And the value of the fast second. Who got to America first? Refugees from Atlantis? Phoenicians piloting the children of Israel? The Chinese? The Egyptians? Perhaps the answer to the discovery of the America’s lies in the unthinkable…
With such impeccable nautical references, it was inevitable that the Phoenicians sooner or later would qualify as early transatlantic voyagers. One of their champions, writing in 1822, claimed that he knew of a manuscript- no longer available for consultation, of course-drawn up by a Phoenician named Votan who had seen the Tower of Babel being built and had come to the New World when forced out of his homeland by the Israelites. A few decades later, someone else “proved” that the Mayas were descended from the inhabitants of Tyre.
Then, in the late 1960′s, Cyrus Gordon, a known quantity in Semitic languages with a P.R. man’s penchant for breathless arrival at controversial conclusions, announced in the New York Times his discovery of proof positive that a group of Phoenicians had landed in Brazil. He came on it by the sort of miraculous luck usually reserved for the nonacademics in the field. The chance purchase of a scrapbook for a few pennies at a rummage bazaar led to the discovery of a letter, written by a nineteenth century savant, that contained a transcription of a stone inscribed in Phoenician characters; the stone had been found by a slave on a Brazilian plantation in 1872 and had been copied off by the owner’s son. Naturally, the inscription conveniently supplied all the desired details, carefully staggered for maximum impact: the identity of the party that had erected the stone- businessmen from Sidon-, the date,-nineteenth year of Hiram-, the point of departure- Ezion geber just like Solomon’s expeditions to Ophir. The original stone, of course, had long ago gone the way of Votan’s manuscript.
Around the beginning of the nineteenth century the drums started to beat loud and strong for the ancient Egyptians as ocean voyagers. Napoleon’s Nile Campaign had opened up the country to savants and scholars. The Western world, awed at the sudden revelation of what had been achieved there in the days of the Pharaohs, was ready and eager to accept ancient Egypt as the fountainhead of all civilization. So, when European visitors to Mexico returned with glowing tales of the spectacular monuments reared by the people who had lived there long ago, monuments that were sometimes pyramidal in shape or decorated with hieroglyphic carving, everything seemed to fall into place: migrants from the Nile must somehow hav had a hand in shaping what happened in the New World. ( to be continued)