David H. Kelley
Diffusion is the anthropological term used to describe how similar customs, beliefs and artefact designs are spread between cultures through migration, invasion or trade. Diffusion is not just a ‘one-way street’ as history has shown that ideas have travelled in all directions, while in fact most ancient civilisations can be demonstrated to have absorbed cultural elements from a multiplicity of foreign societies. Today, globalisation has increased exponentially the variety of influences that all societies now experience. Not only is the number of these influences greater but the rate of increase is apparently accelerating. The ubiquity of Coca-Cola, T-shirts, Irish pubs, Japanese cameras, German cars, English language, Guinness, Chinese toys, ABBA, AK-47s etc., etc., etc., are indicative of the global reach of commercial ‘empires’ today. In older civilisations trade was more concerned with commodities such as metals, olive oil, wine, amber, obsidian, or timber, so the technologies involved in their production or exploitation were also exchanged.
The development of agriculture also saw techniques spread, which had to be modified to suit different climates, although recent studies indicate that agriculture started around the same time in a number of centres(I).
in the Fertile Crescent as far north as the Zagros Mountains. Further north, on the steppes of Russia, horses were domesticated and apparently there also the use of chariots originated. A book by David W. Anthony also attributes the region with being the source of what is known as the Proto-Indo-European family of languages.
Societal concepts, religious or legal were no different as their geographical spread can also be traced over time. Consider the different strands of the Abrahamic faiths, beginning with Judaism, which spawned Christianity and later was joined by Islam through Muhammad, who claimed to be a descendant of Abraham. Similarly, democracy has slowly evolved and spread over time and still has a long way to go.
Since early man left Africa, he has had ample time to settle all over our planet and exploit it resources, moving from being a hunter-gatherer to becoming a settled farmer, developing urban centres (city states), then empires and the inevitable wars. Wars, then like today, led to the develop of new technologies, chariots, longbows, armour, to be copied and if possible improved upon, by each side.
My view is that initially, technology and techniques were freely exchanged between peoples, until gradually the idea of monopoly entered the human psyche, eventually leading to the paranoia and greed associated with the ownership of ‘intellectual property’ today. I would speculate that a freer and possibly gentler diffusion of ideas lasted until, at the earliest, the first millennium BC.
In 2014, the University of Connecticut published the result of studies which demonstrated that human technological innovation occurred intermittently throughout the Old World, rather than spreading from a single point of origin, as previously thought(j).
Egerton Sykes, a leading 20th century Atlantologist, was a committed diffusionist, describing it as “the lifeblood of civilisation”(h).
A more extreme view is the concept of ‘hyperdiffusion’, which is the idea that there was a single ‘mother-culture’ which led to the development of all major civilisations. Ignatius Donnelly was a hyperdiffusionist, advocating Atlantis as the mother culture. His ‘heretical’ views were highlighted by the range of similarities between structures around the world in apparently unrelated cultures, which seem to greatly exceed what could be expected by mere coincidence alone. This is explored further in a recent illustrated article on the Malagabay website(v).
Similarly James Churchward proposed his invention, Mu, as an alternative hyperdiffusion centre. Perhaps better known is the work of W. J. Perry who was convinced  that an archaic civilisation had begun in Egypt and gradually spread eastward through Asia and Polynesia, eventually reaching the Americas. Ben Urish published a paper(d) in 1986 that offers a critical overview of hyperdiffusion.
Konrad Kulczyk promotes a hyperdiffusionist theory that places his proto-civilisation, New Atlantis, just south of the Aral Sea(e).
Ivar Zapp proposes a global seafaring civilisation thousands of years before the Greeks, Egyptians or Sumerians(k) in an as yet unpublished book, Babel Deciphered.
Hyperdiffusion is clearly a seductive theory having attracted the attention of researchers such as Richard Cassaro, who has produced an impressive collection of visual cultural similarities between ancient Egypt and pre-Columbian America(a). While the idea is not new, Cassaro’s images highlight the concept of diffusion very effectively, although he has, in my opinion overinterpreted the evidence in order to support hyperdiffusion.
Cassaro published The Missing Link in 2016 in which he expands on the widespread distribution of what he refers to as the ‘godself icon’. Although he clearly demonstrates that the motif has an extensive geographical spread it is equally obvious that the appearance of the icon is spread over a vast period of time apparently coinciding with the emergence of civilisation in different places at very different times, which, in my view, is not fully compatible with the concept of hyperdiffusion, as I would have expected a ‘mother-culture’, if such existed, to have spread its global influence far more rapidly.
A comparable discovery has been made by Ozgür Baris Etli, who has drawn attention(o) to carved hands at Göbekli Tepe that have counterparts in many other parts of the world where hands meeting at the navel are similarly depicted. I recently came across an image of(q) a megalithic statue in the Indonesian Bada Valley(u) showing its hands in a similar position.
Having mentioned Indonesia, I must draw your attention to a recent book by Dhani Irwanto, entitled Sundaland: Tracing the Cradle of Civilizations (1618), in which he makes a strong case for considering his native land as an ancient diffusionist centre, which experienced waves of emigration at the end of the Younger Dry as period that influenced the great civilisations of the Indus Valley, Egypt and Greece. Irwanto also claims that their cultural impact included the transference of the story of Atlantis from its original home in Sundaland.
Equally intriguing is the ‘Three Hares’ motif, found across Europe, the Middle East and as far as China(p) and now the subject of a book by Greeves, Andrew & Chapman. Another stylised symbol is that of the rosette found in the Mediterranean and spread as far as India(r)(s).
In a similar vein Jim Allen has devoted chapter three of his latest book to outlining what he entitled Bolivia and the Sumerian Connection(b). Arguably even more impressive is the array of images presented by Allen(c) suggesting that the civilisations of America were greatly influenced by ancient cultures in both east and west. It is obvious that a number of artifacts can be developed independently, but at some point the number of similar items produced by two separate cultures can exceed the number that can be reasonably put down to coincidence. The number of similarities presented by Allen alone clearly exceeds that threshold, demonstrating that the Americas were influenced by different sources, ruling out Americas as the home of a mother-culture.
The whole subject of diffusion is wide ranging and complex and well beyond my competence to do it justice in this short entry. However, for those interested in pursuing the subject further, I would like to recommend a 1997 paper(l) by David H. Kelley (1924-2011), available on Dale Drinnon’s website.
Egypt is frequently mentioned in this regard being seen as the influence behind Neolithic megalith building AND the pyramids of Central America, in spite of the fact that Newgrange was constructed before the Egyptian Pyramids and the New World pyramids were built thousands of years after those in Egypt. Atlantis is regularly suggested as another mother- culture but without a single piece of evidence to support this speculative contention. For decades the idea that the pyramids of Egypt and those in the Americas were the consequence of diffusion from a common source, namely Atlantis situated in the Atlantic was heavily promoted. However, we can now more closely identify the pyramids of America with the step-pyramids of China!
Consequently, for me, hyperdiffusion is not convincing. History has clearly shown that inventions have frequently been independently developed at the same time in different countries, while even in prehistoric times it has been demonstrated(f) that the evolution of stone tools took place as a result of the innovative abilities of local populations, addressing the same needs.
A word of warning; “recent research published in Nature by a team led by Tomos Proffitt at the University of Oxford shows that capuchin monkeys regularly produce sharp-edged flakes indistinguishable from those made by early hominins.”(t)
Even today technologies are developed independently throughout the world, but not in complete isolation, because of the instant worldwide communications available.
As a result of global marketing, in Ireland now we drive German, British and Japanese cars, use US computer technology and play with Chinese toys. However, being generous by nature, we gave the world the Irish pub, Riverdance and Guinness.
A two-part blog(m)(n) highlighting the many weaknesses in the concept of hyperdiffusion should be required reading for anyone interested in the subject.
Although Donnelly and his contemporaries, focused on the possibility of Old World influences in the New World, today, there is less of a Mediterranean centred or Eurocentric approach to diffusionism. Instead, there is greater acceptance that the Americas have also had extensive cultural influences from Asia.
(l) See: Archive 3563
*(u) Atlantis Rising No.110 March/April 2015 p.41*
The Maya of ancient Mexico and Guatemala have generated much controversy regarding their origins. Recent studies indicate that the story of the development of this remarkable civilisation may be more complex than previously thought(k). The demise of the Mayan cultural (800-950 AD) has now been definitively shown to be the result of persistent drought, particularly in the southern lowlands(o).
Inevitably the Maya have been linked with Atlantis by a number of writers such as Lewis Spence and E.H. Thompson who claimed that the Maya were descendants of Atlanteans. The maverick, Augustus Le Plongeon was alone in identifying Atlantis as a colony of the Maya and that their language was in fact Greek! Others, such as Jean-Frédérick Waldeck, included an Egyptian linkage as well. However, trumping all that is a recent claim that the Maya had contact with extraterrestrials and that a documentary providing evidence is planned(b). In a similar vein is the latest English language publication from Erich von Däniken entitled: Astronaut Gods of the Maya. Semir Osmanagic, of Bosnian pyramid fame, added a twist to this proposed linkage, when he claimed that the Maya had come from Atlantis, which in turn had been founded by visitors from the Pleiades!
For some comic relief, I can suggest a 1976 book by brothers Eric & Craig Umland which ‘reveals’ that the Maya ‘are remnants of space explorers whose attempts to colonise our solar system went awry more than 40,000 years ago.’ Nearly every page is full of hilarious nonsense and nearly worth the £0.01 currently quoted on Amazon.uk. A website(i) dealing with ‘unreason’ uses extracts from the Umlands as good examples! If you wish to read about the Maya in Antarctica, the Canaries as well as the Moon, this is the book for you.
July 2012 saw a report(j) on the discovery of the largest Mayan manmade dam at Tikal in Guatemala, which was 33ft high and 260ft long and included sand filters.
The Maya had a sophisticated writing system that occupied the attention of a number of 19th century writers including Abbe Brasseur de Bourbourg and Le Plongeon. Unfortunately, de Bourbourg followed the work of the 16th century bishop of Yucatán, Diego de Landa whose interpretation was seriously erroneous. *It was Constantine Rafinesque who partially deciphered some of the Mayan numerals in 1832.*
A report in 2013(l) indicated that substantial progress has been made in the decipherment of any outstanding difficulties in the translation of the Mayan script through internet co-operation.
July 2012 saw a report(j) on the discovery of the largest Mayan man-made dam at Tikal in Guatemala, which was 33ft high and 260ft long and included sand filters.
James O’Kon, an engineer, has investigated Mayan technology for decades, including the discovery of a suspension bridge at the ancient Mayan city of Yaxchilan in Mexico in 1995, which is believed to be the longest bridge of the ancient world(r). This and other aspects of Mayan technology he explores in his book, The Lost Secrets of Maya Technology. More recently, Lorraine Stobbart has written Utopia: Fact or Fiction, which suggests that the ‘Utopia’ of Sir Thomas More was inspired by the Mayan culture although his text was written before Mexico was ‘officially’ discovered. Stobbart recently revealed that she is now revising her views.
However, a more serious claim relates to the idea that Mayan inscriptions revealed that a global catastrophe was to occur in 2012. This nonsense(g) turned into a minor publishing industry. Some even tried to link this daft idea to Atlantis. Fortunately, May 2012 saw evidence from excavations in Guatemala that shows the Mayan calendar extending well beyond 2012(h).
The late David H. Kelley, a Harvard-educated archaeologist and epigrapher at Canada’s University of Calgary, had been investigating ancient links between Asia and pre-Columbian America. In that regard he published a paper outlining similarities between the Mayan and ancient Chinese calendars that were apparently too numerous to be explained by independent development(p). A more sceptical view is offered(q) by Jason Colavito, who traces the idea back to Alexander von Humboldt.
The work of Teobert Maler at the end of the 19thcentury was invaluable in the advancement of Mayan studies. Subsequent researchers have seized upon his discovery of a frieze at Tikal, which he interpreted as a depiction of the destruction of Atlantis, as evidence of the existence of Atlantis in the Atlantic. Apart from Maler’s conjectural ideas, no tangible link has been found between the Maya and Atlantis apart from the use in their glyphs of elephants, an animal that features in Plato’s narrative.
The authenticity of photo of the frieze has been called into question by Jason Colavito and his related blog(n) is worthy of consideration.
In late 2011 controversy erupted when it was claimed that the Itza Maya had migrated to North America, more specifically Georgia(c)(d). It was also suggested that earthen pyramids in Georgia and Florida can be attributed to the Maya(e). Among their other accomplishments is the claim that the Maya were capable of predicting meteor showers(s).
Gene Matlock, the well-known advocate of Atlantis in Mexico, is certain that the Maya were originally Tamils from Sri Lanka(a)!
A recent article(f) gives an interesting firsthand account of encountering the important Mayan city of Calakmul deep in the Yucatan jungle. Potentially even more important are recent LiDAR surveys carried out in Guatemala that have revealed an astounding number of previously unknown Mayan structures. The number of additional Mayan sites identified through the use of LiDAR continues to grow at an incredible rate(u).
Muddying the waters further is an Islamic site that claims that the Maya were Atlantean(m).
(c) http://www.examiner.com/architecture-design-in-national/massive-1-100-year-old-maya-site-discovered-georgia-s-mountains?render=print#print (link broken)
(g) http://www.2012hoax.org/ (offline Oct. ’14)
(m) http://mashiyah.blogspot.ie/ (offline 1/8/14)
Alexander Freiherr von Humboldt (1769-1859) was a renowned German scientist and explorer. He spent five years (1799-1804) on an expedition to South America. While there he discovered the Casiquiare River, which links the Amazon and Orinoco rivers.
Humboldt expressed the view that Atlantis had possibly been located in America, although in his 1814 book, Personal Narrative of Travels[1329.v1.201], he stated that he did “not intend to form any opinion in favour of the existence of the Atlantis.”
Humboldt also considered the likelihood of ancient links between Europe and the Americas, pointing out remarkable similarities between the Nahuatl and Greek languages. An example of which is the Aztecan Nahuatl language’s teo-cali (god’s house) and the Greek theoukalia (shrine or god’s house).
Furthermore, Humboldt also claimed that the Mayan and ancient Chinese calendars had a common source, an idea adopted by David H. Kelley*in a paper written decades ago, but only recently published in the journal Pre-Columbiana. A review of his work by Tara MacIsaac in Epoch Times(b) should also be read.*Jason Colavito has offered a sceptical view of that claim(a).