Pseudoscience: Paul Chiasson and the Island of Seven Cities

It seems that Gavin Menzies is not the only person who claims that the Chinese discovered the Americas before Columbus.Paul Chiasson, a Toronto architect and amateur archeologist, claims that some ruins at Cape Breton are indeed due to Chinese navigators who circumnavigated around Africa and came to Cape Breton and settled there. He claims that Mi'kmaq natives were culturally influenced by those alleged Chinese navigators too.He published a book called The Island of the Seven Cities: Where the Chinese settled when they discovered America furthering his claim. Here is the Amazon summary and reviews.A web site for the book is here. What is ironic is that Chiasson has contacted Gavin Menzies and worries that his work is lumped with Menzies and both being described as fiction, just like Geoff Wade did for both. More rebuttal of the book can be found in the 1421 Exposed web site by various experts. Five provincial archeologists have refuted Chiasson's claims in this CBC article agreeing that there is no evidence of human settlement in the area, Chinese or otherwise.

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Comments

Cape Dauphin

Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I am very interested in hiking the area after reading Paul Chaisson's book.
I have a book of hiking trails which describes Fairy Hole as a trail in that area. Are you familiar with this trail? Is this the area I should be looking to see what is described in the book? Would you suggest other areas? I am planning to go there next week some day.
Thanks.

Chinese explorers of the world

I've only come to these articles and the Chiasson book in question a full decade after the fact. I read the book and looked at the pictures and have no reason to doubt the visual evidence. I've travelled the world and seen stone ruins in out-of-the-way places and Chiasson's educated reasoning seems believable to me. The Chinese explored widely: in central Mexico, a tribe of natives called the Mixtes live in the hills above Oaxaca. Face to face you would swear the person opposite you was Chinese: round flat faces, almond eyes, black hair, with some words, apparently, in their vocabulary that are similar to Chinese words. Their history has it that Chinese sailors lived with them for several years and added their DNA to the gene pool by mingling with village women. In the late 1980s an anthropologist at the University of Victoria had a group of these Mixtes as guests and their customs, oral history and language were studied. Very little doubt of the Chinese influence there. Early Chinese explorers sailed southwest from China following prevailing winds and currents, and apparently sailed down the South American west coast, before picking up north-flowing ocean currents to help them return. Elsewhere in Mexico are the Olmec heads, with Negroid facial features, purportedly originating with Arabic explorers who were in the Caribbean long before Columbus poked his head in there. Also, look up the Welsh explorer named Medoc who influenced early First Nations tribes on the eastern seaboard of the U.S. . Our modern history only tells a fraction of exploration history, so why believe that John Cabot and Columbus were the only explorers of note? That early Chinese monk-adventurers visited the Atlantic coast seems totally believable given what other histories reveal. I'm pleased that Chiasson and Menzies had the intelligence and guts to share their research in face of the doubting masses, and I hope their findings inspire others to challenge our narrow-minded academics.

Anecdotes not evidence ...

Remember that all the indigenous people of the Americas are descendant from East Asian people. The Inuit (Eskimo) of the north (from Alaska to Greenland) look very much like typical East Asians. The others who are more south are still descendant from Siberian populations. All have black hair, and brown eyes, with high cheek bones, and most have narrow eyes too.

So "looking Chinese" is not as strange as it initially sounds.

There is no genetic study that link any of today's native populations of the Americas to direct Chinese descent, nor Arab for that matter.

There are stories of Arab sailors reaching islands in the Atlantic. But these could be the Canaries, or other closer islands.

There were also some Berber and African individuals who came with the conquistadors, and perhaps they had descendants, but until we have genetic studies, we cannot conclude for certain that this is the case.

There is no archeological evidence either. The Vikings settlement in Eastern Canada is well documented. Yet, there are no blond tall blue eyed native population descending from them.

So in this case you have physical evidence corroborated by literary evidence (the sagas about Vinland expeditions).

Where is the corresponding evidence for the Chinese?

Menzies and Chiasson have done what they think is right, and published anecdotes, not evidence. The scientists have also done their job and scrutinized these anecdotes, and found that they did not

Where are the proofs of

Where are the proofs of Jacques Cartier's landing in Gaspe? When was l'Anse aux Meadows excavated? It seems that people are so worried about protecting their own turf. This is not the sign of a progressive society. I hope that we can explore different points of view.

The Island of Seven Cities by Paul Chiasson

Somebody needs to research local records some more, and then a first step would be a college sponsored surface examination with metal detectors. Trained archaeologists should search for middens or dumpsites, and check these. This may be a failed eighteenth century farmstead or many other possibilities. It would be most fascinating if this is yet another settlement by medieval Norse, much more likely than Chinese. That would fit the tales of a town where the people used an unfamiliar alphabet and had Latin books in their library.

The Island of Seven Cities

After reading Chaisson's book I can honestly say that he presents a very compelling argument. Some have disputed the site and some have disputed a head garment, and some have ranted without making any point whatsoever, but I think when you look at the collective evidence (the alphabet resemblances, the double-curve designs, the layout of the site resembling Chinese village geometry, the skill and knowledge of Chinese sailors, Chinese farming techniques, ect.) then you really have to give this some credence. It's not just one 'hair brain' idea. He really goes in-depth with many sources.

Having actually gone out to the site and viewed the evidence, there is nothing that screams out at you, but understanding how old this area really is and the knowledge of site planning by the Chinese, I really think this is a real possibility.

I think the next step would be to research Chinese documentation (an incredibly difficult task with Chinese government) and try to find written evidence of sailors who returned and told their story. You know that there had to be more than one group of people living there to build such a large community. There is a large chance that some went back to China as well.

Chinese in Cape Breton

I thought Chaisson's book was a terrific read, honest, cautious in it's conclusions, and lacking in arrogance. It seems the more we discover about our past the more surprises we find. Unfortunately we tend to view history (and everything else) through the lens of our own assumptions and biases. Geological uniformitarianism and darwinian chronology predispose people to see our contemporary society as the result of a strictly linear journey from caves to condos.

But as more and more evidence comes to light we are being forced to admit that ancient man, far from the hulking neanderthals depicted by National Geographic, was no less intelligent, civilized, and visionary then any modern people. In fact, the further back we push the frontiers of history the more we find ourselves amazed by the incredible sophistication of the most ancient of empires. That the Chinese could navigate to Cape Breton and operate a mining colony there for generations before the fifteenth century is a relatively insignificant accomplishment. Changing the territorial opinions of biased historical scholars - now that would be something!

For years, Plates tectonics

For years, Plates tectonics was laugheed at, today it's accepted that South America once abutted Africa. WOW! Given that dscoveries occur constantly, and its theories are scoffed at it would not surprise me that the
chinese did land at Cape Breton.

Island of Seven Cities by Paul Chiasson

I just finished the book and thoroughly enjoyed everything I read. I found Paul's writing style honest, authentic, and personal.

Clearly the only way to solve any of the proposals in this book is to have an archaeological dig at the site. Surely some tv company would want to pay for a team to go up there.

I am all for new theories of history and am willing to concede that the Chinese were in Cape Breton but I have some basic doubts in terms of a motivation to do so. Why would the Chinese skip going to Europe, which would have been a major trading area, in favor of solely going to Cape Breton? Also, the currents stated in the book would definitely take a boat up to Cape Breton from the South Atlantic but in order to get back the Chinese would have had to go East towards Europe since they could not go against the very currents that brought them there. Also, Cape Breton island is right beside all of Nova Scotia. Why would the map makers and recorders completely ignore a much larger land mass?

A great read and Paul gets points for writing such a personal and honest novel. In the end, only an archaeological team working the site would put to rest this debate.

Burial Sites

One quick way to prove or disprove the theories Chiasson presents in his book is to investigate the burial sites he refers to in the text of his book and possibly find skeletal remains....

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