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Feasible Ocean Routes to and from the Americas in Pre-Columbian Times

Thor Heyerdahl
American Antiquity
Vol. 28, No. 4 (Apr., 1963), pp. 482-488
DOI: 10.2307/278557
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/278557
Page Count: 7
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Feasible Ocean Routes to and from the Americas in Pre-Columbian Times
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Abstract

Botany, which once bred the belief that the two oceans surrounding the New World formed a complete barrier for pre-Columbian voyagers, now demonstrates that some form of trans-oceanic contact has taken place. A reappraisal of contact areas seems warranted. Current geographic misconceptions concerning feasible aboriginal sea routes are examined. It is erroneous to believe that hypothetical voyagers from, for example, southern China to Peru can make a short-cut by way of the Pacific equator. The route between these two antipodes is a complete semicircle of equal length in dead miles whether we go by way of the middle Pacific, by way of Hawaii, or even by way of the Aleutian Islands. In traveling distance and time the route north of Hawaii is far shorter due to the flow of the main currents. A true traveling distance is not measurable unless we know the ratio between the surface speed respectively of the vessel and the current. Thus, an aboriginal craft plowing the ocean surface with a speed of 40 miles per day will have to cross about 1000 miles of surface water to get from Peru to the Marquesas Islands, but 7000 miles to get from the Marquesas to Peru. Three feasible routes of aboriginal oversea arrivals to the New World, and two of departure, are suggested and named after European voyagers who initiated the route in historic times.

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