I am Samurai! I follow the bushido code!
You're probably wondering if I posted the wrong picture, or typed in the wrong comment. Well, neither. You see, that man up there is Japanese. (maybe)
I know. It's a picture of an American Indian. A warrior, actually. Just bear with me for a bit. I need to type a disclaimer before I explain.
I usually put these notes at the end of the post, but this one is needed at the beginning. I try to use nothing but facts for my Oddities posts. I'm human, so sometimes I goof and let a non-fact slip in. But this post is different. While I'll be dishing out facts, the underlying theory can't be proven at this time. It may be nothing but a giant coincidence. Unless some unassailable archeological evidence is dug up, it may never be more than a theory. But, even though it's just a theory, it's still odd. So I'm sharing it with you.
And now, back to our original post.
I certainly hope no one reading this believes Columbus "discovered" America. I mean, there were people there, for crying out loud! That means someone had to have been there before Columbus, right? Historians have known for a long time that Native Americans arrived here from Siberia sometime between 57,000 and 12,000 years ago. (depends on who you talk to).
The question they ask now is, whose was the fist civilization to visit America after the natives crossed the land bridge. Some say it was Columbus, but they're dumb. We have evidence of Vikings settling in Newfoundland long before Columbus was around. And, some claim they found Chinese anchors in the water off the Californian coast that date back ~3,000 years.
Now, you probably expect me to whip out a factoid that suggests some other civilization came to America earlier than that. Someone like the lost tribe of Israel.
The factoids I'm going to spew out originate sometime around the 1300's.
There is a tribe that lives primarily in New Mexico, with a small population in Arizona, called the Zuni. They are one of the many Pueblo tribes. In fact, some anthropologists think it was the Zuni cities that were thought to be the 7 Cities of Cibola that Spanish Conquistadors were constantly looking for.
But, let's look closely at the Zuni tribe. Sometime between 1250 CE and 1300 CE, changes started happening to the Zuni. Their teeth showed marked changes. Not in a few individuals, but in all of them. And their skeletons started to shrink. Not just a few of them, but all of them. Some outside stimuli must have been involved to cause such drastic changes in such a short time.
Today, there are ~20,000 members of the Zuni tribe. And amongst their population, the occurrence of type B blood is high. Very high, in fact. Which is odd, because, among every other Native American tribe, type B blood is very rare. The occurrence of a rare kidney disease is also frequent among the Zuni, but not other native tribes.
And, when looking at the language of the Zuni, you'll find that it's not similar to any other native language. Most tribes shared common words with their neighboring tribes. Not the Zuni. Their language is so dissimilar to their neighbors, that it might have come from another planet.
Now, take into consideration the art work of the Zuni, and their religion, and their rituals, and it starts to become apparent that some other culture merged with the Zuni ~750 years ago. But the question is, who?
One researcher, Nancy Yaw Davis, thinks she has the answer.
Up until now, everything I've told you about the Zuni is fact. It can be verified by any researcher. Now is when we dip our toes into theory-land.
Davis spent many years studying the Zuni and pondering the above anomalies. She finally came to the conclusion about who exactly it was that melded with the Zuni.
Let's look at her reasoning.
Japan was in turmoil in the 13th and 14th centuries. Feudal wars were killing a lot of people. So, a lot of them said, "Fuck this shit!", and left by boat. Now, around 1250 CE, when Japan was in the middle of the turmoil, Davis thinks a few boat loads of Buddhist monks left Japan, and that favorable currents carried them to the coast of California.
Once there, for whatever reason, they kept moving east once they hit land. Davis speculates they were looking for Itiwanna, the center of the universe.
Back then, most native tribes wouldn't have been hostile to strangers, especially ones who showed no signs of hostility. When the Zuni were encountered in present day Arizona, Davis speculates they were intrigued by Itiwanna, and followed the monks. When they reached New Mexico, they thought they had found paradise, so they stayed.
This is at least a plausible explanation for how the Japanese and the Zuni could have met.
Remember the changes to the Zuni teeth I mentioned? It turns out that the changes just so happen to conform to teeth from eastern Asia. And the new bone structure? Also eastern Asian.
Type B blood, while common amongst the Zuni, but not any other native tribe, is also common amongst the people in the orient. And the kidney disease the Zuni are susceptible to is also more common in the orient than anywhere else.
So far, the connections to the Japanese are fairly weak. Sure, maybe it was some Asian culture, but what says it was the Japanese?
If you study the Zuni language, not only will you see it's nothing like any neighboring language, you'll also see that it is very similar to Japanese. Many words that mean the same thing only differ by a single letter in each language, and are very similar in their pronunciations. The grammar of the two languages also share many traits.
It's starting to look a little better for Japan, eh?
The pottery style of the Zuni closely resembles Japanese pottery. And their artwork share many subjects in common. For instance, Japans national symbol is the chrysanthemum. The Zuni also have a flower that is featured heavily in their art that closely resembles the Japanese depiction of.......a chrysanthemum.
If you were to study the gods of the Zuni, Kokko, and the gods of the Japanese, Kami, you'll find they're almost identical. And their religious rituals and ceremonies are also very similar in their timing and their functions.
In fact, the similarities between the Zuni and the Japanese are so extensive, I could write a book about it. But I don't have to. Davis already has. It's titled 'The Zuni Enigma'.
I should note that, the majority of anthropologists don't agree with Davis. They think she's making too much out of plain old coincidence.
And, they may very well be right. Unless irrefutable evidence shows up, we'll never know.
Personally, I think it's possible. I see no reason why some Japanese couldn't have made it to America in 1250. The Polynesians were making similar voyages at the time. And, how was Australia populated? People obviously knew where they were going.
The one thing that could bolster her research, DNA testing, has been done. And there appear to be genetic links between the Zuni and the Japanese. Further testing on recovered Zuni bones needs to be done, but initial results lend Davises theory credence.
I'll let you all make up your own minds on if this is true or not, because I just don't know. The arguments for are pretty convincing, but the arguments against are also convincing.
Now go forth and research for yourselves.
I'm Leonard Nimoy. Join me next week for another episode of, 'In Search Of....'