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A Canadian perspective - Pohl

Dear Ramsay;
Enjoyed your spirited dialogue this morning. I wanted to jump in to give a bit of my 2 cents worth from a Canadian Perspective. I have read all of Pohls works which were very remarkable at the time he wrote them (1950's and 60's) and it is my perspective that he contributed to history in a significant way by attempting to educate Americans that Cristopher Columbus wasn't the first to cross the Atlantic and that yes, there were others. In his writings he shares many of the viking excursions over to North America as well as the Henry voyage.  In his travels around the Maritimes I was impressed with his appreciation of geography and linking it to the scraps of hard evidence that existed. Much of this I satisfied with my own eyes and a degree of applying common sense. I came away giving him remarkable marks for his understanding of information in so far as it went. Yes he also used conjecture, speculation and attempted to fill in the blanks. Much of this I find was not supported factually yet I can not join you by dismiss the entire work as easily. His geographical references, references to the Mikmacs and conjectures were reasoned and not without a sound logic to them.
Now I diverge to share that the historical appreciation of crossings across the Atlantic are treated very differently in the United States and Canada. Both countries are demonstrating a deplorable attitude to history generally, but in so far as the teaching of history goes the emphasis is different. In the United States where we get trotted out that Columbus discovered America. Ask any school kid. Well yes he did, but it wasn't the continental United States either. And what the real discovery was is omitted He really discovered was the trade winds that made the journey possible. Thereafter regular crossings were possible and were made even before his return voyages. But here too he may not have been the first to ever have done so crossing the Atlantic to the Carribean.  But from a documentary perspective he is at least from a scientific perspective real. We have a diary. Others that were undocumented can be dismissed or should they?  If Africans or Egyptians crossed the Atlantic then because they did not document it, one can not jump to the conclusion that they did not make such a voyage. That is not what the experimental voyages in the 60's prooved. The best that might be said is it was or was not feasible given technologies. School kids coloring the sails of the Santa Maria have not a shred of evidence that they sported Templar crosses Only we draw them that way. In Corpus Christie the models of the Columbas ships appear with crosses. Interesting there are no contemporary sketches that I am aware of.
So I take a balanced view of historians, not everything they report is accurate, still many are uncanny in pointing out what the scientific community subsequently verifies.  Indeed we have historical reconstructionists, revisionists and so on working all the time as scientific information changes the way we understand things. (Then again we have Hollywood which will redraw history any way they see fit and the world may take that version as gospel. )
Now having shared all that,  I also sympathise with the academic process of testing verification and finding of facts. Let me explain the Canadian perspective.  Most Canadian history books all document the travels of the vikings to Canada as the first explorers. This is frequently omitted in US texts that ignore anything beyond the borders of what is currently the United States. The Canadian texts described in great detail the various Viking voyages and until the last 20 years had not one shred of tangible evidence that they did so. In fact all the history we were taught was based on Nordic  folktales retold through generations of bards of over a thousand years . But this does not mean that these voyages did not exist. A scientist may dismiss this evidence but a historian can not.  Despite there being not a shred of physical proof the voyages to the new world were appreciated. Was the history wrong? No. In the 1960's when Pohl was writing his "heretical stuff" about pre Columbian crossings an excellent archeologist made a remarkable find which supported Pohl in some of the histories.  To show that a blend of archeology and history is complimentary I enclose an excerpt from one of the many tourist web sites on the discovery of the physical evidence that Vikings made it to North America and created settlements. You will appreciate the scientific approach.
A Viking Age settlement with evidence of Norse artifacts has been uncovered on the northernmost peninsula of Newfoundland at L'Anse aux Meadows located at about 52 degrees north latitude. (See Map) Facing Epaves Bay on Black Duck Brook, Dr. Helge Ingstad and his archaeologist wife Anne discovered a small group of stone and turf buildings similar in style to those used in Iceland and Greenland. This location fits the "Promontorium Winlandiae" of some medieval maps.
In the first season, six house sites were identified, the largest appeared to be about 60 feet long and contained several rooms. Ember pits similar to those in Greenland were found in some of the houses. Radiocarbon analysis of samples from the site dated 1080 +/- 70 AD. A ring-headed bronze pin, commonly used as a cloths fastener by Norse men, was found in one of the houses. Native American stone implements and other artifacts were not found on this site. In general, very few artifacts were found, but the loose, acid soil made for poor preservation conditions.
In the 1962 season, a fragment of bone needle of the type used by Norsemen was found along with a piece of copper that turned out to have been formed by a primitive smelting process unknown to Native Americans at the time. Carbon 14 dating of charcoal from the hearth were these pieces were found indicated a date of 900 +/- 70 AD. Since charcoal would likely have been made from drift wood, a date well before the settlement period is not inconsistent.
Several lumps of iron slag were found in one of the houses that was excavated in the first seasons. This indicated to the Ingstads that the people who occupied this site were extracting bog iron. This is an intricate process which had been developed in Europe as far back as 2000 BC and was known in Norway by 400 BC. It was widely used during the Viking age and in the later middle ages in Norway. It required very close temperature control during smelting as well as knowlege of tempering to obtain useable tools. A source of bog iron nodules was discovered close to the brook, near the house site and the smithy was found across the brook from the houses. Carbon 14 dates from the hearth in the smithy ranged between 890 +/- 70 AD to 1090 +/- 90 AD.
The large house site was further excavated in 1963. This dwelling turned out to have been 70 feet long and 56 feet wide at its largest. It had five or six rooms. The biggest room was 26 feet long and about 14 feet wide. Two smaller rooms at each end make this structure look like a typical long-house. Lumps of slag, rusty nails, a needle whetstone and a stone lamp were found inside this house. A test trench in the large house in the 1964 season revealed a small stone ring which proved to be a Norse spindle-whorl.
After seven excavation seasons, Helge Ingstad concluded:
" An evaluation of the archaeological material can hardly lead to any other conclusion than that the site at L'Anse aux Meadows must be Norse and pre-Columbian. "
Bingo, the world now had further proof of the history it had been teaching all along. This is now a tourist site. Oddly enough Pohl and a portion of the academic community felt vindicated by this discovery. Oh yes the Ballads which were a part of the history of Norway and taught as history in that country were also validated.
Ramsay my point is this. The historian and the archeologist are complimentary. Either can point the way to a better appreciation and understanding of the facts. Pohl was not a lunatic. Far from it. Nor was he the first to write about the voyage. The authentic proofs of the zeno map have been debated both ways well before Pohl was even born. He simply was educated enough to read the history of the period and try to advance it. I also mention one other item I attribute to him was that the climate in 1398 was different. As we are currently going through such a change we can recall nowdays that there were farms in Greenland and not call it impossible.
Now I would bring some Spanish perspective into the mix. North America was discovered before Columbus certainly. But the existance of North America had been known well before the Vikings. It is taught although speculative in origin that the Basque fisherman were fishing off the Grand Banks before 1200. Of course not being literary we might discount this part of history. But I have a hunch the largest fishing banks in the world (then) were not secret very long. The portuguse, and spanish fised there for how long?
Now from the Candian perspective let me share with you the information I shared with Peter Cummings when we corresponded on this. Again there is a Canadian bias. Henry was well documented as being the Earl with a direct aligence to Norway. The King of Norway. Would the voyages to the eastern shores of North America and Greenland be known? You bet. In fact official deputations to Greenland had been something of a regular occurance. Was Henry the first. No, he was following the sailing paths of others from Norway. If he voyaged to Greenland and then south, was the route in keeping with trade winds and current technologies. Yes. Would my logic be strained to support the possibility of the voyage. No. From a legal perspective we seek hard evidence but also know that circumstantial evidence and co-oberative evidence exists. Sometimes it is the best we have to prove our case. We use all our knowledge and understanding to bear on any evaluation.
The Sinclair voyage is now being documented in histories from other authors in Nova Scotia and the cultrual and tourist departments have added their weight in the Maritimes to support the historical development establishing plaques and so on.  Now nowhere do I suggest that further, better and more improved evidence is not awaited, sought and desired. Nor do I suggest that the role of solid archeological research is not needed nor valued. This is where I can get a bit angry at the instutions; acedemic and otherwise of this country. Of all the interesting sites to be preserved and studied we have such ones as Oak Island, the Castle, Guysborough harbour, and spots in Scotland. And no academic research has been done or attempted! The acedemic community is not involved and the historical preservation of such sites not supported by the public. I ask you to get your counterparts more interested in documenting and supporting the historians.
I have a great deal of respect for your profession and your solid imputs on the Sinclair list that are always well thought through. I invite you to reflect on the Canadian perspective as well and join me applauding the fine historians on this Sinclair list that are preserving so much heritage that may otherwise be lost. Even academia has a bit to learn. Keep having fun!
Neil Sinclair
-----Original Message-----
From: darwin ramsey <darwinramsey@hotmail.com>
To: sinclair@mids.org <sinclair@mids.org>
Date: 5 August, 1999 9:02 AM
Subject: Re: America's Stonehenge 2

>Maybe it is too many years in academia but I think Pohl is an idiot.  I have
>read his works and am seriously unimpressed with his science.  I am not
>saying that some trade may have been going on, however, it is going to take
>a great deal more than a site that has been sacked through the years to fit
>someone's ideal history to convince me.
>As to the artifacts from Latin America.  We (the archaeological community in
>the US) know that the cross-country migration of the ice age was not the
>first.  Early people migrated along the western coast all the way into South
>America.  We have early dates there.  In fact, that was the first place the
>pre-12,000 years ago date was discovered.  However, here in South Carolina
>we now have uncovered evidence of a pre-12,000 occupation.
>There are huge sites throughout the Mid-West and the Mississippi River
>Valley that make this site (Stonehenge 2) look ridiculous.  We are talking
>about mounds that are hundreds of feet high and cover acres.  There are
>detailed astronomical calendars.  In the Southwest there are the pueblos and
>the Nez Perez (sp?) graphics on the desert floor that cover huge expanses of
>land.  Cahokia covered several miles and approximately 4,000 people lived
>there during its height.  Moundville is also about that large (2,500 to
>3,000 residents).  The rulers in these places had subject areas that
>extended for miles in all directions.  They had complicated alliances and
>trade groups.  They produced complicated weapons and beautiful artwork. 
>They were a very sophisticated people.  They had to disband because their
>population outgrew the resources.  Once the population dispersed they forgot
>their glory and their cities fell to dust.  People moved around and often
>groups that occupied the areas later had nothing to do with the original
>city at all.  They could not explain these huge sites to the Europeans and
>so the ethnocentric Europeans assumed that the aboriginal population didn't
>build these sites.
>My point is, there is lots of evidence for Indians to have constructed this
>site and NONE for Europeans, Mynoans, Egyptians, etc.  Remember, European
>descendants wrote that description including the reference to 'Baal.'  I am
>unimpressed.  I write copy like that but we try to avoid words that most
>people won't understand or taht will confuse the audience.  I work with
>museums and interpretive centers.  I know too well what goes on behind the
>scenes to take such a reference on face value.
>Please, I know about archaeology.  I have spent the last 14 years doing
>archaeology and getting paid for it.  It is a different perspective that
>doing volunteer work.  Volunteer work is a great deal more fun.  I have to
>have references for everything I do.  If it is a "new" discovery I need a
>great deal of evidence to support my claim.  One piece of copy on an
>interpretive display doesn't make it.  I am not politically correct by any
>stretch of the imagination.  However, many years of research support my
>claim that the aboriginal residents of the US have been treated as second
>class citizens because they were "too stupid and primitive" to build
>anything like this.
>I just don't believe that Europeans had to rush over here and build this
>structure.  I think the people who were already here had the knowledge and
>technology to do so just like the British Isles aboriginal population had to
>build Stonehenge.
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