Thinking about Ancient Chinese, Tibetan, and Egyptian Voyages to the Grand Canyon
Yesterday I reported that the original plans for America Unearthed involved exploring whether “Egyptians” had colonized the Grand Canyon. Most of us who’ve read about “alternative history” have come across the weird claim that an Egyptian, Tibetan, and/or extraterrestrial palace is hidden away in the Grand Canyon. This weird claim is based entirely on a 1909 Arizona Gazette newspaper article, almost certainly a hoax, which claimed that an archaeologist named S. A. Jordan and an adventurer named G. E. Kinkaid investigated the underground chambers for the Smithsonian.
The Smithsonian has repeatedly denied that the story is true, releasing a statement in 2000: “The Smithsonian's Department of Anthropology, has searched its files without finding any mention of a Professor Jordan, Kincaid, or a lost Egyptian civilization in Arizona. Nevertheless, the story continues to be repeated in books and articles.” Of course alternative types took this as evidence of a conspiracy.
My 2001 article on this along with the 1909 report can be read here and was cited by Ken Feder in the Encyclopedia of Dubious Archaeology.
According to the 1909 article, the investigators found a large cavern housing an idol resembling the Tibetan images of Buddha along with unknown hieroglyphs. The article speculated that the works could be attributed to a pre-Egyptian high civilization originating in the Indian sub-continent and which later gave rise to Egypt. I thought I’d share another weird claim about the Grand Canyon that emerged shortly after the 1909 hoax and which can lead us to an interesting connection between them.
In 1913, Alexander M’Allan published the badly-written Ancient Chinese Account of the Grand Canyon which was, as it sounds, a weird attempt to prove that the ancient Chinese had visited the Grand Canyon. The book is all but unreadable for its incoherence, but you’re welcome to try. The basic argument seems to be that ambiguous references in old Chinese texts can be read as evidence of Chinese knowledge of the interior of North America, when read in the context of Mexican evidence about the “shared” mythic imagery of China and Mexico. M’Allan attempted to correlate vague geographical references in Chinese travelogues to American geography.
This, in turn, is M’Allan’s amplification of the still older work of Charles Godfrey Leland, Fusan; or the Discovery of America by Chinese Buddhist Priests in the Fifth Century (1875). This more ambitious (and coherent) work attempted to prove that ancient Chinese records recorded a voyage by Buddhist priests to Mexico and Peru via the Pacific coast of America. M’Allan moved the locus of operation from Mexico to Arizona but similarly relied on some of the same texts Leland had cited as evidence of early medieval Chinese voyages.
Notice Leland’s interesting passage in chapter 12:
The reader may recall that in the record of Hoei-shin he speaks particularly of the images of Buddha, in connection with the holy writings and religion of that great reformer, as having been taken to America in the year 458 by his five predecessors. I mention this, that in case any other inquirer may investigate this subject, he may pay particular attention to the discovery of such images, or to possible imitations of them, in America, and among its monuments. […] Images resembling the ordinary Buddha have been found in Mexico and Central America, but they cannot be proved to be identical with it.
And what do we find inside the “Tibetan” cave in the Grand Canyon, according to the Gazette?
Over a hundred feet from the entrance is the cross-hall, several hundred feet long, in which are found the idol, or image, of the people's god, sitting cross-legged, with a lotus flower or lily in each hand. The cast of the face is oriental, and the carving this cavern. The idol almost resembles Buddha, though the scientists are not certain as to what religious worship it represents. Taking into consideration everything found thus far, it is possible that this worship most resembles the ancient people of Tibet.
The Gazette article features the same jumble of Mexican and Buddhist imagery that Leland identified as evidence of Chinese travels, though the Gazette differentiated its hoax from Leland’s investigation by tying back the whole of the tale to the Egyptians, proposing an origin for the Egyptians in India, following a popular but incorrect theory of the time about the origin of all civilization in the subcontinent. At any rate, it seems there is a good textual precedent for the 1909 article in Leland's popular book, and one that may help explain where the 1909 hoaxer got the idea, a suggestion strengthened by the fact that M'Allan independently developed the same weird idea at almost the same time.
2/4/2013 02:25:34 pm
Being totally fascinated by the personality type that believe in aliens, UFOS, 9/11 conspiracies, etc., I watch with interest America Unearthed. As a recipient of "gomment" funding, I've seen no evidence that scientists lose funding for "out of the box" hypothesis testing, But, there is much evidence that those with the most media exposure get preferential treatment from funding agencies & credibility from the public, regardless of the crap they spew.
terry the censor
2/6/2013 10:53:27 am
You've been writing lately about diffusionism. I didn't realise there were so very many claims of the Americas being visited in the pre-Columbian era. But such claims beg the question: where's the genetic evidence of these visitors?
2/6/2013 11:07:22 am
Well, many diffusionist theories are (implicitly) designed to advocate the superiority of (white) Europeans, so naturally miscegination would never cross the minds of those advocating those theories!
terry the censor
2/6/2013 11:37:12 am
That didn't bother Strom Thurmond:
4/26/2016 02:23:14 pm
How do you explain the Newark Decalogue Stone and the Los Lunas Mystery Stone, we know the Newark Decalogue is authentic the Los Lunas is contested but the evidence is overwhelming of its authenticity. there would have been about three people in the world at that the time who could have inscribed it and non of them ever visited the southwest much less New Mexico. that and the stone structures in Salem, NH all point to the Phoenicians
5/14/2013 01:08:59 pm
Hey, it wasn't 1909, it was about 1919-1920 when a man poled down the Colorado River and found a cave that at that time was open at the waterline. He tied off on a rock cragg and went in and discovered the communal wagon wheel shaped caverns and Egyptian sarcophaguses and Asian artifacts. He then went to his previous destination and contacted a friend of his that was an Arizona University Professor and the professor called on the U.S. Army to secure the area from the press. In other words, they classified it as top secret at the time until they could collect all the artifacts and study them to find out the true story of their origin. In 1970's the subject was declassified and National Geographic was given the story to write about the discovery, with Arizona U.'s conclusion. It was a tiny article in the middle of the magazine and hard to find. Arizona u.'s studies concluded that there was a civilization of about 50,000 people living there at one time. They were Egyptian and Asian mixed blood. In there times, before they left Egypt, they weere capable of international travel via the art of sailing, which has always been an ancient skill. They possessed ships called byreems and tryreems. The tryreems were actually a warship design that could be dismantled in sections and the sections could be rolled across the suez Flats to be refitted and launched into the South China Sea. They did this and landed on the Coast of what we knew recently as South Vietnam and mingled with the Asians and married and had children. When their children were old enough to sail, all the adults and children re caulked the tryreems and embarked on a Pacific Crossing. They knew this would be a long lonely voyage and knew how to provision and fish during the trip and distill saltwater. That is why they took wives of the Asian women, and they wanted children to carry on their civilization when they would later find the place of their new home.
2/17/2014 03:35:00 pm
Actually, if you look at the ancient Chinese text, it very well might seem to a non-egyptologist westerner to be pictographic hieroglyphs of Egyptian origin. This could easily explain why Kincaid, an admittedly amateur archeologist and a prospector by trade, made that mistake after finding the site. Also, mummification was widely practiced in ancient china and tibet. I think that all the evidence clearly points to this being at one time a Chinese colony, probably primarily a place of Buddhist evangelism. During the same time period that the land of Fusang is described in ancient Chinese literature, itinerant Buddhist missionary-monks traveled across the ancient world, spreading their philosophy and religious ideas. There is significant evidence that ancient Greek philosophers like Plato and Socrates were exposed to Buddhist teachings. Many of these missionaries were successful, like in Thailand and Myanmar and Burma and Japan, but those missionaries that traveled in smaller groups to more far away areas like Greece were not successful in making Buddhism the dominant religion of their respective areas. They did, however, leave their own marks upon the societies that they traveled to. I would conclude from my investigations of the evidence that it is very likely that a community of Buddhist monks established a large monastic hermitage in the grand canyon. The "wagon-wheel" style configuration of many of the chambers, etc. that is described exactly fits the layout of many ancient Buddhist ritual complexes, meant to symbolize the eight-spoked wheel of the dharma, one spoke for each of the eight teachings of the eightfold path. The fact that Buddhist monks were thought to be almost entirely celibate even in ancient times would explain the general lack of genetic evidence of their presence, although I suspect that if you talk to a geneticist, you might find a few raised eyebrows about the assertion that the evidence is clear that it was over 13,000 years ago. I was under the impression that there was genetic evidence of Chinese contact. What is undeniable is the fact that now several dozen giant stone anchors have been found on the west coast of the United States that are almost certainly of Chinese origin. There is also considerable evidence that the ancient Chinese supplied the early meso-americans with their pictographic written script, which then diverged thousands of years ago when the isolationist trade policies of China caused them to cut off contact with the New World. Finally, fossilized indigo and beans have been found and carbon dated to pre-columbian times in burial sites in China.
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