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Re: AZTLAN list: who are the "American Isolationists"?

In article <5dt2kt$av2$1@trends.ca> yuku@mail.trends.ca (Yuri Kuchinsky) writes:
>Peter van Rossum (pmv100@psu.edu) wrote:
>: I completely disagree with the opinion of whoever told you that archs.
>think : its useful for New World not to have outside contacts so it can be
>seen as a : cultural laboratory. 
>Well, Peter, this is a commonly held view. I didn't say "among 
>archaeologists", BTW. More among anthropologists and historians.

When we are talking about people who are investigating the *prehistory* 
of the Americas it would seem to me that we are of necessity talking of 
archaeologists.   There is little in the way of historical documentation to go 
on and so much of our understanding of these peoples has to come from a study 
of their material remains.  This is what archaeology is - the interpretation 
of a past way of life based on the material remains of a culture.

BTW in America at least archaeology is considered to be a sub-discipline of 
anthropology, therefore archaeologists would be considered to be 
anthropologists as well.  That's why even though my focus of study is 
archaeology I have had to take courses in the other anthropological 
disciplines as well.

>: Archaeologists are trying to describe
>and explain human : societies and their change over time.  If accurately
>fulfilling these goals : necessitates looking at transpacific interactions
>then they should be : included. 
>Tell this to powers that be at AZTLAN. 
>: The problem is that at present there has
>been little solid, : conclusive evidence that has been presented to
>indicate that any (much less : significant) contacts occurred. 
>So how about the significant parallels in zodiacs, calendars, and
>astronomy? Is this not important enought? 

The question is whether these similarities are due to diffusion, or are 
similarities due to coincidence and/or the need to solve common problems.  
Before I would be willing to accept that some of them are due to diffusion I 
would want to see artifacts documenting this transoceanic contact.

>: >No influences from anywhere should even be suggested. Any such
>: >suggestion is seen as a terrible and egregious violation of
>: >scholarly conventions -- an unforgivable transgression. 
>: This is just a complete mischaracterization of why most archaeologists :
>don't believe there were significant contacts (most don't believe it
>because : they don't think strong enough evidence exists - look back over
>the past few : months disagreements for examples.  Especially look at the
>Asian peanuts and : South American chickens). 
>You're now speculating about these reasons. Why are your speculations 
>necessarily better than mine? 

The reason why my views on what is the norm in archaeology is better than 
yours is because I am an archaeology grad. student.  I work with 
archaeologists on a regular basis, I am much more widely read on 
archaeological topics than you are and I have a much deeper understanding of 
how and why archaeologists do their work than you do.  That is why I believe 
my opinion carries far more weight than yours on this topic.

>: It is this sort of tiresome, inaccurate rhetoric : which makes your
>objectivity very suspect.  Your constant use of strawmen : argumentation
>is very tedious. 
>Can we do without ad hominems please?

It's not meant to be an ad hominem attack.  The fact is that you have 
regularly mischaracterized archaeologists as claiming that transoceanic 
contacts were impossible, instead of acknowledging that they disagree with 
transoceanic contacts based on a general lack of findings to support such an 

How would you feel if I consistently claimed "all diffusionists think New 
World peoples were a bunch of ignorant savages who couldn't have figured out 
how to build pyramids, practice agriculture, etc.  They think diffusion had to 
have occurred because otherwise these people were incapable of coming up with 
such characteristics""  I should think that would irritate you greatly since 
it would be an inaccurate representation, and one which I certainly do not 
believe reflects your views.  If even after repeated attempts by you to 
correct such an inaccurate statement I persisted in it, I would expect you 
would get increasingly more irritated.  Such a tactic on my part would be a 
great impediment to meaningful dialogue.

That is why I get annoyed when you persist in labeling archaeologists who 
don't believe in transoceanic contacts as "isolationists who don't think such 
contacts were possible."  I'll say it again here, the reason why people like 
me don't think such contacts occurred is because we don't see the material 
evidence to back up such a claim.

>But you have completely avoided looking at how I was expelled, the reasons
>given (or rather not given), and the banning of trans-Pacific contacts
>discussions on AZTLAN. 
>So your answer seems suspect.

It is not my business why you were expelled from Aztlan.  That is a matter for 
you to take up with the person who runs that listserver.  I was merely 
responding to what I considered to be inaccuracies in your post regarding the 
reasons why most archaeologists do not believe there were significant 
Precolumbian transoceanic contacts.

Peter van Rossum

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