stratification and aristocracy. This seems to be an echo of the old claims made about Fusang, based on a spurious reading of a mythical Chinese land as Mexico.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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