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'They Came Before Columbus', Ivan Van Sertima Explores African Influence in Ancient America

The history of the African presence in ancient America is an often overlooked and understudied aspect of human civilization. However, in Ivan Van Sertima's groundbreaking book, 'They Came Before Columbus,' he sheds light on the remarkable contributions of African peoples to the cultural, linguistic, spiritual, and artistic development of ancient America.

In this blog, we will discuss Ivan Van Sertima's book and the history of American culture, exploring the profound connections between Ancient African and American civilizations.

One of the most striking aspects of the African presence in ancient America is the rich artistic heritage left behind. The remarkable similarities between African and American art forms suggest strong cultural interactions between the two continents.

For example, the Olmec civilization of Mesoamerica is renowned for its colossal stone heads, which bear a striking resemblance to African facial features. Such resemblances challenge traditional narratives of the continent's isolated development and offer evidence of contact between ancient African and American civilizations.

"Those colossal Olmec heads, with their distinctively African features, serve as a testament to the African presence in ancient America. The anthropological evidence challenges the prevailing notion that African civilizations were isolated from the rest of the world during this period." - Ivan Van Sertima, 'They Came Before Columbus.'

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Beyond artistic similarities, the African presence in ancient America is also evident in cultural practices. Cultural systems and exchanges, such as agriculture, science, and literary arts were all heavily influenced by indigenous origin. 'They Came Before Columbus' highlights the presence of common crops like yams, okra, and watermelon, which originated in Africa.

The book also uncovers the African contributions to American societies, suggesting that African cultures left a lasting impact on the development of ancient American civilizations.

Language and dialect are yet another avenue through which the African presence in ancient America is unveiled. Sertima argues that African words and phrases can be found in indigenous American languages, providing a strong foundation for intercontinental communication and cultural synthesis.

ancient america
Pre-Columbus African trans-Atlantic Travel | SB American

African languages such as Wolof, Mandinka, and Mende, and indigenous American languages spoken by tribes such as the Lenape and Creek were all present in the Americas.

The spiritual and religious aspects of African influence in ancient America draw attention to similarities between African religious practices and those found in indigenous American societies.

The veneration of ancestral spirits and the belief in a supreme being are recurring themes in both African and American spiritual traditions.

Sertima posits that these similarities are not mere coincidences but rather indicative of shared beliefs and intercontinental exchange of ideas.

'They Came Before Columbus' serves as an eye-opening and thought-provoking examination of the African presence in ancient America. From artistic to cultural, and linguistic to spiritual developments, the book presents compelling evidence that challenges traditional historical narratives. Explore the depth of African contributions to the Americas, Sertima's work encourages us to reevaluate our understanding of ancient civilizations and embrace the interconnectedness of human history.


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Image by Jessica Felicio