When you check into it, you find Fell was a formidable scientist in his own right, howbeit, in biology not anthropology or archeology. However brilliant one may be, he should never underestimate the level of sophistication of experts who have spent their lives in an area of study. Thus, one might rightly regard Fell as pompous to step into another field and declare the work of experts there to be inexact, illogical, and predisposed to a blindly accepted mythology about the ancient world.
On the other side, one also should never underestimate the ability of a well-honed scientific mind to step into a new field of endeavor and explore it in a precise and insightful manner.
So whose side am I taking? I would say, that I understand both points of view, but lack sufficient knowledge in this field to take a rational stand. Instead, I’ll just waver in the middle. By the way, I tend to waver toward those who have spent their lives studying the this niche of knowledge.
But, if you did that in the field of biology prior to the 1850’s, then you would have staunchly supported spontaneous generation, i.e., the idea that maggots formed, poof, from rotting material not from fly eggs laid in that putrefaction.
The fact is, mainstream science has been wrong, particularly when applied in a biased, predisposed manner, even more so when a deficiency of facts prevailed.
Back to Barry Fell, Frank Joseph and others. Unfortunately, they point from site to site, etched stone after etched stone massing evidence to support their thesis. Then they hit on a place you saw on TV, or visited, one you have always found suspect. Next you wonder, “If I knew more, would I view all of these places with suspicion?”
However, Fell and Joseph and others sometimes point to something, that if true, is absolute proof of Old World influence in the New World, things such as cocaine in the belly of an Egyptian mummy, or the depiction of a catfish on Mimbres pottery (the Mimbres River is just south of Silver City, New Mexico) with the ancient Libyan word of catfish written on it. IF either of these is NOT A HOAX then there was Old World contact long before Leif Ericson. The probability is too steep to support an alternative.
It is interesting, that the Mimbres catfish draws the attention of those who want to debunk Fell. Check this article.
But figure the odds of an accidental use of the Libyan word for catfish. Start with the number of symbols available for human communication. Let’s make a very conservative guess, say there are only 200 distinct symbols in all human languages, past and present. Surely there are many more than that, but we are setting a safe “low ball” boundary. For the three Libyan symbols to have appeared together without Libyan contact the odds would be 200 to the third power, 8 million to one. For said symbols to spell “catfish” on a catfish adds one more dimension. We might ask, how many animals were available for a Mimbres Indian to depict? The Mimbres tended to stick to fauna including insects and birds. A low ball guess would be 100. Surely there were more. Our model, could be strengthened by adding more factors, but I think it proves the point as is: i.e. the odds have now become 800,000,000 to 1 that this object is not the result of Libyan influence.
In the face of those numbers, arguments about catfish barbs, decorative use, and reverse images, all fade into non-relevance. They are trivial and just obfuscate the key issue, which is:
The Libyan culture existed, according to Fell, around 1200 B.C. The Mimbres culture existed around 1100 A.D. How did this arcane writing get carried through time from one to the one?
Fell says the Libyan culture continued to thrive here for 2000 years. If so, where are the many, many other Libyan artifacts that demonstrate this longer than any other civilization’s existence?
I would also find it odd that the Libyans would end up in the Mimbres Valley, about as far from an ocean as one can get. At that time, the Anasazi culture dominated central New Mexico and had trade routes into the jungles of southern Mexico where they acquired turkeys (the modern American wild turkey is said to be the descendent from feral Anasazi turkeys) and macaws. How come they didn’t acquire bits of the Libyan culture, particularly if it coexisted with them for 2000 years.
In short, the catfish can neither be Libyan, nor can it not be Libyan. I believe that Sherlock Holmes would say whatever is left, regardless how unbelievable, is the truth–that is, this object must be a fake. Now if only Sherlock would step forward and prove it.
More on this topic next time.