Have you ever heard of Leo Weiner? No, not the Hungarian composer. The other Leo Weiner, the American scholar born in Russia of Polish-Jewish heritage. He immigrated to the United States from Russia in the late nineteenth century with the eccentric idea of continuing on to British Honduras (now Belize) in order to start a vegetarian commune, but along the way he changed his mind and began a teaching career in Kansas City, Missouri that culminated in him becoming Harvard University’s first professor of Slavic studies.
However interesting that is, he was also thoroughly convinced that the peoples of sub-Saharan Africa had traveled to Mexico and gave rise to Mesoamerican cultures. His Harvard status has made him a popular choice for Afrocentric writers to rely upon as evidence of scholarly confirmation of their beliefs.
Leo Weiner believed, as so many apparently do, that American archaeology was “to a great extent built on sand” and, of course, in a conspiracy to suppress the truth—the truth this time being the African origins of American civilization. It was an idea he developed most fully in his three-volume study Africa and the Discovery of America (1920-1922).
He also proposed, eccentrically, that Columbus’s journal of his voyage to America was a fake, and that the islands called Lucaies by Columbus (often said to be the Bahamas) were fabricated from a misreading of the black letter appearance of the word “Indies” on a map consulted by the forger. He did not believe that Bartolomé de Las Casas redacted the Columbus journals into the form in which we have them but rather that they were simply fabricated from Las Casas’s own writings. But that’s neither here nor there.
Weiner was a polyglot linguist who claimed fluency in twenty languages, but his practical knowledge of language led him to false conclusions that today read as laughably ridiculous. Specifically, he decided that any two words that were spelled similarly must be connected, no matter the language of origin; the only question was deciding which language borrowed the word from the other. This is his primary evidence for an African presence in pre-Columbian Mexico.
In Africa and the Discovery of America, he argued that Mexican words were obvious descendants of the Mandé vocabulary of the Mandinka (formerly spelled Mandingo) of West Africa. Weiner stated, for example, that Fernandez de Oviedo reported in the Chronicle of America that the Mexicans of Castilla de Oro used the word tequina to mean “master,” which Weiner saw as identical to the Mandé word tigi, or master. I guess it’s in the eye of the beholder. I don’t see or hear the similarity myself, not to mention that tequina is a Spanish-influenced transliteration of the original.
He also links the Aztec word for merchant, pochteca, to the Mandé corruption of the Arabic word for wealth, fi-al-mal. The corrupt form is faling. By comparing this to other African cognate corruptions and other words for wealth, he concludes that the pan-African word for wealth was folom, which he feels yielded the Maya p’olom and thus the Aztec pochteca. That he claims this word entered the Maya tongue in the 1400s, nearly 600 years after the Maya collapse and two centuries after the rise of the Aztec, bothers him not.
Similarly, he makes a convoluted argument that a loincloth called ζειραί (zeirai) in Herodotus and ’izar in Arabic is also the mi’zar, or girl’s loin-cloth, of Arabic and therefore the masirili, or ornamentation, of Mandé. Consequently, he believes masirili yielded maxtli, a type of modesty garment for one’s loins, in Nahuatl. You can see that this argument is nutty on the surface and also presumes that the powerful Aztec empire and its predecessors somehow abandoned words large and small with a few Mandinka sailed from Africa near the very end of their empire.
He catalogues page after page of similar linguistic “connections,” none really convincing.
Because the Mandinka are today predominantly Muslim, Islamic extremists have declared this evidence of the Muslim discovery of America; however, the Mandinka practiced traditional African faiths until around 1800. Weiner is actually quite happy about this because, largely ignorant of anthropology, he believed that Native American religions all derived from Mandinka animisitic shamanism, which he called fetishism. Oddly, those who use Weiner’s work to promote the idea of early Muslim trans-oceanic voyages don’t seem to care that Weiner didn’t support that view. And of course neither felt that it was worth noting that Mexico had had a rich and developed culture for thousands of years before the proposed travel dates.
However, Weiner’s arguments—particularly the one above about the maxtli—convinced Afrocentrists like Ivan Van Sertima that the Mexican language was littered with words West African in origin and therefore all of the Mexican textile trade was an import from Africa. Following Weiner, these wtiers assert that no less an authority than Christopher Columbus confirms that the Mandinka voyaged to America. Their source is Las Casas’s version of the Journal of the Third Voyage, but it doesn’t say what Van Sertima and others claim. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to the journal (apparently published in an 1892 Italian edition not currently online), so I have to rely on Weiner’s own translation, which reports that King Juan of Portugal told Columbus that merchants from Guinea had sailed from Africa to “islands” in the west. This is Weiner’s translation, which I have not verified from the original, in which Columbus decides to go to Guinea
to verify on his way the opinion of King Don Juan, and he wanted to find out what the Indians of Hispaniola had told him, that there had come to it from the south and southeast Negro people, who brought those spear points made of a metal which they call guanin, of which he had sent to the king and queen for assaying, and which was found to have in thirty-two parts eighteen of gold, six of silver, and eight of copper.
We seem to have two conflated stories here. The first is the allegation that the merchants of Guinea sailed west to some islands. These could be the Cape Verde or the Canary Islands, two sets of islands close to the African coast. Cape Verde is off the coast of what was historically called Guinea, though officially they were not discovered until 1456 by the Portuguese. Or it could be a complete myth, since Columbus says that the interpretation of the islands as being the New World was the “opinion” of King Juan, not the Guinea natives themselves. Possibly the Guinea traders hit another spot on the African coast and thought it was an island. Juan had ample reason to try to make such a connection, for by papal decree of 1479, Guinea and any islands near it or attached to it or occupied by it were Portugal’s sphere of influence while the Canaries northward would belong to Spain; should there be a Guinea presence in the West Indies, then Portugal could rightfully claim a share of Spain’s wealthy New World lands. Juan had every reason to fabricate a Guinea voyage to America and ask Columbus to dig up some evidence for it.
The other story is what the Hispaniola natives told Columbus. In this case, it sounds very much like the Hispaniola natives are speaking of people from South America or perhaps Mesoamerica. They would not have seen African people in 1498, so the word “Negro” seems to refer merely to a relatively darker skin tone; I wish I had the original to know exactly what word Columbus used. [See update here for more on the alleged quotation.] South and southeast of Hispaniola would take one to the northern coast of South America, particularly the area around Venezuela. Some scholars today believe that the guanin of the Antilles was imported from the Maya, who are known to have visited the Caribbean islands and to have traded with the Tainos. Others feel it was a native production from natural deposits in the Greater Antilles. The Tainos also traded with Venezuela, the land to the south and east. This, I would venture, solves the mystery of the Columbus quotation that Afrocentrists have been using for nearly a century as evidence of an African presence in pre-Columbian America.
Nevertheless, Ivan Van Sertima and other Afrocentrists have read Columbus’ account (well, Weiner’s translation, anyway) as confirmation of a passage in Al-Umari’s Masalik (whose text has apparently not been translated, and Arabic is not one of my languages) that Kankan Musa of Mali reported that his predecessor, Abu Bakr II, had sailed into the Atlantic in the 1310s in search of the ocean’s other shore. He never returned, so Afrocentrists see Columbus’s passage as indicating Abu Bakr made it to the Caribbean. Obviously, if the Columbus passage does not actually refer to Africans, then Al-Umari’s account records nothing more than a futile lost voyage that vanished into the waves.
6/24/2013 10:21:31 pm
So, I couldn’t resist doing some googling (that’s “couldn’t resist” as in “I should be working on a conference paper, but I’ll take any excuse to procrastinate instead…”).
11/8/2015 02:03:56 pm
“Sudueste” (i.e. southwest!) as “southeast” – southwest, of course, is definitely *not* the direction where Guinea lies from Hispaniola.
5/14/2016 03:38:09 pm
Obsolete spelling of sudoeste per my old Spanish dictionary
It seems it is about doing anything to discredit Pro. Wiener, Dr. Ivan Van Sertima, and Dr. Anta Diop, all who were very credential in either Anthropologist, Physicists, Linguists, Egyptology, and African American Studies. Diop and Van Sertima were triple degreed academics.
6/24/2013 11:27:51 pm
ugh, even if West Africans made contact (hate the word discover) and even influenced central american native cultures that does not make for 'African origins of American history'
6/25/2013 03:02:30 pm
Personally, I think the idea that contact between the Polynesians and tribes located on the western coast of Peru carries more weight than this "theory". It's as if Weiner bastardized today's Hooked on Phonics, Scrabble and Clue, then presented the result as overwhelming evidence in support of his "theory".
10/3/2013 07:27:10 am
Your right but most deny the contact which there is much evidence for,
10/3/2013 07:29:10 am
referring to Coridan Miller's post.
6/27/2013 03:33:27 am
Mr Colavito I would love to see you tackle the two most recent "documentaries" from the afrocentric camp called "Hidden colors 1 and 2"
10/3/2013 07:37:33 am
Much of history is based on who is telling the story. The Afrocentrists are simply showing there is much more to history than we are told. I have only seen part one.
12/17/2013 04:39:07 pm
Not this tripe again. What recent DNA studies found is that the Chinese, like everyone else are descended from the Out of Africa Migration, not that the first Chinese were black. You see due to nationalistic ideological beliefs in China, a popular theory was that the Chinese people had evolved in China from Homo erectus pekinensisr (Peking Man), and not from people who were part of the Out of African migrations some 60 to 90 thousand years ago. Though even more recent DNA studies have found that East Asian populations have some Denisovans ancestry like many West Asians have some Neanderthal ancestry. In any event, the DNA studies don't say what you and Afrocentrist claim they do.
7/27/2013 02:10:58 am
I believe that Africans came over before Columbus on the ship, "Escalade".
Harvard Professor Leo Weiner is not the only Western scholar who wrote about an African presence in the Americas before Columbus.
6/13/2015 08:00:54 am
"The fact" regarding "Negro colonies found by Portuguese and Spanish" that seems to be ignored always is that Europeans at the time were what an actual anthropologist knows as "ethnocentric" - their own culture was the basis for judgement. Anyone darker than them at the time (like anyone living that much closer to the equator is bound to be) would have been referred to as Negro. That doesn't mean they're African.
3/27/2018 10:55:04 pm
are you stupid ??
12/8/2016 02:50:56 pm
I feel like you just want to exit out the fact that columbus and natives combined parties between the two to get a hold of the Guanin that the Africans where already traveling to trade along the equatorial guinea south and east of Africa. Also, you can't verify who the natives said who these dark skinned people are. But that there are many that had come before columbia. Y'all write shit on a piece of paper and declare it yours. I want to bee fee and get what is owed to its. Every culture has everything and make mock of black skinned people. And still make us slaves to your systems to destroy families. I refuse to even acknowledge every thing you have said because I believe the story's told to American whites. Where the truth and is your job to protect what is slowly being revealed. Let us live in piece before now what has been cursed upon my people because of greed, suppression to distribution. So that's both the truth you mean.
In the book When Rocks Cry Out by Horace .Butler the founding of Egypt in America is paramount to these hypothesis of blacks reaching Americas before Columbus. He shows proof of Egyptian records naming Maya cities verbatim. The speculation is over..the debate is done. Black Egypt in Americas spawned Western Civilization
6/25/2015 11:35:32 pm
They will continue to deny as part of the White Supremacy Propaganda Machine created in 18-19C Europe at the height of scientific racism and European imperialism and colonialism.
12/14/2015 01:45:05 am
Since when have blacks Truly prospered with out,Outside help.....?even today Africa is run by whites,lets Not forget Abraham Lincoln GAVE the blacks there Freedom plus Many of you are forgetting that the same way that there is Original Native species of certain continents Exactly the same there where and continue to be original Native people that have absolutely Nothing to do with blacks....Thank You
3/11/2016 06:16:56 pm
This post only really disproves two people's work, Weiner and Van Sertima (who btw had some really excellent points on African presence before Columbus) and I still think historians are trapped within a prejudice nature of not crediting the Africans for being here before Columbus. What happened to all the archaeological evidence and botanical evidence that still are much more solid evidence that they were present before 1492? therefore this post convinces me of nothing really, but you have a good writing style I'll give you that
5/8/2016 05:16:13 pm
I find the Afrocentric and even the Eurocentric to be racist.
5/14/2016 04:13:51 pm
I do applaud you. I am also a proud Amerindian from South America, truth be told and looking at my heritage lineage we do have a striking resemblance to Asians and I mean this with no disrespect. Visiting my ancestral home I felt a kinship in all that I saw. Yes, you are correct about the story of creation from our point of view which differs from the judeo-christian traditions. My family and I are very proud of what the native peoples of Central and South America have achieve and accomplished in architecture, astronomy, art and culture. There is no reason to add another dimension to our culture. The Blacks have theirs, the whites have theirs and WE HAVE OURS.
6/2/2016 07:27:14 am
Eliazbeth, yes we all have some slight similarities that is what makes us the HUMAN SPECIES, but by CREATOR design we are different racially even biologically as different races. There are Black Africans in Africa that love who they are and their culture, its only "Black Americans" who are making up fairy tales of Blacks in the Americas before Columbus, they deny the Slave Trade from Africa to the Americas, and also make up a myth of a Black Planet, and falsely state all of Africa is Black when North Africa is Brown and actually don't have the same racial genes as those in Sub Sahara Africa these Brown people have been in North Africa for thousands of years, they state they are not related to Blacks in Africa and they should know their own origin story. Black American Afrocentrics need to own up to their true history until they do they will never have peace. Our differences are something to be celebrated because that is how we were created. Our races cultures and homelands reflects those differences. Please Read and share if you agree after reading http://www.papergenocide.org/not-out-of-africa--not-over-a-land-bridge--the-origin-of-native-american-indians-is-the-americas.html and also http://www.papergenocide.org/a-need-for-a-fair-study-of-native-american-indian-populations.html Thanks.
9/28/2016 01:04:08 pm
And what is Black Africans' true history? That they have never contributed anything to the world?That slavery and inferiority is their only legacy?
3/4/2018 02:48:01 am
Slavery and inferiority are the only legacy of Black Africans LOL
7/10/2018 09:25:36 pm
So,, these blacks claiming to be here before Columbus and influenced Natives? Why is it tent they only speak English? Oh because the white man erased your language and history, .lol, , natives are still speaking their language's, practicing their traditions, still have a clan system,, 500 + - tribes, but blacks want say they the real Indian's ,, lol,. Dumbest garbage I heard in my life, Sertima, Weiner, other 'wanna be antropoligist, , historians , just profited off of gullible idiots that suffer from low self esteem, and hate being black or African American, weiner and sertima and countless others have been debunked, and ridiculed by leading antropoligist, archeologist, historians, and and wanna be kangz and sheeit, still use published material by the white man, yet accuse them of white washing history, there were no BLACKs, on this continent before Columbus,, it's just totally wishful thinking and a fantasy, lol,, these afrocentrik clowns don't speak a native language, it's said they hate being black, because africa has a rich culture.
1/5/2019 10:10:20 am
I could give you mountains of literary and archaeological evidence to prove you wrong regarding the presence of copper-colored/ "black" people in America way before Columbus arrived. Have you bothered to research any of the early explorers' journals? Nevertheless, the ignorance of your statement doesn't require an academic response but one of common sense. First of all, "BLACK" isn't a people and that should be the dumbest garbage you've ever heard. Secondly, not speaking a native language does not make one any less indigenous. I know 2nd and 3rd generation Chinese who can't understand or speak the Chinese language at all. Does that make them any less Chinese and simply yellow people? Hahaha...you have proven to be completely irrational and your comment is based on your hatred and/or prejudices. I don't agree with Van Sertima and many of the afro-centrists regarding Africa peopling the Americas. I think that's absurd and there's absolutely no proof of that. However, to say there were no people in the Americas with the negroid physiognomy is grossly ignorant. To believe that Europeans transported the entire population of so-called Negros to the Americas from Africa is the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Especially, when there's absolutely no proof of such an impossible occurrence.
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