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

No one Native person can know

No one Native person can know every cultural facet of other First Nations. It's not like you can walk up to a Mi'qmak or Lakota and have them tell you about every detail of other nations.

The book was good reading

The book was good reading early on. I enjoyed the history of the area. The references to old maps and the famous Seven Cities of Cibola made his story interesting in the begining. His arguments however are weak and full of holes and his photos of supposed "ruins of an advanced civilization" ruined it for me. The "cut stone" is obviously natural angular broken sedimentary rock; and the road is obviously of recent construction with modern road building equipment, most likely a bulldozer. There is nothing there in either historic argument or artifacts to back up the incredible claim. Don't you think if there was a large Ming Dynasty city at the site for a number of years that the present day locals would have been picking up collections of bronze artifacts, jade and oriental porcelan, and some of these artifacts would have made their way to local museums? As a local, Chiasson would have seen these collections and mentioned it. I must assume there are no artifacts, there was no city.

Lack of evidence

I'm only a first year so forgive me if I'm wrong, but a lack of evidence isn't proof of absence. It is possible that the Chinese simply didn't bring jade and porcelain products with them, or they took them when they left. You can't dismiss a theory out of hand simply without careful examination. I agree that with you though, that the roads and the walls do not look like they were made by masons, as you can similar rocks anywhere glacial.

Lack of evidence (response)

Ryan's point is excellent. I favor letting some trained archelolgists examine the site and report their findings. Chiasson noted in his book that he is not an archeologist and did not want to disturb the site. He reported what he saw.

Island of Seven Cities

Ahh, Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous,

I am not sure where you live, and whether you are familiar with the area, but the landscape Mr. Chiasson has researched is extremely remote and not conducive to casual hiking by most sedentary, city-dwelling individuals such as myself. Despite the fact that it is a short drive from Sydney, the area is not very populated and hardly over-run with people. The nearest major city (Halifax) is a 4-hour drive away and very few roads exist nearby.
Also, as the photos suggest, the ruins aren't exactly popping out at you like the Acropolis. The same can be said for those immense pyramids constructed in Mexico. They were extremely overgrown and not intuitively noticeable as man-made structures, yet there they are once excavated... after laying under "civilized" peoples' noses for 500 years. So the fact that there are no artifacts laying around in museums is hardly a reason to say the ruins don't exist.

major city?

I would think that the residents of Sydney might argue that the nearest major city is Halifax, and there is a working quarry site very near to the place he discusses. My fiancee is from the area and her family has lived in the countryside around the area for generations. It is not nearly as remote as you seem to suggest.

As for artifacts, even if you don't seem to agree that the man made features were from the forest fires discussed by others, you should know that one of the main ways of identifying archaeological sites is by surface survey, that is walking along the ground and looking to see evidence of a site. While this works best in a ploughed context it is just also possible to find surface scatter in prolific sites in forest setting (and one would be hard pressed not to consider a 'city' a prolific site). Since people have clearly been to and over the area to fight the aforementioned fires and dug fire breaks and the like, it would be somewhat surprising if no artifacts had ever been found of something the size of a city. Not to mention that we are certainly not talking about a dense jungle setting like in the examples you cite.

Metal Detectors Allowed?

If it's permissible, has anyone gone up there with a metal detector? Seems to me that nails, coins, tools and metal of all sorts ought to be in rather heavy profusion if a town was actually on the site. (Note key words, " If it's permissible". don't try it without permission and, if possible, some company. And for goodness sakes, carefully mark and photograph where you dig something up and fill in your holes after you! and don't hide your finds from the archaeologists or from the book's author (or from us.).)

Seven Cities

Well, yes. Anyone who has read of the Ming Dynasty knows that this is a real possibility. Why do the people who question Mr. Chiasson hike up there and check it out?

Island Of Seven Cities

For those of you interested, my ancestors are from north of this area on Cape Breton Island, going back a few centuries. There are stories, which I heard as a young child back in the 1960's handed down by generations, which exist among the Acadians & those north of Cheticamp, namely Pleasant Bay & Cape North areas, which claim that the Island was first settled by the Chinese.

We thought they were just stories. However, having hiked many of these areas as a teenager, there is definitely something man-made in these areas which do look like ruins, and different from the French & Scottish/English stuff one is use to finding, and you do find them in various places on the Island as suggested in the book. Many, up until this proposed theory, have remained totally unexplained and have no corresponding records of any sort to any development.

When asking more elderly residents about them in my younger years, they often stated they had been there their entire lives, as long as their families have lived there, and they have no explanation from whence they came.

Claims of more recent road developments, by ways of an explanation, for more modern projects do not explain what people, local residents, have known and seen with their own eyes prior to those developments. The sad part is that some of these modern developments may have caused irrepairable damage to some of these sites. I can tell you as a former resident, the rules around these types of potential findings in CB are not always followed due to severe political and economic pressures. The place is well known for making decisions which serve short-term goals as opposed to long term investments.

During my time on the Island, the major focus on archeological preserverence at the time was the Fortress of Louisburg. They barely managed to keep the Miner's Museum and the Bell Museum functioning during that time period, let alone bother to investigate these sites. They really didn't care.

In actual fact, the place is polutted with so much history, and so many ruins, it is mind boggling.

Having said this, there is a group of elderly folk in the northern part of the island which still tell stories claiming the Chinese settled here before the Europeans. Wish I had recorded my grandparents telling some of these stories before they died. I'm hoping to see a grand-uncle this summer in the area who may still know these stories and still lives in the area. You can bet, I'll have my recorder with me this trip.

Tantalizing to say the least. I believe we should remain open to the possibilites. Stranger things have come to be known as true.

Cape Breton Island history

Your letter was fascinating and I sincerely hope you are able to speak with some elders and record their stories.

Many Westerners have been led to believe that oral traditions are inherently inferior to written ones. Yet any serious study of written traditions reveals that a great deal of manipulation happens depending on who wants to make which political points. Just look at the Christian New Testament, for example!

But many cultures who keep oral traditions are very strict about the precise telling of sacred material from one generation to the next. Unfortunately, with so many deaths over the centuries, some of the knowledge may have been lost. Maybe that's why the Micmac who responded have never heard of the Chinese connection.

There is still a lot that most of us don't know about the history of the world. Some of thew so-called "experts" are so terrified of new information that they try to discredit anyone who offers it. But some of us are very open-minded and we have no personal axes to grind.

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